Snooker vs. Pool: Understanding the Distinctive Features of Two Iconic Games (2024)

October 29, 2023

By FCI Billiards

Snooker vs. Pool: Understanding the Distinctive Features of Two Iconic Games (1)

When it comes to cue sports, two games reign supreme, and each has its own loyal following. In this discussion of snooker vs. pool, we'll delve into the fascinating world of these two sports, exploring their origins, rules, snooker vs. pool table size, gameplay and cultural significance. We'll also discuss the nuances of these captivating cue sports and discover the unique characteristics that make snooker and pool distinct yet equally enthralling in their own right.

Article Contents:

Origins of Snooker vs. Pool Strategies: Snooker vs. Pool Snooker Table vs. Pool Table Snooker vs. Pool Equipment Frequently Asked Questions

In the Beginning: The Origins of Snooker vs. Pool

Snooker, with its rich history rooted in the refined parlors of the British elite, and pool, the quintessential American barroom pastime, have captivated players and spectators around the world. But what sets these two cue sports apart? Is it the size of the table, the number of balls or perhaps the strategy involved?

While both snooker and pool have carved out unique spaces in cue sports, their origins share common roots. The history of these games stretches back to eras when nobility and the military engaged in indoor versions of lawn games.

Pool's Precursors

The game we now recognize as pool evolved from early table games played in Northern Europe during the 15th century. The term "pool" originally denoted a collective bet or ante. Billiard rooms where pool was played were places patrons would "pool" their bets on horse racing. It's from this context that the game eventually inherited its name. Initially played on a table with pockets and various obstacles, the game gradually refined itself over the centuries.

Snooker's British Army Beginnings

Snooker, on the other hand, has a more recent and distinct origin. Born in the British Empire during the latter half of the 19th century, snooker was a creation of the British Army officers stationed in India. The game's name, "snooker," was a slang term used for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel. It was coined during a game when a player missed a shot and was jokingly labeled a "snooker." This term eventually became synonymous with the game itself.

Playing by the Rules: The Difference Between Snooker & Pool

At first glance, snooker and pool may appear somewhat similar. But for enthusiasts, the difference between snooker and pool gameplay is vast and fascinating.

Snooker Rules

  • Objective: Players must first pot a red ball, followed by any of the colored balls. After all reds are potted, players then pot the colored balls in ascending order of their point values. The player with the most points at the end wins.
  • Fouls: A foul in snooker can occur for various reasons, such as failing to hit any ball, hitting a ball out of turn or potting the cue ball. Fouls result in point deductions.

Pool Rules

  • Objective: Depending on the specific type of pool, the objectives can vary. In the popular "8-Ball" variant, one player must pot all the solids while the other pots the stripes. The first to pot their designated balls and then legally pot the 8-ball wins. In "9-Ball," players aim to pot the balls in numerical order, with the game-winning shot on the 9-ball.
  • Fouls: Similar to snooker, pool has fouls like scratching (potting the cue ball), failing to hit any ball or not hitting the designated ball first. Consequences vary by the game type but often provide advantageous ball placement for the opponent.

Strategies: Snooker vs. Pool

When comparing snooker vs. pool, you'll see that while both revolve around the central theme of potting balls using a cue, their varied rules and strategies create distinct challenges and pleasures for players.

Both games demand a blend of precision, strategic foresight and sometimes a bit of risk-taking. While these strategies offer a foundation, the beauty of snooker vs. pool is that each game presents unique challenges, requiring players to adapt and innovate on the spot.

Strategies for Snooker

  • Safety Play: Especially at the professional level, snooker involves strategic safety play. This means playing shots that make it difficult for the opponent to return a shot without leaving an opening. Positioning the cue ball behind a colored ball, making a direct shot on a red ball difficult or impossible, is a common safety tactic.
  • Break Building: Once a player gets an opportunity, scoring as many points as possible in a single visit is crucial. This is known as break building. The key is to pot the black (worth the most points) after each red ball, ensuring the black returns to its spot, thus setting up another red and black combination.
  • Ball Control: Controlling the white ball's position is vital. This allows players to line up the next shot, especially when trying to pot colored balls in sequence after the reds are all potted.
  • Assessing the Table: A good player always thinks several shots ahead. By understanding the table's layout, you can plan your shots and navigate potential problem areas.

