What Is The Difference Between Pool, Billiards, and Snooker?

At a glance, pool, billiards, and snooker all look like the same game. They all use the same table, they all involve hitting balls into pockets, and they all require a significant level of player concentration.

To the untrained eye, it’s difficult to distinguish them from one another. So what’s the difference? Are they all just different names for the same game?

Pool, billiards, and snooker are all different games with their own individual set of rules. One of the key distinguishing difference between the three games are the number of balls that they use. Pool uses eight or nine balls, billiards uses only three, and snooker uses a total of twenty-two balls.

The Basic Rules of Pool

In general, the rules of pool are a lot simpler than the rules of billiards or snooker. It’s one of the primary reasons why pool tables are more commonly found at local pubs, arcades, and private game rooms.

The game of pool is easy to learn and accessible to everybody, regardless of previous experience. Pool tables are considerably smaller than a billiards or snooker table, typically measure six feet long by three feet wide.

Eight-Ball Pool

Regardless of what variation of pool you decide to play, there are still some general rules that hold universally true. If you accidentally pot the cue ball, your opponent is then given the opportunity to reset the cue ball wherever they’d like on the table. This is obviously very advantageous for them, as they can place themselves in a better position to score.

If the 8-ball is accidentally out of order, the ball is reset and the other player then gets to play. It should be noted that a combination shot, ora shot that hits one ball and then into the 8-ball, can never result in alegitimate potting of the 8-ball. The 8-ball must always be the last ball to bepotted.

Nine-Ball Pool

Nine-ball pool uses nine balls (obviously). This variation of pool requires that players pot the balls in numbered sequence, beginning with the 1-ball and ending with the 9-ball. The first do pot the 9-ball is considered the winner.

In this particular variation of the game, it’s important to utilize angles and practice your technique with the cue rod. Players who learn to pot their balls every single time have a better chance of shutting out their opponent and winning the game.

Players alternate taking shots until one of them pots the next sequential ball. If they miss entirely, hit the wrong number, or pot the wrong ball, this is considered a scratch.

The Basic Rules of Billiards

Only three balls are used to play billiards, but this doesn’t necessarily make the game simple to understand. The three balls that are used are two white cue balls and one red ball. These games are typically played one-on-one or in teams of two.

In a game of billiards, points are awarded in three different ways: cannon, winning hazard, and losing hazard. These different point scoring methods can be a bit confusing at first, but become easier to understand the more you practice.

The players must agree on a maximum score, and the first to achieve the score is considered the winner. Many professional players often play as high as 1000 points, but beginners are recommended to start somewhere around 150 when they’re first getting started.

This game involves a lot of strategy and technique, as well as understanding how to position your opponent in a less than ideal position so you can earn points from their foul shots.


A cannon is when a player hits the cue ball first in order to hit the other cue ball and then a red ball, which is worth a total of two points. The red ball doesn’t have to be potted in order for a player to be awarded points.

Winning Hazard

A winning hazard occurs when a player pots a red ball directly, which is worth a total of three points. The red ball is then returned to its designated spot on the table for the game to continue. Winning hazards are probably the easiest and most effective way to earn points.

Losing Hazard

A losing hazard can happen in several different ways.

  1. The player can earn three points if he hits another cue ball, which then hits the red ball and pots the red ball.
  2. The second way to get a losing hazard is if the red ball is hit first, which then ricochets off the other white ball. This method is worth only two points.
  3. The third way is if the other cue ball is hit and knocks into the red ball, but the red ball is not potted. This is only worth two points.
  4. The final way to obtain a losing hazard is if the red and the other cue ball are hit at the same time, in which case two points are awarded.

Foul Shots

In situations where the player is unable to hit any of the other balls, a point is added to their opponents overall score. Additionally, if the player’s cue ball is pocketed directly, three points are awarded to their opponent.

The Basic Rules of Snooker

When it comes to snooker, there’s a method to the madness. A game of snooker uses twenty-two different balls, which includes the white cue ball, fifteen red balls, and the remaining colored balls: black, pink, blue, brown, green, and yellow.

Snooker is typically played on a much larger table than billiards or pool, so you can typically tell the difference just by examining the play surface.

Scoring System

Snooker is a points-based game, with each of the balls being worth a certain amount of points when potted. Red balls are all worth one point, but the colored balls are where it gets exciting. The yellow ball is worth two points, green is worth three, brown is worth four, blue is worth five, pink is worth six, and the black ball is worth a whopping seven points.

Players must alternate potting red and then a colored ball until there are no more red balls remaining. The player with the most combined points by the end of the game is considered the winner.

Truly Snookered

There’s obviously quite a bit of strategy and math involved with snooker. Truly experienced players know just where to leave the cue ball to give their opponents a difficult time. They can make sure that the cue ball is placed in a difficult position to make sure that their opponent has a hard to scoring points or potting the required ball.

The term snookered arises when you place the cue ball directly behind a colored ball (or vice versa) when your opponent needs to hit a red ball (or vice versa). Effectively, this means their stuck!

Aim for Black

The game of snooker has players alternating between red and colored ball. When a colored ball is potted, it’s then replaced on a specific spot on the snooker table and is still considered a live ball that the player is free to use. Ideally, if a player is lucky enough, they can alternate between a red ball and black ball, which is worth seven points.

This is considered a perfect game if then can pot all fifteen red balls and alternate off of the seven-point black ball, finishing off by potting the other colored balls. Of course, this is incredibly difficult to do, as there are always other balls in the way, but it’s not impossible!

In Conclusion

The terms snooker, billiards, and pool are often used interchangeably during casual conversation, but now you know the difference! Each of these terms actually refers to a different game entirely.

They may look the same to the inexperienced eye, but there are differences in table size, number of balls, and overall rules and scoring systems. The next time you stop by your local pub or arcade, you’ll be prepared for when someone asks you to a friendly match!