Solid balls. Striped balls. 1 through 15.
What does it all mean?
The answer is: it depends.
There are many different variations of pool or billiard games.
In some the numbers mean nothing. In others there are no numbers. The colors on the balls differ, as do the sizes and even how many balls are needed.
Keep reading to learn all about pool ball colors and numbers, plus everything else you need to know about pool balls.
Table of Contents
- 1 Pool Balls: Colors And Numbers
- 2 Number Of Balls In Popular Billiard Games
- 3 Pool Balls: Related Questions
- 4 Pool Ball Colours And Numbers: Conclusion
Pool Balls: Colors And Numbers
Before we get into the pool ball numbers and colors, let’s go even more basic. We’ll start with the material from which pool balls are made.
Then we’ll go into the different types of balls and their uses in various versions of the game. This includes any colors and numbers the balls may have.
Pool Balls Material
The history of the billiard game goes back to the 14th century. Balls were made of wood back then.
In the 17th century, pool balls made of ivory emerged. These balls were made for wealthy pool players.
In the 20th century, a new material called Bakelite was invented. This new kind of plastic had the desired strength and durability for making pool balls.
What are pool balls made of today?
Most modern pool balls are made of phenolic resin. This new material is mostly the same as Bakelite. But modern balls are created under more pressure, which makes them more durable.
The colors on pool balls are solid all the way through. For example, the inside of the number 1 ball is as yellow as the outside.
There are many pool ball manufacturers worldwide. Some of them have been in business for decades. Aramith is the most popular brand. Most players worldwide use Aramith balls.
Let’s take a quick look at each type of pool ball.
As you know, the cue ball is just a solid white ball. There’s no number, no stripes, and nothing that stands out about it. It’s just a white ball.
At least aesthetically, it’s just a white ball. The cue ball actually does have unique characteristics that separate it from other pool balls.
For one, it weighs more. Most pool balls are 5.5 ounces, but a cue ball is 6.0 ounces. That’s because it needs to have that extra bit of force to drive other pool balls further.
To achieve this, it is made out of iron, which is another unique characteristic.
That iron makes it reverse magnetic, which is why pool tables will spit out cue balls but keep solids and stripes in the queue until the game is reset. Obviously ,this is only the case with coin-operated pool tables that don’t have rope pockets.
You may notice that cue balls feel like they have more of a glossy finish to them. This is often true, because that finish needs to absorb a lot of the shock, to keep the metal from vibrating in the interior of the cue ball.
The cue ball is also the ball that gets the dirties the fastest, since it is constantly being hit by chalked up cue tips. If you have your own table at home, it is important to know how to clean pool balls at home.
The cue ball has a fundamental role in all types of billiard games. The players shoot other object balls with the cue ball.
The cue ball is white in most games, but not all. Some games are played with cue balls in different colors. Let’s take a look at the difference between various cue balls in different games.
The cue ball in all of the pool games (8 ball, 9 ball, 10 ball, 7 ball, and 3 ball) is always white. There are no numbers on it. The cue ball’s size in all of the pool games is standard and the same as the other balls.
The international rules of pool games define 2 ¼” (57 mm) as the pool balls’ standard diameter. The weight is standard, too, and should be 5 ½ – 6 oz. If you buy a home pool table that comes with balls, they will adhere to these standards.
The cue ball in the snooker game is white, too. But it has differences in size and weight.
The standard size for the snooker cue ball is 2.07″ (52.5mm). There is no standard for the weight of snooker balls (141 grams is a common weight). The cue ball is in the same size and color as other snooker balls, within a 3 g tolerance.
British Style (English Blackball)
The cue ball in this game is also white. The game is very similar to the American eight-ball. But the standard size of the balls is different. All balls in an English Blackball game have a standard size of 21/8″ (52.5mm).
Carom billiard can be played in various versions with different rules. But the standard version has a red object ball with two cue balls.
One of the cue balls in carom billiards is completely white. The other is white with a dot on it. Some ball sets in carom have a yellow cue ball next to a white one.
Carom billiard balls are larger than other billiard balls. The standard size is between 2 ⅜” to 2 7/16″ (61 to 61.5 mm).
Solid balls and striped balls are the same, apart from the design. They all have numbers, they weigh 5.5 ounces in total, and they are made from the same material. There’s no difference.
Solid balls are numbered one through seven, with an eighth one that has a special purpose (the black 8 ball). They have the following standard colors.
- Number 1: Yellow
- Number 2: Blue
- Number 3: Red
- Number 4: Purple
- Number 5: Orange
- Number 6: Green
- Number 7: Burgundy
- Number 8: Black
The color of a solid pool ball should match the exact hues and colors of the striped pool balls; no mix-and-match sets of pool balls should be used.
In snooker games, all of the balls are in solid colors. A standard set of snooker balls has no numbers on the balls. But some of the amateur sets are numbered with the point value of the balls written on them.
