A Brief History of Billiards

For a long time, people worldwide have associated the game of billiards or pool with rough bars, suspicious-looking men, and halls filled with smoke. However, that is not the actual image of pool. The game has a rich history and was common among kings, presidents, gentlemen, and ladies. Technological enhancements have made it possible for players to enjoy the game online. You might not find the game on top online casinos like the JackpotCity online casino, but there are many other games you can enjoy on the casinos. So, how did the noble history of pool change to the current world view? How did it shift from kings to grumpy men holding a glass of beer killing time?

In this piece, you will discover the history of pool, the evolution of the game’s equipment, and how con men have saved the billiards industry and made it famous in the US.

Billiards has a noble heritage
The history of billiards can be traced back to Northern Europe and the French upper class. The aristocrats state the origin of pool to be around the 15th century. The game had a lot of similarities to croquet that was played on the grass outside. Later it was moved indoors, where it was played on a table lined with miniature walls used to keep the balls on the table. The tables had a green cloth to mimic the grass.

According to historians, most of the terms used in the game were derived from French words. For example, they suggest that the word billiards came from the French word “bille,” a ball, or “billart,” one of the wooden sticks.

The Game’s Evolution
Did you know that billiards began without striking the ball! Interesting, right? The most iconic part of the billiards game was not even part of the original rules! The early nobility from Europe used to play the game with a stick called “mace.” The players pushed the ball forward instead of striking it. The cue stick was introduced to the scene later in the 1600s as the game’s strategy changed.

Players realized that the mace had disadvantages when the ball was too close to the walls. To fix this, players decided to flip the mace upside down and use the smaller head to hit the ball. The French name for the handle is “queue” or tail in English. The exciting part about this new strategy is that women were not allowed to use the smaller head. It was believed that they lacked coordination and would rip the table cloth.

The industrial revolution in England in the 1800s modernized the pool game. The modernization came with changes to the cue. Players continued to make changes to improve their game. These changes saw the introduction of chalk that helped increase friction and reduce moisture’s power on the cue stick’s wooden tip.

In 1823, the cue was modified to include a leather tip that allowed the players to use the power of rotation to control the ball after hitting it. This rotation is called English in the US because of its origin and sidespin in other parts of the world.

The pool table also received some improvements over the years. The slate was introduced in 1835, while vulcanized rubber came to the fore in 1845. Slate was a stronger material than wood and could handle more rigorous play. The vulcanized rubber also helped to refine the game.

Why “Pool”?
Billiards tables were mostly found in pool rooms for horse racing tracks in the 19th century. They were called poolrooms because punters placed collective bets, also known as pools. The owners of the pool rooms added billiards tables to keep patrons busy between horse races.

How Conmen saved American Billiards
Billiards’ popularity went down after World War II until Paul Newman starred in the movie “The Hustler.” The movie’s popularity caused an explosion in the interest of billiards. This interest continued until the Vietnam War quelled it.

Once again, Paul Newman came to the rescue of the game, this time through the “The Color of Money.” In this follow-up to “The Hustler” Newman teaches Tom Cruise how to hustle and is credited for billiards’ resurgence in the US. This could be the reason why billiards is associated with conmen and gambling.

Final Thoughts
There is more to the history of this beautiful game than what is shared here. Billiards is a global source of entertainment for players from all walks of life and has numerous variations. It takes time, determination and patience to learn and master the game. Enough said. Now you know some essential parts of the history of the game of billiards, or should we say pool!