The History of Billiards.

Billiard Play

Interested in the history of Billiards? You have certainly come to the right place. Billiards is one popular sport. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and most of all it is accessible to everyone. I mean, you can find a billiard place in every town or bar and people love it. Billiards is a perfect pastime but it’s also super competitive.

The sport itself has made a lot of famous people. Turned them into rich and popular individuals just because they are masters of this game. And that’s no easy feat to accomplish as Billiards is a game of focus and extreme attention to the details plus you need to have a lot of guts to make it.

But where did all begin? What is the main difference between all these cue sports? We’re going to answer as many questions as we can in this article. This is all about Billiard History.

The Invention of Billiards and some Significant Events

The History of billiards like the number of cue sports is quite vague and fuzzy. But fret not as we will try to shed as much light as we can. This is because of the precedent that billiards is unlike any of the sports that we know like say, basketball or soccer that while it’s also popular, billiards is in one way or another modified and turned into a lot of other similar versions. Basketball for example, on the other hand, is more or less well-defined and structured.

Well, history just repeats itself indeed as billiards itself is an evolution of a type of lawn game similar to what we now as croquet.

Like today, this game has been played by people across any societal status. Commoners, royalties, men, and women. As the history books say, this evolved from the aforementioned croquet game sometime around the 15th century most likely from Northern Europe, specifically France.

History of Billiards
Playing Billiards/Cue sports in ancient time.

It was mostly played indoors on a wooden table and if you don’t know yet know the green cloth was used to simulate grass. The balls were not struck but rather shoved with a mace. The term “billiard” is either derived from the French words “billart” meaning wooden sticks, or “bille”, referring to a ball.

Shakespeare mentioned billiards in his Antony and Cleopatra play so there’s evidence of it dating way back in the 1600s. 75 years later, the first book of rules for billiards was documented. The origin of the cue stick was also said to be in the late 1600s. The mace was eventually replaced because of its incompatibility with the game.

The handle was then called a “queue” which means “tail” thus the origin of the use for the word “cue.” The tables originally had flat walls for the rails and their only job was to prevent the balls from falling off. The bank shot was developed when the players figured out that they can rebound the ball off the rails.

There has been rapid improvement in Billiard equipment in the 1800s especially in Europe, this is due to the Industrial Revolution. Before cues had tips chalk was then used to provide added friction between the cue stick and the ball. And it was not until 1823 that the leather cue tip was perfected.

The 2 piece cue then arrived in 1829. Around 1835, slate became popular as a material for the table beds. Then in 1939 Goodyear developed vulcanization of rubber and by 1845 it was utilized for billiard cushions. By this time the table didn’t have an exact dimension just yet and by 1850, the billiard table is pretty much the same as what it is today.

Pool is to poker and pocket is to billiards, but the word pool became attached to this game this way. The word “poolroom” means a place where pool is played today but way back in the 19th century, a “poolroom” was a horse racing betting parlor. Pool tables were then installed so that patrons could use it to pass the time between races.

15 ball pool or the “61-Pool” was then used in the first American championship tournament back in 1878. 8-Ball was developed shortly after 1900 followed by Straight Pool in 1910 and the Nine-Ball around 1920.

Billiards and Women
Women playing billiard in a hall.

In the 1920s, the poolroom was pretty much an environment for men to gather and do what they pleased. In the past few decades, women have also shared the spotlight. Got a nice dose of billiard history? Let’s have some more discussion.

Things you need to know about Billiards

In this section, we’ll discuss a few important things about the game now that you know billiard history.

The Components of Billiards

Table

Can’t talk billiard history without the table, here are its parts.

Billiard Table
A Billiard Table.

For starters, the following are the parts of a billiard table: Cushion, Top rail, Slate, Playfield, Short or foot rail, Pocket points, Side pocket, Corner pocket, Headrail, opening for retrieval of balls, pocket liner, Legs, Cabinet, and Long or Side rail.

The Corner and the Side pockets are the holes of the pool table where the balls fall.

The Cushion is the cloth-covered bumper that is found inside the rails and that the balls bounce off of.

The Top rail, short or foot rail, and the long or side rails secure the perimeter of your billiard table.

The Slate is the bed of your pool table and is usually made up of heavy, finely milled rock.

The main surface of your pool table is called the Playing field.

Then you have an Opening for Retrieving Balls at the side of the pool table.

