What Are Pool Balls Made of and How Many Are There?

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Billiards is a game that requires not only precision but also strategic thinking, deep concentration, and years of experience. It is one of the most popular table games in the world, attracting great interest at both the amateur and professional levels. 

Billiard tournaments attract thousands of spectators and offer significant cash prizes, further emphasizing its status as a high-ranking sport. An important, yet often underestimated element of this game, are the billiard balls. These small spheres are surprisingly diverse, both in terms of the materials from which they are made and their quantity, which depends on the specific variant of billiards. 

Understanding the properties and number of balls available in various billiard variants can significantly affect the quality and outcome of the game. In this article, we will discuss these two key aspects to give the reader a full understanding of this fascinating and complex game.


Materials Used in the Production of Billiard Balls


Originally, billiard balls were mainly made of wood, and their production was more artisanal than industrial. However, over the years, with the development of technology and the increasing popularity of billiards as a sport, the materials used in the production of balls have undergone significant changes. These changes were driven by the need to increase precision, durability, and uniformity of the balls, which is crucial for professional and fair gameplay.


In modern times, ball manufacturers use a variety of advanced materials to meet high-quality standards. This includes not only phenolic resins but also various polymers and other synthetic materials that provide optimal properties. The use of modern materials makes the balls more resistant to damage, they retain their shape, and remain functional for a longer time. As a result, these advanced production technologies and materials have raised the standards in billiard games worldwide.


Phenolic Resin


Currently, phenolic resin balls are the predominant choice in professional billiard tournaments. This material boasts exceptional durability, scratch resistance, and impact resilience. Consequently, these balls enjoy an extended lifespan and contribute to greater precision in the game.


Polyesters and Acrylics


In cheaper sets, commonly found in homes and bars, balls are often crafted from materials such as polyester or acrylics. These materials, however, are less resilient to wear and tear and may experience deformation or color fading over time.




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Stone and Ivory

From a historical perspective, balls were also made of stone or ivory. These materials are rarely used today due to ethical and environmental limitations.

The Number of Balls in Various Billiard Variants


There is not a single, fixed number of balls in billiards. Depending on the variant of the game, this number can vary.


American Pool


In the case of American pool, the most popular version of this sport, 16 balls are used: 15 colored balls and 1 white ball. The colored balls are numbered from 1 to 15 and are divided into two groups: solid and striped.




In snooker, another popular variant of billiards, 22 balls are used: 15 red, 6 colored (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black), and 1 white. Each ball has its point value and is used for scoring points in the game.


Classical Billiards


In classical billiards, also known as French billiards or carom, only 3 balls are used: two white and one red. The aim of the game is for a player's white ball to touch both of the other balls on the table.


Other Variants


There are also other, less-known versions of billiards, such as English billiards or Russian billiards, in which the number and type of balls can differ.




The material used for crafting billiard balls, as well as their quantity, holds great importance in various versions of this sport. Consequently, selecting the appropriate balls for the game is not merely a matter of aesthetics but also hinges on functionality and precision. It is advisable to consider both of these aspects when making a choice for a billiards set.

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