What Are The Main Differences Between American And British Pool?

Have you ever wondered about the main differences between American and British pool? Well, prepare to be enlightened! While both versions of the game share some similarities, they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. From the size of the table and the number of balls used, to the rules and techniques employed, American and British pool offer unique playing experiences that cater to different skill levels and preferences. So, whether you’re a seasoned player or just starting out, let’s dive into the fascinating world of American and British pool and discover what sets them apart.


Table size

In American pool, the standard table size is 9 feet long, while in British pool, the table is slightly smaller at 7 feet long. The larger table size in American pool provides players with more space to maneuver and plan their shots.

Table pockets

Another key difference between American and British pool is the size of the table pockets. In American pool, the pockets are wider and more forgiving, making it easier for players to pocket the balls. On the other hand, British pool pockets are narrower, requiring players to be more precise with their shots.


American and British pool also differ in the type of balls used. American pool typically uses larger, heavier balls, while British pool uses smaller and lighter balls. The weight and size of the balls can affect the way they react on the table, influencing the strategies and shots players employ.


Cues used in American and British pool are generally similar in design, with a tapered wooden shaft and a leather tip. However, American pool cues are often heavier and have a thicker shaft compared to British pool cues. The choice of cue can be a personal preference for players, depending on their style and technique.


Chalk is an essential tool for players in both American and British pool. It is used to enhance the friction between the cue tip and the ball, allowing for better control and accuracy. The type of chalk used may vary, but its purpose remains the same – to improve the player’s grip and prevent miscues.

Rules and Regulations

Scoring system

The scoring system in American and British pool is quite similar. Both games are typically played in a match format, where players aim to pocket their designated balls and the 8-ball to win the game. Each ball pocketed earns the player a certain number of points, and the player with the highest score at the end of the game is declared the winner.


Fouls occur when a player violates certain rules of the game, resulting in a penalty. In American pool, fouls can include scratching the cue ball, pocketing the cue ball, or failing to make contact with the object ball. British pool also has similar foul rules, with additional restrictions such as failing to strike a cushion after contacting a ball.

Breaking the rack

The break shot is an important aspect of both American and British pool. In American pool, the player must aim to strike the 1-ball first, while in British pool, the aim is to break up the pack of balls and pocket any ball on the table. The break shot sets the tone for the rest of the game, as it determines the initial layout of the balls.

Legal shots

Legal shots in American and British pool require the player to strike their designated balls first and aim to pocket the balls in the designated pockets. In American pool, players are allowed to pocket any ball, whereas in British pool, players must pocket their designated balls in order.

Calling shots

In both American and British pool, players may be required to call their shots. This means that they must verbally indicate their intended target ball and pocket before taking the shot. Calling shots adds an additional layer of strategy and skill to the game, as players must carefully plan their shots and anticipate the potential outcomes.



The objective of both American and British pool is to pocket the balls in the designated pockets, while ultimately aiming to pocket the 8-ball to win the game. However, the order in which the balls need to be pocketed may differ between the two games. American pool typically utilizes a “stripes vs solids” format, where players are assigned a group of balls to pocket. In contrast, British pool follows a “red and yellow” format, where players aim to pocket their designated balls.

Ball selection

In American pool, players can choose their ball group (stripes or solids) after potting any ball on the break shot. British pool, on the other hand, assigns balls based on a pre-determined pattern, with one player aiming to pot the red balls and the other player aiming for the yellow balls. The ball selection in both games can influence the player’s strategy and shot choices throughout the game.

Order of play

The order of play in American and British pool can differ. In American pool, players can continue to shoot as long as they legally pocket a ball on each shot. In British pool, players take turns after each shot, regardless of whether they pocketed a ball or not. This distinction can impact the tactics and overall flow of the game.

Winning the game

To win in both American and British pool, players must pocket all of their designated balls and subsequently pocket the 8-ball. However, the specific circumstances for winning can vary slightly between the two games. In American pool, players can choose to pocket the 8-ball at any time, regardless of whether their designated balls have been pocketed. In British pool, players must pot their assigned balls first before attempting to pocket the 8-ball.

Shot styles

Shot styles in American and British pool can vary based on the different table sizes, pocket sizes, and ball weights. American pool often emphasizes power shots and long shots due to the larger table and wider pockets. British pool, with its smaller table and narrower pockets, may require more finesse and strategic shot selection.

Strategy and Tactics

Positional play

Positional play refers to the ability of a player to position the cue ball in a favorable position for their next shot. In both American and British pool, positional play is crucial for setting up shots and controlling the game. Players must strategically plan their shots, accounting for cue ball speed, angle, and the positions of other balls on the table.

Safety play

Safety play is a defensive strategy employed by players to limit their opponent’s opportunities and create difficult shots. In American and British pool, safety play involves intentionally positioning the cue ball in a challenging spot, making it hard for the opponent to find a favorable shot. This tactical approach can be used to gain an advantage or force a mistake from the opponent.

