View Full Version : What about pool popularity?

01-22-2010, 05:09 AM
Hi all,

Even if pool was originally invented in the USA, and even if billiards have always been very popular in Anglo-saxon countries, I've been wondering how it is going nowadays regarding pool popularity in America. For many of my countrymen, the cliché they all have in mind is that you can find pool halls anywhere in the US, or that pool is broadly played by anyone, for competition or leisure, throughout your country. But how is it going actually?

01-22-2010, 05:25 AM
Virtually every city of 10,000 or more will have at last 1 pool hall. Most are not doing well.


01-22-2010, 08:22 AM
From what I can see around our area, league activity is growing very quickly. Tournament activity seems to be remaining level.

Inquiries about lessons did slow down last year, but seem to be picking up again, now that we are seeing some improvement in the economy.


01-22-2010, 03:22 PM
The ones in my area are struggling. Except for a few serious regular players,maybe 3 or 4, people for the most part are not playing much. If they come and play, it is only for an hour or so and just fooling around, nothing serious or competitive.

Rich R.
01-22-2010, 08:59 PM
There is a high number of good players in my area but they are spred between many pool rooms. It is the league players who are keeping all of these pool rooms alive.

I wish the good players would stop looking down their noses at the league players. Without them, a lot of rooms would be closed.

01-24-2010, 03:00 PM
Hi Pask.

Actually it is generally agreed that pool was envented by you guys over there in France.... Mozart was an avid player when he was in Paris. Many of the pool terms including "Pool" itself come from the French, of course we bastardised some of them.

Pool is alive and doing OK here, but it does'nt enjoy the populerity it had back in the 30s' 40s.'

As posted above, its the leagues that have saved it. Brad

01-25-2010, 06:42 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: bradb</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Actually it is generally agreed that pool was envented by you guys over there in France.... Mozart was an avid player when he was in Paris. Many of the pool terms including "Pool" itself come from the French, of course we bastardised some of them.</div></div>

Yes, you're right. But pool, as pocket billard game with 15 numbered balls has been invented in the USA. Billiard (carom) game, that here we call billard français (French billiard) initially had pockets (I guess it was first 4 and later 6), played with 3 balls as today's game. in the 1800's the French wanted to add a new feature to the game and removed pockets. The carom game with pockets remained popular in England and was then called English billiard - I think they still play it on snooker tables. I guess the actual pool game was inspired by pyramid game which consisted of 15 object balls and one cue ball, and I assume it was created in England.

You're also correct : the word "pool", in billiards context, comes from French "poule", that sounds the same. The first meaning of poule is "hen" or "chicken". But in ancient French gambling slang, it was used to call someone lucky at gambling. By the way, a verb has remained from this slang word : "plumer". It means "to take feathers off [a chicken]", and in old and today's gambling slang it means win over someone when you bet. The original carom game on pocket billiard tables was called "jeu de la poule" (literally : pool game), which was very popular during the time Mozart was alive for instance. The word pool that seems to be also used to call a table where bets are made comes also from French "poule" for same gambling reasons.

Pool, the US game not English 8-ball pool, is by the way called billard américain (American billiard) in French. Nowadays, what we call pool in French refers to UK pool. US pool has never been very popular here, except in Paris area. Before UK pool was invented, I remember seeing US pool tables in bars and cafés, with bar table sizes (6-7 feet). The first billiard game I ever played when I was a teenager was on a US pool bar table. People here, I mean people not involved in billiards, casual players, have never really known the rules of US pool. Either they played a kind of rotation/61 game counting points, but with wrong rules like pocketing on one side only (because most of these tables had red circled pockets on one side and white circled pocket on the other side) or played a kind of simplified 8-ball game (which led to the creation of UK pool). Also, people generally think US pool is very difficult to play, regarding the size of 9-feet tables of the complexity of rules in general. That's why UK pool has got a huge success here since it appeared in bars in the 90's : smaller tables (6-foot) and balls, no numbers (except on the 8 ball) and two colors (yellow and red) instead of stripes and solids, and easier rules than original US 8-ball game. So this game looks more obvious at first sight and is easy to play for casual or low-level players.

