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 billiard (Russian: ру́сский билья́рд, russky bilyard) or simply billiards in Russia and Ukraine, 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 Russia, Eastern Europe, and countries of the former Soviet Union. A variant with colored balls modeled on those of regular pool is called Russian pool. Another variant, kaisa, is popular in Finland. In Western countries, the game is known as pyramid billiards or pyramid pool.

Differences from other billiard games[edit]

  • Table: Playing-surface sizes vary. The usual range (the foot measurements are traditional approximations, the metric more precise) include: 7 × 3.5 foot (198 × 99 cm); 8 × 4 ft (224 × 112 cm); 9 × 4.5 ft (254 × 127 cm); 10 ×5 ft (295 × 147 cm); up to 12 × 6 ft (355 × 177.5 cm) [1] – the official tournament size[2] 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). It is possible to play Russian pyramid on a regular pool table if the table does not have a ball-return, as the larger size of Russian pyramid balls will not fit into the gutters.
  • Balls: There are sixteen balls (fifteen numbered balls and a cue ball), as in pool, but the numbered balls are white, and the cue ball is usually red or yellow.[1] Up to 70 millimetres (2 34 inches) in diameter, they are larger and heavier than Western billiard balls; the official tournament size[2] is 68 mm (2 1116 in).[1] Smaller balls – e.g., 63 mm (2 12 in), 60 mm (2 38 in), and 57 millimetres (2 14 in) – are available for the smaller table sizes.
  • Pockets: The corner pockets are only 4–5 mm (approx. ​316 in) wider than the diameter of the ball. The central pockets, however, are 14–18 mm (approx. ​12–​34 in) 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 in such tight pockets than in pool, which has a much larger pocket size in relation to the balls.
  • Cues: Due to larger ball size, the cue sticks used for Russian pyramid are slightly heavier than those of pool cues, and the tip diameter is wider (up to 14 mm, in comparison to 10-12 mm used in pool and snooker cues. Massés and jump shots are usually more difficult to perform with a Russian pyramid cue, due to its heavier nature.

Rule variations[edit]

Russian pyramid ball at a corner pocket. The relative size of the ball and the pocket makes 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 or eight-ball. Players may pocket any object balls on the table regardless of number, and the first player to pocket eight balls is the winner. In addition, shots does not have to be called and there are no fouls; a player's inning simply ends when he/she fails to pocket a ball.

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 (up-table of) the head string (baulk line). The three most common varieties are the following, each of which has slight local variations on the rules:[3]

  • 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, with the goal being to carom (cannon) the shot ball off of one or more other balls into a pocket. Should the shot ball is pocketed without striking other balls, the ball is spotted and placed behind the baulk line, while the player's inning ends.
  • 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 cue ball in-hand and may place it anywhere on the table, but may not pocket it until the next stroke.
  • 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 player places the cue ball 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 American pool, this part of the table is call the kitchen, in British play is it the baulk area, and the Russian term is дом (dom), 'house'.
  • Classical pyramid
Rules are similar to rotation pool, except that any ball can be shot in any order. 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 ball number 1, which scores 11 points). The last remaining ball on the table, regardless of its number, is worth 10 points. The total amount of points is 130.[4]

Russian Pyramid World Championship[edit]

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.

Notable players[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

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). An episode of the popular animated television series Kikoriki has two characters playing the game. Main characters of Dead Man's Bluff, or Zhmurki (Russian: Жмурки) Play Russian pool in the bar scene.

Related games[edit]

Finnish kaisa[edit]

Kaisa or karoliina is a Finnish 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, gameplay is similar to that of English billiards and Snooker; it is played with two white cueballs, one for each player, two red balls and a yellow ball, the 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.

Russian pool[edit]

Comparison of 68 mm (21116 in) Russian and 57 mm (214 in) American-style pool balls.

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 (21116 in) in diameter, like those for pyramid, and thus much larger than the American-style balls they are patterned after (as illustrated in the comparison image).

"Chinese" eight-ball[edit]

An American game, fancifully called "Chinese eight-ball" (though not connected with China in any way), is played in a similar manner to Russian pyramid, shooting object balls at the cue ball to carom the former off the latter and into pockets. It is played with typical American pool equipment.


  1. ^ a b c editors (2007). "Russian Billiards". Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  2. ^ a b "Main rules". Russian billiard federation. 2009-11-04. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^