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What Is the Difference Between Carom, Pool, and Snooker?

While carom, pool and snooker may seem like very similar games, they vary widely in the types of tables required, the amount and size of balls needed, how the point systems are structured and how the game is played. This guide will walk you through each game's specific differences and gameplay.

The History of Carom, Pool and Snooker

Different billiards games have been created throughout the years, like carom billiards, pool and snooker. Before jumping into the specific differences, let's discuss the origins of each game for a fun history lesson.


Carom billiards as we know it originated in France in the 14th century with the game “ground billiards,” which was similar to croquet. It's believed that modern-day carom tables use green fabric to honor how the game was first played outdoors on the grass.


Pocket billiards was developed in Europe and became known as pool in the United States. In the 19th century, American poolrooms began to appear. These poolrooms were mainly betting houses for horse racing, and poolroom owners installed pocket billiards tables to help customers pass the time. Eventually, the word “pool” became associated with the pocket billiard tables that were commonly found in poolrooms, and the name stuck.


Snooker was created by a British military officer, Lieutenant Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain, while he was stationed in India in 1875. Chamberlain created snooker by tweaking a different game that used 15 red balls and one black ball. Chamberlain added more colored balls to the game, and snooker was born.

“Snooker” was a slang term for rookie cadets, and Chamberlain felt inspired to name his new game snooker as he found many people who tried to play his new game were not too good at it. Snooker eventually made its way back to England, and by the end of the 19th century, billiards equipment manufacturers began to create and sell equipment specifically for snooker.

Snooker vs. Carom vs. Pool: All the Key Differences You Should Know

Are you ready to learn all about the differences between these exciting games?

Explore ball, cue, table and point system differences below:

1. Ball Differences

One of the most noticeable differences between carom, pool and snooker is the number of balls used for gameplay

  • Snooker: Snooker uses a total of 22 balls — 15 red balls, six colored balls and one cue ball.

  • Carom: For carom, players only use three balls — one white, one red and one yellow. Sometimes, the yellow ball is replaced with a white ball with a dot, but yellow is recommended as it's easier to distinguish the two cue balls from one another.

  • Pool: The number of balls used for pool can vary based on the variant of the game. In eight-ball pool, a complete set of pool balls adds up to 16 balls. There are eight numbered solid color balls, seven numbered striped balls and one white cue ball.

The size of the balls also varies from game to game. Snooker balls are 2 1/16 inches in diameter, pool balls are 2 1/4 inches in diameter and carom balls have a diameter of 2 7/16 inches. 

2. Cue Differences

As each game features different-sized balls, it makes sense that each game would also have a cue designed to use for the specific type of balls in the game. There are some key differences between a snooker cue and a pool cue, which you should know to ensure you're using the right cue for the game you're playing:

  • Pool cues: A pool cue usually has a 13-millimeter tip. The part that holds the tip to the rest of the cue, called a ferrule, is made out of carbon fiber, and the wood used for the cue is often maple. The weight of a pool cue ranges from 19 to 21 ounces.

  • Snooker cues: As for a snooker cue, the cue typically has a 9.5-millimeter tip and a brass ferrule. The cue is usually made of ash wood. Snooker cues also weigh around 18 to 20 ounces.

Pool cues are bigger and heavier because they're used to hit heavier balls. Meanwhile, snooker cues have a smaller tip so players can more accurately hit the ball. When playing carom, a standard pool cue is the best option.

3. Table Differences

Pool and snooker both use pocketed tables, but the tables themselves have slight variations. Both tables have six pockets. However, snooker tables are larger than pool tables, and the pockets on snooker tables are smaller.

Pool tables can come in various sizes, but a standard regulation-size pool table is 9 feet long, and the most popular size for an at-home pool table is 8 feet. A snooker table is typically 12 feet long but is often only 10 feet when played in America.

Overall, the main difference between pool and snooker tables is snooker tables are typically bigger.

A carom table stands out from pool and snooker tables because it has no pockets. The average size of a carom table resembles a pool table, with most at-home tables measuring 8 feet.

4. Point System Differences

Each game has different gameplay variations, but the point values are as follows for traditional gameplay:


A classic carom game is played until one player earns 50 points or another predetermined amount. The player must use the cue ball to hit the other two balls to earn points. Each time a player successfully hits the other two balls, they earn one point. Any foul moves cause the player to lose one point.


In a classic game of straight pool, players must state which ball they'll hit into which pocket. This is called a call-pocket game. Once a player pockets all their balls, they announce which pocket they're aiming for and attempt to pocket the eight ball in said pocket.

