For most of us, billiards is our favorite past time consuming most of our extra hours, our weekends, is the focus of our parties. Some of us may have our own tables in our houses and our own equipment: cues, sticks, balls and rack (we hope you do, a Delta-13 one that is!) And for you professionals, billiards is more than a sport, it’s your investment. Your time, energy, attention, resource and even livelihood. So where did billiards begin? And how has it evolved over the years?
Did Ya Know? The word "Pool" means a collective bet.
Fun Fact: The word “Billiard” is derived from the French, either from the word "billart" (wooden stick) or "bille" (ball).
Interestingly, the “first played” billiards game dates back to the 15th century. Some resources suggest its beginnings were even earlier dating back to 589 B.C.! Records trace King Louis XI of France purchasing his first billiard table in 1470. The same records indicate billiards came to North America by a Spanish family living in Florida in 1565.
Billiards began as a lawn game, very similar to croquet. Royalty was the first group to participate in games, though people of all rank and stature have played since its inception.
In 1878, billiard championship tournaments and one-on-one challenges began to be held on a yearly basis. These tournaments were big news, sometimes superseding other national news. One account says even war news during the Civil War! Popular players were featured on cigarette cards and during the war and troops played at their location posts. In the 19th century, the “pool room” was a betting parlor for horse racing and pool tables were installed just to pass the time between races. After WWII, it seemed the previous excitement of pool had died almost completely out, but was revived a decade later in its former luxury with the opening of upscale game rooms.
Fun Fact: Billiards was the first sport to have a World Championship in 1873.
Did Ya Know? Michael Phelan is considered the father of American billiards.
Really? Get Out! Billiards is considered the safest sport in the world.
Fun Fact: In 1863, the First American Billiard Congress was started.
Pool continued in social settings, though for a long time was only played in rooms where there was also loitering, smoking, fighting and betting. As a result, it was considered primarily a male-dominated sport. Despite this, women have always been enthusiastic players of this sport, and in the last 200 years, women of all backgrounds have become players, professionals and instructors of the game. The Women’s Professional Billiard Association was formed in 1976 and continues to thrive today as more and more women enter into the sport.
Did Ya Know? At 35.6 years, billiard champions have the highest average age of any sport.
Different billiard games have been developed through the years.
The oldest Billiards games played in the USA were One-Pocket and Four-Ball Billiards. One-Pocket was created in 1775. In this game, each opponent has one corner pocket and the player who pockets 8 balls legally in their pocket first, wins!
Four-Ball Billiards was played with 4 pockets and four balls (two white and two red). Points were scored by making balls in the pockets, scratching the cue ball, or by hitting the cue ball against two or three balls.
Fun Fact: In 1674, Charles Cotton published the first known English book called, The Compleat Gamester, which contained instructions for billiards.
After this, came Balkline (replaced by Three Cushion Billiards today), which is played with no pockets, two cue balls and a red object ball. The table is divided by lines on the cloth called “balk spaces” which signify areas of the table in which a player may only score a certain number of points while the red ball is within that space.
Fun Fact: In Paris in 1913, the first 18.2 Balkline Championship was held. It is the only world championship in billiard history to be decided by the court system, due to a three way tie.
Next came Straight Rail aka Carombole aka Biljarts and Fifteen-Ball Pool aka 61-Pool in the late 1870s. Straight Rail was played like Balkline with no pockets and the object of the game was to hit both your opponents white ball and red ball with the cue ball in a single stroke. The difference between Balkline and Straight Rail was that there were no Balk Spaces in this new game. Fifteen-Ball was played with 15 object balls (numbered 1-15). Each time a player made a shot, the player received the value of the ball. The total number of points adds up to 120, so the first player to collect more than 61 points, wins.
Fun Fact: Pocket Billiards is defined as any pool game played on a table with pockets.
Did Ya Know? In the early days of pool, the score was often kept on a chalkboard. When a player pocketed the cue ball aka scratched, the opponent would scratch a point from the other player’s score.
Snooker was created in Jubbulpore, India in 1875. This game derived from other current games at the time including: pyramids, life pool and black pool. With these variations as a base, they started to add colored balls, until Snooker was invented. The game of 'black pool', played with fifteen red balls and a black ball, was supplemented by the addition of yellow, green and pink balls, with blue and brown added in later years. Point values are given for each of the balls: red-1, yellow-2, green-3, brown-4, blue-5, pink-6, black-7. Each player has to pocket a red and then a colored ball continuously until they fail, in which their turn is over when they do. The game is over when all the balls are pocketed and the player with the most points wins the game.