Regarding the French Billiards Federation, (US) pool has always been well-considered and accepted for competition and as a serious billards game. Nevertheless, carom billiard still remains the front game for the federation. Which is a paradox : many people still play it in clubs all over France, but it is the least popular billiards game today, for casual players I mean. The problem is that some (not all of course) carom players still think pocket billiards and snooker aren't cue sports, just hobbies and that carom game is the game. This old-fashioned way of thinking is still a bit transparent within the federation, unfortunately. For example, billiard players will easily find support from their club or regional organization to go to national or international tournaments, whereas US pool players won't or it'd depend on the clubs they belong to.

I wish pool was more known and well-considered here in France. Because this game really deserves recognition. I also wish there would be more efforts from officials, club heads and players, sponsors, media, to promote this kind of billiards game. Happilly Paris players are the ones who play the most and contribute to make publicity for pool (many high level players are in Paris). But Paris isn't France, and outside this area it's a hard battle to play pool. Most of billiards hall owner tend to invest in UK-pool because it make them earn more money - which I understand. But I guess US pool, with better publicity, would attract a lot of people as well. I play in a room where there's only one 9-foot pool table, the rest is snooker and UK pool tables. I live in Tours which is a very touristic and students city, just 1h by train from Paris. And there's only one US pool talbes. And we aren't many to play it, unfortunately. I try to do my best to show people how to play our marvellous game, and I try to convice people to play or invest in pool. But it's a long hard battle I think.

I asked about how it is going in the USA just by curiosity. And I thank you all very much for your replies. YOu can keep replying. It's always interesting to get more information about how pool is popular or not regarding your place.

01-25-2010, 12:34 PM
Thats a hell of a lot more than I ever knew about the game Pask.

Interesting that snooker is the popular game where you are, not pool. Here, in Canada, we have embraced 8Ball and 9ball and have pretty well abandoned snooker which was all you would find here 25 years ago. I imagine thats because of our ties to England have been broken. Now we are more international as imigration has replaced the british influence. Chinese is more spoken in the Vancouver school system than english, and east Indian communities have sprung up all over the lower valley.

Interesting enough is that pool is popular in the asian communities and that alone has helped to aid its survival, but its still a game that is played rarely by most people.


01-25-2010, 03:55 PM
My opinion derived from playing out of a house that is a wonderful house, big, lots of perks and great tables...business is scary slow. It is one of the few smoking halls left in N. Dallas, and you'd think that would suck in lots of smoking/gambling types, but it doesn't. I understand that some of the smaller PHs that went smoke free are starting to go down or actually drop out of business as well. My 2c is that without leagues, the local scene would be up sh!t creek without a paddle. sid

01-25-2010, 05:11 PM
Well actually this is English 8-ball pool that is the most popular pocket billiards game here, not snooker (sorry if I haven't been clear to read, I'm better at French than English!). Snooker is a paradoxe here in France : this game has got the lowest number of players for official competitions, but many people play it for leisure and fun. You can also find more snooker tables, in average, than US pool table in France : generally, you can find an average of 2 snooker tables in most of pool rooms where there will be UK 8-ball tables, whereas it would be harder to find one with more than one US pool table. Snooker is very popular among casual players / ordinary people here because it is fashionable, trendy due to many snooker events broadcast on TV, mostly on Eurosport France. This channel sometimes also broadcasts a few US pool events.

Paris area is really the exception. This is the place to play US pool definately. You can get into a tournament every week, official or unofficial. But on the other hand, when you play for competition, it is the hardest place to climb the ladder leading to the France championships, as there are many players to beat. As far as I'm concerned, stages are easier to pass because in my region we are about a dozen pool players to compete. So we are currently competing for a local ranking to qualify to the next regional stage (with still a few pool players). Then we have more chances to be qualified for the France finale which is the last tournament for each game : 9-ball, 8-ball and 14.1 (10-ball is only played by 'master' players). We also have national tournaments, a kind of official tour around France, consisting of a series of official opens (8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball). This tour doesn't count for France champion title in each game, but for the national ranking. This is the reason why any player of any category can compete in this tour, provided that these players have a membership (licence) to the French Billiard Federation.

UK 8-ball pool, snooker and carom official competitions are organized a bit the same way. I also recall that there isn't official (legal) professional status regarding cue sports in France. I mean a French can't put 'billiards player' as occupation on his passport for instance (I'm sorry, I dont know how to explain it clearlier in English). But there are players that unofficially play billiards for a living of course, like Stephan Cohen for pool. So these high level players compete in international pro events, but also in French amateur events as well.