Strategies for Pool

  • Positional Play: In games like 8-Ball, it's not just about potting balls. It's equally important to ensure the cue ball ends up in a favorable position for the next shot. Proper angles and speeds are crucial to "run the table."
  • Defensive Shots: If you can't pot a ball or gain a significant advantage, sometimes the best strategy is to play defensively. This might involve blocking pockets with your balls, making it difficult for the opponent to clear their balls.
  • Break Shot: A powerful and well-aimed break can set the tone for the rest of the game. Ideally, you'll want to scatter the balls while maintaining control of the cue ball, avoiding a scratch (potting the cue ball).
  • Ball Selection: In 8-Ball, once a player pots either a stripe or solid after the break, they must continue potting that type of ball until they're all cleared. Choose the group (solids or stripes) with the most open shots or fewer obstacles.
  • Use of English: "English" refers to the spin on the cue ball. By mastering different spins (topspin, backspin, sidespin), players can control the cue ball's path after it strikes another ball, allowing for better positioning for subsequent shots.

Snooker vs. Pool: Understanding the Distinctive Features of Two Iconic Games (8)

Snooker Table vs. Pool Table

The environment in which you play profoundly impacts the game's strategy and techniques. Beyond the gameplay, size is one of the most noticeable variations between snooker table vs. pool table. Let's break down each difference between snooker and pool tables:

Pool Table Size

  • Standard Size: The most common size for professional pool competitions is the "regulation" or "tournament" size, which measures 9 feet by 4.5 feet.
  • Bar or Pub Size: Often found in casual settings like pubs or bars, these pool table dimensions are 7 feet by 3.5 feet. They're more compact, making them suitable for tighter spaces.
  • Other Variants: There are other sizes, such as the 8-foot x 4-foot table, which provide a middle ground between the professional and bar sizes.

Snooker Tables

  • Standard Snooker Table Size: A regulation snooker pool table, often seen in professional competitions, is much larger, measuring 12 feet by 6 feet. This expansive play area demands more precision and control from players.
  • Smaller Variants: While the full-sized table is the most popular for professional play, smaller snooker tables exist for recreational or amateur use. Snooker table dimensions like 10 feet by 5 feet are not uncommon in homes or clubs with limited space.

The difference in size between snooker table vs. pool table is not just a matter of space; it deeply influences the gameplay. A snooker table's larger size means longer shots, a greater emphasis on accuracy and more strategic positioning. On the other hand, a pool table's comparatively smaller dimensions often result in a faster-paced game with a higher emphasis on ball placement and strategy.

The Tools of the Trade: Snooker vs. Pool Equipment

While both snooker and pool are cue sports played on rectangular tables, the equipment they utilize reflects the unique characteristics and challenges of each game. Here's a comparative look at the key equipment for snooker vs. pool:


  • Snooker: Snooker cues are typically lighter and have a smaller tip diameter, ranging from 9 to 10.5 mm. This allows for the precision required to strike the smaller snooker balls accurately. Snooker cues are often made of ash wood, which gives them a distinct, smooth-tapered appearance.
  • Pool: Pool cues tend to be heavier with a broader tip, usually between 12 and 13 mm. This aids in making powerful shots, a necessity given the larger and heavier nature of pool balls. Maple is a common wood choice for pool cues, giving them a denser feel.


  • Snooker: Snooker balls are smaller, with a standard diameter of 52.5 mm. There are 15 red balls, 6 colored balls of varying point values and a white cue ball. They're designed for finesse shots and breaks that scatter less aggressively than in pool.
  • Pool: Pool balls are larger, typically measuring 57.2 mm in diameter. Depending on the game variant (8-ball, 9-ball, etc.), players use balls numbered 1 through 15 and a cue ball. Their larger size demands more forceful shots, especially on the break.

