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Pocket billiards is the general term for a family of games played on a specific class of billiard table having
6 receptacles called pockets, or holes, along the rails, in which balls can be caused to drop from the playing
surface as part of the aim of play. The contrasting class of billiards games, played on pocketless tables, are
referred to generally as carom billiards.
Pocket billiards has become synonymous with "pool" and is almost exclusively referred to as "pool" today except
by the cue sports industry, but the original "pool" game, skittle pool, was played on a pocketless table. The
term "pool" comes from "poolrooms," where people gambled off-track on horse races. They were called poolrooms
as money was "pooled" to determine the odds. Because such rooms commonly provided billiard tables, pool became
synonymous with billiards, and eventually pocket billiards, by association. The billiards industry tried to
distance itself from the term "pool" during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (largely
unsuccessfully), due to the gambling connotations. The sport is now governed internationally by the World
Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), which has national affiliates such as the US Billiard Congress of America
(BCA), and which represents pocket billiards in the World Confederation of Billiard Sports which in turn represents
all forms of cue sports in the International Olympic Committee.
There are hundreds of pocket billiards games. Some of the more well known include eight-ball, nine-ball, straight
pool, and one-pocket. The game of snooker is played on a table with pockets but is considered to be its own
discipline of cue sport and is governed internationally by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker
Association/World Snooker Association (professional) and International Billiards and Snooker Federation (amateur).
There are also hybrid games combining aspects of both pocket and carom billiards, such as English billiards,
American four-ball billiards, cowboy pool and bottle pool.
Pocket billiards is more popular than carom billiards in most countries of the world. Carom
billiard games thrive in Asia, Europe and Latin America, but pool (especially in the form of nine-ball and
eight-ball) and snooker are gradually taking over as the most widely played cue games.
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