By the way, Stephan Cohen's world title at Predator 14.1 has given a little boost to pool in France. They even talked about him on TV. I remember some workmates at the coffee corner asking me : "hey Pascal, I saw on TV a French who's world champion at US pool! Is it that kind of billiards you play?". I guess that if Stephan Cohen, and other top French pool players keep winning big events, it will help US pool find more players and investors in France. The match Stephan Cohen vs Steve Moore I saw at the Open de Paris (one of the greatest 9-ball matches I've ever seen, tight hill-hill from 1-1 to 9-8!) has confirmed to my mind that Cohen can make great things in the long run - and by the way is a very nice guy! Wait and see.

I also understand what you all mean saying that league players are keeping the game on in your country. To my mind, it's players that make the game live on. There's no better publicity for game's popularity. That's why, on my humble position here, I try my best to attract people to US pool, and to make things get better around my place. It's not that easy but pool is a labor of love and passion hobby to me, so I won't give up the fight! /forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

01-29-2010, 02:27 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Pask</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Hi all,
the cliché they all have in mind is that you can find pool halls anywhere in the US, or that pool is broadly played by anyone, for competition or leisure, throughout your country. But <span style="color: #CC0000">how is it going actually? </span></div></div>

I would say it depends on if you are asking about popularity as it relates to billiard "business", or just general popularity. The two are not one in the same.

As one might expect during economic downturns, the entertainment, gaming and service industries are all suffering...

However, the love of billiards and the players are all still very much alive and well. It's just a question of how much money people have to spend to enjoy it in public.

That said, I'm going to take this opportunity to preach a little about billiards popularity in America:

America is one of the greatest nations on the planet. We are intelligent, productive, innovative and the list goes on and on... Likewise, we have produced some of the best atheletes and sports figures that the world has ever seen.

And it's no different when it comes to billiards, America has a long history of fine players.

But why is it, when I turn on my TV, I see practically no evidence that anyone in this country plays at all???

The truth is, professional billiard coverage has been reduced to a couple of hours per month, on obscure channels at odd hours.

I can look on six different major "sports" channels and watch everything BUT billiards... it's almost as if they are avoiding billiard coverage on purpose!

I mean really now, why should I be watching a professional Yo-Yo competition on a network that makes millions and millions of dollars covering sporting events? They really can't find anything better to broadcast than a free style Yo-Yo competiton?

Where are the billiard table, cloth, cue, and ball makers?
Ever seen a billiard related commercial on any major network?

Do they not want to sell more? Perhaps promote their own industry - and ensure the future thereof? Do they not want, in every way, to see the betterment of professional billiards in the U.S.?

There was a time, not all that long ago, when professional billiard players in the U.S. were looked upon and treated like a Michael Jordan or a Babe Ruth or a Luciano Pavorati...

There was a time when to win a U.S. billiard title match was a lucrative and elite accomplishment...

There was a time when news of major billiard events was broadcast across the country with anxious anticipation...

There was a time when the billiard industry ensured without fail that all of this happened....and that billiards kept its respected place in society. That it was a clean, wholesome, respectable and brilliant sport in which one would could build a lifelong career.

Where are they now?

And what kind of boneheads must be working at XYZN network, to think that the world needs more Yo-Yo coverage.

Every single professional billiard player alive today should be extremely insulted and disappointed...

You and all your hard work, the years and years of endless practice, the talent you have worked so hard to develop, the sacrifices you have made, the expense, everything you have done...

...means less than a Yo-Yo.

That is all.

Scott Lee
01-30-2010, 12:09 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: LWW</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Virtually every city of 10,000 or more will have at last 1 pool hall. Most are not doing well.

LWW </div></div>

LWW...You are WAY off, in your estimate here. I travel the country, coast to coast, and nowhere NEAR every city of 10,000 or more has at least one poolroom. In fact, there are several cities over a million that only have 1 or 2 poolrooms...and may more cities with 100K population that have NO poolrooms. Note you said poolrooms, and not bars with pool tables. You are correct that most poolrooms are not doing well. The ones that are, cater to their clientele, and that's what keeps people coming back again and again.

Scott Lee

01-30-2010, 12:56 PM
@Schming : in my first post within this thread, I was asking about popularity regarding business as well as amusement, recreational hobby for anyone, and pool as a competition, a sport. Thank you very much for your very interesting point of you by the way.

