English billiards, called simply billiards in many former British colonies and in Great Britain where it originated, is a game for two players or teams. Two cue balls (originally both white and one marked e.g. with a black dot, but more recently one white, one yellow) and a red object ball are used. Each player or team uses a different cue ball. It is played on a billiards table with the same dimensions as a snooker table and points are scored for cannons and pocketing the balls.


English billiards was originally called the winning and losing carambole game, folding in the names of three predecessor games, the winning game, the losing game and the carambole game (an early form of straight rail), that combined to form it.


First the players string (lag) to see who will be the starting player; this is done by both players simultaneously hitting a cue ball up the table hitting the top cushion and coming back into baulk (the first quarter length of the table). The player who gets their ball closest to the baulk cushion can now choose which cue ball he wants to use during the game and to break or let the opponent break.

The red ball is placed on the ‘spot’ (the black spot in Snooker) and the first player begins by playing in-hand from the “D” behind the baulk line. The other cue ball remains off the table until the opponent’s first turn, when he plays in hand from the “D”. The idea is to leave the balls safe by creating either a double baulk (both object balls in baulk), or the red in baulk with the cue-ball tight on the top-side cushion.


Points are awarded as follows:

  • Cannon – Striking the cue ball so that it hits, in any order, the other cue ball and the red ball on the same shot: 2 points.
  • Winning hazard (or potting, in snooker terms) – Striking the red ball with one’s cue ball so that the red enters a pocket: 3 points; or striking the other cue ball with one’s cue ball so that the other cue ball enters a pocket: 2 points.
  • Losing hazard (in-off in snooker terms) – Striking one’s cue ball so that it hits another ball and then enters a pocket: 3 points if the red ball was hit first; 2 points if the other cue ball was hit first; 2 points if the red and the other cue ball are hit simultaneously.

Combinations of the above may all be scored on the same shot. The most that can be scored in a single shot is therefore 10 – the red and the other cue ball are both potted via a cannon (the red must be struck first), and the cue ball is also potted, making a losing hazard off the red.

Winning is achieved by a player reaching a fixed number of points (first to score 300 points) or by a timed game (maximum points scored in 60 minutes), determined at the start of the game.