Sports & Outdoor

Difference between Pool and Snooker – Guide

Written by James Robinson

Cue sports, more often called billiards, are a popular phenomenon around the world. Generally, most games involve a felt-tipped wooden cue that is used to strike colored and/or numbered balls, usually made out of ivory. The game is played on various shaped tables-usually made out of slate-that come equipped with a number of pockets.

There are many variations of the sport. Tables and equipment can vary in size and shape of the playing surface. Playing balls may be differentiated by size, color and number. Cues will also vary in size, depending upon the game and type of table being used.

Today, we will be concentrating on the two most popular games, pool(billiards) and snooker. While both share the moniker of “cue sports”, the differences can be quite distinct, and sometimes even be a catalyst of debate between players of each sport! But before we dig into the differences, a bit of context and history about each game:

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Generally, the game of pool was adopted in the United States in the early 1800’s. The game originated in Great Britain as English Billiards and emigrated stateside in the years just after the American Revolution. Over time the game underwent variations, including pyramid pool and continuous pool, and eventually morphed into the most popular modern form which is called straight pool.

Game tables for pool are rectangular, and each long end of the table contained 3 pockets. The total of 6 pockets was partitioned with 4 pockets in each corner, and 2 “side” pockets equidistant in the middle from each of it’s 2 adjoining corners. Tables do vary in size, but usually, range between 3.5 feet x 7 feet and 4.5 feet x 9 feet.

Just as with playing cards, many variations of pool games have emerged over hundreds of years. It is often a common practice that the owner of the table is allowed to set house rules, by which all players will agree to abide by said rules set by the house. Many bars and taverns with or without leagues will also enforce such house rules, as it makes for simplification of games and standards. The most popular of pool games involve 8, 9 or 15 colored and numbered balls depending on the type of game players agree to play.


Also originating with the British, in the second half of the 1800s, Snooker grew out of regular billiards by British officers who had been stationed in India. A niche game, Snooker took a variation of the pool that became reserved for military and the upper class, though as it gained popularity over the years more halls and clubs opened and the game gained wider exposure to the general masses.

The World Snooker Championship began in 1927, and over subsequent decades the game has grown in popularity and is now an annual televised event.


Tables- Snooker tables are a tad bigger than previously mentioned pool tables. A Snooker table is sized between 5×10 feet in America and 6×10 feet in Europe.

Balls– A standard pool table comes equipped with 15 numbered balls and one cue ball. Odd-numbered balls are striped, and even numbers are solid in color, including the “middle” 8 balls. Snooker uses 21 balls and the added cue ball. Red balls make up 15 of the 21. The remainder are of a different color, and Snooker allows for 3 striking balls, as opposed to pooling which allows for just 1 white striking ball. Snooker balls are smaller than pool balls, 2 1/15 inch diameter as opposed to pool balls which are 2 1/4 inches in diameter.

Cues- The difference in the ball size in each game lends itself to the difference in cue sticks. Tip size of a Snooker cue is smaller in order to maximize accuracy when striking the smaller Snooker balls.

The object of the game- In Snooker, the goal of the game is to score more points than your opponent. Once all 15 red balls are off the table, players take aim at the higher valued color balls. Pool games have more variance in terms of how to win. Some games are similar to Snooker in counting numbered balls to outscore your opponents. Other games are geared toward pocketing balls in some type of order, or like balls, solid or striped. In the case of 9-ball, the 1-9 balls are pocketed in order, and unless the 9 balls is pocketed in tandem, it must be pocketed last.

Pool and Snooker are both excellent games to learn and play. Each game poses unique challenges, and different advantages can be gained against an opponent depending on the game that suits your talents. An internet search of each game can provide many further points and tips as well as a fascinating read on the detailed strategy involved in each game!

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James Robinson

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