If you’ve played a fair amount of pool in your life, you’ve likely come across the somewhat odd yet extremely persistent debate over the question: Is pool a sport?
Some will argue that the level of physical activity required of a pool player is nothing compared to that of, say, a football player; therefore, the two are not in the same category.
Others will point to the level of skill, training, and strategy involved in pool to argue that it is, in fact, a sport. Both sides make some sense on the surface, but the truth is that there is a definitive answer.
So is pool a sport, or is it a game?
Defining the Terms “Sport” and “Game”
A big reason why the is-billiards-a-sport debate rages is that people tend to have vague ideas about the definition of the term “sport” and an equally vague definition of the term “game.” In truth, the two words are often used interchangeably, and it’s not always incorrect to do so.
However, when you look at their precise definitions, there are some clear distinctions.
What Is a Sport?
The Oxford Languages definition of the word “sport” is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
What Is a Game?
The Oxford Languages definition of the word “game” is “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”
Is Billiards a Sport or a Game?
The definitions of the two are not all that different. In fact, it can be said that all sports are games. But the one big difference is that a game is not considered to be a sport unless there is physical exertion involved. In other words, you wouldn’t really consider a game of Go Fish with your friends playing a sport because there is no physical component to it.
While the physical exertion involved in billiards may not be as extreme as in football or basketball, there is undoubtedly a level of physicality that affects both your opponent’s and your odds of winning.
If you were to lift weights to gain more strength and control in your shot, it would make a big difference. You can’t get better at Go Fish by hitting the bench press.
Billiards Is Definitely a Sport
The answer to the question “Is billiards a sport” is an unequivocal yes. Any dictionary definition of the term “sport” will accurately and fully describe billiards. It’s not just any sport, either. Billiards is played worldwide by amateurs and professionals alike, and the level of play that the best of the best are able to achieve is astounding.
Official World Pool Organizations
Now that we’ve answered the question is-billiards-a-sport, let’s look at some international organizations that take the answer to that question very seriously.
These groups do everything, including hosting major tournaments and leagues, providing instructional resources to certifying instructors, creating regional, national, and worldwide rankings, and more.
World Pool-Billiard Association
The world governing body of pool is called the World Pool-Billiard Association. They were formed in Germany in 1987, and they have since managed to enlist major pool associations from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, and Europe. They host some of the world’s biggest pool tournaments for both men and women.
International Pool Association
There’s also the International Pool Association (IPA), a globally recognized organization of individual pool players. They also host major tournaments and are constantly working to innovate to better the sport and ensure its continued growth.
How Do You Become a Professional Pool Player?
The short answer to this question is practice, but there is a bit more beyond just being really good at pool and finding the perfect cue that is required of an aspiring professional pool player.
To become a professional player, you’ll need to find your way into the international rankings, which will require becoming a member of a group like the International Pool Association. To work your way up the rankings, you'll have to qualify for, enter, and perform well at internationally recognized tournaments.
Is It Hard to Become a Pro Pool Player?
It requires incredible skill and commitment to be a professional at any sport, and pool is no different. When you see a professional effortlessly knocking in every last ball on the pool table with expert precision, that’s because countless hours of effort have been put into their game. Which probably is why they might get a little irritated when someone asks, “Is pool a sport?”
The good news is that all that practice can be a lot of fun. Sure, it’s not all just playing against your buddies and hanging at the pool hall, but you are certainly getting your reps in when you do that.