Billiard games have been played for several hundred years and have been popular in North America since the early 1800s. In Canada, snooker is the most popular of these games, with some pool and varieties of billiards also being played. The game of billiards, while using the same equipment of the rectangular table, balls and leather-tipped cue, has developed into several variations.
English billiards is usually played by 2 players, using a set of 3 balls (one red and 2 white). A player scores by pocketing his cue ball after striking another ball, or by pocketing another ball by striking it with the cue ball or by caroms (striking both balls with the cue ball). Canadian Cyrille Dion was world champion in 1873 of a pocketless variation of billiards, in which the scoring was entirely by caroms.
In snooker 22 balls are used: a white (cue) ball, 15 red balls and 6 numbered colours - yellow (2), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7). Two players usually compete. A player must strike a red first and if it is potted (1 point) may then choose one of the "colours" which, if potted, is replaced on the table and another red is attempted. When all the reds have been potted the colours must be played in order of value. The winner has the most points when all the balls have been potted. A match consists of a number of games. The word "snooker" refers to a position in which a player cannot directly strike the ball that he is required to play because of an obstructing intervening ball.
The performance of George Chenier from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s raised the status of billiards and snooker in Canada. The maximum run (or "break") possible in snooker is 147. The first and youngest player to run 147 was the 17-year-old Vic Kireluk (1926-81) in Oshawa in 1944. Bernie Mikkelsen made the first 147 in competition in Canada in 1977. In April 1983 Cliff Thorburn became the first player to make the perfect 147 run in the world championships. The first woman to make a run of 100 was the Canadian Natalie Stelmach (109 in 1977). The first run of over 100 (125) was made by the Canadian Con Stanbury in 1923 in Winnipeg.
Billiard games are played in clubs, private homes and in public "pool halls." There are over 2500 public rooms in Canada with over 250 000 regular players. The social stigma of the pool hall is fading as many rooms are now well-furnished, respectable centres for family recreation.
The term "pool" includes the more than 60 games played on the American tables and is sometimes loosely applied to snooker. The major pool games are 8-ball, 9-ball and 14-1 (or straight pool). In 8-ball or 9-ball the winner is the first player to pot the 8 or 9 ball: in 14-1 the winner is the first player to pot the agreed number of balls. Pool games use a set of 15 object balls and a white cue ball.
Nationwide organization began in the 1970s. The major governing body is the Canadian Snooker Control Council (1975).