Russian pyramid, also known simply as pyramid or pyramids (пирами́да, piramida) and often called Russian billiards (Russian: ру́сский билья́рд, russky bilyard) or Russian pool, is a cue sport that has several differences from Western pool, although game play is still dominated by attempts to pocket (pot) billiard balls. It is played in countries of the former Soviet Union and a variant of it, Kaisa, is popular in Finland.
Differences from other billiard games
- Table: even though sizes vary – including: 3.5 × 7 feet (198 × 99 cm); 4 × 8 ft (224 × 112 cm); 4.5 × 9 ft (254 × 127 cm); up to 6 × 12 ft (356 × 178 cm)  – the official tournament size is the 12 ft model, the same size preferred for snooker, but much larger than a pool table (7 ft and 9 ft being the most common sizes for that style of game).
- Balls: there are sixteen balls, as in pool, but fifteen are white and numbered, and the cue ball is usually red. They are larger and heavier than Western billiard balls; the official tournament sizes are 68 mm (211⁄16 in). Smaller 60.3 mm (22⁄5 in) balls are available for the smaller table sizes, for amateur play.
- Pockets: the corner pockets are only 4–5 mm (160–200 thou) wider than the diameter of the ball. The central pockets, however, are 14–18 mm (560–720 thou) wider than the diameter of the ball. This makes the game's mechanics like an oversized version of snooker, requiring greater precision to pocket a ball than in pool.
There are several variations of Russian pyramid, but the three most common are the following, each of which have slight variations on the rules:
- Free pyramid (also known as American pyramid)
- At any point any ball may be used as the cue ball. Players can pocket the ball they struck if it strikes another ball first.
- Dynamic pyramid (also known as Petersburg 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 a white ball to be taken off the table. The player then places the cue ball at any area of the table, but may not pocket it until the next stroke.
- Combined pyramid (also known as Moscow 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 a white ball to be taken off the table. The player then places the cue ball in the baulk area where balls can be only pocketed in side and far corner pockets.
All games begin with fifteen numbered white balls racked in a pyramid, as in straight pool. The first player breaks the rack with the cue ball from the baulk line. The object of the game is to pocket eight balls to win the frame. After pocketing the cue ball, the scorer must choose a white ball to be taken off the table. In combined pyramid, then the player places the cue ball in the baulk area. Balls can be pocketed in side and far corner pockets only.
Russian Pyramid World Championship
Since 2000, Russian Pyramid World Championships have been held for Russian pyramid. The world governing body for the sport, establishing published rules and equipment standards, is the International Pyramid Committee, with its largest regional affiliate being the European Pyramid Committee.
In popular culture
The so-called "American" version, free pyramid, adapts well to use in fiction because of its simple rules (i.e., the plot does not have to side-track into complicated gameplay explanation), and has featured prominently in notable Russian films such as The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (1979) and The New Adventures of the Elusive Avengers (1968).
Kaisa or karoliina is a Finnish "national" billiard game, that is a close cousin to Russian pyramid, as it is played with similar equipment (i.e. large balls and tight pockets). However, it is played with two white cueballs, one for each player, two red balls and a yellow ball, or kaisa. A player must pocket a nominated ball, scoring points. Extra points are given from hitting other balls in addition to the target ball. All balls are spotted and the game is played to 60 points. Kaisa is often regarded as the most difficult game of pocket billiards in the world.
American-style pocket billiards (pool) balls have been adapted for use on Russian billiards tables, for playing eight-ball, nine-ball and other pool games. The balls are 68 mm (211⁄16 in) in diameter, like those for pyramid, and thus much larger than the American-style balls they are patterned after (as illustrated to the right).