The Origins of Billiards
Billiards (or pool) dates all the way back to 15th century Europe and has been played by royals and commoners alike. Since then, it has evolved and become the game that we know and love today. When you go to a bar, you will usually find a couple of pool tables that have several people surrounding them. It’s a game that invites competition but encourages teamwork. Seeing pool tables isn’t a strange sight, but how many of us actually know the history? In this blog, we will outline billiards’s history, from its inception to today’s version.
Originally, billiards took place outside on the lawn as a game similar to croquet. It eventually moved inside where a wooden table with green cloth was set up to mimic grass. The balls were shoved with wooden sticks called “maces.” In the 1600s, the cue stick was invented after realizing how inconvenient the mace’s large head proved. Players had been using the mace’s handle, and so the cue stick was born.
The Industrial Revolution allowed for many improvements to billiards equipment. The use of chalk created more friction between the ball and cue stick, and leather cue tips were perfected to help players perform a side-spin to the ball. During the 1870s in America, billiards was played on a 11 or 12-foot, four-pocket table with four balls. American Fifteen-Ball Pool eventually grew from this and is the predecessor of modern billiards. Around the 1900s, Eight-Ball was invented, followed by Straight Pool.
The term “pool” came from poolrooms where betting for horse races occurred during the 19th century. Billiard tables were set up in the room so that people could pass the time in between races. After World War II, people were more interested in buying homes and building careers, and so playing billiards lost popularity. It wasn’t until 1961, with the release of the movie “The Hustler,” that the dying game began to see a revival.
Ever since the success of “The Hustler” and its sequel, “The Color of Money” in 1986, poolrooms emerged, attracting men and women, as well as championship tournaments that gave players a more serious perspective to the game. The idea or image of pool had seemingly negative connotations as poolrooms were places where men often gambled, picked fights, smoked, and loitered. Women had trouble being accepted in these rooms, but the game itself has been played by all sorts of people – not just men.
Because of the gambling and smoking that occur in poolrooms, children are not allowed to play pool there. However, pool tables have been set up in more welcoming amusement centers such as bowling alleys and arcades. Passionate individuals can purchase their own table to play at home, but going to a public area to play invites a sense of community. Billiards has come a long way, but it’s a game that people won’t get bored of for some time to come.
Some may see pool as a competitive sport, but at the end of the day, it’s a game that can be enjoyed casually by all. You can play competitively or friendly – as long as you have a few people with you, the game will be fun for everyone. Bars, amusement centers, poolrooms, one’s home – pool tables can be found and played in these environments. Whether you’re new or a veteran to the game, there’s always satisfaction when you see the ball shoot straight into a hole with a clink.