Fun Fact: In 1878, The first American pool tournament (Fifteen-Ball) was won by Cyrille Dion.
Did Ya Know? Carom Billiards is defined as any pool game played on a table without pockets.
Continuous Pool was the next game to debut in 1888, where the number of balls and not the number on the balls pocketed were counted. The game would continuously be played with games back to back and the points would continue. Eight-Ball aka Solids and Stripes was invented shortly after in the early 1900s, but the first record of it being played was in 1908 in the USA. The person who pockets a ball first is assigned either solids or stripes. The player who can pocket all their balls (solids or stripes) followed by the 8 ball, wins! If the 8 Ball is pocketed before the last shot, the player who did such, loses the game. In 1910, the game of Straight Pool aka 14.1 Continuous, is invented by Jerome Keogh. The object is to make 14 of the 15 balls one after the other with each ball being a point.
Fun Fact: 1912, Straight Pool became the official game of billiards professionals.
Nine-Ball seems to have developed around the 1920’s as a gambling game. The balls (numbered 1-9) are racked in a diamond with the nine ball in the middle and the one ball at the head. Each shot a player makes must always hit the lowest numbered ball on the table first and then pocket a ball.
Did Ya Know? Nine-Ball originated in the USA.
Fun fact: The world’s largest pool hall, The Recreation, was built in Detroit during the 1920s. “It had 103 tables, 20 barber chairs, 88 bowling lanes, 3 manicure stands, a restaurant, 14 cigar stands, a lunch counter on each floor, and an exhibition room with theater seats.”
How many of these games are you familiar with and have you played before? Share with us @TheDelta13.
The equipment used in Billiards has been modified and developed over the years.
1340s: Outdoor tables similar to crochet were played on.
1470: The earliest records of an indoor pool table made. Billiard tables may have been invented before this time, but no one knows for sure when or by who.
1851: The pool table pocket was invented.
1834: John Thurston introduces the Imperial Petrosian Billiard Table with its slate bed.
1835: Raw Gum Cushions aka Natural Rubber was invented by Thurston. Prior to 1850, billiard cushions were made from cloth, rags or paper.
1850: The billiard table evolved into its current form we still use today.
1500s: Cloth has been used to cover billiards tables since the 15th century.
1680: The famous billiard cloth maker, Iwan Simonis, opened the Simonis Factory. Their cloth today still contains a 100% worsted wool content and comes from Belgium. Cloth used today is woven wool or a wool and nylon blend, which is the same fabric that has been used since the 1500s.
Fun Fact: The cloth of the billiard table traditionally has been green, due to its origin of being played as a lawn game on the grass.
Really? Get Out! In 1674, cloth was a precious commodity, so there was a rule forbidding a player to drop ash from his pipe on the cloth, which resulted in penalties for damaging it.
1600: The wooden stick that was invented during this time that was similar to a pool cue was called a mace.
1734: The first recorded mention in print of the billiard cue.
1800s: The billiard cue that we know today was invented.
1829: Pool cues were one single shaft until the two-piece cue arrived in this year.
What cue do you play with? Share with us @TheDelta13.
1627: Ivory balls, formed from the tusks of elephants, were used for billiard balls.
Billiard balls had to be cut from the center of a tusk, the average tusk yielded only 3 to 4 pool balls.
1870: Wesley Hyatt found a material he called celluloid (synthetic plastic) to replace ivory.
1923: Saluc from Belgium was established as the company we know today as Aramith. The Aramith phenolic balls last up to five times longer than other balls made of polyester and they are chip and scratch resistant. Saluc makes balls in a range from 3/8 inch to over 7 inches.
Did Ya Know? There were different ball diameters used for various games.
Carom: 61.5mm (2.42 inches)
American pool: 57mm (2.24 inches)
British pool: 56mm (2.20 inches)
Snooker: 52.5mm (2.07 inches)
1820s: Chalk was in wide use during this time, although there is talk of chalk having been used since 1808. This chalk was made from carbonate of lime, also known as blackboard chalk.
1828: Blue colored chalk was introduced to billiards.
1843: Green colored chalk was introduced to billiards.
Really? Get Out! Most chalk that is used today is made from fine abrasives that actually do not contain any chalk.
Although there is no history recorded on the billiard rack, here is the basic information everyone knows. Prior to our aluminum ball rack in 2007, racks were initially made from wood and later were created in a mold out of plastic.
2007: The first aluminum ball rack was invented by Delta-13.
Fun Fact: Many people understand that irregular size balls make it impossible to get a tight rack, so Delta-13 measures each of their Elite racks for precision to identify undersized balls and create the tightest rack on the market.
We’d love to hear from you!