What Is The Difference Between Billiards and Pool?

In the United States today, if you walk into a pool hall, bar, or rec center you will probably see people playing what’s known today as pool but pool wasn’t always called pool. Before it received the name pool, it was referred to as pocket billiards.

Now, billiards and pool are commonly used interchangeably but that’s not exactly correct. So, what is the difference between billiards and pool? It’s not incorrect to call what we commonly known as pool, billiards. It’s just not fully correct.

Billiards is the original name of a group of games played with sticks on a felted table with billiards balls otherwise known as cue sports.

Pool is one type of Billiards.

Billiards includes multiple different games including pool aka pocket billiards, snooker, and English Billiards.

  • Pool is the game that most people in the United States know as billiards. Pool is played with between 9 and 15 numbered balls and the goal is typically to make your balls in the pockets in an effort to make the object ball first. These 2 games are 8 ball pool and 9 ball pool.
  • Snooker also has pockets on the table but it is played with 15 pink numberless balls, 6 numbered object balls, and a cue ball.
  • English Billiards commonly called Billiards in the UK is played with 3 balls and no pockets

English Billiards (Billiards)

In the UK, English Billiards is more commonly referred to as billiards now, which is played with 3 balls and no pockets.

In English Billiards, there are 2 cue balls and one red ball. One cue ball is white and one is yellow.

English Billiards isn’t very common in the United States.

Here’s the setup for English Billiards.

english billiards table set up

Pocket Billiards (Pool)

Pool as we know it in the United States was originally called Pocket Billiards. Pool is the group of billiards games that have pockets unlike English Billiards mentioned above.

There are multiple different pool games such as 8 ball, 9 ball, straight pool, cutthroat, and one pocket. Of these games, 8 ball pool is the most popular and well-known. Apple recently released an 8 ball pool iMessage game that a lot of people play.

The term pool originated from gambling houses that were called poolrooms. The name pool room comes from the fact when you make a bet money is pooled together. So, they called these places, poolrooms.

In the 18th century, gambling was illegal, so, they would put pocket billiards tables in the poolrooms to make it less suspicious. The gamblers would play pocket billiards casually to pass time and make it appear they weren’t gambling. Pocket billiards ended up taking the name pool.

8 ball table set up

Related Posts: Beginner’s Pool Guide, Best Pool Tables


Snooker is also a common billiards game. It is typically played among competitive and professional billiards players.

Typically, if someone says to you they want to play billiards, at least in the U.S. they are talking about pool, not snooker.

Snooker is played with 15 red numberless balls, 6 numbered object balls and a cue ball.

In snooker, each ball is worth a certain number of points:

The object is to alternate between red balls and numbered balls.

When you make a numbered ball, the numbered ball is placed back on it’s set spot on the table.

snooker table setup

Wrapping It Up

Billiards is the name for any game played on a felt table with cue sticks and billiards balls. What we known as pool today, was originally called pocket billiards. Pocket billiards picked up the name pool from being the game of choice in gambling houses known as poolrooms.

The relationship between pool and billiards is that pool is one type of billiards. There are many pool games but the most popular is 8 ball pool.

All in all, if someone says they want to play billiards they are most likely referring to 8 ball pool.

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