The game of pool/billiards and billiards games originates from games playing on grass similar to croquet.
Around the 15th century,in Northern Europe, someone had the bright idea to make a version of the croquet for indoors, most probably to avoid the rain. This involved a wooden table and a green table cloth to represent indoor grass. Edging was placed around the sides of the tables to stop balls flying off onto the floor and balls were shoved instead of being shot around the table. The wooden sticks that were used for this indoor version of croquet were called ‘maces’. The word billiards is thought to have originated from the French word ‘billart’ and France is thought to be the most likliest place that billiards games originate from.
Most accounts of the earliest games of pool come from accounts of games played by royalty and nobles. However, this game was familiar enough to all types of people that even Shakespeare mentioned the game in ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’
In the 1600s the cue stick came along because the ‘mace’ could not get at the balls easily that were frozen on the rail due to it’s large croquet like head. Although players of this game would reverse the mace and use the handle instead to get over this inconvenience. The handle of the mace was called a ‘queue’ which translates to ‘tail’. No doubt the added challenge of using the ‘queue’ instead of the head end of the mace turned this game into something quite different.
The rails on the table as we have said before was soley for keeping balls on the table, however players started to use these rails in strategic play. The rails resembled river banks which is where they got the name ‘banks’ as in ‘bank shots’.
Then from the 1800s came the addition of chalk to add friction, vulcanised rubber from Goodyear, the two-piece cues and the leather cue tips.
English visitors to America explained how to put side on the ball, which is why it is called ‘English’ in America. Although now as you know, America has taken billiards games and added a lot to it and has now become part of American culture, producing many world class players to boot.
English billiards was the most popular game before billiards as we know it today which involved 3 balls and the standard 6 pockets. Then, the arrival of American Fifteen Ball Pool marked a new era in the game of pool.
Why is the game now known as ‘pool’? Well, it comes from a pool of players making a bet as a group. Hence the word ‘pool room’ where players and spectators would wager bets.
After, Eight Ball pool came about just after the 1900s and then Straight Pool, with Nine Ball pool coming about last in the 1920s.
In the early croquet type indoor game, women were often not allowed to use the ‘queue’ end of the mace as it was thought that they might tear the cloth. Quite unfairly, men were often only allowed to use the queue end. So it is nice to see in modern days, women excelling at billiards games as well as men.