Corner pocket: Billiards' History and Leagues

Corner pocket:

Billiards’ History and Leagues

Have you ever thought about where pool got its start? I mean, were a bunch of Lords and Ladies sitting around one day and said, “Hey! Let’s stake these sticks and knock a bunch of balls around!”? Well, maybe the Lords, but pool, also known as billiards, has a long and rich history.


Historical Snapshot


First of all, billiards has been played by all walks of life and social classes. It wasn’t exclusive to “gentlemen” or kings. It actually started as a table version of a lawn game similar to croquet. It moved indoors with a green cloth to simulate grass, then eventually the tables. Now, a lot of the information we have does come from nobles playing the game, but it eventually became public enough that everyone grabbed hold of a cue. It was so public that it made an appearance in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. That’s way before the movies “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money”, which are 20th Century movies that improved billiards’ fame.


One interesting fact, when billiards began people shoved the balls around instead of hitting them with a cue stick. That didn’t happen until the late 1600s. Equipment improved vastly after the Industrial Revolution, and it was at that time that English visitors that came to America showed the U.S. natives how to use spin on the ball. That’s why it’s called “putting some English on it”.


Back to the history. Well, billiards first used three balls and six pockets in England, and America started out using a four-ball setup until 1870 but with only four pockets. Both used a scoring system to determine the game’s winner. This evolved into a 15-ball game where points were based on each ball’s number. This version was used for the first American Pool Championship, which was won by…a Canadian. Go figure. It was later determined to award points to a player by how many balls they sunk in a pocket. This is how it was until Eight-ball came around in the early 1900s and Nine-ball hit the scene in the 1920s.


There is way more to billiards’ story and a good resource for that is Billiard Congress of America that also has a great pool fun fact page. Let’s just say that pool, or billiards, has had a colorful history of nobility, rough pool halls, and fame from the theater.



Organizations and Leagues

Just like the game, those playing it have evolved and now leagues and organizations exist for rules and tournament purposes. A list can be found here, but there are three main ones to mention for North America are American Poolplayers Association League, BCA Pool League, and VNEA Pool League. You also have the World Pool-Billiard Association.


The American Poolplayers Association (APA), founded by Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart in 1979, has more than 250,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. This association administers many leagues that conduct weekly with 8-Ball and 9-Ball formats.


CueSports International is one of the largest pool and billiard production companies in the entire industry. Founded by long-time industry leader Mark Griffin, this company produces the US Open 10-Ball Championship, the US Open 8-Ball Championship, the US Open One Pocket Championship, the US Open Bar Table Championships, the Jay Swanson Memorial 9-Ball Tournament, and the BCAPL Championships and state and regional BCAPL & USAPL tournaments.


The Valley National 8-Ball League Association (VNEA) is a non-profit organization that promotes the game of pool on coin-operated equipment. The organization boasts over 300 League Operators conducting successful leagues in almost every state and a dozen foreign countries.


The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) is the international governing body for pocket billiards. It is a member of the World Confederation of Billiards Sports (WCBS), representing the billiard disciplines of pool, snooker, and carom, which is the international umbrella organization that represents billiards to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The WPA was established after players and leagues wanted greater challenges and higher levels of competition.


The WPA’s tournaments have grown to the level where it now hosts the World 9-Ball Championships for men, women, and juniors, there is an annual World 8-Ball Championship for men, World 10-Ball Championships for both men and women, along with several World Ranking events that are conducted each year. Millions of dollars are awarded each year to competitors at these events.


Eight-ball Side Pocket


Billiards has traveled through history and around the world to include all peoples. It’s fun for you and your friends, or family, to get into, and can take you to the heights of worldwide fame and glory either at an industry championship or the Olympics. No matter what level you desire to play at, this game is a great time even if it is full of physics and trigonometry.




Article written by Leah from Content Cucumber


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