Snooker vs Pool vs Billiards – Full Guide

  • By: Rob
  • Date: April 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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Contrary to popular belief snooker vs pool vs billiards are comparable as they are distinct types or forms of cue sports. 

More often than not, the expressions ‘billiards’, ‘pool,’ and ‘snooker’ are used interchangeably but there are some marked distinctions between these types of cue sports. 

Historically speaking, ‘billiards’ was the generic term for referring to these games which involved the use of cues or sticks, tables with pockets and drapes, and balls.

The origin of modern-day carom billiards or simply billiards can be traced back to the nineteenth century. 

Detailed Differences-Pool Vs Billiards Vs Snooker

Snooker evolved as a modified and simplified spin-off of billiards as the latter entailed too many rules and regulations. Originally called ‘pocket billiards’ (from the pockets in tables), billiards gradually came to be also referred to as pool as players pooled their money for the prize purse.

Though pool and snooker are usually played with near-identical equipment including balls and a table, there are noticeable differences in playing rules. In the same way, playing billiards involves the use of similar equipment but again, this cue sport has its distinct rules. 

Snooker vs pool vs billiards:- Noticeable Differences

The term billiards have been used interchangeably for both “billiards” and “pocket billiards”. Both categories of cue sports house multiple variations of billard-type games. 

When people try to compare these forms of cue sports they mostly focus on pool and snooker, which i feel leaves more questions than answers.

I think to truly answer the question you have to make it about snooker vs billiards vs pool, this way you can cover all bases of cue sports and leave no rock unturned in the pursuit to understanding what the differences are.

Before we carry on, let’s get straight to the point.

What are the differences between snooker vs pool vs billiard? They are all forms of cue sports divided into two categories, “Carom billiards” and “pocket billiards”. Some major differences are in the table size, table pockets, amount and size of the balls, rules and games played. Minor differences are with the cues used. 

Before i dive into more details on the differences, check out the picture below, this will be a handy way to understand the differences easily. 

the difference between billiards and pocket billiards

As illustrated above, pool and snooker are both types of pocket billiards. Pool and snooker fit into this category, as you may have guessed because their respected playing tables have pockets for the ball to enter into. 

With all pocket billiard games, the general aim of the game is to pocket the ball. 

This is contrary to “carom billiards” where the object of the game is not to pocket balls, as their tables don’t have pockets, but to collect points from making carom shots.

Just so you have a clearer understanding, i will break down the main difference between each category

Snooker vs pool : Main difference

What is the difference between snooker and pool? A major difference between pool and snooker is in the size of their tables.

Both tables have pockets therefore they are pocket billiard games. 

Pool has many different variations of games all under the umbrella name “pool” whereas snooker has just one game, called snooker.

snooker vs pool

Billiards vs snooker: Main difference

What is the difference between snooker and billiards? The size of their tables are one key difference, Snooker tables being the largest at 12 ft and carom billiard tables at 10ft.

But what really sets the difference between snooker and billiards is that carom billiard tables don’t have pockets whereas snooker tables have 6 pockets.  

There are a number of games played on carom billiard tables and as mentioned, only snooker is played on a snooker table.

billiards vs snooker

Pool vs Billiards: Main difference

What is the difference between pool and billiards? The size of the tables are one of the key differences.  Pool tables come in multiple sizes, all of which are smaller than a carom table

Have you ever wondered what is the pool table without pocket called? Well, that would be a carom billiard table. A 10ft table where the rail cushion stretches from corner to corner.