@Scott : what you've said is very interesting for me. I heard or read in BD or on the internet that pool hobby/business was a bit down nowadays in the USA. But I'm very surprised at reading your statement : I didn't expect such low statistics about pool, even in major American cities. I thought that even with current econimic or cultural factors, poolrooms (places really dedicated to pool as you said) were more numerous in your country. Actually, your ratios look like ours in France (regarding US pool game only). Pretty amazing indeed - and then I guess posting this thread was worth it.

Pool (and all other billiards) is a great game. Whether you're a high-end or low player, competitor or casual, rich or poor, talented or crap, gambler or enterainer... Billiards just is the right game that enables people come together and have fun. It is also more than just one more ability game, it makes you think, concnetrate and calm down, get rid of your everyday issues when on the table. This game/sports does deserve a bit more consideration. I think it goes beyond business context as well : people have other new hobbies and may have been changing their habits when going out. I think leisure culture is also a factor in pool popularity.

01-31-2010, 08:13 AM
I agree to what Pascal mentions and I was really suprisded that Pool was losing so much of it's popularity in the US. Here in Europe we had a big boost of snooker about 15 years ago but this has never created any big champions or big events in mainland Europe. I think a lot depends on the professional approach and marketing of the billiard associations to find the right and appealing formulars for sponsors. Billiards in general is a fantastic sport to view on TV and I think that it appeals to a lot of different layers of the population.

As high tech cue producers I find it very interesting to learn how specific billiard disciplins are doing in different countries around the world.

Enjoy the game,


Gayle in MD
02-01-2010, 10:00 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Sid_Vicious</div><div class="ubbcode-body">My opinion derived from playing out of a house that is a wonderful house, big, lots of perks and great tables...business is scary slow. It is one of the few smoking halls left in N. Dallas, and you'd think that would suck in lots of smoking/gambling types, but it doesn't. I understand that some of the smaller PHs that went smoke free are starting to go down or actually drop out of business as well. My 2c is that without leagues, the local scene would be up sh!t creek without a paddle. sid </div></div>

That's how I see it around here, Sid.

Champion billiards Supply, one of the largest in the Washington Metro area, just went bust.

Several of their Rest/Bar/billiards location have gone bust.

Bill and Billy's, as far as I know, was the ONLY actual pool room in our area, and it went bust.

The leagues were doing pretty well around here, but many have left, fed up over all the sandbagging that goes on.

Most of the leagues I know of which have lasted, were in places like Moose lodges, and American Legions, and they provide better smoking areas for their patrons, usually.

There is one in the Annapolis ares, quite large, but also a bar, and that one changed hands not too long ago, but many are leaving that one, which only services the Tap League, partly because people don't like the woman who runs it, and partly because there is no heated smoking area outside, and their liquor and table time prices are high.

The little neighborhood bars, with one or two tables, survive, mostly because people can drive close to hom, drink, and drive, without going out on a main road. House leagues are usually what plays in them.

All in all, I don't think they are doing well, at all, but I must say, speaking from just my personal experiences with people I know, I hear more people leaving leagues because of the sand bagging, and the non smoking rules, than any other reasons.


02-01-2010, 11:47 AM
In our area,(central Illinois) there are a lot of leagues to choose from, mostly in bars, ours is a none smoking state (stupid law even though I am a none smoker). I also not the decline in participation in some leagues due to sandbagging, I personally won't belong to those leagues any more. We seem to have good parcipitation in ACS leagues and in a gentlemens league(just good old pool no ball in hand & no safeties).

02-01-2010, 11:48 AM
Excuse the miss spelling in last post just reread it!!

02-02-2010, 08:30 PM
As I mentioned above, in many if not most urban areas, it's not that billiards have become less popular per say, it just boils down to numbers. Billiard halls generally operate on very thin margins, so when the economy hits the fan, doors start closing.
And the cycle repeats.

<span style='font-size: 8pt'><span style="color: #3333FF">side note:
There is no better historic example of this happening (specifically when it comes to billiard popularity) than the great depression of the 1930's. The big cities of the U.S. (ie New York, Chicago) went from having thousands of stand alone billiard halls, to having a handfull, in the blink of an eye</span>.</span>

But ~ even though we've had some local halls close as well, the Illinois Billiard Club here in Chicagoland has just booked the largest turnout in both 14.1 and 3cushion leagues that it has seen in some 36 years.

Billiards are alive and well in Illinois