Billiard or Pool has a long and rich history. It’s been played by kings, commoners, presidents, ladies, gentlemen and hustlers alike.
The game has evolved from a 15th-century knockoff of croquet to the present day pool and billiards. The rules have changed from that point on, too.
The game underwent a huge change and now moved from an outdoors setting to one indoors, with people originally playing on top of a green cloth that may or may not have physically been there. That said, the name comes from the French word billiard which means “to hit with sticks as in bowling,” implying a game where you’re shooting balls into various pockets in order to win.
Billiards, the game of 8 ball, started with nobility and royalty. But this was not true in 1600. When Shakespeare mentioned it in a play of the time period, people from all walks of life, but mostly those of high means, played the game. By 1700, there would be an official Billiard Table for public use and seventy-five years later there would be a manuscript about the game rules available for public consumption by England.
From Mace to Cue
The game was originally played on the ground, not using balls and a table. The balls were shoved with maces, and were more difficult to get past one another than if they had been struck with normal cue sticks. Merchants developed cues in the late 1600s, which became advantageous for use when air caused the ball to drift near a rail. The force of the cue head was used despite its large size; it negated the need for a ‘tail’. For many years only men were allowed to play this game, which could have been due to their stronger muscles typically aiding in smashing balls – everyone knows women are good at shots that seem impossible.
To increase the friction between the billiard ball and the cue stick, someone before cues had tips used chalk around the turn of the 18th century in Europe to implement topspin or backspin. This led to significant improvement in their performance.
Until 1829, the billiards/pool cue consisted of a single shaft. But the two-piece cue appeared to make playing the sport easier.
The Pool Table
The billiards/pool table actually started out with long flat rails to keep the balls in place. The rails were originally called banks, because they resembled the edges of a riverbed. It was only when players really perfected how to hit the balls off these perfect walls that they began their “bank shot” into pockets! With this type of shot, you aim for the bank so your ball can rebound from one rail and sink into the pocket!
To create a billiard table, wood was traditionally used as the bed. However, slate became more popular than wood in 1835 and vulcanized rubber was discovered in 1839 which allowed for the making of billianeers. By the 1870s a standard 2:1 ratio of length to width had been established. Before then, tables were not standardized size wise, but by 1850 the billiard table had gone from its roots into its current form.
Professional pool players have an incredible skill. They can control the movement of the object, even how it will affect other objects, and how to manipulate the ball’s path. That explains why American billiard balls are spun one direction and not used elsewhere in the world.
The Game of Pool
The word “pool” has many definitions, but one of its earliest meanings is a collective amount set in order to play a game. Although ‘pocket billiards’ are the only games currently called ‘pool’, other games once used the term, such as poker and horse racing. The first use of it came from betting rooms, not billiards halls. People began connecting the two terms because of their unsavory connotation.
Billiards had entered a period of slow and steady decline from the 1950s until the 1980s when it reached one of its last zealous eras in popularity. It ultimately faced an uphill battle to overcome the military-inspired infatuation of returning soldiers and the leisurely social life that these veterans prioritized after their wartime experiences. After poolrooms gradually closed down, many returned to being conventional homes with few exceptions in cities across America. Pool seemed on the verge of an absence into extinction.
Nowadays, the billiard game has become very popular and presented in many world competition: Olympic,…. It is also popular among adults and kids, who can enjoy the mini pool table that can be played at home. Like the name, this type of game has smaller size than the normal billiard table, but still very fun to play.