Cue sports have been around since the 1340s and it’s commonplace to see pub pool tables, members club snooker tables and even the occasional bar billiards table in towns and cities around the UK.
Billiards is the oldest set of rules, originally played outdoors on croquet lawns, and eventually on an indoor board covered in green fabric to simulate grass – a practice that continues to this day with standard snooker table baize.
It was over 500 years before snooker was invented in 1875, by putting together rules of two billiards variants: pyramid pool, which used 15 red balls, and black pool, which used different coloured balls.
While the word ‘pool’ has been linked with versions of pocket billiards for centuries, the modern game of eight-ball pool was not invented until the early 1900s and has become the standard variant played on pub pool tables in the UK.
What to know about Billiards
Billiards has a lot of variations. Some use tables with no pockets at all. Some – called pocket billiards – use a table similar to a familiar snooker table or pool table with pockets around the edge.
In most versions, you can score points by hitting an opponent’s ball with your own after banking off a cushion or cannoning off another ball on the table, although there are a lot of other rule sets in use around the world.
The first time you see a bar billiards table can be quite a surprise. That’s because instead of pockets in the sides and corners, it has holes in the middle of the playing surface itself, with points scored depending on which hole your ball drops into.
Pool and snooker can be thought of as specific rule sets of pocket billiards, although the popularity of both have made them sports in their own right.
What to know about Pool
Pool is not a single game, but a collection of similar variations of pocket billiards. For instance, pub pool tables come in a variety of sizes, and the game can be played using ‘spots and stripes’ or red and yellow balls.
There are other versions of pool too, such as 9-ball, which uses nine balls arranged in a diamond instead of the usual 15 in a triangle.
What to know about Snooker
Snooker is much more clearly defined, with a large table of specific size and fixed rules about gameplay, scoring and fouls.
But it’s still governed by the same body as billiards – now called the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
If you’ve never tried it, a game of full-size snooker is well worth an hour or two of your time. But with the challenge of such a large playing surface and tight pockets, it’s no wonder most casual players prefer to stick to their local pub pool table instead.