BILLIARDS (in Fr. billard, which meant originally the stick or staff with which the ball is struck, and is allied to Fr. billet, a block or billet of wood). It seems doubtful whether we are indebted for the discovery of this elegant game to France or Italy; but it is certain that it was imported hither from the former country. It must have been 1,nown, at all events by name, to Englishmen as early as the 16th c.. since Shakespeare speaks of it; although when he represents Cleopatra as amusing herself with B. in Egypt, it is probable that lie commits an anachronism. It is certain that the rectangular slate table, with its resilient shies, covered with green cloth, and furnished with the six brass hound pockets, the three ivory balls, and that long array of cues with leathern tops, so familiar nowadays to almost every eye, are paraphernalia of quite modern production. For two centuries, B. was played with only two balls; and when the third or red ball was imported from France, the red winning hazard—that is to say, the of the red hall—was almost the sole object of the performers. The cushions also, now universally constructed of india-rubber, up to a recent date were lined with felt. In no game are knowledge and manual dexterity so combined as in B., nor can the spectacle of first-rate play be appreciated, or the difficulties which it overcomes he understood, except by those who have a scientific as well as practical acquaintance with the game.
A billiard-table varies in size, hut it is generally about 12 ft. long and 6 ft. wide. It is covered with fine green cloth, and set round with cushions, to keep the balls upon the table and make them rebound. The six holes or pockets are placed at the fear corners and in the middle, opposite to each other, to hold the halls, which, when played into them, are called "hazards." The cues are long smooth sticks, with one end thick, and the other pointed; and the small end is covered with leather. The maces—slender sticks with a club at one end, adapted for pushing—are rarely taken in hand except by tyros and ladies, the butt-end of the cue, when the point cannot conveniently be used, being commonly employed instead. The three balls are of ivory, ranging horn 1 in. to
in. in diameter, and two of them are white, and one is red. One of the former has a spot upon it; and when two parsons are playing, he who the spot ball is called spot, and he who uses the• plain hall, plain. The cue is held In the right hand. and supported, in playing, by the forefinger and thumb of the kft so placed as to form a '•brid.ze;" and the ball is struck withthe point of the cite, which is chalked, to pre vent its slippin7. On a certain mark on the cloth, at the distance of about a foot from one end of the table, and exactly in its center, the red ball is placed before com mencing the game. At the other or lower cud, and at the distance of about 2 ft. from It, a line is drawn across the table; and from the center of this line a semicircle i.; described between it and the lower end, of about 20 in. diameter. The space within this semicircle is called baulk. The object of the player is, by striking his own ball against the red ball or his adversary's, to drive either it or them into the pockets; or else to make a " cannon"—that is to say, to strike both balls with his own. The score is usually recorded by a third person, by means of a marking-board. The game of B. can be played by two, three, or four persons, and in a great many different fashions; but it is most commonly played by two, and the ordinary game is that called the cannon, or more properly introduced from France at the same time with the third or red ball. The technical term " cannoning" may perhaps have arisen from " caramboling," which was the old word for striking both balls with your own. The method of play is as follows: 1. The limit of the game is properly 21, though it is sometimes made 24, 50, O. 100, or more, as may be agreed upon before commencing. The shorter games were probably used when billiard-tables were rarer, so that persons waiting for the use of them might sooner have their turn; 50, or "50 up," as it Is called, is now the most usual limit.