The Pocket Liner is the hard part of the pockets where the balls hit on before they roll down your gulley boot.

Then, of course, your table has got Legs and a Cabinet which is the frame of it.

Next is the Diamond/Sight which is the markings above your rail cushions and used as reference points.

Cue

From the use of a mace the cue has also evolved in the course of billiard history.

The parts of your Cue are as follows: Butt, Joint, Shaft, Ferrule, and the Tip.

Balls

Billiard balls have a variety of designs and sizes that is appropriate to the type of game you’re playing.

Billiard Balls
A set of Billiard Balls.

Traditionally made from elephant ivory, but they now are commonly made from phenolic resin. The range in diameter of Billiard balls runs at 2 11/16 inches | 68 millimeters to Snooker which is the smallest at 2 1/16 inches | 52.5 millimeters.

Different Types of Plays in Billiards

The most popular types of cue sports are American 8-ball, Straight pool, Carom, and the English Billiards.

They are characterized of course with varying rules and some vary in components too.

Eight-Ball

The Eight ball is incredibly popular and oftentimes called “spots and stripes”. A game of eight ball is played with 16 balls and cue sticks. The game is played by the players designated to either pocket seven striped balls or the solid balls.

You win if you’ve pocketed your designated balls and then after you pocketed the 8 ball. You may also win if your opponent pockets the 8 ball by accident when he or she wasn’t still supposed to.

Straight Pool

As the name indicates, this is a pretty straightforward game. Usually played professionally, the player wins by reaching a certain amount of points by pocketing the balls on a certain rule.

English Billiards

This game is played with 3 balls the white ball, a white ball with a spot, and a red one. The three different ways of scoring are through losing hazard, this is when the striker’s cue ball is pocketed after hitting another ball. Next is the winning hazard, this is a stroke in which a ball that is not the striker’s cue ball is pocketed after hitting another ball. Lastly, the carom is a sequence of scoring where the striker’s cue ball hits the two other balls simultaneously or successively. The player as long as he continues scoring continues to play.

Carom

Short for “carambola,” this type of game is played on pocketless tables. The idea is to score points through sending the cue ball off of the opponent’s own cue ball. Then to hit into an object ball with just a single shot.

Snooker

Another popular type of cue sport the objective of the game is to use the white cue ball to pocket the other balls in the proper sequence and to score more points than the opponent to win the frame the individual unit of the game.

Famous Billiard Players

The sport ain’t popular without its major proponents. Let’s get to know some of the best players to ever play the game.

Mens

Ronnie Allen, Buddy Hall, Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, Mike Sigel, Luther Lassiter, Rudolf Wanderone, Willie Mosconi, Ralph Greenleaf, and Efren Reyes are some of the best of the best when it comes to billiards.

Womens

Allison Fisher, Jeanette Lee, Ewa Laurance, Jasmin Ouschan, Chen Siming are some of the best women pool players ever.

Some known celebrities who play a lot of pool are Peter Falk, Greg Morris, Richard Pryor, Mickey Dolan, and Kevin Dodson. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are also known to be fond of the game.

Of course, like any sport, the drama of billiards has been depicted in the movies. Some of the movies that you should check out if you adore billiards are as follows.

The Hustler (1961), The Color of Money (1986) directed by no other than Martin Scorsese, The Baltimore Bullet (1980), Poolhall Junkies (2002). And Turn the River (2007).

They say that Paul Newman saved the sport twice through his movies, surely a great part of billiard history.

Billiard Tournaments and Championships and Status Today

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) was established in 1968 in Bristol. They govern the field and helps make push the boundaries for it. The WPBSA World Billiards Championship is where the best of the best meets.

As of today, the Governing body of Billiards is still trying to get the sport into the Olympics. Unfortunately, since the 1950s, the game hasn’t been played just yet on the said event. Billiards is still a pretty much relevant sport and doesn’t show signs of slowing down only fitting to honor billiard history.

Final Thoughts…

There’s no doubt about it, Billiards has made its mark in sports. No matter what variety of it you know and play it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable games ever made. Billiards has a rich history and we’re pretty sure that there’s more for the future of the sport.

There’s going to be more exhilarating games, nerve-wracking moments, and most of all jaw-dropping trick shots. It may change in form and style but the bottom line is, it’s still going to be the same old Billiards at its heart and core. We hope you enjoyed our Billiard history article, now go ahead and play a game or two.