Pool Facts

  1. The game of billiards (pool) evolved from a lawn game similar to croquet played sometime during the 15th century somewhere in Northern Europe (probably in France).
  2. The term “pool room” means a place where billiards is played, but in the 19th century a pool room was a betting parlor for horse races. Billiard tables were installed so patrons could pass time between the races. The game of billiards and the pool room became connected in the public’s mind. Today, the two terms are both used interchangeably.
  3. The dome on Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, conceals a billiard (pool) room. In Thomas Jefferson’s day, billiards (pool) was illegal in Virginia.
  4. Billiards or Pool is one of the safest sports around the world.
  5. There are 15 colored balls in billiards, 7 “solid”, 7 “striped” and the black eight ball.
  6. Professional player and trick shot specialist Paul Gerni is nicknamed the “Ambassador” and he speaks six different languages.
  7. A “Scratch” is named for the penalty assessed for sinking the cue ball in a pocket during a match. In pool’s early days, the score was often kept on a chalkboard. When a player pocketed the cue ball, his opponent “scratched” a point off of the shooter’s score.
  8. According to research that was conducted a few short years ago, billiard champions have the highest average age of any sport at 35.6 years.
  9. At times in history, including during the Civil War, billiard results received wider news coverage than the war. Players were so renowned, cigarette cards were issued featuring them.
  10. Tom Cruise performed his own trick billiard shots for the 1986 film, “The Color of Money”, except for one shot in which he had to jump two balls in order to sink another. Director Martin Scorsese said he wanted to let Cruise learn the shot himself, but it would have taken two more days of practice, which would have held up production and would have cost thousands of dollars. Instead, the shot was performed by professional pool player Mike Sigel.
  11. In the course of a match, one day a visiting cadet remarked that first-year cadets at this particular military academy were known as “snookers”. When the cadet missed an easy pot, a remark was made “Why, you are a regular snooker”!
  12. Billiards was the first sport to adopt a world championship in 1873.
  13. Through history, pool has bridged the gap between the aristocracy and the masses. Gentlemen and street toughs alike played the game.
  14. There were few women’s tournaments in the early 1890’s, if any. Whatever titles there were, were only local, and usually were self-proclaimed. Until Frances Anderson came along. The native of Indiana merely proclaimed herself Champion of the World, and offered $5,000 to any woman who could beat her at billiards. Anderson toured the country, playing men and women alike. Legend has it, that she went undefeated for 25 years against her female competitors. She was paid well for her appearances throughout the 1920’s, taking on any challengers and doing exhibitions, in both Europe and in America. She followed up with a well-publicized announcement that shocked the pool-playing world. Her actual name was Orie from Kansas, not Frances, and she was actually a he.
  15. In the year 1586, the castle of Mary, the Queen of Scots, was invaded and captured. The invaders left a note forbidding her to use her billiard table. They then proceeded to kill her, and used the cover of the table to cover her body.
  16. In the year 1765, the first pool room was built in England. One-pocket was played there, which was a pool table with only one pocket and four balls.
  17. What is billiard cloth or “felt” made of? Amazingly, the main component of billiard cloth has remained the same for well over 400 years. Wool was used in the 1500’s, and remains the material of choice today. Of course, it has undergone some perfecting (some wool and nylon blends are also produced today).
  18. The first coin-operated pool table was patented in the year 1903. The cost of a game on the first pay-to-play table was only one penny.
  19. No one knows precisely when or where the first billiard table was built, or by whom. The earliest document on record of a pool table was made in the year 1470. In an inventory of the possessions of King Louis XI of France, his table was said to have had the following: a cloth covering, bed of stone, and a hole in the middle of the playing surface, in which the balls could be driven.
  20. Before the celluloid and other plastics were invented, billiard balls were made from ivory. The elephants could thank their present existence on the invention of plastics. Since billiard balls had to be cut from the dead center of a tusk, the average tusk yielded only 3 to 4 pool balls.
  21. Until just about 1920, American billiards was dominated by the carom games. Billiards was a dying sport. When the initial championship pool tournament was held in 1878, the event and the winner, did not go unnoticed.
  22. Captain Mingaud, credited with the invention of the leather cue tip, went to prison for political reasons during the French Revolution. With the help of his fellow prisoner, he was able to have a pool table installed in his cell. It was during his imprisonment that be became obsessed with the game of billiards, that he came up with and perfected his invention of the leather cue tip. His obsession became so intense, that toward the end of his prison term, he actually asked for a longer sentence in order to complete his study of the game.
