The game of pool and its numerous variants is believed to have been around for over 500 years. Over the course of that time, numerous interesting tales have emerged in relation to the formulation of the modern game and the culture that surrounds it. Let’s have a look at a few of the more curious pointers.
Got any Spare Change?
The first coin-operated pool tables were filed for patent in 1903 and the cost of playing a game of pool was one penny. These days, you couldn’t even buy a 2p sweet with that amount.
Never Beat an Elephant at Pool; They Will Never Forget
The first cue balls were originally made from ivory and it is for this reason that there are no known elephants that are said to be fans of pool.
You spin me Right Round
British people use the term ‘side’ to describe the act of putting spin on to the cue ball, however Americans refer to this technique as ‘English’. The reason relates to English visitors to the USA demonstrating the style of shot on pool tables to their American hosts.
Sizes and Shapes
Whilst the regulation size of standard pool tables is often defined as a table that is twice as long as it is wide, pool tables have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as Z-shaped pool tables; hexagonal pool tables; round pool tables and L-shaped pool tables.
I Can See Through Your Tactics
One Australian-based manufacturer of pool tables has recently created a completely transparent glass pool table. A patented surface top made up of glass covered with resin replicates the rolling speed of balls on standard cloth pool tables.
Playing Sheepishly Won’t Get you anywhere!
The main component of the cloth used for pool tables has remained the same for over 400 years. Wool was used on the earliest billiard tables in the early 1500s. Wool blended with nylon is still the preferred material for use in modern pool tables.
Hand me that Mace
This is not to say that other aspects of the game haven’t changed, however. The word ‘cue’ is derived from the French word ‘queue’ which means tail in English. Before the actual cue stick as we know it today was designed players opted to use what was known as a mace. The mace was made of a curved wooden head – rather similar to a golf club’s wooden head – attached to a narrow handle. The size of the mace’s head meant that shots that had to be played along the side rail of the table were very difficult to perform and so players took to flipping the mace over and using the narrower, bottom end of the stick. The slow realisation hit that it may be a better idea to simply use the narrow end of the mace for all of the shots and so the pool ‘cue’ as we now know it evolved from the rather more cumbersome mace.
Pool: it’s all Maths and Physics
A heavier pool cue will not make your break shot harder. Some players believe that a heavier pool cue enables them to scatter the balls across the pool table with greater force due to the weight of the cue. This, however, is not the case and the reason is all down to physics – force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration. Therefore, in order for a player to swing a heavier cue at the same speed that he/she would swing a lighter cue, then a greater amount of force needs to be applied to the swing. However, by applying the same amount of force to a lighter cue then the speed of the break shot increases.
Revolutionising Your Game
Captain Mingaud invented modern cue tips and the curve shot as well as bringing a certain degree of scientific thought to shot-taking. Mingaud was imprisoned during the French Revolution for political reasons but allowed to have a billiard table in his prison cell. During his imprisonment he made great advances in studying the physics of different types of shots and it is reported that his dedication to studying the game became so intense that at the end of his prison sentence he actually asked to stay in his cell for longer so as to further his study of the game in peace.
Lucas Conner is a blogger, writer and games enthusiast with a specialist interest in pool tables. He is extensively knowledgeable about the history of billiards and is a stickler for playing by the correct pool rules.