English billiards

English billiards

English billiards, called simply billiards in many former British colonies and in Great Britain where it originated, also known variously as the English game, the all-in game and as the common game,cite book | last = Shamos | first = Michael Ian | year = 1993 | title = The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards | publisher = Lyons & Burford | location = New York, NY | pages = Pages 46 61-62 and 89 | id = ISBN 1-55821-219-1 ] is a hybrid form of carom and pocket billiards played on a 6 foot × 12 ft rectangular table with pockets in the four corners and in the middle of the long sides.

The game is for two players or teams. Two cue balls (originally both white, but more recently one white, one yellow) and a red Cuegloss|Object ball|object ball are used. Each player or team uses a different cue ball; where both cue balls are white, one has a distinguishing mark (usually one or more black dots).


English billiards was originally called the winning and losing carambole game, after the three predecessor billiards games, "the winning game", "the losing game" and "the carambole game" (an early form of straight rail), that combined to form it.IEOB.]

The winning game was played with two cue balls. Points were scored by pocketing the opponent's ball and it was a Cuegloss|Foul|fault to pocket one's own ball. By contrast, in the losing game, a player could only score by pocketing his own ball by Cuegloss|Carom|caroming it off the opponent's. The carambole game was played with two cue balls and a red, with the object being to carom off both the red and the opponent's ball on a single shot. The three games had their heyday in 1770s England, but had combined into English billiards by approximately 1800.IEOB.]

There are a number of pocket billiard games directly descended from English billiards, including, "bull dog", "scratch pool", "thirty-one pool" and "thirty-eight". The last of these gave rise to the more well known game, cowboy pool.IEOB.] [New York Times Company (January 21, 1885). [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60611FE3A5C15738DDDA80A94D9405B8584F0D3 THE THIRTY-EIGHT GAME.] Retrieved December 13, 2006.]

In the nineteenth century and up through the mid 1950s, a common way for championship titles to change hands was by a challenge match, meaning a challenge was issued to a championship titleholder accompanied by stake money held by a third party, also known as acclamation. Up until the first organized professional tournament began in 1870, all English billiards champions were decided by challenge.IEOB.]

The first English billiards champion was Jonathan Kentfield, who held the title from 1820-1849, losing the title to John Roberts Sr. after Kentfield refused his challenge. Roberts' reign began in 1849, but he lost to William Cook who beat him in the first professional tournament held in 1870. That year also marks the time of first English Billiards challenge match held in the United States.IEOB.]

From 1870 to 1983 the English billiards champions have been: John Roberts, Jr. (billiards). (1870, 1871, 1875-77, 1885); Joseph Bennett (1870, 1880-81); Charles Dawson (1899-1900, 1901, 1903); H. W. Stevenson (1901, 1909-11); Melbourne Inman (1908-09, 1912-19); Willie Smith (1920, 1923); Tom Newman (1921-22, 1924-27); Joe Davis (1928-32); Walter Lindrum (1933-34); Clark McConarchy (1951); Rex Williams (1968-76, 1982-83); and Fred Davis (1980).IEOB.]

Over the course of the 20th century billiards was gradually superseded by snooker, which is played on the same table, as the favoured competitive spectator cue sport in the United Kingdom. However, English Billiards is considered to be the senior game,fact|date=April 2008 and because of the "in-off" scoring option, ball control can be perfected after much solo practice. A common exercise is to hit the object ball from the "D", go in-off into the center pocket while the object ball hits the top cushion and returns to the same position halfway down the table. The shot can be repeated endlessly, except in competition where the sequence run is limited.


Beginning the game

First the players 'string'; this is done by both players simultaneously hitting a cue ball up the table hitting the top cushion and coming back into baulk (the first quarter length of the table). The player who gets his/her ball closest to the baulk cushion can now choose which cue ball he wants to use during the game (either white or yellow, or plain white or spot white depending on which kind of balls are used) and if they break or let the opponent break.

The red ball is placed on the 'spot', which is the black spot in snooker, and the first player begins by playing in hand from the D behind the baulk line. The other cue ball remains off the table until the opponent's first turn, when he plays in hand from the D.

The idea is to leave the balls safe by leaving either a double baulk, or the red in baulk with your cue ball tight on the top side cushion.


Points are awarded as follows:

* – striking one's cue ball so that it hits, in any order, the other cue ball and the red ball on the same shot): 2 points
* on (Cuegloss|Pot|potting, in snooker terms) the red – striking the red ball with one's cue ball so that the red enters a pocket): 3 points
* Winning hazard on the white – striking the other cue ball with one's cue ball so that the other cue ball enters a pocket): 2 points
* (Cuegloss|In-off|in-off in snooker terms) – striking one's cue ball so that it hits another ball and then enters a pocket): 3 points if the red ball was hit first; 2 points if the other cue ball was hit first; 2 points if the red and the other cue ball are hit simultaneously.

Combinations of the above may all be scored on the same shot. The most points from a single stroke are therefore 10 – the red and the other cue ball are both potted via a cannon, and the cue ball is also potted, making a losing hazard off the red.

Winning is achieved by a player reaching a fixed number of points, determined at the start of the game. "e.g." first to 300 points or by a timed game, 1hr 20mins etc.

Other rules

If the red is potted it is respotted on the 'spot' which equates to the black spot in snooker. After the red has been potted twice off the spot with no other scores it is respotted on the middle spot. When potted from the middle spot it returns to the 'spot' at the top of the table. If the opponent's cue ball is potted that stays off the table, unless the current striker achieves fifteen hazards (losing or winning) with the opponent's cue ball absent, at which point he may request the cue ball be respotted on the "brown spot"; the spot in defined as being the centre point of the straight spine of the D.

After an in-off the play continues by playing from hand from within the D behind the baulk line. When playing from hand the player must touch a ball or cushion outside of baulk before striking any ball in baulk with the cue ball. (ie, no masse)

If you are playing from in hand and all the balls on the table are in baulk (either the red by itself, or the red and opponent's ball) and you don't make contact with either of the object balls this is called a miss; 2 points are awarded to your opponent but he/she must play from where the balls are after the opponent's stroke.

You may only play 15 hazards in a row, after which you would then have to play a cannon. If only the red ball is on the table (cannons can't be made) then after 15 hazards you can request for the opponent's ball to be placed on the "brown spot" and then play a cannon to continue the break.

If your cue ball is touching an object ball when it is still your visit to the table then the balls must be re-spotted: red on its spot and opponent's ball in the center spot.


If a foul occurs, two points are awarded to the opposing player and he has the choice of playing from where the balls lie or he can respot the balls... "i.e." the red goes on the spot, the opponent's white goes on the middle spot (the blue spot in snooker) and he plays from hand.

There are a few different ways a foul can occur:
*By playing the opponent's cue ball instead of your own.
*Making a ball jump off the table.
*Missing an object ball during play.
*Double hits or push shots.
*By jumping over an object ball and connecting with it on the side in which it is going to land.


A miss is when you are playing from hand and all the other (1 or 2) object balls on the table are in baulk and you hit your cue ball somewhere safe on the table which although sacrifices 2 points, the opponent cannot have the balls respotted as you can do after a foul. You may choose to do this for a few reasons but it is handy in situations where you only need to score a few points to win.


ee also

* Snooker
* Cowboy pool
* Walter Lindrum

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