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Pool table with cue ball, object balls, cue stick, and rack
Pool table with cue ball, object balls, cue stick, and rack

Billiards or pool is a game consisting of billiard balls, cues, and a particular table (usually slate covered in cloth (baize), twice as long as it is wide - e.g. 4'X8', 4.5'X9', 5'X10' and with or without pockets). There are numerous games that have different goals of winning (e.g. making a certain number of balls, or a certain ball). Usually, games are played by hitting a "cue ball" into an object ball with the cue stick. The name derives from the correlation of the number of numbered balls in a standard billiard set and the number of zeroes in the number one billiard (fifteen).

In 1865, John Wesley Hyatt patented a composition material resembling ivory (Celluloid) for a billiard ball (US50359), winning $10,000 prize from Phelan and Collender of New York City for the best substitute for ivory. This was the first U.S. patent for billiard balls.


Billiard games by table type

English billiard table

French or Continental billiard table (no pockets)

Pool table

Russian billiard table (pockets are 74mm, balls are 68mm)

Russian billiards uses fifteen white balls and one red.

The most common form of the game has the white balls racked in a pyramid just as they would be in snooker. One player breaks from the baulk line. Play then proceeds by the players attempting to either pot a ball or go in off any ball. At all times any ball may be used as a cue ball. The first player to score eight balls (either through pots or through in-offs) wins the game. If a player makes a foul (by not hitting any ball or driving a ball off the table) he is penalized by having one of his balls replaced on the table.

The above may sound easy but it is made very difficult by the fact that the balls barely fit in the pockets. A very interesting game for anyone interested in billiards.

  • Moscow Style
  • Russian Pyramid

Tables unique to a (widespread) game

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Last updated: 11-06-2004 16:35:19