Table Cloth

  • Snooker: Snooker tables are covered with a finer, napped cloth, usually made of 100% wool. The nap, or directional texture of the fabric, affects the ball's trajectory, requiring players to account for it during play.
  • Pool: Pool table cloths are typically made from a faster, nap-free material, often a blend of wool and nylon. The consistency of the surface allows for more predictable ball movement.


  • Snooker: The pockets on a snooker table are narrower, especially at the corners. This makes potting balls more challenging, demanding higher accuracy.
  • Pool: Pool table pockets are generally wider, accommodating the game's larger balls. This design slightly eases the potting challenge but places a premium on strategy and ball positioning.

Stephen Hendry vs Gareth Potts | 8 Ball Pool

Scottish Snooker Player Stephen Hendry swaps cues with World Champion Pool Player Gareth Potts in a game of 8 Ball.

Frequently Asked Questions About Snooker vs. Pool

Below we've answered some of the most common questions about snooker vs. pool. If you'd like to know more, you can always touch base with the experts at FCI Billiards.

Is Snooker the Same as Pool?

Decidedly not – snooker and pool are distinct cue sports with different rules, table sizes and equipment. Think of them as cousins, not twins.

What Is Snooker?

Snooker is a cue sport that originated in the British Empire during the latter half of the 19th century. It's played on a rectangular table covered with green cloth and features 21 colored balls: 15 red balls, each worth one point and 6 other colored balls with varying point values. The objective of the game is for players to pot the balls into pockets in a specific sequence to accumulate points, with the player scoring the highest number of points declared the winner. The game is known for its strategic depth, precision and break-building skills.

What Is a Snooker Table?

A snooker table is a large, rectangular table specifically designed for playing snooker. It typically measures 12 feet by 6 feet, making it larger than most pool tables. The table surface is covered with a fine, napped cloth, usually made of 100% wool, which can affect the ball's trajectory. The table features six pockets – one at each corner and one in the middle of each of the longer sides. The pockets on a snooker table are narrower compared to pool tables, demanding greater accuracy from players. It also has markings like the "D" at one end, which is used for specific shots and game situations.

What Is a Pool Table?

A pool table is a rectangular table designed specifically for cue sports like 8-ball, 9-ball and other pool game variants. It's typically covered with a nap-free cloth, often a blend of wool and nylon, which allows for consistent ball movement. Standard competition pool tables measure 9 feet by 4.5 feet, though various sizes exist, from the smaller bar or pub tables (7 feet by 3.5 feet) to intermediate sizes. The table has six pockets – one at each corner and one in the middle of each of the longer sides. Unlike snooker tables, pool table pockets are generally wider to accommodate the game's larger balls. The design and dimensions of the pool table cater to the game's strategy, requiring both skillful shots and tactical ball placement.

Snooker vs. Pool: Navigate the Differences with FCI Billiards at Your Side

Whether you're diving into the strategic depths of snooker or mastering the tactical intricacies of pool, having the right equipment is crucial. At FCI Billiards, we understand the nuances that differentiate snooker vs. pool. Our curated selection of premium pool cues, top-notch billiard accessories and high-quality supplies ensures you're always at the top of your game. Shop today!


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Oct 30th 2023 FCI Billiards

Snooker vs. Pool: Understanding the Distinctive Features of Two Iconic Games (2024)


Snooker vs. Pool: Understanding the Distinctive Features of Two Iconic Games? ›

Snooker: The pockets on a snooker table are narrower, especially at the corners. This makes potting balls

A billiard ball is a small, hard ball used in cue sports, such as carom billiards, pool, and snooker. The number, type, diameter, color, and pattern of the balls differ depending upon the specific game being played. › wiki › Billiard_ball
more challenging, demanding higher accuracy. Pool: Pool table pockets are generally wider, accommodating the game's larger balls.

What is the difference between snooker and pool game? ›

Snooker is played with 15 red balls, 6 coloured balls and 1 cue ball - they are all slightly larger than pool balls. Snooker tables are larger than pool tables, but the 6 pockets on a snooker table are smaller than those on a pool table.

