History of Billiards

Billiards developed as a lawn game akin to croquet in Northern Europe in the 15th century. From then, it developed into the current billiard/pool table and regulations.

The game was relocated inside on a wooden table with green material to represent grass (I’m not sure why they chose to replicate grass). In French, “billiard” comes from either “billart,” a wooden staff, or “bille,” a ball.

Most of our knowledge about early billiards comes from royal and aristocratic chronicles. The “Noble Game of Billiards” has been around since the early 1800s, and there is evidence that individuals from all walks of life have played it. In 1600, billiards was so popular that Shakespeare referenced it in “Antony and Cleopatra.” After 75 years, the first billiards rule book noted that England had “few Tones of renown which hath not a publick Billiard-Table.”

Pool Tables

Originally, railings on billiard/pool tables were flat and just kept the balls from slipping off. They were termed “banks” because they resembled river banks. The “bank shot” was invented when billiard players learned that balls could bounce off the rails. The billiard ball is struck toward the rail with the purpose of rebounding off one cushion—possibly three, four, or five rails—into the pocket.

Slate replaced wood as the table bed for billiard tables about 1835 owing to its longevity and lack of warping. Goodyear developed vulcanization of rubber in 1839, and it was utilized to produce billiard cushions in 1845. In the 18th century, a two-to-one ratio of length to breadth became customary. Previously, tables had no defined dimensions. By 1850, the billiard table had taken on its modern shape.

The Industrial Revolution enhanced billiard/pool equipment in England after 1800.

A professional pool player’s skill is astounding! English visitors taught Americans how spin may change the behavior of a billiard ball, which is why it is termed “English” in America but not elsewhere. The British call it “side.”


A pool is a communal bet or ante. Many non-billiard games, including poker, use a pool, although the term comes from pocket billiards. A pool room nowadays is a venue where pool is played, but in the 19th century it was a horse racing betting parlor. Between-race entertainment included pool tables. It was the betting that gave “pool room” its shady reputation, not the billiards.

Pool has developed into a variety of games.

From from 1770 until the 1920s, “English Billiards” was the most popular billiard game in Britain. Snooker is a sophisticated and colorful game combining offensive and defensive characteristics, played on the same equipment as English Billiards but with 22 balls instead of three. Snooker is as popular in Britain as baseball; you can watch a snooker match almost every day.

Americans played American Four-Ball Billiards until the 1870s on a huge (11 or 12-foot) four-pocket table with four billiard balls – two white and two red. This was an English Billiards expansion. To score, you had to pocket the balls or make caroms (two- or three-ball caroms). Which one is it? A carom is two object balls struck with the cue ball in one stroke. There were several methods to score and up to 13 pints might be made on a single stroke. By the 1870s, both American Four-children Ball’s had exceeded it in popularity. Straight rail, a game played with three balls on a pocketless table, was the predecessor of all carom games. One of the most popular games was American 15-Ball Pool, which predates contemporary pocket billiards

15-Ball Pool used 15 numbered object balls (1-15).

A player gained points for sinking a ball proportional to the ball’s worth. The sum of the ball values in a rack is 120, therefore the first player to get 61 or more wins. This game was played in the inaugural American championship pool tournament in 1878, won by Canadian Cyrille Dion. In 1888, it was decided that counting the number of balls pocketed by a player was more fair. As a result, Continuous Pool supplanted 15-Ball Pool as the winner. The player who sunk the final ball of a rack broke the following rack, and his point total was maintained “constantly”.

Straight pool was created in 1910, and eight-ball in 1900. Nine-ball seems to date from 1920.

Aside from carom games, some individuals use the word “billiards” to designate to any games played on a billiard table, with or without pockets. Pool and billiards, especially three-cushion billiards, were popular in the 1930s.

From 1878 through 1956, championship tournaments were conducted practically every month, with one-on-one challenge matches filling the gaps. During the Civil Battle, billiard outcomes gained more press than war news. Famous players got their own cigarette cards. Pool was a favorite soldier’s pastime throughout various wars. Professional players performed at military bases and others worked in the defense business.

But the game had more difficulties exiting WWII than entering it. Returning troops were eager to purchase homes and start jobs, and an afternoon spent at the pool table was passé. Room after room quietly shuttered, and by the late 1950s, the game seemed doomed.

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