The Strongest Cue Sport Country in the World

I wrote about a month ago about my newfound appreciation of pool, and since then, my appreciation has expanded. Pool is really only the beginning of the world of cue sports. You probably have also heard of snooker, and might be familiar with its popularity in the UK especially.

I haven't taken the snooker dive yet, but I probably will soon, especially since it's by far the most common cue sport on offer at online sportsbooks.

But what I only recently started to understand is the wide-ranging popularity of a third cue sport, or actually family of cue sports: caroms.

I say "family" the same way pool is a family of separate games like 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball. Caroms also has several different popular games (many of which originated in America but only got popular elsewhere). The most stark difference between pool and caroms is that caroms is played on a table without pockets.

One caroms game stands out far above the rest in terms of popularity and prestige, and that is a game known as 3-cushion billiards, or more commonly just "3-cushion."

In 3-cushion, and most if not all carom disciplines, both players have their cue ball (one white, one yellow), and there is just one other ball, the "object ball" on the table.

I sometimes take a lot of time (too much time?) in these articles to really explain the rules, but this time, I won't. That's because this isn't a primer article, and because while there are fouls and nuances and so forth, 3-cushion can be explained well enough to be able to watch and understand well enough with one sentence:

On your turn, your goal is to hit you cue ball into both the object ball and your opponent's cue ball and three rails on your turn. Hence the name 3-cushion. Succeed and it's still your turn.

This is quite hard! The top pros can't do it anywhere near as often as pool players and snooker players can keep the table in their games! I like it for that reason, and it's the same reason I stump for candlepin bowling, wherein even with an extra ball per frame, no one has ever come close to a 300 game, like has happened eleventy billion times in tenpin bowling.

So, in coming to understand how in the cue sports there are these vastly different families of games, I got to wonder which country boasts the greatest proficiency in all three?

So I set to find out. My methodology was to compare mens' top 100 rankings in pool, snooker, and 3 cushion. If your country has at least two top 100 players in a discipline, I consider your country to be proficient in that discipline.

Here are my findings:

Pool specialists (multiple top 100 players in pool only):


Snooker specialists (multiple top 100 players in snooker only):

Hong Kong

Caroms specialists (multiple top 100 players in 3-cushion only):

South Korea

Good at both pool and carom (multiple top 100 in both sports):


Good at both snooker and caroms (multiple top 100 in both sports):


Good at both snooker and pool (multiple top 100 in both sports):


Good at all three disciplines (multiple in top 100 in all three):



* I was hoping at least one country would make it in all three disciplines, but it is sort of interesting that none did.

* I was pretty shocked that USA qualified in caroms (with not just two guys in the top 100, but three). Thought for sure we would be pool-only.

*I know a ton more about pool than caroms and snooker, so I can say better which countries that didn't make the pool list or a multiple discipline list that still have very good pool players: Estonia, Albania, Portugal, Hong Kong, and especially China.

* This leads me to my next point, which is that my methodology is obviously extremely flawed. Let me count the ways: it doesn't factor in women. It doesn't factor in any discipline of caroms besides 3-cushion. I think a country with 4-5 people ranked 101-200 has just as much of an argument as one that has 2 in the top 100. That's just off the top of my head. I did it this way because a) I only have so much time, and b) I only have so much data. I can't find rankings beyond top 100 in pool or snooker.

* If you want to break down the UK, it would be: England: Snooker and pool. Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland: snooker only.

* Continental Europe is sort of interesting. Lots of strength all around in pool and caroms, but only Belgium making the grade in snooker. That, along with the winner (keep reading), would make them a prime candidate for "best at all three," but they have no pool players in the top 100 and no entries (out of 256 players) in the Spanish Open last week, which was a big, global 9-ball event.

* Italy is absent from all three lists, and I believe it is because they are mostly about "5-pin" and "goriziana". They do have the No. 2 ranked 3-cushion player but no one else in the top 100. 5-pin and goriziana are yet two more very cool disciplines that are basically in the caroms family, but with small skittles in the middle of table (think tiny bowling pins) that you get points for knocking over.

* 5-pin itself should probably be included here, since if Wikipedia is to be believed it's popular not just in Italy, but Argentina (satisfying a multi-continent requirement that I also had) too as well as several other European countries. I made a cursory search for 5-pin rankings but came up empty.

*What are they playing in these countries? Other unmentioned notable countries to make none of the lists:

- Brazil (they have one top-100 snooker player)
- South Africa (J.J. Faul is a touring pool pro)
- Indonesia (4th in world population)
- New Zealand
- Chile

* There is one country that qualifies for both caroms and pool, and in snooker has a top 100 player, but he's 77th. That's actually significant in a positive way, because a bunch of snooker players in the top 100 are tied for 99th because they just won their way on tour in regional qualifying tournaments and are not proven to really be top 100. That the German is 77th means he's made juuuuust enough noise in the snooker world to crown Germany as the world cue sports champion in my book.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Leave a Comment

Featured Site