Geek Trivia

Billiard Tables’ Traditional Green Surface Is A Homage To?

The Merchant Class
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A traditional English bowling green depicted in an 18th century painting.

Answer: Lawns

Before billiards (and the related game of pool) became indoor activities to amuse, they were outdoor activities beloved by the English aristocracy and later adopted by the common man.

English estates had large and well-manicured lawns that were frequently repurposed to serve as large outdoor game boards for a wide variety of amusements that typically revolved around sticks, balls, and targets. An example of such a game is an Italian lawn-based game known as “trucco” (later anglicized to “trucks”) which became quite the rage in England. Gentlemen would gather on the lawns of country estates and use large balls, sticks with spoon (ring) shaped ends known as tacks (similar to modern lacrosse sticks), and rings used as targets to pass the balls through. This game, in turn, evolved into a game more closely approximating modern pool table games and was called “lawn billiards.”

These outdoor games served as a basis for the creation of the billiard table, which was essentially a table-top approximation of the same feats of dexterity performed out on the lawn. As such, the cloth used for the surface of early billiard tables was dyed green to represent the lawns upon which the games were once played. Although the connection is almost entirely lost between modern pool tables and the lawns they once emulated, the green billiard cloth remains as a subtle reminder.