A Brief History of Pool

Pool and billiards (for the sake of simplicity we will simply use the word 'pool' in this article) has been a game enjoyed by mighty monarchs and more rogue-ish types one way or another for many hundreds of years. Indeed if we get a little abstract and look at games simply involving sticks and balls we can stretch the history of pool even as far back to Egyptian times! However it's generally assumed that the game, at least in the sense of having some general, commonly accepted rules and structure really began back in 15th century Europe, which is where we'll pick up the story.

Early Pool

Pool is believed to have been born from the lawn game 'croquet', and indeed billiards is a version of the French word 'billart' - the name of the long stick/hammer used to knock around the ball on the green. However as the weather in northern Europe rarely facilitates year-round garden games, a version of croquet was developed for indoor purpose on a smaller scale. As the centuries rolled by, this game eventually developed into the table-sized format that we are familiar with today.


However as much as early pool tables would look vaguely familiar - they wouldn't play anywhere near like the tables we use today. Firstly, the rail was in fact a wall, not designed for bouncing and bank shots but simply there to prevent the balls from falling to the floor. However, the rails were called 'banks' much like how a river bank keeps the water in the stream - that in turn eventually became the trick-shots we know and love today.


Still largely a game of the upper classes, billiards and then snooker were the most prominent instances of the birth of genuine organized cue-sports. This took place mainly in Britain and throughout her Empire between 1780 and 1920, with the foundation of established rules and codes of play. As largely still a gentleman's game snooker/billiard tables were exported around the world - leading to the gradual uptake of the game - especially in the 'pool' format - in North America.


The Emergence of Modern Pool

Pool became widespread in North America thanks to the tables being smaller, lighter and hence easier to transport the considerable distances associated with such a large continent. Its popularity exploded at the turn of the century with the establishment of dedicated pool halls - often doubling up as both social hubs and places to conduct legit and occasionally slightly more shadowy business deals.


The gambling associated with the game is evident even in the name 'pool hall', as back in the 19th century a pool hall was a room where gentlemen (and occasionally rogues) would convene to place bets upon horse racing. Funnily enough to fill the time between races the proprietors of such places installed pool tables to keep their patrons busy - and so the rest is history!

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