Pool history – Recommended reading
We, Poolheads, love to play pool, but where does our sport come from? Its origins lie in, or the game evolved from an outdoor lawn game similar to croquet. It was played during the 1340’s – 1600’s in Europe, presumably France where it was introduced by the Knights Templars.
The game was played with cudgels, or maces, and a ball, which the player had to shoot through a bow that was plugged into the ground. At some point the game went indoors and special tables were built. Some of the tables had obstacles. Over time, pockets were added, which initially were “hazards” to be avoided. These tables originally had flat vertical walls for rails and their only function was to keep the balls from falling off.
I’ve listed some readings below for you to go through, if you’re interested in pool & billiards history. During the search, I realized that most of the books and articles that came by, were written by Americans. Interesting…
Chicago billiard museum
The Chicago billiard museum is a non-profit institution, founded by Mr. D.B. Bond and Ms. Joanne M. Charron, organized “for the purposes of preserving, sharing, and promoting the extensive history of billiard culture and industry in Chicago, and across the United States.”
The Chicago billiard museum has an extensive online archive and an interesting reading room. A few picks:
- The Noble game of Billiards (1831) – Captain M. Mingaud
- Billiards without a master (1850) – Michael Phelan & D. D. Winant
- The rise & progress of the game of billiards (1860) – Phelan & Collender (company)
- A History & Description of Billiards – Its Sanitary Advantages (1867) – Samuel May
- Championship Billiards. Old & New (1898) – John A. Thatcher
- Modern Billiards: A complete textbook of the game (1904) – The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co.
- The Billiard Records From 1859 to 1925 (1925) – Tom Foley
‘Pool’ used to mean a collective bet, or ante. The term ‘poolroom’ now means a place where billiards is being played, but in the 19th century a poolroom was a place where people would bet and were mainly known as a betting parlor for horse races where they often had pocket billiard tables to play on in between the races.
Other recommended reading – Pool history
- Hustlers, Beats and Others (1967) – Ned Polsky (Sociology book)
Ned Polsky’s examination of the underground life of pool hustlers, and how they fit into larger society. The book discusses how pool players see themselves, the milieu in which they operate, and the connection between poolroom life and single men.
- The Billiard Encyclopedia: An Illustrated History of the Sport, 3rd edition (2004) – Victor Stein & Paul Rubino
- A brief history of the noble game of billiards – Mike Shamos in ‘Billiards: The official rules and records book (2005) – Billiards Congres of America
- Pool History Blog – R.A. Dyer
A collection of books written by R.A. Dyer, the ‘Untold Stories: Billiards History Blog’ which is a collaboration between Dyer and Billiards Digest, and his recommended readings regarding pool history.
- The “Encyclopedia” of Pool Hustlers (2013) – Freddy Bentivegna
Johnston City & Derby City Classic
I wouldn’t be Poolhead if I wouldn’t recommend some readings about my favorite tournament.
- Johnston City Pool Hustler Tournament Winners and Player Profiles, circa 1961-1972
- The Jansco Bros. Johnston City Tournaments – 50th Anniversary, 1961-2011 (2011) – Onepocket.org
- “St. Louie” Louie Roberts: Pool God and Immortal Shotmaker – Mike Burch
- Can’t knock the hustle (2014) – David Hill
These are great pool & hustler stories by David Hill. I love to read them. About the Louie Roberts award at the Derby City Classic: “The guys in the action room, they do want to win the award. (…) It covers a big nut for them. It means they stay in action more than they want to be. But that was the idea.“
Quotes from a few of the books
“To the physiognomist and the silent observer of human nature, there is no game that more thoroughly discloses the various dispositions of men than Billiards. The elated hope, the depressing fear, the sanguine exultation, the mortifying defeat – the philosophical resignation to fate, the indifference of success, and all the multiplied and manifold passions of the human mind, are variously depicted and easily discovered, by an attentive observer, on the countenance of the Billiard player“ – Michael Phelan (1850) in ‘Billiards without a master’
“Billiards is an innocent, harmless, and gentlemanly amusement, and though sometimes desecrated to purpose of gambling, contrary to the true intent of the game” – Michael Phelan (1850) in ‘Billiards without a master’
“Not to be familiar with the game of billiards argues an imperfect education in the ways of the world, for it is a pastime which, whilst it promotes health from exercise, stimulates the mind.” – Phelan & Collender (1860) in ‘The rise & progress of the game of Billiards’
“Give him every morning the money that he may gain during the day, on condition that he does not play – you will make him unhappy. It will perhaps be said that what he seeks is the amusement of play, not gain. Let him play for nothing; he will lose interest and be wearied” – Ned Polsky (1967) in ‘Hustlers, Beats, and Others’.