The Best Traditional Pub & Tavern Games – Part 3

In our final part of looking back at the best traditional tavern and pub games we take a look into card and dice games and some of the more popular ball games.

Cards and Dice Games

Cribbage is a vastly popular game and you can still see cribbage boards in many pubs today. The game is attributed to Sir John Suckling who was a renowned gambler in the 1600’s. The game requires a scoring board which is indented with holes, each player then moves a set of pegs up the outside and down the inside, the first peg denoting the score and the second to record the previous score. A complete trip up and down the holes is 60 and the winner normally has to achieve 61. The game is played using a 52-card deck with players alternating placing cards down, but the total must never go above 31.

Cards and Dice Games

Cards and Dice Games

Dominoes is another really popular tile game played today, its origins date back to the 14th Century and China. There is some debate as to the current game being developed by Europeans, the tiles are shorter and there is a single tile for each throw of the dice, including a blank making a total of twenty-eight tiles.


There is numerous version of the game we now call Bowls, Crown Green Bowls, Flat Green Bowls, Curling Table Bowls and Petanque (Boule). Many historians believe that the origins of bowls date back to the Egyptians, who used to play a game similar to skittles with round stones. Bowls in played on a green, and the oldest green still in use is in Southampton where it has been in use since 1299 A.D. The two alternatives, Crown Green and Flat Green are because of the types of greens they play the game on.

Billiards Family

Billiards founded a whole family of games played on a board using sticks and balls, Snooker, Bar-Billiards, Eight-Ball Pool and Bagatelle all have developed as games in their own right because of Billiards. The origins of Billiards are not exactly clear, but it is thought to have derived as an indoor version of croquet which was popular in the 14th Century in Northern Europe.

The development of the game and its derivatives was due to the improvements of the equipment used, including the balls, cues, table surfaces and perhaps the biggest influence, side cushions. Without these radical and somewhat revolutionary improvements to the game, it is very doubtful whether Eight-Ball Pool or Snooker would have ever been invented.

In the 1800’s, American’s had just been importing and trying to copy the games that were popular in Europe. But they soon started to develop their own games such as One Pocket, Four Ball Billiards and Fifteen Ball Pool which were the founders of the modern American Pool Family of games. All the games we have looked at in our exploration into the best traditional tavern games were to entertain drinkers at the pubs and taverns they were imbibing in. No doubt there was gambling involved in the games also, and as the ale took its toll on the players they were very much a lottery.