Billiards History

All cue sports are generally regarded to have evolved into indoor games from outdoor stick-and-ball lawn games (retroactively termed ground billiards) [2], and as such to be related to troco, croquet and golf, and more distantly to the stickless bocce and bowling. The word “billiard” may have evolved from the French word billart, meaning “mace”, an implement similar to a golf club, which was the forerunner to the modern cue. The term “cue sports” can be used to encompass the ancestral mace games, and even the modern cueless variants, such as finger pool, for historical reasons….

Accordingly, in addition to the three general subdivisions listed earlier, a now rare obstacle category was prevalent in early times.

The early croquet-like games eventually led to the development of the carom or carambole billiards category – what most non-US and non-UK speakers mean by the word “billiards”. These games, which once completely dominated the cue sports world but have declined markedly in most areas over the last few generations, are games played with three or sometimes four balls, on a table without holes (or obstructions in most cases, five-pins being an exception), in which the goal is generally to strike one object (target) ball with a cue ball, then have the cue ball rebound off of one or more of the cushions and strike a second ball. Variations include three-cushion, straight rail, balkline variants, cushion caroms, Italian five-pins, and four-ball, among others.

Over time, a type of obstacle returned, originally as a hazard and later as a target, in the form of pockets, or holes partly cut into the table bed and partly into the cushions, leading to the rise of pocket billiards, especially “pool” games, popular around the world in forms such as eight-ball, nine-ball, straight pool and one-pocket amongst numerous others. The terms “pool” and “pocket billiards” are now virtually interchangeable, especially in the US. English billiards (what UK speakers almost invariably mean by the word “billiards”) is a hybrid carom/pocket game, and as such is likely fairly close to the ancestral original pocket billiards outgrowth from 18th to early 19th century carom games.

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Published in: on January 24, 2009 at 5:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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