also called French billiards, game played with three balls (two white and one red) on a table without pockets, in which the object is to drive one of the white balls (cue ball) into both of the other balls. Each carom thus completed counts one point. In a popular version of the game called three-cushion billiards, the cue ball is played so that it strikes an object ball and three or more cushions (not necessarily different cushions) in any order before striking the second object ball.
The three balls are red, white, and white with a spot. The standard table in carom billiards is 5 by 10 feet (152 by 305 cm), although smaller tables of similar proportions are also used. The table is marked with three spots, one near its head, one at its centre, and one near its foot. To begin play, the first player may select either white ball as cue ball. The red ball is spotted on the foot spot, a white ball on the head spot, and the cue ball within six inches directly to either side of the white object ball. The cue ball must contact the red ball first on the break (first) shot; on subsequent shots either red or white may be the first ball hit. If the first player scores on his opening shot, he may select either white ball as cue ball on his second shot. Subsequently, however, he must cue the white ball used on that second shot and his opponent must cue the other.
When a player fails to score, he yields to his opponent, who plays the balls as they have been left. A game is usually continued until one player scores an agreed number of points, often 50. Shooting the wrong cue ball incurs a penalty of one point and loss of turn.
Snooker is one of the world’s most popular games due to its growth in India and China but, for now, it remains largely dominated by British players at the highest level. The Snooker World Championship is – for many – one of the biggest sporting events of the year but the sport is also played in clubs, and sometimes pubs, all over the UK by amateurs of all levels.
It developed from another cue sport, billiards, which began in the 16th century, with snooker coming along in the late 19th century. The first official snooker tournament was in 1916 with the first World Championship appearing in 1927 and since then the popularity of the game has ebbed and flowed, with the 1970s and 1980s probably the game’s finest era.
The object of the game is to use the white cue ball to pot the other balls in the correct sequence and ultimately score more points than your opponent in order to win the frame, a frame being the individual game unit.
Snooker is played one against one and the size of the balls and table are regulated. The table is rectangular, measuring 12ft x 6ft and just under 3ft in height, and usually made of wood with a slate top covered in green baize. The table has six pockets into which the balls are potted, one in each corner and two in the middle of the long sides, or cushions. The end from which the game starts is called the baulk end and has a line across the width of the table 29 inches from the baulk cushion. In the centre of this is the D, an 11.5 inch-radius semi-circle with the baulk line as its diameter.
The hard balls, made from phenolic resin, are approximately 2.7 inches in diameter (they are given in metric units of 52.5mm). There are 15 red balls and one each of black, pink, blue, brown, green and yellow, as well as a white cue ball which is the only one struck by the players. The colours go on their spots, the green, brown and yellow from left to right on the baulk line across the semi-circle. The blue goes in the middle of the table, the pink midway between there and the top cushion (the opposite end to the baulk cushion) with the black in the centre, 12¾ inches off the top cushion. The 15 reds are placed in a triangle with one red at the point behind the pink.
The players use a cue, usually made of wood, to strike the white ball and this must be “not less than 3ft in length and shall show no substantial departure from the traditionally and generally accepted shape and form”.
Players score one point for potting a red, after which they must nominate a colour for their next shot. The black is worth seven and is the most valuable going down through pink (six), blue (five), brown (four), green (three) and yellow (two). After each colour (the six colours are re-spotted but the reds are not) the player reverts to a red and alternates red, then colour until all the reds are potted. The remaining six colours are then potted in ascending points order, thus finishing with the black.
A player continues until he misses a ball or commits a foul, the players alternating turns. The maximum standard break (the term given to a consecutive run of pots) is 147 (15 reds taken with 15 blacks and then all the colours).
If a player commits a foul their opponent is awarded four points, unless the foul occurred whilst playing the blue, pink or black or hit one of those higher values first, in which case the foul is worth the value of the ball in question.
The winner is the person who scores the most points in a frame. Once a player has a lead of more points than remain on the table the opponent is said to “need snookers”. A snooker is where the balls are so placed so that the player cannot directly hit the next legal ball. The hope is to force a foul and earn four points. If a player thinks they cannot win, even by forcing snookers, they concede the frame, usually when around four or more snookers (fouls) would be required in addition to all the remaining balls, depending on how many balls are left.
A match is normally played “best of” a set number of frames, ranging from three right up to 35 for modern World Championship finals, such that the winner would be the first player to reach an unassailable lead.
Pool in its modern form dates to the 1800s, but variants of pocket billiards tables are known from the earliest days of billiards.
The goal of most pool games is to use the cue ball to pocket object balls, sometimes from specific groups of balls, in a specific order, or in specific pockets. An exception is Russian billiards, in which points are scored for pocketing the cue ball.
Pool balls generally come in sets of 2 suits (usually stripes and solids, but reds and yellows sometimes) of 7 object balls each, an 8-ball and a cue ball. (Not all games make use of the suit markings/colorings, nor all ball in the set).
Internationally standardized pool balls are 2.25 in. (57 mm) in diameter and of the same weight. British-style balls are 2 in. (51 mm), and may feature a smaller, lighter cue ball.
A standard pool table has a playing surface of 9 by 4.5 ft. (2.7 by 1.4 m), although smaller 8 by 4 and 7 by 3.5 ft. and even smaller models are common in homes and bars/pubs. Larger 10 by 5 ft. versions were common until the 1920s.
The table is usually covered with baize. The home and bar/pub market often calls for blends and even 100% synthetics, and has driven the demand for a wide array of color choices and even prints (e.g. team or company logos).
A triangular rack is used to arrange the object balls at the beginning of the games of eight-ball, straight pool, and many others, while a diamond-shaped rack is used in nine-ball.
