Billiards and Pool Information

Insider Info

dotFor years, cue sports were associated with smoky pool halls and gambling. Times change. Cue sports today are fun for the whole family. Once heard, the sharp sound of a cue ball scattering a rack of balls is always remembered. Cue sports include billiards, pool and snooker.

dotBilliards is an indoor table game played in many different forms. The most popular is played on a standard billiard table measuring 12 feet by six feet. Common billiards is played with three balls: one red and two white. Scoring is achieved by pocketing balls, going in off another ball, and cannons (hitting the white ball so it successively strikes the other two).

dotAnother version of the game is carom, played on a pocketless table with the object of making cannons.

dotSnooker is played on a standard billiards table using 22 balls in specific positions on the table: one white, 15 reds, and six colored. Two to four players try to sink a red ball and then a colored ball alternatively, until the black ball is pocketed, or potted.

dotThe word pool means a collective bet. Many non-billiard games, like poker, involve a pool, but it was to pocket billiards that the game became attached.

Pool is by far the most popular American version of billiards. It uses 15 balls and a cue stick. Eight-ball is a popular variation that involves sinking all the balls of a particular color (either solid or stripped), then the 8-ball (hence the name!). Other games include straight pool, 9-ball and one-pocket.

dotIn pool halls, billiard parlors, pubs and basements across North America, pool and billiards are becoming increasingly popular.

dotThe Billiards Congress of America says there has been a 33 percent increase in the popularity of table games since it started keeping track of the number of cue sport players in 1987.

dotInterestingly enough, this surge followed the release of the movie The Color of Money, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in 1986.

Mike Shamos, the curator of The Billiard Archive, saw a similar increase after the release of the 1961 movie The Hustler, starring Paul Newman. "The sound of clicking balls sent America into a billiard frenzy," he writes.

dotSince the proportion of new players joining an activity is the most powerful future predictor of growth, the BCA says the future of the game looks good.

dotBilliards was originally an outdoor game. It's believed to have evolved from a lawn game similar to croquet during the 15th century in Northern Europe. France's Louis XI is said to have owned a billiard table in 1429.

dotSnooker was developed by British army officers serving in India in 1875.

dotIn the 19th century, a poolroom was a betting parlor for horse racing. Pool tables were installed so patrons could pass the time between races. Much of pool's unsavory reputation comes from its association with gambling.

dotTimes change. The Billiards Congress of America says there are about 46 million people playing pool in about 9,000 facilities throughout North America. Ninety-five percent of those people play pool. Only three percent and two percent play carom and snooker respectively.

dotAbout one-third of all players are women. The BCA says about 11 million Americans are frequent billiards players who play more than 25 times a year. The numbers indicate about 15 percent of players are women.

dotPool is also open to wheelchair players. Pete Vanko started the National Wheelchair Billiards Association two years ago. The NWBA now has 2,700 members. "The average table is about 30 inches high," Vanko explains. "It's almost perfect for anyone in a wheelchair."

dotPool might be one of the cheapest sports around. You don't need a ball or special shoes. You can rent a table, balls, cue sticks, chalk and rack in a billiards hall or poolroom for about $5 to $10 an hour. You can play in many pubs for a dollar -- just the cost of renting the balls.

dotLessons are also fairly inexpensive. Stuart Scheer of New York City says you can get group lessons for about $6. Private lessons can go for between $25 and $40.

Jerry Briesath is a master instructor and owner of The Pool School. He says that fees vary based on the experience, reputation and location of the instructor. He suggests the range is between $30 and $125 an hour.

dotIf you want to buy your own equipment, a pool cue starts at around $55 and can go up to $1,000. "Every top manufacturer uses maple. If it's made from ramin wood, don't buy it. Quality shafts are aged to prevent them from warping," says Briesath.

Your own pool table will cost you $2,000 and up. More expensive tables have trim.

dotSome players become professionals, playing in tournaments across North America. Be warned: the competition for sponsors is tough, and only top players take home cash prizes. There are far more opportunities for pool players to become instructors. With 6.5 million new billiard players taking up the hobby in 1994 alone, there's a big potential market for instructors.

dotThere's also a market for places to play pool. Some successful entrepreneurs are opening halls that resemble popular restaurants and nightclubs.

Getting Started

dotBig or small, young or old, man or woman, anyone can play pool. Pete Vanko says an able-bodied player has no advantage over a wheelchair player. The only secret is an eye for angles, a deft touch and plenty of practice!

dotSo, you've decided you'd like to take up cue sports like pool and billiards. The first thing you'll need is a place to play. You can check your local phone book for halls in your area. Many offer special rates to students.

dotIf you're looking to play often and meet other players, you may want to join a team or pool players' association. Your local hall will likely have details.


Billiard Congress of America
910 23rd Ave.
Coralville , IA   52241

The National Wheelchair Pool Players Association
30872 Puritan
Livonia , MI   48154

American Pool Players Association


Billiards Digest


Paul Gerni
The official Web site of a world billiards champion

Billiard Info Line
Listing of tournaments, places to play, and more

Billiards, Snooker and Pool Rules
Links to instruction on each game