When was billiards invented? A magical game older than America

Did you know that billiards was invented before America was discovered? Throughout centuries, billiards became one of the most popular games worldwide.

Even Tesla, one of the biggest minds that humanity has ever seen, was crazy about billiards, calling it: “The subtlest game of perfection and logic, composed of laws of physics, chess combinatorics, and remarkable connection of mental and motoric skill.”

But when was billiards invented?

Billiard was invented 700 years ago and was mostly played by European kings and nobles in the beginning. Like many other games, it was invented by accident, like a modification of the croquet. The first mentions of billiards in historical books date back to the middle of the 14th century, explaining it as an outdoor activity of English kings.

Below you can find some interesting historical facts about when was billiards invented and their development throughout time. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

When were billiards invented?

When was billiards invented and by who?

Billiards has a long and interesting history dating back to the 13th century. Originally played by European nobles, the game evolved and became more widely popular in the 19th century.

Played only by wealthy people, it earned the name “The Noble Game of Billiards”.

The early versions of billiards were played on a lawn, but later, the game was moved indoors and played on a table covered in green felt.

Today, billiards is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds all over the world and has become a beloved pastime and sport for many.

Mainly reserved for royals and nobles, it spread around Northern Europe quickly as a bushfire.

Who Invented Billiards?

Though there are no clear records about it, billiards was probably invented in France.

The name billiard comes from the French word “billiart”, which is a word for wooden sticks used for playing.

Billiards was invented as a lawn game, a variation of croquet. Later on, it was moved indoors, on tables. That’s where the green color of the felt comes from.

As the years passed by, billiards went through different stages of development. Major events started to happen in the 19th century:

  • The early 1800s: Captain Mingaud invented the modern billiard cue tip,
  • 1845: John M.Brunswick founded a billiard table factory,
  • 1869: John Wesley Hyatt invented the composite billiard ball.

Early Pool and Billiards Equipment

Though there are a few records about it, early pool and billiards players played with wooden sticks and wooden balls.

Later on, billiard equipment went through many stages of development and it still does. Even today, we are witnesses to continuous improvements.

When were pool tables invented?

If you’re wondering when pool tables were invented, you need to go back to France again.

It’s believed that French king Louis XI was the owner of the first billiard table back in 1470. That was the turning point when billiards became an indoor activity.

What did the first pool table look like?

The first tables were made of wood and covered with green felt, as a replacement for grass. The table had edges, which were called the banks. At first, billiard tables didn’t have standardized dimensions.

A crucial change happened in the 18th century when a length/width 2:1 ratio became standardized in the pool table industry.

The First Ball Cues (Maces)

First pool cues were called the maces and players showed the balls instead of striking them. A major turnaround happens in the early 1600s when the pool cue replaces the mace.

The main reason for that was the fact that maces, due to their large heads, were inconvenient to perform shots close to rails

The First Pool Balls

The first pool balls were made of wood. Later on, as European countries started colonizing Africa and importing exotic materials back to Europe, balls started to be made of ivory.

There’s no need to mention how expensive ivory balls were. In the 17th century, ivory pool balls were a symbol of wealth.

Still, balls made of pure ivory weren’t that durable, that’s why pool enthusiasts came up with some solutions in the 19th century.

The Evolution: 19th to 21st Century

The evolution of billiards followed the Great Industrial Revolution. The Revolution led to new factories and to the improvement of materials.

Also, mass production led to the pool dimensions standardization and they’ve reached the 2:1 ratio.

Thanks to the vulcanization of rubber, manufacturers replaced wooden cushions with rubber ones which led to dramatic game improvement.

Moreover, manufacturers started mass balls and cue production, which popularized the pool worldwide.

Why is Billiards called Pool?

Have you ever wondered why is billiards called a pool? Or will you be amazed if I tell you that the billiard has to thank horses for that name? Yes, it sounds strange, but here’s an explanation…

Back in the 19th century, the word pool was used to explain the term collective betting.

Back then, when almost none of today’s sports weren’t invented, the most popular betting game among gamblers was horse races.