There are 15 red balls, a white cue ball, and 6 colored balls in a standard snooker game. Each ball has a score value except for the cue ball. The values are:
- Black: 7 points
- Pink: 6 points
- Blue: 5 points
- Brown: 4 points
- Green: 3 points
- Yellow: 2 points
- Red: 1 point
In the British style billiard game (also known as Blackball), we see two sets of solid-colored balls. There are also one black and one white ball.
The white ball is the cue ball. The black ball in a British style pool game has the same function as the number 8 ball in the American style game. Two sets of solid-colored balls are:
- 7 balls in red
- 7 balls in yellow
The rules of the British style pool game are very similar to the American eight ball. But you have the red and yellow sets of solid balls instead of solid and stripes.
The carom billiard game has many variants. The most popular one is played with three solid-colored balls. Usually, we see a red ball next to two white cue balls. One of the cue balls has dots on it.
In some carom balls sets, you see a solid yellow ball that is the second cue ball. Sometimes there is a second object ball in blue, too. It’s used in the game version using four balls.
Striped balls are the same as solids. They have numbers, they weigh 5.5 ounces in total, and they are made from the same material. Striped balls are numbered eight through fifteen.
Similar to solids, no mix-and-match sets of pool balls should be used. The red on your striped ball should match the exact hue of the red on your solid, and so on. This prevents foul play and loaded balls (heavier ones).
Striped billiard balls are often used in pool games. Standard pool games like 8, 9, and 10 ball use two sets of colored balls. One set is striped.
In the 8-ball game, a set of 14 object balls with a black number 8 ball is used. The balls with numbers 9 to 15 have stripes on them. The standard color set is:
- Number 9: Yellow
- Number 10: Blue
- Number 11: Red
- Number 12: Purple
- Number 13: Orange
- Number 14: Green
- Number 15: Burgundy
As you can see, there are pairs (a solid and a stripe) with the same colors in a complete set of pool balls. The balls with the same colors are:
- 1 and 9
- 2 and 10
- 3 and 11
- 4 and 12
- 5 and 13
- 6 and 14
- 7 and 15
In some pool games, you don’t use the complete set of balls. For example, in the 9 ball game, only object balls with numbers from 1 to 9 are played. The same is true for the 10 ball pool game.
The only pool games that have no striped balls in them are 7 and 3 ball. In the former, we use 7 object balls numbered 1 to 7. In the latter, there are 3 object balls numbered 1 to 3. None of them are striped.
Number Of Balls In Popular Billiard Games
It doesn’t matter what billiard game you’re playing, there is always a cue ball that is used to shoot other balls.
Apart from the cue ball, the number of other balls can vary greatly. Let’s look at the most popular games and see how many balls they use.
Pool games are the most popular type of billiard games. There are many variations. They differ primarily in the number of balls. These are the number of balls used in various types of pool games.
- 8 ball: a total of 16 balls
- 9 ball: a total of 10 balls
- 10 ball: a total of 11 balls
- 7 ball: a total of 8 balls
- 3 ball: a total of 4 balls
Apart from the eight-ball game, there are two other types of pool games that use a total of 16 balls. Cutthroat pool and straight pool have the same number of balls: 15 object balls and a cue ball. We’ll talk about the differences in the numbers and colors a little further down.
Snooker is a bit more of a professional billiard game than the pool games. It is usually played with 21 balls, plus a cue ball.
All of the balls in snooker are solid colors. They sometimes have numbers on them. The white cue ball is never numbered.
Alternatively, you can have one yellow, one green, one brown, one blue, one pink, and one black ball. Each of these have different point values.
Snooker balls are also 5.5 ounces just like traditional pool balls. The cue ball is also heavier at 6.0 ounces.
The only difference is that they are sometimes coated differently than traditional pool balls, but the difference isn’t anything you really need to worry about during play. However, snooker balls might need to be replaced more often than others.
The English pool game is very similar to the American eight-ball. It is played with a total of 16 balls. The rules are mostly the same, but the colors and sizes of the balls are different.
Carom is the only billiard game played on a table without pockets. There are many different versions of this billiard game: straight-rail, three-cushion, balkline, and five pins. All of these games need three billiard balls to play.
Pool Balls: Related Questions
Are Pool Ball Numbers Important?
Not really, no. Numbered balls are there for colorblind players. Normally, the colors alone are enough to assign and reward points. Typically, this is how points go for the various pool balls.
- Red – 1 Point
- Yellow – 2 Points
- Green – 3 Points
- Brown – 4 Points
- Blue – 5 Points
- Pink – 6 Points
- Black – 7 Points
But what do you do if you can’t see the colors on pool balls? You go by the numbers.
Balls one through seven are solids, the eight-ball is black and not counted for a team, and balls nine through fifteen are stripes.
The workaround here is to research or have someone else look at the balls for you and write down the number and corresponding color on a piece of paper, like a scoring legend. If you read a number, just look it up on the legend to learn how many points it is worth.
That said, point values are only applied in games like Snooker, which are not the main games that people play when they rack up the balls.
