The History of Pool

The History of Pool: Who, How, Where, and…Billiards?

History of poolIf you happen to be a history buff who also happens to be a fan of games such as pool, you might have wondered about the history of pool. If this is the case, this article is for you (well, for everyone, really…but mainly for you).

We often hear terms such as billiards and pool used interchangeably to describe a cue game. Even though these two games are very similar, there are distinctions in their history and how they are played now. Questions such as who invented the game of pool, how old is the game, where is it most popular, and how does it relate to the game of billiards (if it does) all stem from understanding the history of pool.

As a leader in the billiard and home game room products industry, Games For Fun is not only interested in providing you with high-quality products, but we also want to make sure that you are knowledgeable about the products you will be purchasing. If you are looking to expand your home game room with a pool table, you could start with first learning about the history of pool and how having that knowledge could inspire your home game room decisions!

The History of Pool: Differences Between Pool and Billiards

Before we get into the specifics of the history of the game of pool, we want to emphasize that there is actually a difference between pool and billiards. We have considered this in the past in our article titled The Difference Between Pool, Snooker, and Billiards, but we want to reiterate some key points for good measure.

First, keep in mind that billiards, or cue sports, include all sports that are played with a cue stick and billiard balls on top of a table covered with cloth and with leather (or rubber) borders. Billiards is thus divided into 3 sub-categories: pocket billiards or pool; carom billiards; snooker. The term “pool” is used to refer to billiard games that use pockets (hence the term “pocket billiards”).  So, one of the main differences between pool and billiards is that pool is a type of billiard game. They are not enemies, they are more like father and son, so to speak.

When it comes to table differences, pool tables are at least 3.5’ x 7’ while billiard tables are much larger with a minimum size of 5’ x 10’. The cloth on a pool table also makes the balls travel slower while the cloth on a billiard table makes the balls travel at a faster speed.

Also, billiards is played on a table that has no pockets while the game of pool is played on a table with six pockets. Why the difference in pockets when both games are so often interchangeable? They’re interchangeable by common general misinformation, not because they are actually legitimately interchangeable. This “without” pockets thing is pretty important (kind of like jeans with pseudo-pockets…it makes a difference). The reality is that you could technically play a game of billiards on a pool table, but you will soon learn that the pockets get in the way and could potentially ruin the game. This leads us to the next point of differences in how a game of pool is played versus a game of billiards.

A game of pool is played with 9 to 15 object balls plus an additional cue ball depending on the type of pool you’re playing. Billiards uses 3 balls—one red ball, one white ball with a spot, and one white ball without a spot, and these balls are larger than pool balls.

Objectives: The main objective of billiards is to score points (known as counts) by bouncing one’s own ball off of the other two balls on the table. Points can be scored through potting, in-offs, and cannons. The game is normally played in a race to reach a certain number of points or as a timed game. Meanwhile, in 8-ball pool, there are seven solid and seven striped balls and one 8 black ball. In order to win, the player must pot his specific balls (solids or stripes) then finish with the black 8-ball. In 9-ball pool, only nine balls are on the table. Each player pots the balls in order of number. The person to pot the 9 ball wins.

Now that we got the primary differences of a game of pools and billiards out of the way, we can focus on the history of pool.

Who Invented the Game of Pool: How and Where

History often tells us about the people involved in certain inventions, events, and more. When it comes to the history of pool, the game remains the same! You might read different information regarding when the game of pool was invented. For example, this article called The History of Pool Table says that pool tables were discovered in the fifteenth century and was played by kings in those times. “It was practiced in Europe and at first was played as an outdoor game,” the article says. Yet, in another article called The History of Snooker and Pool, they say that the earliest recorded playing of a recognizable form of billiards was in France in the 1340s

However, despite these discrepancies, both articles note that the game of pool that was originally played as an outdoor lawn game soon became an indoor game with wooden tables and green cloth to resemble the grass on which it had been previously played.

On that same article about the history of the game of pool (and snooker), we get a brief history rundown on how the cue stick and table and what prompted the improvements we know today:

  • The stick was called a mace and was made of wood. When the cue-stick was developed, it replaced the original mace. The cue was only used by men while ladies continued to use the wooden mace. The tables were originally formed with all the edges covered that prevent the ball from falling.
  • After the Industrial Revolution, the game of pool became famous in England and across the world. Players started to increase various functions of the cue and started to put leather tip cues for hitting the ball perfectly and providing some extra technical shots. The wooden tables were replaced by slate material because wood started warping soon and was not durable.

Though there is no name directly linked to who invented the game of pool, King Louis XI of France (1461–1483) is known for having the first indoor billiard table. Talk about being a game for the nobles!

Where to Find the Perfect Pool Table

We see how the history of the game of pool has still remains enjoyable to-date. We can also see that the game of pool has made quite some strides from wooden sticks and grass to, well, wooden sticks and “inspired” grasslike surfaces. The game of pool is most popular in the United States and Canada, played with a white cue ball and fifteen consecutively numbered colored balls. So it is no shock that if you walk into a “billiards” bar, you will likely encounter a pool table.

Games For Fun is proud to carry an array of pool tables available in our showroom and online. If you are interested in pool tables after reading this article, reach out to us for more information! Our team can provide you with everything you need to know about the game of pool. If you would like a history lesson in addition, just be sure to refer back to this article!

If you are not in the area and would prefer to have your questions answered via phone, give us a call at (909) 885-3604.


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