A modified version of that game first found its way to the UK in the 1960s.
Today blackball is the dominant official rule-set for the 'small-table' game of pool so popular in pubs, clubs and pool halls. It is played extensively in pool leagues and there are numerous national and international events including European and World Blackball Championships.
Here's why blackball pool rules !
The first pool tables began to appear in Britain's pubs and clubs more than half a century ago.
Within a few years the game of 8ball pool rivalled and eventually overtook darts as a pub pastime.
The game's rapidly increasing popularity was largely due to its easy accessibility. The small table was readily accommodated in thousands of British pubs.
By the late 1970s pool had become well established throughout the United Kingdom.
When the game was first introduced it was played with seven solid-coloured balls numbered 1 to 7 and seven striped balls numbered 9 to 15. Such ball sets are often referred to as 'spots and stripes' in the United Kingdom and they continue to be used in games such as American pool and Chinese 8ball.
There have been two important factors influencing the development of 8ball rules and the transition to the pool game now known as blackball. The first was the necessity to play on those smaller, coin-operated tables custom made for pubs and clubs.... mechanised tables do not allow the return of potted balls to players during a frame of pool, other than the white. The second factor has been a trend to introduce rules which speed up play and so reduce the duration of the game.
The rules of pool evolved and became formalised as more and more people took up the game. Local pool leagues were created and then national organisations established to administer the sport.
Blackball associations and federations include...
- World Pool-Billiards Association
- Blackball International
- European Blackball Association
- English Blackball Pool Federation
- Scottish Pool Association
- Northern Ireland Pool Association
- Welsh Pool Association
In addition the International Professional Pool Association (IPA) runs numerous prestigious events in Britain and worldwide. These are played to blackball rules at both amateur and professional level.
The cues preferred by blackball players more closely resemble in dimension and weight those favoured by snooker players than those used for cue sports such as American pool. They do however tend to be a little lighter with a narrower tip than most snooker cues.
Tips are often around 8 to 9mm in diameter with a cue length of 57 inches or less.
The vast majority of blackball and snooker cues are made from ash or maple.
Maple, unlike ash, has no grain and is the harder wood.
Many players use a 2-piece cue which is of course more convenient to carry and store.
Enthusiastic players may own a 'break cue' for breaking the cluster of racked balls at the start of a frame of pool. A light weight 'break cue' is considered best.
Red and yellow ball sets (alternatively known as 'casino' balls) are now favoured. The transition from numbered balls came about in part because they are easier to distinguish by spectators, particularly on video and television.
Occasionally blue balls will replace the red.
These coloured 'object balls' and the black ball, are invariably 2 inches in diameter.
The 'cue ball' is slightly smaller. The white is 1/8th of an inch less in width to enable it alone to return to a player through the mechanism of coin-operated machines should it accidentally be potted during a frame of blackball pool.
The small size of the cue ball used in blackball (compared to snooker and American pool balls) is an important factor in determining optimum cue weight and tip diameter as described above.
It was in the 1970s that a degree of standardisation in the dimensions and playing attributes of coin-operated pool tables began to develop.
Most significantly, in 1973, the first of the legendary 'Superleague' tables appeared on the market.
The design of that table proved very acceptable to both the novice and more advanced player.
It was 7 feet in length and had the same ball to pocket ratio as a snooker table.
The table was first made by a company called Hazel Grove Music and then later by Riley Snooker of the Hainsworth Group.
By the 1990s over 120,000 such tables had been manufactured and distributed throughout the UK and Europe. Alex Higgins endorsed the Superleague table and appeared at exhibitions demonstrating its attributes.
There are today many manufacturers and models of table ranging in price from a few hundred to several thousands of pounds.
In the photo is the popular 'Supreme' model. It is what is often referred to as a 'tournament' table and as such is widely used for national pool events throughout the United Kingdom.
The standard table dimension remains 7ft X 4ft which gives a playing surface of 6ft X 3ft.
The table coverings have however undergone change over the years.
In the early days a heavily napped, woollen cloth of the kind at that time found on snooker tables was commonplace. This was far from ideal and eventually faster surfaces with less nap gained popularity.
Even more recently nylon coverings entirely without nap, sometimes referred to as 'speed cloth', have been introduced.
The traditional green cloth remains most popular, though other colours are achieving acceptance.
In fact the fabric may be wool, nylon or a mix of the two and this determines the nature of the playing surface and the life of the cloth.
Experienced players are well aware that the quality and characteristics of tables can vary greatly and have learned to adapt their approach to a match accordingly. For the both the novice and established player there are videos setting out blackball pool practice routines which will help improve your skills and understanding of the game.
For many years different versions of rules caused unnecessary confusion amongst players and antagonism between self-appointed 'governing bodies' which had sprung up to administer 8ball pool.
World Pool-Billiards Association (WPA) which agreed to the introduction of blackball pool rules as the official rule-set for the 'small-table' game. This ensured players were able to unite under a single world structure with all playing to the same rules.
The support of the World Pool Association gave the sport true recognition and brought about the introduction of worldwide events.
There's useful guidance to playing blackball pool on this web site.
Blackball pool rules were first published in 2005, followed by a minor update in 2008. Today, pool played to those rules has never been more popular. Players previously familiar with pub pool rules and old-world versions of 8ball will appreciate how much the move to blackball has enhanced the game. It has made the game more enjoyable for players and attractive to spectators.
The success of these rules is one of the reasons why the World Blackball Championships, held in Scotland in 2014, were recorded and screened by Sky television. The live streaming of blackball rules events at all levels is now commonplace.
The game of blackball is played worldwide. Those few remaining organisations which continue to support and promote outdated versions of 8ball face the prospect of becoming increasingly marginalised.
There's no shortage of opportunity for players of all abilities to compete in individual and team events from league level upwards. Such is the popularity of pool in the United Kingdom it is very possible that a blackball league will have been formed in your county, city or town.
Typically pool teams compete in league matches once a week. Matches are usually held on a weekday evening. Leagues also organise regular knock-out tournaments for both teams and individual players.
Teams are frequently named after the venue in which they play their home matches. The venue owners or management may meet costs of league affiliation.
A team captain is invariably selected and the more earnest squads will have their players attired in matching shirts.
Throughout the United Kingdom, at local, national and international level, competitions are categorised. Separate events are organised for gents, ladies, seniors, youths, juniors and players with disabilities.
There's ample opportunity for league players to take part in national competitions run by the governing bodies of blackball pool in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Those national organisations in turn provide the top players with a chance to compete for the privilege of representing their country in international competition.
Due to the increasing popularity of blackball spacious arenas are necessary to accommodate major international events.
Since 2006 the World Blackball Championships have been held in South Africa, France, England, Scotland and Ireland.
The European Blackball Championships are run annually in Bridlington, England.
There is much more about the blackball nations of the United Kingdom on this web site.
For example there are blackball pool surveys which allow you to share your views about how the UK's governing bodies performed in terms of managing and promoting the sport. There's also a web page in which the numbers of blackball title wins for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in European competition have been compared and analysed.
Terms such as "English 8ball" or "billard anglais" may from time to time be used to describe this game.
Given the sport's international status and the endorsement of the World Pool Association the correct nomenclature is of course "Blackball".
The best place to find a summary of the content of the Blackball UK web site is the 'About' page which is linked in the main menu above. You'll also find succinct comment accompanied by blackball pool related photographs and images on this site.