The billiards game was believed to be invented in or around the 15th century, England and originated from croquet. The belief is, is that gentlemen of the aristocratic society invented billiards to play in the winter or when the weather was poorly.
Although most of the historical data point towards the late 15th century this might not be entirely accurate. The first known reference to the game with any traditional or historical accuracy occurs in Abbe McGeoghegan’s “History of Ireland.” Cathire More, a sub-king who ruled over Leinster, died A. D. 148. The Abbe, quoting from King Cathire’s will, says, “To Drimoth I bequeath fifty billiard balls of brass with the cues of the same material.”
Additionally, William Shakespeare also references billiards in his Anthony and Cleopatra play. So as you can see, the billiards game has a long history attached to it.
Moving forward now to 1875 where a man by the name of Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain, a young officer with the British military was sent to be stationed in India. During dark and rainy days Chamberlain and his friends would spend a lot of time in the billiards game room gambling. Here they would play of mixture of ‘pyramids’ (a game where 15 reds were set like a pyramid and each time a player potted a red his opponent would pay out) and ‘black pool’ (Where each player had a different colour ball and each time a opponent potted another players ball, they were out of the game).
Chamberlain took elements from each of these two games and combined them to create a brand new game. He went on to convince his fellow officers to try out his new game which quickly became popular. In those days, snooker was a slang term for a ‘new recruit’, so anytime someone missed a shot the officers would say “you snooker”, and so the name snooker stuck.
The first official set of rules for snooker was published in 1882.
It was John Roberts (world billiards game champion) who brought snooker to England from India. On a visit to India 1885, Roberts saw and played snooker with Chamberlain and was impressed enough to bring it back to England.
From here, the first tournament (English amateur snooker championships) was played in 1916 and the first professional world championships in 1927 in which Joe Davis won.
Snooker has grown to the mega sport that you see today, played by millions from every corner of the earth. The popularity of snooker can be attributed to some of the more flamboyant players such as Alex “the hurricane” Higgins in the 80’s and Ronnie O’Sullivan in this generation who have brought crowds from far distances to see them in action, playing with natural talent which the people love.
The billiards game is still very popular around the world. Although not as popular as snooker or pool, many forms of billiards game have formed. Some tables have pockets, while some other forms of the game don’t allow pockets on the tables. Billiards, snooker and pool are all very distinct games, each with their own governing bodies.
As snooker grows, players from all around the world are starting to play and win tournaments, such as Neil Robertson (Australia) who became the first non UK player to win a world title.