Difference Between Snooker and Billiards (10 Key Things)

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Even though billiards and snooker are both played with cues on tables and involve hitting balls into pockets, they are actually very different games. In this guide, we'll go over the 10 key differences between snooker and billiards.

difference between snooker and billiards

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1. Which Came First

It’s unsurprising to billiards fans that this game actually was invented before snooker. Billiards dates back to around 1800 and was a popular game both in the UK as well as in British colonies. It wasn’t originally called billiards, and it was often referred to as the “winning and losing carambola game.”

Snooker, on the other hand, originated a bit later, during the 19th century when British officers were stationed in India. The first snooker competitions were held in 1916, but it wasn’t until 1969 that this game gained a lot of popularity and became more commonly played.

2. The Ball Colors

billiard balls of different colors

The color of a billiard ball does play a role in how points are scored, but each ball doesn’t have its own set score.

Snooker balls, on the other hand, vary in point value depending on their color. They range from 1-7 points per ball. The colors, from least amount of points to the most, are red, yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black. Players will pay attention to the ball that they want to hit, as its color will affect the score.

3. Comparing the Number of Balls

One major difference between snooker and billiards are the balls that are used. Snooker has 22 balls used during each game. There are 15 red balls, one cue ball, and 6 other balls of different colors.

Billiards balls are only red, yellow, and white. Both the yellow and the white balls can be used as cue balls, as there is not a set cue ball in this game.

4. Differences Between the Tables

Billiards is played on a table that has very large pockets, while snooker tables have smaller pockets. Even though the pockets are a huge difference between the tables, they are actually the same size.

5. The Cues

pool cue and ball on table

Billiard cues are generally made from ash, which is the same material that is commonly used in the creation of snooker cues. While they are the same in this way, they do vary in size and length. Billiard cues have a tip that is around 13mm, although it can vary some. They are available in a wide range of lengths, which makes it easy for younger and older players to find the cue that is the perfect fit for them.

Snooker cues, on the other hand, tend to have a tip between 9 and 10.5mm. They average between 57-58” long.

6. Who Goes First

When starting a game of billiards, both players must hit a cue ball on the table at the same time. The cue balls must bounce off of the top cushion and return to the baulk. The player who is able to get their cue ball closer to the baulk cushion is able to decide who will go first. They can not only choose whether they want to go first or whether they want to their opponent to break, but they also get to decide which cue ball they are going to use.

When playing snooker, players take turns breaking. They decide who will break first by tossing a coin.

7. Scoring Points

When playing billiards, players can earn points through winning hazard, cannon, and losing hazard. Earning points through winning hazard is possible by potting the red ball and earning three points. Players earn two points through cannon when they hit the cue ball and then the other cue ball. Players can earn points through the losing hazard in a few different ways. They can earn three points by hitting a cue ball into a red ball and potting it. Two points are earned if they hit a red ball and then a cue ball. Two points are earned if the cue ball hits a red ball, and it isn’t potted, and two points are earned if the red and cue ball are hit at the same time.

Snooker points tend to be a little more straightforward. The player must first pot the red ball and then shoot the other balls from least to most points.

8. Getting Points from a Foul

Fouls in billiards are fairly straightforward. When an opponent fouls then the other player earns 2 points. They also have the option of respotting the balls or to play them from their current position.

If your opponent fouls during a game of snooker, then you will earn between 4 and 7 points. The amount of points that you can earn will depend on what balls are involved in the foul and what exactly occurred.

9. Starting a Break

breaking on a billiards table

A player’s turn in both billiards and in snooker is called a “break.” In billiards, players can choose what ball they want to pot and can decide upon the order that they are going to use to hit their balls.

Turns in snooker are a little bit different. As long as there is a red ball on the table, the break must begin by potting that ball. Once the red has been potted, then players must continue potting balls in order.

10. Which Is Easier – Sort Of

Both of these games take time to learn and to perfect, but billiards tends to be easier for beginners to pick up. While you have to learn to handle a control a cue no matter which game you play, the rules for billiards tend to be a little bit more straightforward. This is great for beginners who want to quickly learn the rules without having to ask someone else for help.

As you can see, although they may look similar at first, snooker and billiards vary in many ways. Once you understand the history of these two games as well as how they differ from each other, you will be able to appreciate them for the differences that they have.