Since there was a mass of people who “pooled” on horse races, race organizers figured out a way to entertain gamblers between the races by installing billiards tables in betting, or pool rooms.

Therefore, pool and billiards became a synonyms.

Pool Games Transformation

Throughout history, billiards have gone through different stages of transformation. Here are just some of them:

English billiards

English billiards or English snooker is being played with three balls and six pockets.

This game was invented by snooker players and, as its name says, it’s extremely popular in the United Kingdom.

American Four-Ball Billiards

Also called Carom Billiards, American Four-Ball Billiards is played with 4 balls.

A point in this game is to get the best score by pocketing balls, scratching another ball while pocketing, or making a carom: hitting multiple objects with a single cue ball shot.

Fifteen-ball pool

The Fifteen-ball pool is the closest to the billiards we know today. At first, it was played up to 61 points, without pockets.

Later on, people realized that the game gets a higher sense and tension if they add pockets. The rest is history.

A Great Rise of Billiards in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century billiards experienced great popularity worldwide. During World War I, it was the most preferable entertainment for soldiers and war veterans.

After the Great War ended, billiards enthusiasts started organizing pool tournaments, which led to enormous popularity worldwide.

Unfortunately, the devastating effects of World War II affected billiards as well. Countries had to be rebuilt, and factories were destroyed, so not too many people had time to think about billiards.

As War memories and traumas started to fade away, billiards started climbing up in the entertainment industry.

It was popularized by some Hollywood movies, like The Hustler, with Paul Newman. More and more cafes, bars, and specialized pool pubs were opened worldwide.

Pool and Billiards in the 21st Century

Today, we can’t imagine a bar without a billiards table. But billiards is much more than that.

It became so popular that today it is almost impossible to turn the TV on and not find some live billiards.

With the development of modern technology and social networks, many players started streaming and showing their skills on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and many other social networks.

Moreover, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association has become a serious organization.

They’re organizing a mass of tournaments worldwide, such as the Master’s Tour, national championships, and many more. Their intention is to introduce billiards to the Olympic Games.

Modern Pool in America

These days, billiards is one of the most popular sports in America. In 2020, the Billiards and Snooker industry was estimated at $740 million, with an annual increase of 5%.

The biggest billiards industry is in the United States, with some of the most popular billiard table brands, like Brunswick, Diamond, Olhausen, Connelly, and many others.

Movies that saved the game

I already mentioned that Hollywood played an important role in billiard popularization, especially Paul Newman, who, despite The Hustler, played the lead role in The Color of Money, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Another movie that puts billiards in first place is Poolhall Junkies, with Christopher Walken, Mars Callahan, and Chazz Palminteri in leading roles.

Probably the most popular billiards movie with a female leading role is Turn the River, with the powerful role of Famke Janssen.


Below you can find some of the most frequently asked questions about billiards and billiards equipment.

When was the 8-ball pool invented?

An 8-ball pool was invented at the beginning of the 20th century. Though there are no precise records, major changes, and standardizations that defined an 8-ball pool happened shortly after 1900.

Oldest pool table in the world

It’s believed that French king Louis XI was the owner of the first pool table in the world back in 1470. Tables as we know them today started to be sold by the end of the 18th century. The oldest pool table factory that still produces tables is Brunswick, founded in 1845.

What is a Russian Pool?

Russian Pool or Russian Pyramid is a form of billiards played on a large billiard table with narrow pockets. It is popular across Eastern Europe as well as countries of the former Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc. In Western countries, the game is known as pyramid billiards, or simply pyramid within professional circles.

Where was billiards invented?

Billiards was invented in France back in the middle of the 14th century. It was outdoor entertainment for French kings and nobles.

What came first billiards or snooker?

Billiards were invented much before snooker. While billiards was invented in the middle of the 14th century and developed for almost 700 years, snooker was invented in 1875 by British soldiers.

To sum it up

I took you on a long journey through the history of billiards and showed you how this magical royal game became mainstream and available to every enthusiast all around the globe.

Today, if you want to play billiards, your social class doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the fact of how skilled and willing you are to enjoy this game.

Now that you know when was billiards invented, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below if I missed something or if you have something interesting to share.

Leave a Comment