A Brief History of Pool and Pool Tables
Pool, or billiards, has been around for centuries. Once a game mainly for the nobility, pool has become a mainstay feature in bars, resorts, game halls, and homes for a wide range of people across all walks of life.
The game got its start prior to the 1600’s, when it was popular with the nobility. Shakespeare mentions the sport in “Antony and Cleopatra,” and there are historical records of the game being popular all across Europe, particularly in England and France. Originally, players played with mace-like objects instead of cue sticks, which were not developed until the latter half of the 17th Century.
After the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the game changed again. Chalk and leather cue tips were developed, giving players the ability to apply spin on the balls and exert more control. This gave rise to the term “English,” or putting spin on a ball, since English players were the pioneers of the technique.
Pool tables have also evolved. The original pool tables were flat surfaces that had simple rails to keep the balls from falling off the playing surface. These railings were called “banks” because they resembled the banks of a river. It is from this that the term “bank shot” was coined, since players soon discovered they could deliberately hit the balls off the rails for better shots.
Originally, pool tables were made of wood, but also during the Industrial Revolution, a new material was used in table construction – slate. Slate was seen as more durable than wood, which had a tendency to warp over time and distort the playing surface. Soon, all tables were created with slate beds, resulting in a more consistent performance over time. Also during this time, new advances in vulcanization resulted in new rubber that could be used for rail cushions, which increased the durability of the table. By 1850, pool tables had achieved the form and size that we essentially know today, with regulation dimensions of 4.5 feet by nine feet.
The games that can be played on pool tables vary. They include eight-ball, nine-ball, one-pocket, bank, four-ball billiards, straight pool, ten-ball, and other variants. The game has turned into a sport that is even televised, with national and international competitions held throughout the year. And today, more and more homeowners are adding tables to their homes and spreading the love for pool to younger generations.