While the game is pronounced “snooh-ker” (a long vowel sound on the
The Name and the Founders
Like the origin of billiards in general, no one is exactly sure where snooker started out. It is widely believed that it began as a combination of various billiard games in the British military garrisons in India. What is documented is that a colonel of a British regiment claimed that he was the one who actually named the game — kind of by accident.
This British regiment, while stationed in Jabalpur, India, under the command of Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (not to be confused with the British prime minister of the same name) became bored with their pool games and decided to combine and change some rules to create one new game. What they did was take the colored balls and position them on different locations on the table; they gave them different point values and established different rules and … voilà … snooker came to life.
Why is it called snooker?
After being informed that “snooker” is an unflattering term referring to a first-year cadet at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, England, Chamberlain shouted out, “Why, you're a regular snooker,” when one inexperienced player bungled a shot at the table. So out of an insult made in jest comes a name that would stick for all time. And, to this day, Chamberlain is considered the founder of the name of the game.
Since Chamberlain made his claim about sixty years after the game was invented, there was some suspicion as to the authenticity of his tale, but in 1882, this regiment did meet in Udagamandalam (formerly Ootaca-mund), India, to establish and publish the rules of their new game. And with the movement of the troops throughout the British Empire of that time, snooker took hold, and the rest is, well, history!
American Snooker History
Snooker didn't really hit the American billiards scene until about the 1930s, and for almost three decades it was a popular gambling game. To make the game even faster paced, gamblers removed balls from the table and played variations of the game. These various versions of the game are still played today.