History of Pool and Billiards

The terms Pool and Billiards have been used interchangeably for hundreds of years. Billiards has evolved from lawn game similar to croquet that was played sometime during the 15th century in Northern Europe, probably in France. It was played indoors with a wooden table that had green cloth to simulate the grass, and a simple barrier was placed around the edges. The balls were then shoved, rather than struck, with a wooden stick called mace. The word "billiard" came from the French, and either from the word "billiard," one of the wooden sticks, or "bille," a ball. Pool was first played with only two balls on a table with six pockets, a hoop similar to a croquet wicket, and an upright stick was used as the target. Sometime during the eighteenth century, the target and hoop gradually vanished, leaving only the billiard balls and the pockets. Almost all of the information came from the accounts of playing by nobles and royalty. It was also known as the "Noble Game of Billiards" ever since the early 1800's, but there is still evidence that many different people from all walks of life have played pool since its beginning. In 1600, the game was well known enough to the public that William Shakespeare mentioned it in "Anthony and Cleopatra". After 75 years, the first book of rules for pool remarked Brittan as "one of the few towns of note that hath not a public billiard table. "Late in the 1600's, the cue stick had been developed. When a ball laid near a rail, the mace was not convenient to use because of the large head. In this situation, the pool players would turn the mace around and use the handle of the mace to hit the ball. The handle was referred to as a "queue", meaning tail, from which we derived the word "cue". For a long time men were the only ones allowed to use the cue while women were forced to use a mace because the cloth was more likely to rip with the sharper cue. From the 1770’s until the 1920's, the dominant game in England was English Billiards, played with six pockets and three balls on a large rectangular pool table. Before that time, there were not any particular table dimensions.

The History of the Game of Pool

Billiards date back many centuries, with mentions of a game similar to pool in the writings of Shakespeare as far back as the early 1600s. In fact, the first pool cues were not invented until the late 1600s, so the modern day game, while dating back over 300 years, is not as old as many people would think. At the same time, the basic idea of the game does date back quite far. The development of modern day games has happened over time, with so many variations on the typical game being created that it’s difficult. Basically a British game from the start, the major improvements on pool tables and the pool cue was quick and constant throughout the early 1800s, making the game an up and coming competitive activity that has turned into an international phenomenon, resulting in worldwide competitions. From the late 1700s through the early 1900s, the dominant game in Britain was played with only 3 balls, while the preferred game in the Americas was a four-ball billiard game with 4 pockets until around 1870. Games played with pool cues such as 15-ball, 8-ball, and straight pool were invented later on, and tournaments of different kinds were played almost annually from 1878 to 1956. Today, people collect the pool cues and antique pool sticks used in these old fashioned games, displaying them as prized showpieces in their game rooms or their billiards businesses. The size of pool tables has also changed through the years. For example, the 4-pocket table used in the four-ball billiard game popular in the Americas in the 1800s was typically 11-12 feet long. Now, compact tables, which are often found in homes that cannot accommodate full-sized billiard tables, are 7 feet long. On the other hand, professional tables are 9 feet long. Today, a lot of value is placed on personalized pool cues, as well as perfectly leveled and felted pool tables, as these are considered to be treasures of the trade. Having a unique pool cue is essential to many who feel that they play better using their own equipment. Pool tables are often preferred based on their age and upkeep, including the condition of the felt and the perfection of the level of the table. Often, it is seen as unprofessional to even attempt a game on an uneven pool table. As you can see, pool has a long and rich history, which can make for very interesting reading in its full recollection.