Are Billiards and Pool the Same?

It’s the subject of its fair share of bar arguments: Do the words “pool” and “billiards” mean the same thing? The short answer is no, they refer to two different games, though the term “billiards” has evolved in some areas to refer to any game played on a table with a cue stick and balls. In fact, “billiards” originally referred to a distinct game called “carom billiards.”

Differences in the Tables

Pool and billiards are both played on rectangular tables of lengths ranging from 7 to 9 feet, but carom billiards is played on a table with no pockets while pool tables have six pockets. Seven-foot tables are sometimes called bar tables. Eight-foot tables are also called recreational or home tables. Nine-foot tables are referred to as tournament or professional tables.

Differences in the Balls

The balls that are used to play pool are different than the balls that are used to play carom billiards. In a game of pool, the balls have a diameter of 2 1/4 inches whereas, in billiards, the balls are larger, at 2 7/16 inches. Additionally, the games use a different number of balls during gameplay.

In the much more commonly played game of pool, the number of balls can vary. 9-ball uses nine colored balls plus the cue ball for a total of 10 balls, and 8-ball uses 15 colored balls plus the cue ball for a total of 16 balls. In carom billiards, by contrast, only three balls are used: a white, a yellow, and a red one. Either the white ball or the yellow ball may be the striker at different points in the game.

Differences in the Rules

Of course, with different numbers and sizes of balls being used on different tables, the rules must be different as well. The major difference is that, in billiards, the object of the game is to come off the rails and make contact with the non-striker balls. In pool, the object is to pocket the balls.

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