Although the exact history of snooker is somewhat cloudy, tradition holds that the game originated at the British Army Station in Jubbulpore, India in 1875, and was largely the creation of the station commander, Colonel Chamberlain. First-year cadets at the Royal Military Academy, where Chamberlain had trained, were often known as "snookers," and it is said that Colonel Chamberlain called himself a "snooker" in reference to his lack of experience with the pool-type game. With time this name came to represent the game itself.
Almost from the beginning, snooker was wildly popular and the new game quickly spread throughout British posts on the subcontinent, as soldiers were transferred to new stations, taking their love for the game with them. In 1882, the first rules and regulations of snooker were drafted and recorded at the British Army Base at Ootacamund, India, and the game of snooker was "officially" born.
In the decades that followed, snooker was spread mostly by British Army personnel throughout the empire. Gradually, snooker began to replace English billiards as the most popular cue sport in the UK and throughout the empire. By the 1930s the legendary snooker champion Joe Davis was renowned throughout the world, and snooker had become a household name.
The history of snooker tables is equally as fascinating as that of the game itself. Snooker was originally played on a Standard English billiard table, which had no fixed size, and was often manufactured to fit a specific room. Eventually, table manufacturers settled on 12 x 6-foot dimensions as the standard for billiard tables, and these overall dimensions have remained unchanged until today.
Because of the widespread popularity of the new game, several manufacturers began to make dedicated snooker tables in the early 1900s. The most well-known of these manufacturers was the London company of Burroughs and Watts. Burroughs and Watts' tables featured a steel backing and cushioned rails which improved the speed and control of the ball rebound. In the years that followed, these innovations became standard in all tournament snooker tables.
Modern snooker tables have been modified slightly, and the standard tournament size today is 11 feet, 8 1/2" x 5 feet, 10 inches. In the late 70s, several companies began introducing metric sized snooker tables, in which each half of the table measured an exact 1.75 m by 1.75 m. Despite this "improvement" in the design specification of tables, the metric snooker table was never fully accepted, and with time manufacturers returned to the original dimensions.
The covering of snooker tables is also unique, and tournament regulations require the surface cloth to be made of a 100% pure wool weave that has no other commercial use. The Governing Body of World Snooker lays down the guidelines and standardisation for regulation play snooker tables, including pocket opening sizes, railing Heights and surfaces. The organisation keeps templates that must be adhered to exactly for professional play.
However, many manufacturers produce snooker tables for homes and snooker clubs that use wider pockets than the standard World Snooker template. These "wide pocket" snooker tables are far easier to play on for casual snooker enthusiasts or beginners, and although they are not standard size, they remain quite popular among non-professionals.
Since its humble beginnings in the Indian outposts of the late 1800s, snooker has developed into a widely popular game. And although the history of snooker shows that the game reached its greatest popularity sometime in the 1950s, it continues to be a vibrant and fascinating sport, with dedicated enthusiasts from London to Sydney to Bombay.