As with carom billiards, but pool cues on average are a little longer than carom cues, and have slightly smaller tips. Amateur league play has spawned a market for mass-produced and reasonably inexpensive but attractive cues.
Most common game is Eight-ball: Each player vies to claim a suit, pocket all of the balls in that suit, then legally pocket the 8-ball, while denying one’s opponent opportunities to do the same with their suit, and without pocketing the cue ball. The top amateur game.
Second most common game is Nine-ball: Played with object balls 1 through 9. There are no suits. Players attempt to either pocket the balls in numerical order, or use the lowest-numbered ball remaining on the table to pocket the 9-ball in a combination shot. The top pro game.
Other notable variants are
Snooker: Played with smaller (and additional) balls on a much larger table, and specific balls have specific point values; popular in the British Commonwealth especially.
Straight pool: Played with 15 balls, no suits, 1 point per ball; a US classic.
Pool or pocket billiards is a popular variant of billiards played with a cue stick with usually 16 balls (or a subset thereof) on a pool table with 6 pockets.
Five-pin billiards or simply five-pins or 5-pins , is today usually a carom, but sometimes still a pocket, form of cue sport, popular especially in Italy and Argentina but also in some other parts of Latin America and Europe, with international, televised professional tournaments. The game is sometimes referred to as Italian five-pins or Italian billiards or as italiana (in Italian and Spanish).
Five-pins table, showing the location of the pins.
The game is played on a pocketless normal 5 ft by 10 ft (1.52 by 3.05 m) carom billiards table, with standardized playing surface dimensions of 1.42 by 2.84 m (approximately 4-2/3 by 9-1/3 ft), plus/minus 5 mm (approx. 0.2 in), from cushion to cushion.
Like most other carom games, five-pins requires three standard carom billiard balls of equal diameter: a red object ball, a cue ball for the first player or team, and another cue ball for the second player or team.
Ball sets vary by manufacturer, but typically are white for first and yellow for second (they may be plain or spotted), or plain white for first and white with a spot for second. The balls are 61.5 mm (2-3/8 in) in diameter and weigh between 205 and 220 g (7.23–7.75 oz; 7.5 oz is average).
The white (or plain white) cue ball is given to the starting player, who may place it anywhere on the head side of the table (without disturbing the pins)—i.e., anywhere unobstructed between the head rail and the center string. The red object ball is placed at the center of the foot spot (i.e., the intersection of the foot string and the long string. The yellow (or spotted white) cue ball of the opponent is placed on the long string, in a position that can be labelled the “foot rail spot”, 10 cm (approx. 4 in) from the foot rail.
As the name implies, the game makes use of five upright pins called skittles in English, which look like miniature bowling pins, 25 mm (1 in) tall, and with 7 mm (0.28 in.) round, flat-bottomed bases. There are traditionally four white pins, and one red.
The red pin is placed on the center spot, and the four white pins are placed equidistant from the red in a square diamond pattern around it. Two whites are aligned along the center string with the head and foot spots, as well as the rail diamonds in the center of the head and foot rails, and with the red object ball, and red pin. Meanwhile, the other two whites are placed on the center string, aligned with the diamonds in the center of the long rails, and again with the red pin. The whites are spaced just far enough away from the red that a cue ball can pass between the pins without touching any of them.
The goal of the game is to earn a required number of points, before one’s opponent does, by using one’s cue ball to cause the opponent’s cue ball to knock over pins (and to not do so with one’s own cue ball), and by contacting the red object ball with either cue ball, after one’s own cue ball has contacted that of the opponent, and/or by causing the object ball to knock over pins, again after one’s own cue ball has contacted that of the opponent.
The game is played by two players or by two teams (a pair of doubles partners most commonly, but also larger teams).
Each player or team is assigned one of the two cue balls; this is the only cue ball they may hit with the cue stick. The first player or team always uses the (plain) white cue ball, the opponent the other ball. Unlike in many games, shots are always taken in rotation – the same player or team never shoots twice in a row even if they have scored (other than if the opponent fouled before actually shooting when their turn came up, such as by moving one of the balls accidentally). Play continues until one player or team wins by being the first to achieve or exceed a specific number of points (usually 50 or 60), either agreed upon beforehand by the players, or set by tournament organizers.
In order to score, the incoming player or team must stroke the assigned cue ball to carom off the opponent’s cue ball —usually directly, but off a cushion is permitted and very common—with the goal of secondarily having the opponent’s cue ball, directly or by way of rebounding off a cushion, next hit the pins and/or the red object ball.
Unlike in the major carom games balkline, straight rail and three-cushion billiards, there is no requirement to hit one or more cushions at any time.
Knocking over pins, by any of the acceptable prescribed manners, earns cumulative points as follows:
Each white pin is worth 2 points.
The red pin is worth 4 points, if white pins were also knocked over.
The red pin is worth 10 points, if it is the only pin knocked down (by the ball going between the set of pins and narrowly missing all of the whites).
Knocking over pins with the object ball without hitting the opponent’s cue ball first, or with one’s own cue ball, does not earn the shooter any points, and in the latter case is a foul that awards points to the opponent.
The acceptable means of knocking over pins include any that result from hitting the opponent’s object ball first with one’s own, and not hitting the pins with one’s own cue ball. The object ball itself is also worth points.
If struck by the opponent’s cue ball (after the shooter strikes the opponent’s cue ball with his/her own), it is worth 3 points (this is known as a casin or in broader terminology a combination shot).
If struck by the shooter’s cue ball (after the shooter strikes the opponent’s cue ball with his/her own), it is worth 4 points (this is considered a true billiard/carom or carambola in this game’s nomenclature).
If both a casin and a carambola are achieved in the same shot, only the earliest of the two to occur earns points; they are not combined, though either may still combine with points scored from pins.