What is the Difference Between Pool and Billiards

At first, the question 'What is the difference between pool and billiards'? may sound a bit outlandish, but we can not deny the fact that many of us don't really know the answer. Even the people who play either of the games are not sure about the distinguishing characteristics amongst the two.
SportsAspire Staff
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2018
If you like either of these games, then this is a very obvious question that may come to your mind, time and again. Many people have different assumptions and their own judgments when it comes to the differences. I myself for example, used to think that pool and billiards are just different regional names given to a game which is known as snooker! And needless to say that I was wrong! To know the difference, one must get to know the origin of both, which ironically is the same. Pool, billiards, and snooker are the most famous forms of a sport, known as cue sports.
What are Cue Sports?
Sometimes referred to as 'billiard sports', all the cue sports are basically indoor sports. Cue sports is the group of sports that are played with a cue stick and billiard balls, placed on a cloth covered table, that has rubber or leather cushion boundaries. Divided into three sub-groups, pocket billiards, carom billiards, and snooker, are three totally different games, unified under the name billiards.
Both games belong to the group of cue sports and this can be stated as the only similarity between the two but the differences are many.
Basically, pool is not the original name of the game. What we refer to as 'pool' is originally known as pocket billiards! There is a small story behind it which I am sure, you would like to know. The history goes back to the 18th century, when the game used to be played in the poolrooms, where the gamblers of the horse races used to 'pool' the money that they used to bet, off the records. Hence, the game got the untoward linking with the poolrooms and the gamblers. In the later era, pocket billiards was initially the pastime of the rich and refined people. Despite many initiatives of the rich class, the name pool was just stuck to the game and is still known so.
Pool utilizes different equipment than that of carom billiards. Pool is played on a pocketed table with the ball size smaller than that of carom billiards. There are literally a hundred types of pocket billiards being played all over the world, famous with names like eight ball pool, nine ball pool, straight pool and one pocket pool. Where, cowboy pool, bottle pool, American four ball pool, and English billiards are some hybrid forms.
A pool table consists of 6 pockets that are enclosed at the sides of the table. The cloth of a pool table is slow, as compared to that of the billiard table. There are two sets of balls used here, one set of colored balls and the other set of striped balls. Both of these sets are combined into a single set of 7 balls which is then setup with a set of 8 black balls.
The name billiards can be given to the whole bunch of cue sports. The original name is 'carom billiards'. It is sometimes also referred to as 'carambole billiards'. This game is played on cloth covered, but pocket-less tables. There are various types of carom billiards and some of them are, cushion carom, straight rail, balkline, artistic billiards, and three cushion billiards.
The word carom which is actually a sort of abbreviation of the Spanish and Portuguese term 'carambola', which means 'rebound after hitting', came into general use during late 1860. The word was used to describe the red ball. The balls used are relatively heavier and larger than the pool balls. The cloth that is used is fast, meaning the balls move more swiftly on it. The game is played with three balls, in which one is red, one is white and one is yellow. Of these, both the yellow and white can be used as cue balls or strikers. The basic objective of the three cushion billiards is to hit both the target balls with the cue balls, while making three rails in tandem. This process is called 'carom'.
Differences Between Billiards and Pool
Criteria Pool Billiards
Cloth Type Cloth on the pool table, makes the movement of the balls a bit slow. Cloth on the billiards table is fast, which helps in the swift movements of the balls.
Balls Number of balls range from 1-15 according to the game. At least three balls are used which are slightly larger than the pool balls.
Cues Longer cue sticks, that are very slender as well as leaner, are used. Smaller, with a thicker butt, shorter ferrule, fast taper, wooden pin joint and a small tip, are used.
Table Size Minimum size is 3.5' x 7'. Minimum size is 5' x 10'.

The differences between them are many, the point structure and rules of pool are very different from billiards, but the similarity is, playing both the games requires a lot of skill and resolve.
Young couple playing snooker in a pool hall
Carom billiards straight single shot