Billiards History Lesson – From Royalty to Pool Halls

Have you ever wondered how billiards became popular worldwide? Well here’s a brief billiards history lesson so you can impress your friends with your billiards skills AND knowledge.


Billiards has been played for so long that we don’t know the official start. What we do know is back in 15th century northern Europe, royalty played an outdoor game similar to croquet was and eventually decided to move it onto a table indoors, covered in green to resemble grass.

Early History

Table billiards first spread in popularity among noble families and then started popping up in public places in London as it became more popular among the “commoners”. But remember, this form of billiards was much different than modern billiards. People played with only two balls (one for each player), using a crooked stick with a large head called a “mace” to push – rather than strike – the ball through a “pass” which was placed on the table. The mace started to be phased out of billiards play when it became impossible for mace players to defeat a player who used a leather-tipped cue.

The Golden Age of Billiards

The modern pocket billiard games of straight pool, one pocket, nine ball and eight ball were invented in the early 1900s. During the Roaring 20s, the best billiards players became celebrities, and were compared to such sports stars as Babe Ruth. However, after World War II, the billiards assumed a different reputation as pool halls came to be viewed as “seedy” joints.

But billiards rebounded thanks to movie like The Hustler and The Color of Money. Today, billiards tables are a part of everyday life – from the home game room to upscale hotels – enjoyed by people of all ages, from all walks of life. Not bad for a sport that’s more than 500 years old!

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