In three-cushion billiards, sometimes called three-cushion carom, the object is to carom off both object balls with at least three rail cushions being contacted before the contact of the cue ball with the second object ball. Three-cushion is a very difficult game. Averaging one point per inning is professional-level play, and averaging 1.5 to 2 is world-class play. An average of one means that for every turn at the table, a player makes 1 point and misses once, thus making a point on 50% of his or her shots. As of 2007, the high run record is 31 points, shared between Semih Saygıner of Turkey and Hugo Patiño who is originally from Colombia but resides in the US.
The origin of the game is not entirely known. It is undisputed that one Wayman Crow McCreery of St. Louis, Missouri popularized the game in the 1870s. The first three-cushion billiards tournament took place January 14–31, 1878 in St. Louis, with McCreery a participant and New Yorker Leon Magnus the winner. The high run for the tournament was just 6 points, and the high average a 0.75. The game was infrequently played, with many top carom players of the era voicing their dislike of it, until after the 1907 introduction of the Lambert Trophy. By 1924, three-cushion had become so popular that two giants in other billiard disciplines agreed to take up the game especially for a challenge match. On September 22, 1924, Willie Hoppe, the world’s balkline champion (who later took up three-cushion with a passion), and Ralph Greenleaf, the world’s straight pool title holder, played a well advertised, multi-day, match to 600 points. Hoppe was the eventual winner with a final score in of 600–527.
Three-cushion billiards retains great popularity in parts of Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and is the most popular carom billiards game played in the US today, where pool is far more widespread. The principal governing body of the sport is the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB). It had been staging world three-cushion championships since the late 1920s. The International Olympic Committee-recognized World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) cooperates with the UMB to keep their rulesets synchronized.