Each ball correctly pocketed is one point. Correctly pocketing the eight ball is three points. Therefore, the winner of the round will earn 10 points, while the other player will earn up to seven points. Typically, pool games are played until one player reaches 100 points and is declared the winner.


Here are the ball point values in a game of snooker:

  • Red is one point.

  • Yellow is two points.

  • Green is three points.

  • Brown is four points.

  • Blue is five points.

  • Pink is six points.

  • Black is seven points.

Players earn points in snooker by pocketing balls in the correct order. You can read more about snooker rules further down in this guide.

How to Play Carom

Set up a game of carom by placing a cue ball at the head end of the table, which is the side of the table where the player takes the first shot of the game. Place the red ball, also called the object ball, at the foot end of the table, which is the side directly opposite the head end. Place the opponent's cue ball about 6 inches from the center in the direction of the head end of the table. 

To begin the game, the player who starts must hit the red ball first on the break for it to count. Play continues with one player hitting both balls and earning one point each time they do so. Play changes to the other player once the first player fails to hit both balls or commits a foul.

According to Carom rules, when a foul happens, the player who performed the foul loses their turn and has one point deducted from their overall score. The different types of fouls include:

  • Bouncing or jumping balls.

  • Shooting a safety shot two times in a row.

  • Shooting the opponent's cue ball or the red object ball.

  • Not shooting with at least one foot on the ground.

Once a player earns 50 points, or another predetermined amount depending on how long the players want the game to last, the game ends, and the player who reached the predetermined amount wins.

How to Play Pool

Use a pool ball rack to set up the eight solid color balls and the seven striped balls. For eight-ball pool, put the apex ball, the ball that goes at the very top of the triangle or pyramid, into the ball rack first. The apex ball is often the solid color ball with the number one. Then, place a striped ball and a solid color ball in either of the back two corners. Next, place the black eight ball in the center of the pyramid and fill in the remaining space with the rest of the balls. 

When starting play, the break doesn't need to hit a particular ball, but a ball must be pocketed or at least four or more balls must hit one or more rails or the edges of the pool table. If the break results in a ball being pocketed, that player's turn continues. If the break ends with four or more balls hitting the rails, play moves to the next player.

If neither acceptable breaks happen, this is considered an illegal break, and the player who didn't make the break can choose to either continue play anyway, re-rack the balls and have the player break again or take the new break themselves. If the break pockets the black eight ball, the player who didn't break can either rerack and break again or leave everything as is and replace the eight ball at the foot of the table.

Once an acceptable break happens, the first pocketed striped or solid color ball pocketed determines which player will play what group, or shoot which kind of ball. As stated, players must declare which ball they'll hit into which pocket before each shot. If a player successfully does so, their turn continues. If not, play moves to the next player.

Once a player has successfully pocketed all of their balls, they must pocket the black eight ball into the pocket they declare. Points are added up after each round, and the game officially ends once one player earns a certain number of points agreed upon before play starts. Typically pool games go until one player reaches 100 points.

How to Play Snooker

To set up the game, place the 15 red balls in a pyramid with the pink ball at the tip of the pyramid and the black ball slightly behind the pyramid. Then, place the blue ball in the middle of the table and the remaining brown, yellow and green balls in a horizontal line on the other side of the table opposite the pyramid.

The objective is to hit a red ball into the pocket, then a colored one, then red again and so on. The game continues by pocketing red balls and then colored balls back and forth in that order until all the balls are pocketed.

If a player doesn't pocket the right ball, this is considered a foul, and play moves on to the next player. If the incorrect ball pocketed was red, it remains off of the table, but if the ball was colored, it's re-spotted to the same position it occupied at the beginning of the game. 

Each ball has a point value and whoever pockets the ball earns those points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Order Your Own Pool Table From Imperial 

Now that you're an expert on the differences between carom, pool and snooker, give one of the games — or all three— a try at home with your own pool table!

With our wide variety of pool tables, you're sure to find a high-quality table that fits your style and needs. If you're a beginner or just looking to upgrade your equipment, Imperial also has a selection of game accessories for carom, pool and snooker to improve your experience.

Shop for your pool table online to start enjoying your favorite game at home.

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These three cue sports share some basic elements but offer distinct gameplay. Carom is all about precise cue ball control, while pool offers variety with different rule sets. Snooker combines elements of both, with a complex scoring system and strategic shot placement. So, whether you crave a challenge of finesse (carom), a casual game of aiming (pool), or a tactical battle (snooker), there's a billiard sport for you!

Learn more about billiards here.

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