Both pool and billiards have multiple games under their “umbrella” term. 

pool vs billiards
  • (Pocket billiards) Snooker: For playing snooker (which evolved as a variation of billiards), you’ll need a  12×6 foot table with six pockets. You’ll also need 22 snooker balls which are 1 white cue ball, six colored object balls, and 15 red balls. A snooker table also happens to be much bigger than a pool but they also have smaller pockets and balls.
  • (Pocket billiards) Pool: The table required for playing pool also has six pockets, and the pool table is usually smaller in comparison to snooker tables. You’ll need at least ten pool balls, 9 of which are object balls and one white cue ball. You can use up to a maximum of 15 object balls, based on the pool game type you’re playing.
  • (Billiards) Carom Billiards: You need three balls and a table usually 10×5 feet without any pockets when it comes to playing carom billiards. One white ball usually featuring a speck or dot, a plain yellow ball, and a red-colored ball makes up the three balls used. 
Noticeable Differences
PoolSnookerCarom Billiards
Number of Balls10+223+
Table7 or 8 or 9 foot12×610×5
Pocket size4.6 inches3.4 Inchesnone
Ball size2.25 Inches2.06 Inches2.43 Inches

Snooker – Key features

Let me explain a little about snooker, what you’ll need and how to play it.

The snooker cue: 
by and large, tends to be a two-piece or three-piece stick with a tapering structure. Two-piece cues normally feature a plastic or thermosetting resin or a metallic joint for segregating one piece from another.

The Snooker Cue Tip:
At the top of the shaft, youll find the snooker cue tip. It has a circumference ranging from 9mm to 10mm, the other end (the butt) has a larger circumference. The larger circumference of the cue’s butt enables you to hold the stick firmly without compromising comfort and add weight. The tip of the cue is usually leather for rendering smooth contact with the balls.

The Snooker Balls:
You use a total of 22 snooker balls, including a white cue ball. The combination has one green, one black, one pink one blue, one yellow and one brown ball, and 15 red balls. The brown, yellow, blue, pink, green, and black balls are called object balls where each ball bears a number.

The Snooker Table:
If that doesn’t seem hard enough it’s worth noting that the size of a snooker table is considerably larger than that of a pool table, measuring at an impressive 12′ x 6′. Like a pool table, the surface is also covered in felt and has 6 pockets.

The Best – a 147:
Most sports have its perfect result, the kind of thing all athletes aim to get but only a select talented few can ever hope to achieve. Golf has a hole in one, Darts has the 9-dart finish and snooker has the incredible 147! 

The pinnacle of anyone’s game is to make this almighty break. If you are able to do this then you are apart of snookers elite, with only a few of the talented players able to achieve such a feat. To get 147 in points means you have, without missing a shot, potted a red, then black, then red, then black – 15 times and then worked your way through all the colors in numerical order. 

Not only does he have the fastest 147 in snooker, but he also holds the record of the most century breaks in snooker, with over 1000  to his name.

Check out Ronnie “the rocket” O’Sullivan below, arguably the greatest ever snooker player get the fastest ever 147 in history….. it’s impressive

Pool – Key features​

Pool, as specified at the beginning of the article, is a variation or version of pocket billiards. 

Did you know the British have their own version of pool, similar to 8 ball with some differences? Check out the differences between American pool and British pool to learn more. 

The pool version was developed chiefly to satisfy the gambling or betting instincts of the players-hence the name ‘pool.’ Betting on horse races was against the law in the 18th century (the period when billiards evolved), and hence prohibited.

If you are interested to know more about how the name “pool” came about from its gambling days then check out why is billiards called pool.

Games played

Games that are called pool vary in the number of balls used and the rules. The only thing they all have in common is that they are all forms of pocket billiards and they are all played on tables with pockets. 

8 ball, 9 ball and bank pool are popular forms of pool.

Pool tables  

If you are playing American pool then there are three common tables to choose from, an 7,8 and 9 ft in length. Whichever table you choose, the rules for that game don’t change

As i said before, the table size is one of the main differences between snooker vs pool and for good reason. 

Pool balls.

Its worth noting that the size of the balls are usually the same across all pool games, with the standard size being 2 & 1/4 inches 

Billiards – Key features​

What is Carom BilliardsCarom Billiards, is another variation of a cue sport which fit under the “carom billiards”  arm of cue sports.

It’s a distinct category of games that are typically played using a pool cue, cloth-draped table, and billiard balls. 

