History of snooker

Today snooker is a very popular sport and even a pastime for many people, men and women alike with both sexes having professional players that tour the championship circuits making it an ideal sport for everyone and whatever age. There are many clubs around that allow players to use their tables for a small charge and with most major tournaments now being televised its popularity is increasing all the time.

steve davis at the crucible

Steve Davis at the crucible

The actual origin of the game snooker is not completely known but it seems to be a popular theory that this game was derived by Neville Chamberlain in 1856 combining two other popular games of billiards and pyramid pool to make one new game which has evolved over the years to what it is today.

As all players of cue sports will know billiards comprises of using two white balls (a cue ball for each player) and a red target ball. The original tables had no pockets but as variations to the game were introduced pockets were added and were originally referred to as “hazards”.

Pyramid pool comprised of using 15 red target balls and a white ball, coloured balls were added at a later stage starting with the black ball. The reds were worth one point and the coloured balls were added to give a higher value of points for each one potted. Looking at these two games it is quite obvious how they have been combined to evolve the game of snooker as the coloured balls have their own starting formation if the table when it is set up with the red balls positioned at the bottom of the table in a pyramid fashion with the use of a triangle.

So where did the term “Snooker “come from? Neville Chamberlain was a serving officer with the British armed forces in India, this is where the billiards and snooker were originally played in officer’s clubs etc. and the rookie cadets were nicknamed snookers for whatever reason.

Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain

It is believed that a player fouled up one of his shots and his opponent commented that he had played like a snooker as so the term stuck and was used for the version of this game.Snooker arrived in Britain in the late 1800’s and was in fact introduced by an ex-billiards champion, namely John Roberts who had spent time with Neville Chamberlain in India and was curious about this new game that had evolved from billiards.

It did not take long for the game to take off in Britain and new equipment was made available from suppliers for players keen to get involved and the snooker table was devised purely for this game and has remained pretty much unchanged up to this present day.

As mentioned above coloured balls were added to the game to give extra point value for potting that particular ball but the black ball was the last addition and many early score markers for snooker do not have the black ball displayed on them.

A major contribution to the popularity of snooker came with the modern technology of the time. Television started to broadcast snooker and one of the original programmes in the 1960’s was Pot Black which is a bit ironic with the black ball being the last addition to the table and the players started to become television stars in their own right.

In the early days many viewers only had black and white televisions which made the game quite tricky to follow but with the advent of colour televisions the game really took off. Of course we should not forget to mention two brothers who also helped with the popularity of snooker even earlier than television. They were of course Joe and Fred Davis who were in fact ex-billiards champions and they completed dominated the game right through from the 1920’s to the 1950’s winning all the championships Joe Davis in particular but Fred Davis always gave him a hard battle to take the title.

New faces that appeared on our screens included players such as Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins and John Spencer who had been playing the circuits for many years but were now getting recognition.

In the 1980’s a new wave of players began to emerge with what seems a lower average age which shows that people were playing this game from a younger age and becoming very skilfull alongside the more established stars of the sport. Steve Davis and Jimmy “whirlwind” White soon rose to fame even though Jimmy never actually managed to win the world championships but he was a character that the audience loved to watch.

Nowadays there are many snooker halls in various countries for future players to have get involved and amateur players spend their time playing on the tables, some halls charge an annual membership whilst others may be open and allow you to hire the tables for a small charge, with the size of full snooker table being far too large for the average house this has opened out the game to everyone keeping it high in the popularity stakes.