Pool, billiards and snooker are all popular games. Even though they are all often played on the same table, there are differences in the types of balls included in each set.
A pool ball set always includes seven solid colored balls (1-7), seven striped colored balls (9-15), one solid eight black ball and one white cue ball for a total of 16 balls.
Most pool table owners will have more than one set depending on which game is played.
Modern day pool balls are made from either acrylic or phenolic resin. Phenolic resin is a higher quality material as it’s harder to chip or scratch. They can also be manufactured to exact standards.
Pool Ball Set
There are differences in pool ball sets around the world. Even though all games have similar rules, each is played with different sets of balls.
1 cue ball, 7 solid-colored balls (1-7), 7 striped balls (9-15) and 1 solid 8 ball for a total of 16 balls.
The goal of the game is to sink the eight ball after sinking all seven of their assigned group (either solids or stripes).
American pool balls are 2 ¼” (57mm) in diameter.
1 cue ball, 7 unnumbered red balls, 7 unnumbered yellow balls and 1 black ball for a total of 16 balls.
A British pool ball set differs from an American set. Often called Blackball, this version of the game includes unnumbered balls. This is in contrast to numbers balls and striped found in the American version.
The goal of the game is very similar to American pool where a player must sink all of their assigned color balls before sinking the black ball.
British (or English) pool balls are 2 3/16” (56mm) in diameter.
Eight Ball Pool is played with all 16 balls.
Nine Ball Pool is played with only the balls numbered 1-9 as well as the cue ball.
The goal is to sink each of the nine balls in ascending order. The winner is the player who pockets the nine ball (even if it’s sunk by a combination shot).
Three Ball Pool is played with any three standard pool balls and the cue ball.
The goal is to sink the three balls in as few shots as possible. Along with being a fun and short game to play, three ball pool can be played with any number of players, making it ideal for the man cave.
Snooker Ball Set
15 solid red balls, 1 white ball, and 6 balls of other colors (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, black) for total of 22 balls.
The goal in snooker is to score more points than your opponent. Each ball is assigned different values when potted.
Snooker balls are 2 1/16” (52.5mm) in diameter
Billiards Ball Set
1 red ball, 1 white ball and 1 yellow ball for a total of 3 balls.
There is typically only one game that is played in billiards. Using all 3 balls, each player has their own cue ball, one player uses the white ball while the second player uses the yellow ball. Players then take turns to score as many points as possible to win the game.
Billiards is a very tactical game where players must think about attacking and defending to win the game. Much like chess, it requires a lot of mental dexterity to win.
Traditionally, billiards was played on a table with no pockets. Points were scored by striking a ball then usually three cushions (or rails) and then another ball. Because of the popularity of pool and snooker, billiards started being played on tables with pockets.
Billiard balls are 2 1/16” (52.5mm) in diameter. This is the same size as snooker balls.
Novelty Ball Sets
There are a number of manufacturers that make specialty cue balls and even specialty ball sets. These may include things like sports logos or other themes. If you have a sports themed man cave then why not buy a sports themed set of pool balls?
There is nothing stopping you from playing a totally different type of game using different types of balls. Some new games have been invented that use up to 30 balls for something different.
Regardless of what game you’re playing, it’s important to care for your pool balls. They can easily chip or scratch if landing on the floor from a failed jump shot. Pool balls will discolor over time. Damaging one ball basically ruins the whole set as replacing one ball means it will not look the same as the others in the set. Keeping your balls on the table will go a long way towards protecting them. Don’t forget to store them away in a pool ball box or on a pool cue rack.
Pool or billiard balls will become yellow over time from oxidation. This is unavoidable. Exposing your balls to UV light will turn them yellow over time. The UV light breaks down the chemical structure of the plastic. To combat this you can start by storing them away in a light-proof container. It is also possible to clean them by adding a small amount of baking soda to a bowl with water. Be sure to wipe all of the baking soda off after you’re finished to avoid damaging the balls.
Keeping your pool balls clean will also ensure they roll true and also extend the life of your pool table felt. Dirt and grime that accumulates on the balls can be transferred to the pool table felt.
Clean balls will help your felt play faster.
There is no reason why you can’t own and play pool, billiards or snooker on your pool table. While pool is the easiest to play, all 3 can be fun and will add variety to your play. Playing all three games will hone your skills. Having a number of games available will keep all of your pool obsessed friends happy.
Rack ‘em up!