Billiard & Pool Hall Tokens

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Pool Hall tokens were used in much the same way as Saloon tokens. Players would “rent” the table for a time, receiving tokens in exchange for the amount paid. Losers would pay the winner with a token, which supposedly was good only for merchandise in a disguised attempt to circumvent gaming laws, but would often be redeemed for cash by the bartender.

In some of the larger Billiard and Pool Halls an operator would “rack” the cue balls and he would then be paid a token for the game. This guaranteed the owner payment as the tokens were merely turned in at the end of the day. I some cases a token or coin box was installed on the tables to drop the cue balls at the start of a new game.

Billiard and Pool Hall tokens were used in much the same way as Saloon tokens. Players would “rent” the table for a time, receiving tokens in exchange for the amount paid. Losers would pay the winner with a token, which supposedly was good only for merchandise in a disguised attempt to circumvent gaming laws, but would often be redeemed for cash by the bartender. In some of the larger Billiard and Pool Halls an operator would “rack” the cue balls and he would then be paid a token for the game. This guaranteed the owner payment as the tokens were merely turned in at the end of the day. I some cases a token or coin box was installed on the tables to drop the cue balls at the start of a new game.


J.M. Brunswick & Balke Company - Frank Riely - Pool Hall Token - Billiard Hall Token

Billiards evolved from a lawn game similar to croquet played in Europe during the 15th century. The term “Billiard” came from the French. The game was originally played with two balls on a six pocket table. The balls were shoved rather than struck with wooden sticks called “maces.” A maces had a large head on one end and a handle on the other. The handle was called a “queue” or tail from which we get the word “cue”. The cue or handle was used when a ball was near the table rail. Long cue sticks were being used by the 1800’s. The rails only function was to keep the balls from falling off the table. But players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails and began deliberately aiming at them coining a new term call a “bank shot.” The term “English” used in the United States only came about when visitors from England showed Americans how to use spin on a ball. Balls were generally made of ivory but by 1868 made of celluloid. By the late 1800’s billiard tables with slate beds were being made.

From the 15th century to later part of the 1800’s Billiards took on many new versions including a four ball game with and without pockets called “Carom Billiards” played in North America. Finally, the game which became known as 15 ball pool and later known as “American Pocket Billiards” became the most popular American game of the 20th century.

The word “pool” means a collective bet or ante. The term “poolroom” now means a place to where pool is played but in the 19th century a poolroom was a betting parlor for horse racing. Pool tables were installed so patrons could pass the time between races. Thus the term poolroom came from the betting that took place there and not from billiards.

Reliable Pool Room - New Orleans, LA Pool Check Jennings Billiard Room - Jennings, LA Pool Chip

Eight ball was invented shortly after 1900, straight pool followed in 1910 and nine ball seems to have been developed around 1920. While the term billiards refers to all games played on billiard tables, with or without pockets, some players take billiards to mean carom games only and use pool for pocket games.

Brunswick has been the name in billiards since 1845. It was that year that John M. Brunswick produced the first billiard table made in the United States. By 1858 the company was known as J.M. Brunswick & Bros. In 1874 Brunswick merged with Julius Balke and formed J.M. Brunswick & Balke Company. Ten years later Brunswick and Balke united with H.W. Collender. By 1960 this company was known as The Brunswick Corp. Over the years many billiard tokens were issued by these companies.