While it doesn’t impact the game in any way, you can manipulate the numbers on pool balls to make some pretty fun and interesting things happen. If math isn’t something that you enjoy toying with for fun, you can ignore this section.
Mathematically, these balls are placed at different values due to their place in the RGB color scheme, or primary color scheme. You can actually arrange your pool balls in a way that you’ll find mathematical inconsistencies and fun with numbers, as explained in this video.
Unfortunately, this video appears to have been set to private. We’ll put the link back if it is ever made public again.
It displays the mathematically correct way to position balls based on their hex value, and why some pool ball manufacturers are so picky when it comes to certain colors and hues that they use in their pool balls.
More information on the fun of math and pool balls can be found in this PDF from Dr. Dave Alciatore, PhD. If this sort of stuff tickles your fancy, you can find a venn diagram on pool ball colors and coordination right here.
What If Pool Balls Didn’t Have Numbers?
It wouldn’t really impact your game all too much. If you didn’t have any numbers on your balls, you would be playing eight-ball pool, or you could just use the stripes with the solids (with no numbers) and still achieve the same results.
That’s for standard pool that a lot of us play. While not many games use the numbered balls anymore, some older ones still do. If you were to use numberless balls for games that need numbers, you would cause utter havoc and chaos.
It is believed that they numbered balls because it was easier to recolor a number on a pool ball instead of recoloring the entire ball once the colors faded (which happened often). This made it inexpensive for people to maintain their pool tables, especially bar owners.
Pool balls can still be identified without numbers, if you can properly identify them by the color. You would still have fifteen unique balls in a game so you can score appropriately. The only major issue here would be if you are colorblind, for obvious reasons.
Do Solids And Stripes Have Different Weights?
Nope. All solids and all stripes weigh exactly the same: a total of 5.5 ounces. Only the cue ball’s weight is slightly different.
Because a cue ball must weigh more than solids and stripes to ensure each break and each hit is fair, it wouldn’t be right for either stripes or solids to weigh more. As far as we know from weighing pool balls, there isn’t even a single gram of difference between them.
Solids don’t actually have more paint, like some people think. Stripes just have white paint in place of what would be colored paint. Pool balls aren’t white underneath all that paint.
Can You Get Custom Made Pool Balls?
As long as you know what the ball is, or what it represents (i.e. what color or number is standing in for), you could get pool balls made in any way that you want. For hardcore billiards enthusiasts, they’ll get logos of their favorite films on custom balls (Star Wars, LOTR, and Game of Thrones are some that we’ve seen from browsing the Pinterest boards).
You could just get custom pool balls to still have the numbers and base colors on them, but designed differently, and crafted by a professional. These are obviously something you’d want to keep at an in-home pool table and not bring with you, but it’s a really cool thing to be able to do.
Depending on how you have your room set up, you could get a few sets and have some displayed for decorative purposes. It’s not that expensive to get a spare rack, align the balls as needed, and then coat the entire thing in plexiglass to display. Go wild with it.
Are there any visual or game play benefits to getting custom made pool balls?
Absolutely not. It’s purely aesthetic and for the love of the game. In some cases, if you go with odd pool balls, it could make things more difficult.
The main reason you would want to get pool balls custom made that don’t follow solids, stripes, and numbers is so that you can make your own pool game.
Picture this: seven Rebel Alliance symbols, seven Empire symbols, and the eight-ball could be the Death Star (it only makes sense). The cue ball could be Luke’s X-Wing.
That’s just an example, of course, but you could make a fun-as-hell game out of something like that. You could even get custom made pool balls with dares or words on them, and whoever pockets the ball gets to dare someone in the room to do whatever it says.
Again, go wild. You can have fun with it and make your own custom games, or just do it for display. But there’s no major benefit to your normal pool-playing game from custom made pool balls.
Pool Ball Colours And Numbers: Conclusion
Consider yourself informed in the art of billiards. Or at least the art of billiard balls. The bottom line is that every ball has a purpose.
Each color means something, though the actual meaning (and the colors themselves) differs depending on the billiard game you’re playing.
Most billiard games are actually played with solid balls. But the American style pool games use striped balls, too. And that is the game most of us are familiar with.
Whichever version of the game you play, it will have its own ball colors and numbers. In many of the versions, the colors and numbers may not have any significance. In others they to.
Hopefully, this article has cleared everything up for you. If not and if you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Manny Palacios says
I have made a game that has nothing to do with billiards or pool. I made pool balls out of 5/8 inch wood balls. The reason for this was just to be able to identify the number on the ball do to familiarity. Let me repeat, my game has nothing to do with pool or billiards. It’s not played on a pool table and there are no pool sticks involved. It actually is played on a game board. If I wanted to commercialize my idea and sell it, would I need permission to use the pool ball design for balls 1-9? I would greatly appreciate a response. Thank you for your time.
I doubt it, but you’ll want to talk to a lawyer if you’re serious about this.