Billiards describes games that are played using cue sticks and balls on a cloth-covered, rectangular table. Pocket billiards games are played on a table with pockets and often use many balls, while carom billiards games are played on a table without pockets and use only two object balls and one cue ball. Billiards games are considered to be in the classification of cue sports, or pool games. Some types of billiards games are: cut throat, eight ball, nine ball, pocket billiards or straight pool, and English billiards.
English billiards was the main billiard game played in Britain from 1770 until 1920. Snooker became more popular in Britain after 1920. Both snooker and English billiards are cue sports played on a six-pocketed table, but English billiards uses only three balls while Snooker uses 22 balls. Billiards became popular in France and the United States as well as in many other countries in the world.
Straight pool, or continuous pocket billiards, uses 15 balls in the rack and the break has to have the cue ball as well as two of the other balls, called object balls, go to the rail. If the three balls do not go to the rail, two points are subtracted and the opponent can choose to have the breaker try again or accept the table for him or her self. When calling each shot, both the ball and the pocket must be named.
In the billiards game known as nine ball only the lowest numbered nine balls are used. Whoever sinks the nine ball on a legal shot wins. A player automatically loses nine ball with three fouls, or misses, in a row.
The billiards game eight ball, also called American eight ball, has many variations in its rules. Some rules state that the winner is the one who sinks the eight ball on a break. Other rules contend that if the eight ball is sunk on a break, it is neither a win nor a loss. British pubs have different rules for British eight ball and the cue balls are also different. In American bars, the cue ball is bigger than the object balls, whereas in British pubs the cue ball is smaller and more lightweight than the object balls.
Cut throat is a billiards game for three people. Cut throat is often played for fun rather than as a skill game. Each player has five balls. Player one has numbers one through five, player two has numbers six through ten and player three has numbers eleven through fifteen. The object of cut throat is to sink the other players' balls and be the only player with one ball left on the table.