A Brief History of Billiards

billiard tablesWhen it comes to billiard tables, no low-impact activity has been around as long. Popular enough to have pool halls in every town and the ability to become a trick sport, billiards have captured the American ideals since its inception. In the United States, there is no set time frame when billiards came to the States. However, according to Mike Shamos, who wrote A Brief History of the Noble Game of Billiards, tales go back to the Spaniards as early as the 1580’s. Actual evidence of this is not available, but the history of the game starts with the Dutch and English.

Americans created billiard tables as early as the 1700’s. Though the game wasn’t popular at first, the popularity spread while some tables were still scarce. There is a rumor that even George Washington won a few games in his time. Bassford’s, a New York room for stockholders, was one of the most famous early pool halls. At the time, few rooms were opening for billiards alone, and as popularity soared, so did the number.

Michael Phelan, who came from Ireland in the 1800’s, founded American Billiards. This man was the first to write a book on the game of pool and helped devise some of the rules and regulations still followed today. He is also the reason that diamonds were installed in the table to make aiming your shots easier than before. While he became a columnist for the game, he continued his love of it and won many of the first matches.  The game, however, did not start as the 8 or 9 ball that we know today.

Four Ball Billiards

This game involved two white balls and two red balls. An extension of English Billiards the points got scored by pocketing the balls, much like today. However, if you scratched the cue ball or made caroms (hitting two of the balls with the cue ball in one go), you also got points.

Fifteen-Ball Pool

So, from fewer pieces to the more, Fifteen-ball pool is what it seems. You got points for sinking the pieces, which would correlate to the number on them. The first player to 61, which is half of the entire total of all the balls, would win. However, the scoring changed to reflect the number of items the player sunk, and whoever dropped the last ball would break the next round.

Eight Ball

The most common form of pool today was invented after 1900, with Nine Ball coming around 1920. These two ways are the most commonly practiced today still and are the primary forms of any tourneys in the United States.

Pool has remained a favorite game to this day. Pool halls and billiard tables in roadhouses across the continent are typical, no matter where you go. With a history that is over 200 years old, the game will continue to flourish just as it has in the past.