Russian pyramid

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Russian pyramid game setup, with the object balls in a triangle rack at the foot of the table, and the cue ball in front of (up-table of) the head string (baulk line).

Russian pyramid, also known as Russian billiards (Russian: ру́сский билья́рд, russky bilyard), is a form of billiards played on a large billiard table with narrow pockets. It is popular across Eastern Europe as well as countries of the former Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc. In Western countries, the game is known as pyramid billiards, or simply pyramid within professional circles.


  • Table: Playing-surface sizes vary. The official tournament size is 12 by 6 feet (370 cm × 180 cm), the same size used for professional snooker. Smaller sizes as used by other cue sports are also found in less-formal venues. The slate used in Russian pyramid tables are typically much thinner than those of pool and snooker tables, but is occasionally heated, similar to carom billiards tables.
  • Balls: There are sixteen balls, fifteen numbered object balls and a cue ball, but in contrast to pool, the numbered balls are usually white, and the cue ball is red or yellow. They are typically larger and heavier than other types of billiard balls. The official tournament size is 67 mm (2+58 in) in diameter, weighing approximately 255g, while smaller balls – e.g., 63 mm (2+12 in), 60 mm (2+38 in), and 57.15 millimetres (2+14 in) (regular pool ball size) – are available for smaller table sizes. The old tournament size was 68 mm in diameter.
  • Pockets: The corner pockets are only 3 mm (approx. 316 in) wider than the diameter of the ball, while the middle pockets are 12–13 mm (approx. 1234 in) wider than the diameter of the ball. This requires great precision to pocket a ball in such tight pockets.
  • Cues: Due to larger ball size, the cues used for Russian pyramid are slightly thicker and heavier than those of pool cues, and the tip diameter is wider (up to 15 mm), in comparison to 10–13 mm used in pool cues. Specialty shots like massé and jump shots are usually more difficult to perform with a Russian pyramid cue, due to its heavier nature. These shots are also not allowed in official tournaments, doing so may result in a foul.

Rule variations[edit]

Russian pyramid ball at a corner pocket. The relative sizes of the ball and pocket make the game very challenging.

There are several rule variations of Russian pyramid. All games begin with fifteen numbered white balls racked in a pyramid pack, as in straight pool, eight-ball and blackball. Players may pocket any object balls on the table regardless of number, and the first player to pocket eight or more balls wins the frame. In addition, shots do not have to be called. Depending on the game variant some specific balls may have to be in specific positions within the rack. The first player firmly breaks the rack with the cue ball from just in front of the baulk line. The most common varieties are the following, each of which has slight local variations on the rules:[1]

  • Free pyramid (also known as American pyramid)
Any ball may be used as the cue ball. Players can pocket the ball they struck if it hits another ball first, with the goal being to carom the struck ball off of one or more other balls into a pocket. Should the struck ball be pocketed without striking any other balls, the shot is a foul and that ball is spotted behind the baulk line.[2]
  • Dynamic pyramid (also known as Siberian pyramid or Nevsky pyramid)
Only one ball is the cue ball. Players can pocket the cue ball with a carom shot off another ball and then the scorer must choose an object ball to be taken off the table. The player then has ball-in-hand and may place it anywhere on the table but may not pocket it until the next stroke, otherwise it is a foul.
  • Combined pyramid (also known as Moscow pyramid or combo pyramid)
Rules are the same as in dynamic pyramid, except that, after the cue ball is pocketed, the cue ball is spotted between the head rail (bottom cushion) and head/baulk, but not on top of that line; from here until the next stroke, balls can be only pocketed in the side and far-corner pockets. In pool, this part of the table is called the kitchen and the Russian equivalent is дом (dom), 'house'.
  • Classical pyramid
Rules are similar to fifteen-ball pool. The object is to score at least 71 points. For each correctly pocketed object ball, the player wins the number of points on the ball (except for 1-ball, which scores 11 points). The last remaining ball on the table, regardless of its number, is worth 10 points. The total number of points is 130.[3]
  • 14.1 pyramid (also known as straight pyramid or long pyramid)
Rules are very similar to free pyramid except it continues after potting eight balls until 14 balls are pocketed, similar to straight pool, which 14 balls are respotted into an incomplete pyramid.[4] The objective is to score at least a given number of points.
  • Scratch pyramid (also known as SVOI)
Similar to free pyramid, but pocketing object balls before the cue ball is a foul, therefore the player must pocket the cue ball after hitting object balls, which in this case, other balls can be pocketed as long as the cue ball is potted first.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Versions of the game have featured prominently in notable Russian films such as The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (1979) and The New Adventures of the Elusive Avengers (1968). An episode of the popular animated television series Kikoriki has two characters playing the game. The main characters of Dead Man's Bluff, or Zhmurki (Russian: Жмурки) play Russian pool in the bar scene.

A Russian pool configuration can be seen in “Tulsa King” starring Sylvester Stallone in Season 1, episode 5, while making a phone call, he walks up to a pool table, and around it. You will notice the all white balls racked, and a white cue ball.

Russian pyramid has been adapted into video games, both in standalone form and as a play mode in multi-cue sports video games. Many recent releases have been mobile games for Android and iOS.[citation needed]

"Russian pool"[edit]

Comparison of the 68 mm (2+1116 in) Russian and the 57 mm (2+14 in) common-style pool ball.

Colored numbered balls for playing eight-ball, nine-ball and other pool games on Russian billiards tables are also produced. The balls are 68 mm (2+1116 in) in diameter, like the standard ones for Russian pyramid, and thus much larger than the American-style balls they are patterned after (as illustrated in the comparison image).

WPA World Pyramid Championship[edit]

Sanctioned by the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA).

Year Winner
2019 Russia Semyon Zaitsev
2018 Moldova Serghei Krîjanovski
2017 Russia Iosif Abramov
2016 Kazakhstan Alikhan Karaneyev
2015 Russia Vladislav Osminin
2006 Russia Pavel Mekhovov
2005 Russia Yury Paschinsky
2003 Ukraine Yaroslav Vynokur
2002 Russia Ilya Kirichkov
2001 Kazakhstan Kanybek Sagyndykov
2000 Russia Evgeny Stalev (2)
1999 Russia Evgeny Stalev


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Free Pyramid rules - East European Billiard Council". Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  3. ^ "Classical pyramid". Archived from the original on 2018-05-22.
  4. ^ "Свободная пирамида с продолжением ЛЛБ". Retrieved 2022-08-20.
  5. ^ "Scratch Pyramid". Retrieved 2022-08-22.