Last Updated on May 5, 2021.

Billiard sports like pool and snooker may seem relatively simple to understand, but the more you play them, the more you’ll find there are many technical terms and phrases you should know. 

From the standard cut shot and the initial break strike to the traditional cannon points shot and the stylish carom hit, you should be aware of the game terminology before getting involved in any competitive gameplay. 

Once you learn these terms, you can dive into the complex rules and intricacies of sports like billiards, snooker, and 8 ball pool. 

What’s the Difference Between Pool and Billiards? 

Before looking at some of the key terms you need to know before playing pool or billiards, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the differences between these two games. 

Usually, when someone talks about billiard sports, they’re using a catch-all term for any game that takes place on a flat and cloth-covered tabletop surface and involves the use of a cue ball and a cue stick. Pool is a more specific term that refers to a game where you pot a certain number of object balls into one of the pockets on the side of the table before sinking a final, special ball to win the match. 

While the original 15th-century version of Billiards didn’t require any pockets, you’ll find that when most people challenge you to a game of billiards in a pub or bar, they’re referring to some form of pool. For this reason, pool and billiards are used as relatively interchangeable terms nowadays. 

4 Key Pool and Billiard Sports Terms You Need to Know 

Before running through several specific and specialized terms that you’d use if you’re talking about the more traditional English Billiards game, you should familiarize yourself with these 4 general terms that apply to billiard sports like pool or snooker. 

Whether you’re playing a recreational round of 9 ball with your friends or taking part in a serious, multiplayer 8 ball tournament, you should learn these terms and understand exactly what they mean. 

  1. Break shot

This is the first shot of any pool game. You hit the cue ball with your cue stick to break up the 15 or 9 racked balls. If you’re playing 8 ball pool, try to move the cue ball so that it’s off-center, then hit this ball onto the right-hand side of the lead ball in the racked set. This gives you a good chance of potting a few balls on your opening shot. You could also position your cue ball along the side cushion and aim to squarely hit the 2nd or 3rd ball in the racked set. 

  1. Cut shot 

A cut shot is a standard shot that you perform when you want to hit an object ball, so it moves away at an angle. To do this, you have to hit the object ball in a specific place with your cue ball. 

If you aim to hit the right section of the object ball, it will veer off to the left. Likewise, if you hit the left-hand half of the object ball, it will go right. 

  1. Carom shot 

When someone plays a carom shot, they hit the cue ball, so it connects with an object ball, which then ricochets into another object ball. This shot results in one of these two balls hitting the back of a pocket. 

These shots are challenging to play, but if you hit the cue ball correctly, you can pocket an object ball while also setting up your white ball so that it’s in a great position for your next planned shot. 

  1. Call shot

The call shot is a game-specific rule where you have to visually indicate which pocket you’re aiming for with your next shot. 8 ball is the most popular example of a game with this rule. Every time you’re about to hit the cue ball, you have to specify which pocket you’re going to hit

For example, if you want to put your 6 ball into the left-hand pocket at the head of the table, you specify that out loud or use your cue stick to tap each side of that pocket. 

If you pot your object ball in the wrong pocket, standard 8 ball rules state that you need to leave that ball there. However, most people playing in pubs or bars will get you to take the ball out of the pocket and put it back onto the table. You forfeit the game outright in many social versions of 8 ball if you sink the black 8 ball into the wrong pocket. 

3 Key English Billiard Terms You Need to Know 

In English Billiards, there are only 3 balls on the tabletop. Each player has their own cue ball, and attempts to win points by hitting the other cue ball and the red object ball in one strike. You can also win points by sinking the red ball or the other cue ball.

These three key terms are essential to know before playing English Billiards with friends and family. 

  1. Cannon

One of the easiest ways to earn points in billiards is to hit your cue ball, so it hits consecutive object balls. This shot is called a cannon. You can try hitting the red ball followed by your opponent’s cue ball or their cue ball followed by the red ball. 

Every time you play this type of shot in this traditional form of billiards, you earn two points

  1. Hazard 

The other way to get points in English Billiards is to play a winning hazard shot. This is when you pot one of the other 2 balls on the tabletop. If you sink the red ball, you receive three points, and if you sink your opponent’s cue ball, you earn two points. 

You can also score points by playing a losing hazard. If you hit your cue ball and it goes into a pocket after connecting with the red ball, you earn three points, and if it goes in after hitting the other cue ball, you earn two points. If both balls were frozen together and you hit them at the same time, you get two points. 

  1. The white ball 

Nowadays, people tend to play billiards with a red ball and two cue balls, one white and the other yellow. It’s important to remember that players still call the yellow-colored ball one of the white balls, even if it doesn’t look white. This reflects the fact that historically this game was played with two white balls and one red

Learn These Pool and Billiard Terms Before Playing Your Next Match 

When you learn these pool and billiard terms, you can understand these sports’ nuances and complexities. You can also use these phrases to help you play the right shot at the right time during games.