I am of the age that when hearing the word billiards, I automatically think of a game played on a snooker table but with three balls, one red and two white. I will return later on in this article with my interpretation of the rules. Nowadays, however, it appears that there are more than one - or at least one - different definition of the word. Watching on television, we see the advertising of the Worlds Billiards Championship. Looking at the event, and expecting to see two players, usually men, playing the game in white shirts, bow ties and waistcoats, to my surprise, I see both sexes playing what appears to be a version of American pool. It is somewhat surprising and I guess I am not completely familiar with that sport, but I'm afraid I find it difficult to even see the vaguest comparison with the billiards I once knew.
Now don't think that I am objecting to the type of game they play, it is highly skilful. I do wonder, however, how the term billiards applies to this game. I am thinking that popularity may have waned for the original definition of the sport, and nowadays the terminology has moved in just a different direction.
I seem to remember that my understanding of billiards involved the use of the pre-mentioned two white and one red ball. It's worth mentioning at this point, that one of the white balls had a black spot on it. Both of these balls were in face "cue balls", which meant that both players had to strike their cue ball first - plain or spotted - to score points.
This was important, because a decision was made which player used which ball and if, for example, one of the players used the dotted white ball instead of the plain white ball as a cue ball, which was not his allocated ball, he would be penalised.The game involved potting the red ball for three points in any of the six pockets on the table. You could also go "in off" the red ball, meaning hitting the red ball and sending your own ball into one of the six pockets after hitting it. The third acceptable shot was the "cannon" which meant that you had to hit your nominated ball then strike your opponent's white ball and then strike the red ball. You call also hit the red ball then follow by striking your opponent's white ball. This was worth two points.
I used the word "acceptable" in this paragraph, because my understanding of the game was that it was considered unsporting to pocket your opponent's cue ball - as well as being to your disadvantage because when it was pocketed, you only had your own white ball and the red ball on the table so your chances of building up a good score were somewhat restricted.The game concluded when you reached a certain figure, usually 1000 points. This was also a very skilful and much admired game as indeed is today's so-named billiards. It would be very interesting to find out how the second definition of the term billiards came into being..Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to http://billiards.for-free-and-fun.com/ Billiards.
By: Michael Russell