Is Billiards the Same as Pool?

If you’ve ever found yourself confused about whether billiards and pool are two different games or simply interchangeable terms, this blog post is here to set the record straight. While many people use the words “billiards” and “pool” interchangeably, there are actually some nuanced differences between these two popular cue sports.

The Origins of Billiards and Pool

To understand the distinctions between billiards and pool, let’s take a brief look at their origins:


The game we now know as billiards has its roots traced back to 15th-century Europe. Originally played outdoors on grass, it evolved into an indoor game with a table covered in green cloth known as a billiard table. This early version included three balls: two white and one red. Over time, various versions of billiard games emerged across different regions.


In contrast, pool originated in America during the latter half of the 19th century. The term “pool” referred to betting pools where players would contribute money before participating in matches. As rules varied from place to place, specific forms of pool games such as eight-ball and nine-ball gained popularity.

Differences in Gameplay

While both billiards and pool involve using a cue stick to strike balls on a felt-covered table with pockets at each corner or side, there are several key gameplay differences that distinguish them:

Number of Balls:

In billiards, typically three balls are used – one white (the cue ball), one yellow (the object ball), and one red (the target ball). On the other hand, pool usually involves 16 balls: one white cue ball, 15 object balls (including seven solid-colored and eight striped balls), and one black eight-ball or nine-ball in specific variations.


In billiards, the objective is to score points by striking the red target ball with your own cue ball. In pool, the goal varies across different game types – it can involve sinking all of your designated balls (solids or stripes) before potting the black eight-ball or aiming to pocket a specific numbered ball early on.

Table Size:

Billiard tables are typically larger than pool tables. A standard billiard table measures 10 feet long, while pool tables come in various sizes ranging from 7 to 9 feet.

The Overlap and Interchangeability

Despite their differences, it’s important to note that “billiards” often serves as an umbrella term encompassing various cue sports like carom billiards and English billiards. Meanwhile, “pool” generally refers to games played on a pocketed table with multiple object balls.

This distinction becomes blurred when people use “pool” as shorthand for any cue sport activity that doesn’t involve snooker or straight rail billiards specifically. Thus, many individuals casually refer to both forms as simply “playing pool.”

In Conclusion

To sum up: While there are historical origins and subtle distinctions between traditional billiards and modern-day pool games, these terms have become somewhat interchangeable in common usage today. Ultimately, whether you’re playing billiards or pool among friends at your local pub or joining professional tournaments for either discipline – what matters most is enjoying the thrilling experience of striking those balls with skillful precision!