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billiards, any one of a number of games played with a tapered, leather-tipped stick called a cue and various numbers of balls on a rectangular, cloth-covered slate table with raised and cushioned edges. Games similar to billiards were popular in England and France in the 16th cent., and evidence even suggests that a billiardslike game was played in the 14th cent. The country of origin is disputed—England, France, Italy, Spain, and China have been credited by various historians with its invention. The game in its present form was probably fully developed by 1800. There are three main types of billiards: carom billiards, pocket billiards (also known as pool), and snooker. Carom billiards is played with three balls, a cue ball and two object balls, on a pocketless table; scoring is by caroms only, i.e., by causing the cue ball to strike the object balls in specified ways. Pocket billiards is played with 15 object balls and a cue ball on a table with six pockets; the essential object of the game is to cause the object balls to enter the pockets. Snooker is similar to pocket billiards, except that it uses 21 object balls and smaller pockets. There are many additional variations of the basic games, depending on the number of balls used, the positioning of the balls, the boundaries on the table, and the scoring. Among the variations are Chicago, golf, rotation, balk-line, and bumpers. William Frederick Hoppe is generally considered the foremost billiards player of all time.


See R. Byrne, Byrne's Standard Book of Pool and Billiards (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a game played with balls on a special table (known as a billiard table). Billiards is considered to have originated in India and China. In Europe it appeared in the 16th century, and in Russia, during the reign of Peter I. The table, covered with a felt cloth, has in its cushions six holes (pockets) with little net bags under them. Some billiard tables—for example, the French ones—do not have pockets. The game is played with three, five, or 16 balls (numbered from 1 to 15; the 16th ball does not have a number), made of elephant ivory or a composition substance. These are struck and pushed by a cue—a stick made of hard wood, approximately 1.5 m in length. In the USSR the billiard games which are widespread are “American” (in which the winning player is the one who is the first to pocket eight balls) and “Pyramid” (in which the winner is the player who is the first to make 70 points).


Koriolis, G. Matematicheskaia teoriia iavlenii billiardnoi igry. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from French.)
Nauka i zhizn’, 1966, nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 11.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any of various games in which long cues are used to drive balls now made of composition or plastic. It is played on a rectangular table covered with a smooth tight-fitting cloth and having raised cushioned edges
2. a version of this, played on a rectangular table having six pockets let into the corners and the two longer sides. Points are scored by striking one of three balls with the cue to contact the other two or one of the two
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Cue Sports Minister Alun Ffred Jones: "The 12 Welsh athletes in Beijing are amongst the best in the world, and while most people will never reach the peak of perfection, I hope they will inspire more people to become active and take up sports."
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