Entertainment and Recreation - Sport - Billiards

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Billiards.—Amateurs of this game should remember that “billiard sharps,” as well as billiard tables, abound in every quarter of London. As these gentry get their living by infesting public tables, the unskilled amateur should avoid playing or betting with strangers, whose “form” is apt to improve at critical moments in the most unlooked-for fashion. “Championship” and other important matches are usually played at St. James's Hall, and the recently introduced “American Tournaments” have been played both there and at the Westminster Aquarium. Tables are to be found in most of the chief thoroughfares, and all hotels and the larger public-houses possess at least one. The usual charges are 1s. an hour for daylight play or 1s. 6d. by gaslight. If by the game, 6d. for 50 up.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

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    When Piccadilly did not consist entirely of clubs, public billiard-rooms were patronised by many who would not enter a modern one. Many of these were run on the very best lines, and a regular clientele met every afternoon for sixpenny and half-crown pool.
    The best was Phillips's, at, 99, Regent Street, where Edmund Tattersall, Lord St. Vincent, Colonel Dawes, Attenborough, the king of the pawn-brokers, and a few members of 14, St. James's Square Club never missed resorting - wind and weather permitting - from three to seven of an afternoon.
    No goat from an alien frock dared hope to browse on that jealously-guarded pasture, and if, as occasionally, one wandered in, he speedily wandered out under the withering glances of old Phillips and his son.
    Almost opposite were Smith's rooms, where pool of a high class (in execution) was indulged in, and any amateur with a local reputation who took a ball soon disabused his mind of any exalted ideas of his play.
    Dolby's, near the Marble Arch, had also it regular patrons, and even in the select region of Portman Square such correct old gentleman as Sir James Hamilton, Mr. Burgoyne, and other residents in the neighbourhood met daily at an unpretentious tobacconist's in King Street and played pool in a dingy room behind the shop.

'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908