Billiard Competition Rules: Everything you Need to Know

Billiard is one of the competition sports that requires the most concentration. For those who are interested in practicing it professionally, it's essential to study the rules that we'll describe in this article.
Billiard Competition Rules: Everything you Need to Know

Last update: 18 March, 2020

For many people, billiard (also known as pool) is just a leisure activity for the weekends. However, it’s a sports discipline with a high level of international competition, and it’s prominent in Europe. If you’re already a fan of this sport, keep reading this article to learn more about the history and basic competition rules of billiard. Don’t miss out!

A little history and the different types of billiards

Billiards are a part of the precision sports category, and its roots lead back to ancient civilizations. Some historical findings reveal that the Greeks and Egyptians already played games with similar dynamics and logic.

However, it would only begin to take the form of the sport that we know today in modern Europe, during the middle of the 18th century. Since it quickly spread to various European countries, there are many versions of its creation story; the most accepted hypotheses suggest that it came from either France or England.

Its popularization around the world has also led to different types of billiards nowadays. French or carom billiard is recognized as the first form of the sport, followed by English billiards.

However, American billiards (or pool) are also one of the most popular versions of the discipline at an internationally competitive level.

There are other seven types of billiards that are officially recognized:

  • Spanish billiards
  • Italian or five-pin billiards
  • Russian pyramid
  • Hindu pool
  • Colombian billiard
  • Bumper pool
A billiards table with people playing in the background

Modalities and competition rules: the facets of billiard

One of the consequences of so many versions of billiard in the world is that there are also different regulations when practicing it. Since each type of billiards has different objectives and dynamics, they require different game rules. On top of that, there may even be different modalities within the same type of billiards.

In regard to the competition rules of billiard, we can usually differentiate them according to the three major modalities of this sport. We’re talking about the American pool, French caroms, and English snooker.

For example, there are different table styles and dimensions depending on the type of billiard that we practice. Caroms require a table without holes, which can follow either the classic or modern standard.

On the other hand, we can only play the snooker modality on a traditional green upholstered table with wooden edges. Meanwhile, the American pool can use five different table standards, depending on the modality.

Basic competition rules of billiard

We can also talk about some common rules between the different billiard regulations. The most basic rule has to do with the goal of the game. It’s a precision sport practiced with cue sticks and a variable number of balls on an upholstered or cloth-lined table.

The cue stick is the only tool that can directly come into contact with the balls. Logically, the players can’t use their hands or any part of their body to manipulate the balls or intervene in their trajectory. The basis of the game is making the balls collide with each other. Each player must calculate their shots to win the game.

In almost all competitions, players decide who gets to start the game with a lag shot. In various modalities, the initial shot that marks the start of the game must hit the cue ball, and this cannot be done by a double shot.

Another common point among the different variants of billiards is the existence of fouls, which indicate when a player has violated the game rules. In general, the penalty for the player is having to give his turn to the opponent, handing over the cue ball to the referee.

A billiard player following the competition rules during his lag shot

To learn more about billiard competition rules

For Spanish people and all those who want to practice billiards on a competitive level in the Iberian Peninsula, we recommend visiting the official website of the Royal Spanish Billiard Federation.

On this page, you can consult and download the game rules that apply to all competitions held in national territory, in the different modalities of the sport.

Besides being able to consult the billiard competition rules, you can also find the calendar of Spanish tournaments for carom and pool. Finally, you’ll get the latest highlight news in the competitive scenario and learn about regional, national and international events.

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