When one talks about cue sports, games such as pool and billiards readily come to the minds of many people. Cue sports have a long and rich history, and are some of the most popularly played games today. The popularity of cue sports is so huge that it is possible in today’s world to play games like 8 Ball Pool on one’s mobile phone or tablet. There are numerous gaming platforms that have the option for players to download 8 Ball Pool and play the sport anywhere and anytime. But how is a cue sport defined?
What is a Cue Sport?
A cue sport is one of a diverse range of games involving the use of skill which are played with a stick known as a ‘cue’. The cue is used to strike billiard balls on a table, causing them to move around on it. The tables are typically covered by cloth and are bounded by elastic bumpers that are referred to as ‘cushions’.
A Brief History of Cue Sports
It is widely believed that the very first cue sports were invented in the fourteenth century, with the earliest form of the game having been played around the year 1340. Over the ages, these sports have found mentions in the works of William Shakespeare, most notably in the play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, which contains the line “let’s to billiards”. Some of the famous personalities from history who are known to have been enthusiasts of cue sports include the renowned composer of classical music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, King Louis XIV of France, Marie Antoinette, the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, former American presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the writers Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as well as the actor Jackie Gleason.
Some scholars have held that the word ‘billiard’ may have its origins in the French language, from the words ‘billiart’ or ‘billette’, which means ‘stick’. All modern forms of cue sports have evolved from games that were played using sticks and balls. These early variants of the games were played outdoors, and they are said to have evolved into the ubiquitous flashy indoor games that are well known around the world.
In today’s world, cue sports are played in a large number of countries worldwide and are played competitively at the international level as well. When played professionally by players from different countries with the intent of competition, these games are referred to not as ‘games’ but as ‘sports’ and ‘sporting events’ since the year 1893 at the very latest. Even though modern-day pool and billiards are the most commonly played forms of the game, there is a variety of cue sports played at a professional level today. As a matter of fact, since the year 2001, the World Games has included a category of sports called ‘Billiards’, and this category includes pool, snooker and carom. Modern cue sports that are typically played for the purpose of competition include nine-ball, snooker, three-cushion and eight-ball.
What are Some of the Popularly Played Cue Sports Around the World?
As mentioned earlier, ‘cue sports’ is a generic blanket term for the family of games involving cues and balls. These sports come in various types, and according to modern categorisation, there are three broad subdivisions of games within the category of cue sports. These are as follows:
- Pool, which is played on tables that have six pockets. The tables on which pool is played vary between 7 feet, 8 feet, 9 feet or 10 feet in length. Variations of this subtype include eight-ball pool (which is the most popularly played cue sport around the world), nine-ball pool (which is the predominantly played cue sport at a professional level), ten-ball pool, straight pool (which used to be the former dominantly played professional cue sport), one-pocket pool and bank pool.
- Carom billiards is played on tables without pockets. These tables are generally 10 feet long, and variants of this subtype include straight rail, balkline, artistic billiards, one-cushion carom, three-cushion billiards and four-ball billiards.
- Snooker, English billiards and Russian pyramid which are played on large tables containing six pockets and have dimensions marginally under 12 feet in length and 6 feet in breadth. However, these three games are categorised as distinct cue sports separate from pool based on their unique development histories, culture of players, rules of the game as well as terms used in the sport.
Cue Sport Variants: A Quick Overview
Pool, which is also known as ‘pocket billiards’, is a cue sport that, for the most part, is played on tables with 6 pockets. Eight-ball pool (also known as 8-ball pool) is the most popularly played variant of the sport using eight balls per side. Nine-ball pool is the dominant form of the sport that is played at a professional level, and this variant is played using nine balls per side. A variant of pool called straight pool used to be the most commonly played variant by professional players, and this variant was played using ten balls per side. However, nine-ball pool eventually became the primary variant for professional players, replacing the ten-ball variant of the sport.
Carom billiards, also known as carambole, is a variant of cue sports that is played on tables of ten feet length. However, the main distinguishing characteristic of carom billiards is that this variant is played on tables without pockets. There are variations of this type too, based on the number of balls used to play as well as the rules that govern the game. Generally, carom billiards is played using three balls, and players score points by making their cue balls rebound off both the object ball as well as the cue ball of their opponent, all in a single shot. This variant may seem completely unfamiliar to people who are used to playing modern pool on tables with pockets, but this is, in fact, the oldest form of tabletop stick-and-ball games.
Snooker is a cue sport variant that is played using a total of twenty-two balls. Snooker is played on a table that has six pockets, but the table used for playing snooker is considerably larger than the table used for playing pool. Snooker was first played by British Army officers who were stationed in India during the second half of the nineteenth century. In snooker, players or teams hit the white cue ball to hit the other balls into a pocket in a predetermined sequence, and points are earned on this basis, as well as on the basis of fouls committed by the opponent.
Aside from professional competitions, it is most often observed that cue sports are played in bars, clubs, lounges and various other recreational settings. Whatever may be the variant of cue sport being played, the general idea of this category of sports is to have fun and enjoy the thrill of the sport!