Billiards is a term used to encompass all cue sports, that is, all
sports that use a cue stick to strike balls. It is also used to denote
different games depending on the country. In the UK, it refers to
English billiards, while in the US it involves several different kinds
The history of billiards dates back to the 15th century. People from
all walks of life have engaged in this sport and still do so today. It
had its beginnings as an outdoor game and was moved indoors and the
playing field changed from a lawn to a table covered in green cloth to
simulate grass. At first, it was played with two balls, a croquet like
wicket and an upright stick which was the target. It was during the
18th century that the stick disappeared as the target and cue sticks
were used to shoot at the balls on the table.
A mace was originally used to hit the ball on the table and in cases
where the ball lay too close to the sides to use the large head,
players turned it around and used the end to hit the ball. This was
the origin of the cue stick, which was called a queue, referring to
the tail on the stick. Even though both men and women played the game,
only men were allowed to use the cue stick at first because of the
belief that women would rip the cloth on the table with a sharper
The sides of the early billiards tables were also much higher than
they are today to keep the balls from rolling off. Because of their
similarity to a riverbank, they were called banks. Players realized
that the balls could bounce off these sides and it became one of the
shots they could take. Today we still use the phrase "banking the
ball" to mean that one will shoot the ball off the side of the table
hoping that it will bounce and roll in a certain direction.
Within the field of billiards, there are three main categories:
• Carom billiards, which is played on tables without pockets
• Pocket billiards played on a table with six pockets
• Snooker, which has a different set of rules
There are also many varieties of Carom billiards, such as straight
rail billiard, three-cushion billiards, eight-ball and nine-ball.
English billiards is a combination of Carom and pocket billiards in
which the object of the game is to score a fixed number of points.
There are two cue balls and a red object ball. One example of scoring
is if you strike your opponent's ball and the object ball at the same
time, you score two points. British soldiers serving in India
developed snooker and the object of this game is to try to outsmart
your opponent by scoring more points.
Eight-ball pool is the most popular form of billiards played in North
America with a set of fifteen balls. Solid color balls are numbered
from 1- 7 and striped balls a re numbered from 9 – 15. The number
eight ball is black. Players choose either the lower or higher numbers
and the object of the game is to sink all the balls, except the eight
ball without sinking the white cue ball. Then the player that sinks
the eight ball is the winner.