Defensive shots

Defensive shots are shots that prioritize defensive play over potting balls. In both American and British pool, defensive shots may involve playing a shot that intentionally leaves the opponent with a difficult position or attempting to pocket a ball in such a way that it obstructs the opponent’s next shot. Defensive play is an important aspect of strategy, especially when an opponent is in a strong position.

Offensive shots

Offensive shots are shots that prioritize potting balls and gaining points. In American and British pool, offensive shots involve playing shots with the intent to pocket a ball or set up a favorable position for future shots. Offensive play can be risky, as it may leave the player vulnerable to their opponent’s counterattacks.

Tactical approaches

Different tactics can be employed by players in both American and British pool. Some players may prefer an aggressive attacking style, aiming to pot balls quickly and put pressure on their opponent. Others may opt for a more patient and defensive approach, focusing on strategic positioning and waiting for their opponent to make a mistake. Tactical approaches can vary depending on the player’s skill level, playing style, and the specific circumstances of the game.

Skill Requirements


Precision is a key skill required for success in both American and British pool. Players must be able to accurately strike the cue ball to achieve the desired shot outcome. This requires control over the speed, angle, and spin of the cue ball to pocket balls and navigate the table effectively. Precision is honed through practice and a deep understanding of the game’s mechanics.

Spin and English

Spin and English refer to the application of sidespin or backspin on the cue ball to manipulate the ball’s trajectory and spin after contact. Skillful use of spin and English can enable players to perform advanced shots, such as swerves, stun shots, or masse shots. Mastering spin and English is a valuable tool in the arsenal of any skilled pool player.

Bank shots

Bank shots involve hitting a cushion before pocketing a target ball. These shots are often used to navigate around obstructing balls or to create favorable positions on the table. Players must be able to judge the angles and bounces off the cushions accurately to execute successful bank shots.

Jump shots

Jump shots are shots where the cue ball is intentionally made to jump over obstructing balls to achieve a desired target. These shots require skillful cue ball control and precise timing. Jump shots can be effective for escaping from snookers or for potting balls that are difficult to reach directly.

Kicking shots

Kicking shots involve hitting a cushion first before making contact with a target ball. These shots are typically used when the desired shot is obstructed by other balls or when a player is in a difficult position. Kicking shots require accuracy in judging the angles and rebound off the cushion to make successful contact with the target ball.

Historical Background

Origins of American pool

American pool has its roots in the game of billiards, which originated in Europe in the 15th century. As European immigrants brought the game to North America, it evolved into various forms, eventually leading to the development of American pool. The game gained popularity in the United States, with different regional variations emerging over time.

Origins of British pool

British pool also traces its origins back to the game of billiards. In the 19th century, billiards became a popular pastime in British pubs, and variations specific to the country began to emerge. British pool, with its smaller tables and narrower pockets, developed as a more accessible and social form of the game.

Evolution of the games

Both American and British pool have undergone significant evolution throughout their histories. Rule changes, technological advancements, and cultural influences have all shaped the games into their current forms. From the development of standardized rules to the establishment of tournament circuits, the games of American and British pool continue to evolve and adapt to the changing times.

Regional variations

While American and British pool are considered the dominant variations of the game, there are also numerous regional variations played around the world. These regional variations often feature unique rules, table sizes, pocket sizes, and cultural influences. Examples of regional variations include French pool, Russian pyramid, and Chinese eight-ball.

International recognition

Both American and British pool have gained international recognition and have become popular pastimes across the globe. With the establishment of international governing bodies such as the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), the games have grown in popularity and have been showcased in prestigious tournaments and events worldwide.

Popularity and Cultural Significance

United States

American pool holds a significant place in American culture, with countless pool halls, bars, and home game rooms featuring pool tables. The game is often associated with socializing, leisure, and friendly competition. Pool tournaments, such as the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, attract top players from around the world, further promoting the popularity and cultural significance of American pool.

United Kingdom

British pool has a strong presence in the United Kingdom, particularly in pubs and social clubs. The game is deeply rooted in British culture, providing a recreational and social outlet for people of all ages. The English Pool Association (EPA) oversees the sport in the country, organizing leagues, tournaments, and rankings to support the growth and development of British pool.

Worldwide popularity

Both American and British pool have gained popularity worldwide, with millions of players and enthusiasts participating in the games. Pool tables can be found in homes, clubs, and establishments across various countries, providing a universal recreational activity. The games’ accessibility, strategic elements, and social nature have contributed to their wide appeal and global recognition.

Tournament circuits

International tournaments play a key role in promoting and elevating the profile of both American and British pool. Prestigious events, such as the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Championship, and World English Pool Masters, showcase the skills of top players from around the world and generate excitement among fans. These tournaments attract a global audience and contribute to the growth and popularity of the sport.

Media coverage

The presence of American and British pool in the media has helped enhance their popularity and cultural significance. TV broadcasts, online streaming, and print coverage of major tournaments and events provide fans with opportunities to watch and follow their favorite players. Media coverage also serves to introduce new audiences to the games, fueling interest and engagement with the sport.

