Let’s to Billiards..... What’s in a name?

We generally use the word billiards more in a generic sense than to describe the games of the same name. We also do it for the word Pool. Maybe a quick run through of the names and games will help clear up any confusion for the uninitiated.

At this stage I think it necessary to mention that there are quite a few different games that are played on billiards tables. The word Billiards has a couple of meanings. It is used correctly to describe the table. All tables can be referred to as billiards tables, regardless of the game played. It also covers two varieties of games, Carom and English Billiards.

Carom Billiards is played on tables that have no pockets, using three balls, a red, a white and a yellow ball. Carom, means cannon; hence the game is played and scored by making cannons. This is where the three balls all make contact within the one shot. To add degrees of difficulty to the games you may have to have your cue ball also make contact with one, two or three cushions within the shot. The most popular form for Professional events is the Three Cushion game. To give an example, the player has to cause their cue ball to make contact with three different cushions at some point within the shot – cue ball to hit the red then three cushions then the opponent’s cue ball. If you own a table regardless of size or having pockets, just try it. The scoring is one point per cannon. A run of 4 or 5 points is regarded as very good. Having seen the game played, I can assure you the players are very clever. The tables are usually 10 foot by 5 foot for tournament play.

English Billiards is played on tables with 6 curve cut or round pockets and the same three coloured balls as carom but with at least 6 ways to score. Winning Hazard (pocket the red or opponents cue ball), Losing Hazard (going in-off or scratching your cue ball off the red or opponents cue ball), Cannon (playing your cue off the other two balls) or a combination of these (playing your cue ball off red onto opponents cue ball and the red and/or both cue balls being pocketed). Pocketing or in-off red is 3 points, a cannon is 2, pocketing or in-off opponent’s cue ball is 2 points. There are limitations to the concurrent scoring shots which a player can achieve. The table size for Pro events is 12 foot by 6 foot.

Snooker is also played on the same table. There are up to 22 balls in a set of snooker balls, depending on table size. Points are allotted to each ball, 15 Reds each worth 1, and 6 other colours, yellow 2, green 3, brown 4, blue 5, pink 6 and black 7.
The idea of the game is to legally pocket a red and then you have the choice of any of the other 6 colours. It is continuous until you miss or commit a foul shot. Hence, red then choice of one other colour, red, colour, red, colour and keep adding the points allotted to the various balls.

Pool is the most generic, as there are over 25 different games, mostly for fun. Under the auspicious of the World Pool-Billiard Association, the Governing Body for the Pool games there are 6 that are played at Professional tournament level. The tables for these games are 9 foot by 4.5 foot with 6 square cut pockets. Home tables can be down to 6 foot by 3 foot.  The balls are numbered 1 through 15 of various colours. 1 through 8 is solid coloured and 9 through 15 are white with a coloured stripe. Some of the games such as 8-ball, Rotation, Straight Pool are played with all 15 balls. Games such as 9-ball and 10-ball are played with the corresponding number of balls.  The two biggest tournament games played at Pro level are 9 and 10-ball. The object of the games is to legally pocket the 9 or 10-ball depending on the chosen game. The balls must be hit in numerical order, but combination or cannons are allowable to make scoring shots.

This has been a very simplistic run through of the games played on billiards tables. I have received many requests for my opinion on a number of aspects of the billiards games and equipment, so maybe more in depth information will come in the future.

by Edward Charlton, Pro player since 1975 now retired and billiard company owner for over 30 years.