Story: Billiards, snooker, pool and darts

Page 3. Snooker and pool

All images & media in this story


Snooker is played with a cue ball, 15 red balls (1 point each), and one ball each of the colours yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6), and black (7). When all the reds are potted, the colours must be potted in numerical sequence. Points are awarded to the opposing player for fouls, such as misses or potting a non-designated ball.

Origins of snooker

Snooker is reputed to have been invented by an Englishman, Lieutenant Neville Chamberlain, while he was stationed at Jubbulpore, India, in 1875. It was probably derived from the earlier game ‘pyramids’. The name ‘snooker’ came from a derogatory term for artillery cadets.

The rise of snooker

Snooker was played in New Zealand from around the 1890s, although billiards remained the dominant game. In the early 20th century amateur clubs started running snooker tournaments alongside billiards tournaments. The 1930s saw snooker begin to take over as the most popular recreational cue sport. After the Second World War snooker in turn started to lose its dominance with the rise in popularity of pool. Snooker did receive a huge boost due to the 1970s British television programme Pot black, which was very popular in New Zealand.


Pool (or pocket billiards) comes in a number of forms. The most common form played in New Zealand is 8-ball, which involves a cue ball and 15 numbered balls. The numbered balls consist of seven solid coloured balls numbered 1 through 7, seven balls with a coloured stripe numbered 9 through 15, and a black 8-ball. The player must pocket all seven of their designated group of balls (striped or solid), before they can pot the 8-ball. The first to legally pot the 8-ball wins.

The term ‘pool’ originally applied to any game in which a group or pool of people put in a gambling stake. Modern pool evolved in the United States around the early 20th century from earlier forms of billiards, ‘black pool’ and pyramids. Pool only took off in New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s, when pool tables, smaller than the traditional billiard tables, were installed in pubs throughout the country. Eight-ball pool replaced snooker as the game commonly played in pubs, clubs and snooker halls. Women have become more involved in pool playing, perhaps influenced by the fact that pubs and clubs are no longer the male domains they were in previous years. Since 1990 the Clubs New Zealand 8-Ball Association champion team has played annually against the champion Australian team for the Clancy Cup.

Fast Eddie and the ‘down trou’

Pool was made more popular by the 1961 American film The hustler, in which Paul Newman played the young ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson who was out to challenge the legendary player ‘Minnesota Fats’, (Jacky Gleason). New Zealand has its own pool movie, Stickmen (2001). It features the local custom of the ‘down trou’. Generally observed in pub or student games, the custom dictates that a player who loses without sinking any of their balls is expected to drop their trousers.

Participation in cue sports in the 2000s

Eight-ball pool is by far the most commonly played cue sport in New Zealand. Most people play at a recreational rather than competitive level. Pool is played throughout New Zealand by players with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Pool tables are found in many pubs, clubs and recreation rooms. Some towns also have pool halls and billiard saloons dedicated to cue sports. Snooker, like billiards, is more commonly played in billiard saloons or clubs.

A range of amateur national and island (North and South island) snooker and billiard championships are run through the New Zealand Billiards and Snooker Association (NZBSA). The New Zealand Pool Association (NZPA) holds ranking tournaments for eight- and nine-ball pool, at regional, island and national level. It organises a team for an annual trans-Tasman competition. Clubs New Zealand organise billiard, snooker and eight-ball tournaments between individuals and pairs from chartered clubs.

How to cite this page:

Peter Clayworth, 'Billiards, snooker, pool and darts - Snooker and pool', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 April 2024)

Story by Peter Clayworth, published 5 Sep 2013