Bar billiards or Russian billiards is a fascinating traditional game first imported into England from Belgium in the 1930s. Designed for pubs and clubs, shots are taken from one end of the Bar Billiards Table only which reduces the required floor space. It also means that the table can be pushed into an awkward corner or niche thus turning a little-used area into a money spinner.
The game is time-based, each coin lasting from 12 to 17 minutes, after which the internal bar drops and no more balls are returned to the front for replay. Players score points by knocking balls into the holes at the other end of the Bar Billiards table while avoiding three "not-to-be-toppled" skittles near the high-scoring holes and the rules are such that Bar Billiards games are frequently decided by the last ball on the table.
Bar Billiards Tables
Occasionally we have a reconditioned old Bar Billiards table for resale.
For replacement cloth for a Bar Billiards table, the standard snooker and pool cloth packages are not ideal so we have created our own Bar Billiards cloth package. Please click on the Bar Billiards Spares and Repairs link above.
The similarity of Bar Billiards with Bagatelle, the pub game that was most popular for at least a century after 1770 is so evident that it seems highly likely that Bar Billiards is a derivative of Bagatelle via some lineage but that lineage is, at present, unknown. Beyond that assumed and mysterious connection, it isn't known how Bar Billiards originated but in the early 1930s an Englishman called David Gill observed a game called Russian Billiards (Billiard Russe) being played in Belgium. A Russian link is therefore a possibility but it seems more likely that the game was named so as to sound slightly exotic to the ears of West Europeans at the time.
Gill convinced the English manufacturer Jelks to make a version of the game which he called Bar Billiards. Pubs seemed keen to buy tables and other manufacturers soon got in on the act. The first pub league was created in Oxford in 1936 and shortly afterwards leagues sprang up in Reading, Canterbury and High Wycombe. Eventually, a governing body was formed called the All-England Bar Billiards Association which supervises the game across 18 counties, mainly in the South of England.
There do not appear to be any standards to Bar Billiards rules and at least one other variation is in wide circulation that utilises 4 skittles instead of 3.
Bar Billiards is still popular in the South of England but has, unfortunately, lost a lot of its popularity due to the emergence of American 8 ball Pool.
For more information on, see the Online Guide to Traditional Games.