The main difference between pool vs snooker vs billiards is the number of pockets and number of balls as well as the size of the table. 

Carom billiards differ from snooker or pool in that it is played on a table without any pockets and its played using only 3 balls.

Colloquially speaking, billiards is an umbrella term extensively used for referring to pocket billiards sport formats like pool and snooker. Snooker, pool, and billiards are the three broad categories of games classified under cue sports.

Table Distinctions between pool, snooker and billiards

One practical way of differentiating pool from snooker is by inspecting the table type used for playing both games. 

Both pool and snooker tables have pockets,  six in total. 

Carom billiard tables in sharp contrast do not have any pockets.

Standard Pool tables are usually seven foot, eight foot, or nine feet in length known as bar tables, recreational tables, and tournament tables respectively. The width of the table is always half the length. 

Snooker tables are a whole different animal, coming in at a whopping 12’x6′

Billiard tables are the middle ground between pool and snooker tables coming in at 10×5 ft

If you are interested in how to measure your table then I’ve written a handy article that goes into detail on how to do such a thing

Compare the playing field for each table

Table SizePlaying surface in ft²
6 ft (ENG)18 ft²
7 ft (ENG/USA)24.50 ft²
8 ft (USA)32 ft²
9 ft (USA)40.50 ft²
Carom50 ft²
12 ft Snooker>72 ft²

The above table can help you determine the difference in scale between a billiards vs pool vs snooker table.

The difference between a 6ft English pool table and a snooker table is 54 ft²

This means that within the snooker table playing field, you could fit a carom table and a 6 ft English pool table.  That’s a big table!

Ball Differences

Taking a look at the differences between snooker vs pool vs billiards, the number of balls you use depends upon the type of game you’re playing. 

Nevertheless, the maximum number of balls you can use for pool is sixteen-eight colored balls bearing numbers 1 through 8; seven balls with colored strips numbered from 9 to 15, and a white cue ball. Pool balls have a diameter of 2 ¼ inches.

You use simply three balls for playing carom billiards, colored red, white, and yellow, respectively. Both the yellow and white balls can be used as strikers or cue balls. Billiards balls are a tad larger than pool balls having a diameter of 2 7/16”. 

You use the maximum number of balls for playing snooker-22 balls. With snooker, you use one yellow, black, brown, green, blue, and pink ball each, 15 red balls, and one solid white ‘cue’ ball. Every snooker ball has a diameter of 2 1/16”.

Cue Differences

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between a pool cue and a snooker cue, but if you delve a little deeper you’ll find although they have similarities they have some major differences too. most noticeable is the tips they use. Because of the size and weight of the balls snooker tips use smaller tips compared to pool cues.

the difference between american pool cue and snooker cue

I’ve gone into more detail explaining the difference between a pool and snooker cue in a full comparison and guide between the two types of cues.

Felt Used for Covering Bar Tables and Recreational Tables

All pocket billiard games use tables draped or enveloped with felt woven from wool or a blend of wool and nylon. The bar tables that find widespread applications are covered with a hard-wearing cloth while snooker and pool tables are enveloped with worsted wool that allows the games to be played faster.

The traditional color used for cloth is green, but you will also come across billiards or snooker tables draped in red or blue cloth.

Distinctions in Rules

Snooker vs pool vs billiards all have their distinctive rules and regulations. 

With billiards, your objective is to ratchet up ‘counts’ or points by striking the cue ball.

In snooker you need to collect points from potting balls, the winner of that game will win a frame – snooker games can have as many as 35 frames

As far as pool is concerned, the rules for playing differ from one game type to another. Playing straight pool is deceptively simple where you need to send the balls into the pockets for scoring points.


Closing up, There are a number of differences between snooker, pool, and carom billiards, they are distinct versions of cue sports that have some similarities as well as noticeable differences. 

However, it is the number of balls and table size is the main theme that distinguishes one-game format from another.

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Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.

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