  23. Most chalk that is used today is made from fine abrasives that do not contain any chalk.
  24. The world’s largest pool hall was built during the golden age of billiards. A mammoth seven-story health spa “The Recreation”, was a bustling Detroit business in the 1920’s. It had 103 tables, 20 barber chairs, 88 bowling lanes, three manicure stands, a restaurant that could seat 300, 14 cigar stands, a lunch counter on each floor, and an exhibition room with theater seats, that could accommodate 250 people.
  25. Willie Hoppe was a truly legendary pool player. Yet, his most famous match strangely had to do more with a penknife, than his unequaled wizardry of the billiards game. In 1925, Hoppe met Robert Cannefax, the Three-Cushion champ. After several games of pool, Cannefax, who preferred a faster cloth, asked to move the match to a different pool table. Hoppe, who was in the lead, said the cloth was fine, and refused to allow any change. An angry Cannefax drew a penknife and cut the cloth down the center of the table. Hoppe was awarded the match immediately, and Cannefax was suspended from competing for one year. Ironically, Cannefax never played another game of pool. He toured Vaudeville for a couple of years, and eventually died from meningitis in 1928.
  26. Charles Goodyear – who invented vulcanized rubber, which revolutionized billiard table cushions and many other industries – died a pauper. His business failed, he went to prison for his debts, and he profited little from his wonderful invention.
  27. Many handicapped people played the game of billiards, but the story of “Handless George” Sutton is one of inspiration. Born in 1870, Sutton lost both of his hands in a sawmill accident at the early age of eight. Despite being handicapped (and long before advanced prosthetics), Sutton studied medicine and graduated from the University of Milwaukee. During college, he took up the game of pool. He became so proficient at pool, he set an 18.2 Balkline world record with a run of 799, in 1921. Sutton took his playing skills on the road, touring the country and amazing audiences for nearly 35 years. He left an everlasting legacy upon his death, in the year 1938.
  28. The movie “The Hustler” was based on a novel by Walter Tevis. The novel, however, was based on a short story that he had submitted earlier to Playboy. Before “The Hustler” released, the Philco TV Theater aired an episode called “Goodbye Johnny”, which had an uncanny resemblance to the short story in Playboy. In it, Cliff Robertson acted as the cocky young hustler, making Robertson – not Paul Newman – the original Fast Eddie Felson.
  29. The art of making pictures or designs with thin slices of wood, shell or other materials, Marquetry, has long enhanced the beauty of pool tables and billiard cues. The art form is hardly a new development. It was practiced in Egypt and Asia more than 3,000 years ago.
  30. W.C. Fields, despite having a slapstick persona, was an accomplished billiards player.
  31. Throughout most of the 19th century, the chalk that was used on the new leather cue tips were made from carbonate of lime, also known as blackboard chalk.
  32. The Church has been a part of billiard history for a long time. From its earliest days, pool was often denounced as a dangerous, sinful, and morally corrupt activity. In 15th century France, playing billiards was forbidden by the Church and the King. In early American history, laws were actually passed (because of religious influences), outlawing the game of pool in many parts of America.
  33. The initial 18.2 Balkline Championship was held in Paris, France in 1913. It is the only world championship in history ever to be decided by the courts. After six days of playing, three contestants tied for the first place. When a tie-breaking playoff was suggested, Maurice Vignaux, a French champion and notorious whiner, scoffed at the suggestion. He insisted the title should be awarded based on the highest average overall (which he had at the time). Vignaux refused to continue, and the decision wound up in the French courts. (Of course, they awarded Vignaux, the Frenchmen, the title, after a delay of more than two months passed).
  34. Harvey Hendrickson made probably as much money as anyone else with his limited skills at a pool table. He actually toured America and amazed his audiences. Not because of an ability to run racks or pocket billiard balls, but because of his freakishly unique ability to pick up and hold all fifteen billiard balls at once using one hand.
  35. The word cue was derived from the French word queue, meaning tail. Before the cue stick was used, billiards was played with a mace. The mace consisted of a curved wooden or metal head used in pushing the ball forward, that was attached to a narrow handle. Since of the mace head’s bulkiness, shots along the rail were difficult, the mace was often turned around and the “tail” end was used. Players realized, eventually, that this method was far more effective, and that the cue as a separate instrument grew from the mace’s tail. (36) Behind the eight ball – A very dangerous position in which it is unlikely a player can escape is a version of the game of pool. The balls are numbered and have to be potted in order. The game is forfeited if a player’s cue ball hits the eight ball first. A “behind the eight ball” position leaves a player in immediate danger of losing the match.
  36. The tables originally had vertical flat walls for the rails and their only function was to keep the billiard balls from falling off the table. They resembled riverbanks and used to be called “banks”. Some players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails and began deliberately aiming for them. Thus a “bank shot” is one in which a ball is made to bounce from a cushion as part of the shot.