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UK Pub Games Once Defined what Locals Loved to Play, but Times have Changed

The Great British pub used to be a place where people would not only go to sit back with a beer and their friends, but also a place where people would gather to play pub games like bar billiards.


UK Pub Games Once Defined what Locals Loved to Play, but Times have Changed

UK Pub Games Once Defined what Locals Loved to Play, but Times have Changed

Games like knur and spell, bumblepuppy, cribbage, dominoes, skittles, darts, and bar billiards were commonplace, but the changing nature of pubs to become more open to the entire general public has meant that there isn’t as much space for these games anymore. Having enough seats to meet potential demand, and thus sell more food and drinks, became the focus, cutting the spaces designated for gaming a great deal.

The games on offer in each pub would bring people in for the contests, casual play, and even the established leagues. With more interest in the competitive side of many pub games, areas would become very good at certain pub games, and even create their own variants. For example, knur and spell was very popular across the north of England, with the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley creating its own version, billets.

Now that floor space has become a priority, some true pub classics have faded, but it some savvy pubs have utilized technology to bring in multi-gaming options to appease those who want to continue the fine tradition of playing pub games.

No Space for Pub Classics like Bar Billiards

No Space in UK Pubs for Bar Billiards Tables

The larger, more complex, bat and ball games were among the first to go in most pubs, but some of the more confined indoor games managed to cling on for quite some time. One such game was that of bar billiards. Traditionally played on a Sams or Jelkes table bar billiards table, the game uses a relatively small table which features holes in it's bed and three pegs that protrude from the surface, acting as obstacles.

Bar billiards is still present in pubs across counties like Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent, Cambridgeshire, and Sussex, but has largely disappeared across the rest of the UK. The pubs and counties willing to hold on to the tables have continued a tournament since 1981, keeping the game popular in their local areas.

However, many pubs across the rest of the UK opted to switch to a more popular form of billiards as opposed to hold onto bar billiards, with that same game also taking away from another formerly wildly popular pub game, darts. According to the Guardian, darts was still one of the most widespread and popular indoor pub games in the UK as recently as 2011, but participation has ceded to the "younger" game of pool (pocket billiards), which also took away from bar billiards in many parts of the country.

As darts, bar billiards, and pool all demand a lot of space, landlords had to make a choice with their limited gaming space – if they even chose to host any gaming space at all. In many parts, the simplicity of pool won, with dart boards coming down, oches being removed, and bar billiards being refined to a few hardcore counties.

Appeasing the Demand for Gaming

Keeping Pool Players Happy in the Pub

While pubs have tried to change their image from somewhat of a gentleman's club to more of a family-oriented feel, people still go into pubs to have fun, and games can be a huge part of that experience. Pubs that still host classic pub games have people come in for the purpose of playing, while other pubs have attempted to bridge that gap with more space-conserving gaming options.

Many pubs used to, and still do, have a slot machine somewhere on the premises. However, that will be just one game that some locals will fall out with quickly if it doesn’t pay out when they’re playing. As such, the multi-gaming machines have risen to prominence.

Following in the footsteps of the online gaming options like Vegas Slots Online with its offering of hundreds of free slots, pub game machines now boast a huge choice of games for people to play. Variety has become key in gaming, so the now prominent bit of pub hardware has everything from multiple pub quiz games to games of roulette and digital slots. As one machine hosts so many games while only taking up the space of one unit, they’ve become the natural choice for a pub that wants to keep the gaming going.

Naturally, they can’t replace the physical games of bar billiards, darts, or even cribbage, but they offer a nice compromise between maximizing floor space and allowing pub-goers the chance to play games.

  • Title: UK Pub Games Once Defined what Locals Loved to Play, but Times have Changed
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 1/9/2020 1:28:30 PM
  • Last Updated: 1/9/2020 2:27:52 PM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum

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