Player Associations and Organizations

Billiard Congress of America (BCA)

The Billiard Congress of America (BCA) is the governing body for professional billiards and pool in the United States. The BCA promotes the sport and organizes various events and tournaments throughout the country. It also establishes rules and standards for American pool, ensuring fairness and integrity in competition.

Billiards Association & Control Council (BACC)

The Billiards Association & Control Council (BACC) is the national governing body for pool in the United Kingdom. The BACC oversees the regulation and administration of British pool, working to develop the sport and provide support for players, clubs, and associations across the country.

United States Professional Pool Players Association (UPA)

The United States Professional Pool Players Association (UPA) is a professional organization that represents and supports professional pool players in the United States. The UPA organizes tournaments, provides rankings, and advocates for the interests of professional players, contributing to the growth and recognition of American pool on the competitive circuit.

English Pool Association (EPA)

The English Pool Association (EPA) is the governing body for pool in England, responsible for promoting and developing the sport at all levels of play. The EPA organizes league competitions, oversees national rankings and tournaments, and sets the standards for British pool within the country.

World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA)

The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) is the international governing body for pool, billiards, and snooker. The WPA coordinates and sanctions major tournaments worldwide, establishes rules and regulations, and works towards the global development and recognition of the games. The WPA plays a crucial role in promoting and unifying the diverse pool community.

Notable Tournaments and Events

Mosconi Cup

The Mosconi Cup is an annual team competition between Europe and the United States in 9-ball pool. Named after the legendary player Willie Mosconi, the tournament showcases the best players from both continents in a spirited battle for national pride. The Mosconi Cup has become one of the most prestigious events in professional pool, drawing huge crowds and extensive media coverage.

World Pool Championship

The World Pool Championship is the pinnacle event in the world of pool, showcasing top players from around the globe. Organized by the WPA, the tournament features different variations of the game, such as 9-ball, 8-ball, and 10-ball. The World Pool Championship is highly anticipated by players and fans alike, with the winner securing the title of world champion.

U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship

The U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship is one of the most renowned and challenging pool tournaments in the United States. Held annually, the tournament attracts elite players from around the world and has been a stage for many memorable moments in American pool history. The U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship is a testament to the skill and dedication of top players in the country.

World English Pool Masters

The World English Pool Masters is a prestigious international tournament that showcases the best British pool players and competitors from around the world. Hosted by Matchroom Pool, the event features a single-elimination format, challenging players to demonstrate their skill and tactical expertise. The World English Pool Masters provides a platform for British players to compete against top talent in the sport.

IPA World Pool Championship

The IPA World Pool Championship is a major event in the world of pool, organized by the International Professional Pool Players Association (IPA). The tournament brings together professional players from various countries, competing in a format that incorporates a range of pool disciplines. The IPA World Pool Championship is highly regarded within the professional pool community and highlights the talent and dedication of its participants.

Cross-Over and Hybrid Variations

Blackball pool

Blackball pool, also known as English pool, is a variation of British pool that gained popularity in the late 20th century. It features similar rules to traditional British pool, but with certain modifications in terms of foul shots, ball selection, and other rules. Blackball pool is particularly popular in social and league play in the United Kingdom.

Chinese 8-Ball

Chinese 8-Ball is a relatively new and rapidly growing variation of pool that originated in China. The game is played on a larger table with wider pockets compared to traditional American or British pool. Chinese 8-Ball combines elements of both pool and snooker, with players aiming to pot balls using the rules of American 8-ball, but with the addition of snooker-style pattern play.


Nine-ball is a popular variation of American pool, characterized by its fast-paced and thrilling nature. In this game, players must pot the balls in numerical order, with the 9-ball being the final ball to be pocketed. Nine-ball is commonly played in a professional and competitive setting, with a focus on aggressive shotmaking and strategic positioning.


Ten-ball is another variation of American pool, which shares similarities with nine-ball. The key difference is that instead of being required to pocket balls in numerical order, players can pocket any ball on the table, with the cue ball being the last ball to be potted. Ten-ball is known for its tactical complexity and strategic shot selection.

Rotation pool

Rotation pool, also known as 61 pool, is a challenging variation of American pool. In this game, players must pocket balls in numerical order, starting with the 1-ball and continuing until all balls have been potted. Rotation pool requires precise shotmaking, positional play, and strategic planning to successfully complete the rotation and achieve victory.

In conclusion, American and British pool are two distinct variations of the game with their own set of rules, equipment, and gameplay strategies. While American pool is characterized by its larger tables, wider pockets, and emphasis on power shots, British pool features smaller tables, narrower pockets, and a more finesse-based style of play. Both variations have their own unique skill requirements and tactical approaches, allowing players to showcase their abilities and compete at various levels. With their rich historical backgrounds, international tournaments, and global popularity, American and British pool continue to captivate players and fans around the world. Whether you prefer the fast-paced nature of American pool or the strategic nuances of British pool, the game of pool offers endless opportunities for enjoyment, competition, and skill development.