The History of pool in America

In this article we are going to talk about the history of pool in america known as american pool.

history of pool in america

American pool refers to (pocket billiards) cue sports that use numbered billiard balls with a standard diameter of 57 mm (2+14 in). These were formerly American-style but now are professionally world-standardized, as opposed to British-style unnumbered 56 mm (2+316 in) balls.

The term is used in the United Kingdom and occasionally more broadly outside of North America. Aside from the diamond system lines on the rails, other “American” pool variations from British pool include larger pockets to accommodate the bigger balls.

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How pool arrived in America

It is unknown with certainty how pool arrived in America. There are rumors that the Spaniards brought the game to St. Augustine in the 1580s, but investigations have turned up no evidence of this.

1700s ships

It was most likely brought over by English and Dutch settlers. In the 1700s, a number of American cabinetmakers produced excellent pool tables, albeit in small quantities.

The game did, however, expand across the Colonies. Even George Washington is said to have triumphed in a contest in 1748.

Despite having outdated equipment, public spaces with only billiards tables started to develop around 1830. Bassford’s, a New York bar that catered to stockbrokers, was the most well-known of them. Here, several American variations of pool were created.

Founder Of American Billiards

billiards without a master

Michael Phelan, the founder of American billiards, is responsible for the nation’s billiards industry and the game’s extraordinary increase in popularity.

Phelan, an immigrant from Ireland, published the first book about the game in America in 1850. He had a big impact on creating laws and establishing moral guidelines.

Phelan was an innovator who created new table and cushion designs as well as put diamonds to the table to aid with aiming.

He was also the first columnist for American pool. His first weekly article debuted in Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly on January 1, 1859. A few months later, Phelan took home $15,000 in Detroit at the first significant stakes game played there.

He founded the production firm of Phelan and Collender and worked tirelessly to promote the game. The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company was created in 1884 after the company’s merger with its main rival J.M. Brunswick & Balke, which tightly controlled every part of the game until the 1950s.

American Four-Ball Billiards

American Four-Ball Billiards, which is often played on a big (11 or 12-foot), four-pocket table with four balls—two white and two red—was the most popular pool game in America up until the 1870s. It was a natural progression from English pool.

Balls might be pocketed, the cue ball could be scratched, or two or three balls could be carommed to make a point. The act of striking two object balls with the cue ball in a single motion is known as a “carom.”

It was conceivable to score up to 13 points in a row because there were so many various ways to do it. By the end of the 1870s, both of American Four-Ball’s two progeny’s had eclipsed it in popularity.

One type of carom is a straightforward game called “Straight Rail,” which is played with three balls on a table without pockets.

American Fifteen-Ball Pool, the forerunner of contemporary pocket billiards, was the other well-liked game.

Where The Name “Pool” Came From

pool hall the history of pool in america

A pool is a group bet, often known as an ante. A pool is used in many non-billiard games, such as poker, but pocket billiards is where the name first became associated.

Currently, a poolroom is a location where pool is played, but in the 19th century, a poolroom was a horse racing betting parlor.

To keep patrons entertained while waiting for races, pool tables were added. The two were associated in the public perception, but the poolroom’s seedy connotation was due to the betting that went on there, not the game of billiards.

Fifteen-Ball Pool

The 15 object balls used in the game of “Fifteen-Ball Pool” were numbered from 1 to 15. The player was awarded points for each ball they successfully sank, according to the value of the ball.

The first player to receive more than half of the amount, or 61, or the sum of the ball values in a rack. Which is 120, was the winner. This game, commonly known as “61-Pool,” was played in the first American championship pool match. Which a Canadian named Cyrille Dion won in 1878.

It was deemed more equitable in 1888 to count the number of balls a player pocketed rather than their numerical value.As a result, 14.1 Continuous Pool took the role of 15-Ball Pool as the winner’s game.

the history of pool in america 15 ball

When a player sinks the final ball to break a rack, that player’s point total is carried over “continuously” from one rack to the next.

Other Games

Soon after 1900, Eight-Ball was created, and Straight Pool followed in 1910. Around 1920 seems to be when Nine-Ball first appeared. One-Pocket predates any of them. The game’s concept was first described in 1775, and the full rules for a British version first appeared in 1869.


From 1878 until 1956, one-on-one challenge matches filled the months in between championship tournaments. The tournaments for pool and billiards were conducted virtually annually.

Occasionally, particularly during the American Civil War, pool outcomes gained more media attention than war-related news. As a result of their fame, players were featured on cigarette cards.

Many players from this era are honored in the BCA Hall of Fame. Including Johnny Layton, Alfredo DeOro, Frank Taberski, Jake Schaefer, Sr., and Jake Jr. The era of the billiard personality spanned the first half of this century.

When Willie Hoppe defeated Maurice Vignaux of France in a game of pool in 1906. It cemented the dominance of American players.

Balkline is a variation of carom billiards where rectangles are formed by lines on the table.The number of shots is limited when both object balls are within the same rectangle. The player now has to get one of the balls to leave the rectangle and hopefully come back. This makes the game considerably harder.

When the game of balkline fell out of favor in the 1930s. Hoppe started playing three-cushion billiards, which he dominated until his retirement in 1952.

Hoppe was a true American icon. He was a talented young guy from poor beginnings who became a world champion as a teenager.

He was also a gentleman who held professional titles for almost 50 years. According to one publication, Hoppe’s cueing caused the balls to travel “as if under a magic spell.” And to many of his followers, pool meant Hoppe.

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