Billiards. This elegant sport may be said to combine the principles of bowls, golf and some other games in which objects are impelled from the hand. Whether the game was invented in France or England is not clearly ascertained; but, as it is mentioned by Shakspeare, it is at least as old in this country as the sixteenth century.
Billiards is played with a table, certain kinds of rods, and balls. The table varies in size, that in most common use being twelve feet long, and six feet one inch and a half in width. Whatever be its dimensions, it requires to be perfectly level and smooth. It is ordinarily made of pieces of slate joined together; and these being brought to a dead level, the surface is covered with fine green cloth All round is a ledge or cushion two inches high, and stuffed with India rubber. The table is furnished with six pockets, one at each of the four corners, and one on each side at the middle. The mouths of these pockets or purses are level with the surface, so as to allow the balls to glide easily into them. The balls are of ivory, varying from an inch and a half to two inches in diameter. Two are white, and one is red. One of the white is distinguished by a spot. There are usually two players in the ordinary winning and losing game; he who owns the plain ball is called Plain, and he who owns the spotted ball is termed Spot. The red ball belongs to neither, but is aimed at by both. The rods or bills used by the players are of two kinds, and different lengths, to suit different players. The ordinary kind of rod is called a cue. It is long and smooth, with one end thick and heavy (1), and the other tapered to a point; this is covered with a button of leather. The other kind of rod is termed a mace; it has a club-like extremity (2), and is much less frequently used. Almost all players employ cues of a length and weight to suit themselves.
In playing, the left hand is rested with the palm undermost on the table. The palm is hollowed, and the thumb, close to the forefinger, is raised up to form a bridge or rest for the cue. The hand should be at the distance of about six inches from the hall. The cue is lightly held in the right band, the blow being struck with the small extremity. Thus held, in a free but firm manner, and resting on the channel between the forefinger and thumb, the cue is given a sharp run forward, so as to hit the ball in the required direction, and with that exact degree of force which will make it perform the desired feat. To prevent slipping, the point of the cue is generally chalked.