Russian pyramid, also known as Russian billiard (Russian: ру́сский билья́рд, russky bilyard) or pyramid billiards, 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 and also in countries of the former Soviet Union. A variant with colored balls modeled on those of Western pool is called Russian pool. Another variant, kaisa, is popular in Finland.
Differences from other billiard games
- 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)  – 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 (fifteen numbered, plus a cue ball), as in pool, but the numbered one are white, and the cue ball is usually red. Up to 70 millimetres (2 3⁄4 inches) in diameter, they are larger and heavier than Western billiard balls; the official tournament size is 68 mm (2 11⁄16 in). Smaller balls – e.g., 63 mm (2 1⁄2 in), 60 mm (2 3⁄8 in), and 57 millimetres (2 1⁄4 in) – are available for the smaller table sizes.
- Pockets:The corner pockets are only 4–5 mm (approx. 3⁄16 in) wider than the diameter of the ball. The central pockets, however, are 14–18 mm (approx. 1⁄2– 3⁄4 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.
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There are several variations of Russian pyramid. All games begin with fifteen numbered white balls racked in a pyramid pack, as in straight pool or eight-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: http://www.wpa-pool.com/pdf/web/Official%20International%20IPC%20Rules.pdf
- 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.
- 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 a white 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)
- 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 between the head rail (bottom cushion) and head/baulk, but not on top of that line. 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 дома (doma), 'house'; from here, balls can be only pocketed in the side and far-corner pockets.
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 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, 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.
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 in the comparison image).
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.