History of Pool and Billiards

The terms Pool and Billiards have been used interchangeably for hundreds of years. Billiards has evolved from lawn game similar to croquet that was played sometime during the 15th century in Northern Europe, probably in France. It was played indoors with a wooden table that had green cloth to simulate the grass, and a simple barrier was placed around the edges. The balls were then shoved, rather than struck, with a wooden stick called mace. The word “billiard” came from the French, and either from the word “billiard,” one of the wooden sticks, or “bille,” a ball. Pool was first played with only two balls on a table with six pockets, a hoop similar to a croquet wicket, and an upright stick was used as the target. Sometime during the eighteenth century, the target and hoop gradually vanished, leaving only the billiard balls and the pockets. Almost all of the information came from the accounts of playing by nobles and royalty. It was also known as the “Noble Game of Billiards” ever since the early 1800’s, but there is still evidence that many different people from all walks of life have played pool since its beginning. In 1600, the game was well known enough to the public that William Shakespeare mentioned it in “Anthony and Cleopatra”. After 75 years, the first book of rules for pool remarked Brittan as “one of the few towns of note that hath not a public billiard table.” Late in the 1600’s, the cue stick had been developed. When a ball laid near a rail, the mace was not convenient to use because of the large head. In this situation, the pool players would turn the mace around and use the handle of the mace to hit the ball. The handle was referred to as a “queue”, meaning tail, from which we derived the word “cue”. For a long time men were the only ones allowed to use the cue while women were forced to use a mace because the cloth was more likely to rip with the sharper cue. From the 1770’s until the 1920’s, the dominant game in England was English Billiards, played with six pockets and three balls on a large rectangular pool table. Before that time, there were not any particular table dimensions.