What is the difference between pool and snooker cues? ›

Yes, American cues are usually a little thicker with a larger tip (12-13 mm) to accommodate the larger cue ball. Conversely, snooker cues are thicker and made sturdier with a tip that measures 9-10 mm. As for sturdiness, a cue's shaft is rated based on its deflection rating.

What's the difference between snooker and American pool? ›

In America, it's on ten-foot tables, while in England, it's on massive twelve-foot tables. Snooker is played with 15 pink numberless balls, 6 numbered object balls, and 1 cue ball, while Pool is played on a table with 6 pockets, with 9 to 15 object balls, and in addition, a cue ball.

What is the difference between snooker and pool balls? ›

The first thing you will notice about the ball size between snooker and pool is that snooker balls are slightly smaller. Snooker balls usually have a diameter of 2 1/16 inches (52.5 mm). Pool balls have a diameter of 2 1/4 inches (57 mm).

What's the difference between a snooker table and a pool table? ›

Snooker uses a table that has six pockets, but the table is generally larger than pool tables. However, the pockets of the snooker table, though, are smaller. You need 15 balls to play snooker. All these balls do not have a number but are all red.

Which is harder to play snooker or pool? ›

Which game is harder-9 ball pool or snooker? Snooker by far. It was a short learning curve for Allison Fisher to go from top female snooker player to top female pool player. 8-ball and 9-ball are too easy to play, and any snooker player can pick up the basics and become competent in short order.

Why are snooker cues thinner than pool cues? ›

Type of Game: As mentioned earlier, snooker generally requires a smaller cue tip size for increased precision, while pool benefits from larger tips for added power and control. Playing Style: Your personal playing style should also influence your choice.

Can you use the same cue for pool and snooker? ›

1 Answer. There's a few differences between a snooker cue and a pool one: Weight: Because pool balls are heavier than their snooker cousins pool cues tend to be heavier to match. The weight distribution is also different - pool cues are heavier on the grip where snooker cues have more weight at the tip.

Is snooker similar to billiards? ›

Snooker, though a pocket billiards variant and closely related in its equipment and origin to the game of English billiards, is a professional sport organized at an international level, and its rules bear little resemblance to those of modern pool, pyramid, and other such games.

What is the American version of snooker? ›

American snooker has a simplified rule set compared to the international game, and is usually played on smaller tables. Depending upon equipment availability, the balls and pockets may be larger than those for standard snooker, up to the size of pool balls and pockets.

Why is it called snooker? ›

The word snooker was, at the time, a slang term used in the British Army to describe new recruits and inexperienced military personnel; Chamberlain used it to deride the inferior performance of a young fellow officer at the table.

What is billiards called in America? ›

The term billiards comes from the French. The root words are either 'billart' which is one of the sticks or 'bille,' which means ball. The sport had its beginnings way back in the 15th century in Northern Europe. The evolution to what we in America know as Pool has been long and drawn out.

What is the difference between play pool and snooker? ›

While snooker and pool share some similarities, they are two distinct games played on different tables with different rules and equipment. Snooker is played on a larger table with smaller pockets and smaller balls. The balls used in snooker are also numbered differently and have a different colour scheme.

What is the difference between snooker and pool sport? ›

Pool is faster paced as its played on a smaller table with less balls to pot. Snooker is more tactical, like pool, it's about potting your target ball (be it a red or a coloured ball) and positioning the cue ball to take the next shot, its a slower, more complex game.

Are snooker and pool played on the same table? ›

If you've ever seen a regular competition snooker table, you will notice that they are much, much bigger in size than a standard pool table. Almost twice the size in fact. Don't let this discourage you however from setting up and enjoying a game of snooker on your pool table though!

Why is it called a snooker in pool? ›

In 1875, army officer Neville Chamberlain, stationed in India, devised a set of rules that combined black pool and pyramids. The word snooker was a well-established derogatory term used to describe inexperienced or first-year military personnel.

Is it illegal to snooker in pool? ›

1 Definition: A player is Snookered when it is impossible to play the finest cut possible on both sides of any of that player's own Colour by way of a "straight - line" shot. Snookering an opponent is not a foul. 2 A player cannot be Snookered by a ball of the player's own Colour.

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