How Does Snooker Differ from Other Billiard Sports?

Pool table
Pic: Avi Richards

Billiard sports, or cue sports, are sports that are played on a billiard table with a cue stick and billiard balls. The three main types of billiard sports are carom billiards, pool, and snooker, but there are many different variations of each one. Pool and snooker are pocket billiard sports, where as carom billiards is a non-pocket sport. Additionally, the type of billiard table and the size of the balls used will vary depending on the sport that’s played.

Besides the basic equipment used, there are many more differences among the various billiard sports. Still, they all have something more in common: they’re all games of skill. In this way billiard sports are also similar to other games of skill such as poker, because they all require preparation and focus to succeed. With all of these sports, you need to be able to read your opponent, know the rules and best strategies of the game, and take risks.

Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at how snooker compares with some of the other most popular billiard sports: carom billiards and pool.


Snooker is the most popular billiard sport in the UK — but not the most popular sport — particularly at the professional level. The main difference between snooker and other billiard sports is the type of table used and the number of balls used. The table is usually referred to as either a billiard table or a snooker table. The table size usually varies from 10 feet to 12 feet in length (depending on where the game is played in the world), but it always has six pockets.

As for the number of balls used, snooker uses 22 balls. There’s one white striker ball, 15 red balls, and then 6 balls that are all different colors (blue, green, yellow, brown, pink, and black). These balls are all worth different points. The red balls are worth one point, the yellow is two points, the green is three points, the brown is four points, the blue is five points, the pink is six points, and the black is seven points. The game is organized into rounds alternating between the goal of pocketing a red ball or a colored ball. A player can only win points if they pocket the correct ball during that round. If they pocket the incorrect ball, they get a foul.

Carom Billiards

Carom billiards, often simply referred to as billiards now, are games that are played on a billiard table that doesn’t have pockets. The tables for these games tend to range from seven feet to ten feet in length. Billiards games use only three balls — one white, one yellow, and one red — and the white or the yellow ball can act as the striker. The most popular types of carom billiards are three-cushion billiards, balkline, and straight rail. In all of these games, the object of the game is to score points by bouncing one’s own cue ball against the opponent’s cue ball and the third object ball.

In straight rail, for example, a player keeps his turn as long as his cue ball continues to make contact with the other two balls. In balkline, there are limits placed for each player to score points. And with three-cushion billiards, a player must make contact with with three rail cushions and the other two balls in order to score any points.


Rack of pool balls
Pic: Marcelo Leal

Pool tables are usually seven to nine feet in length. Like carom billiards, there are many different variations of pool, but a basic game of pool uses sixteen balls. These sixteen balls are made up of one white cue ball, eight solid-colored balls that are numbered one through eight, and seven striped balls of various colors that are numbered nine through fifteen. Popular variations of pool typically include straight pool and eight-ball.

For straight pool, players decide on the number of points needed to win the game. Usually, players play to reach 100 points or 150 points. Points are scored by shooting specific balls into specific pockets. If a player doesn’t meet their desired goal, they don’t score any points. In eight-ball, the goal is to pocket a predetermined group of balls — for example, one player might have to pocket solid-colored balls while another pockets striped balls — and then pocket the eight ball last in a called pocket.

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