User talk:Fuhghettaboutit/Finger billiards

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This page is about the sport played on a billiards table. For the family of tabletop games, see carrom.
Poster for a March 12, 1889 exhibition by Yank Adams, the "Digital Billiard Wonder,"[1] considered by his professional peers the world's best player of finger billiards and the "greatest exhibition player who ever lived."[2]

Finger billiards, sometimes called hand billiards, hand-stroke billiards,[3] digit billiards[2] or digital billiards,[4] is a form of billiards in which a player manipulates the balls with his or her hands directly, instead of with an implement such as a cue stick.[3] The typical method of manipulation in finger billiards is by twisting the ball between the thumb and the middle finger. A finger billiardist normally has the privilege of placing the cue ball in any position he may desire prior to "shooting".[5]

A carrom board

The name finger billiards has sometimes been borrowed and applied to games that involve similar manipulation of round objects such as for the game of Shove-Goat, a game popular in Shakespearean England,[a] which employed a coin with similar properties to an American half dollar;[6] and Carrom, which refers to a family of tabletop games[7] originating in India,[8] which have been described as a cross between "tiddlywinks and snooker"[9] or "marbles and pool".[10]

Spectacular amounts of spin, and notably side spin (sometimes called english) can be imparted with hand manipulation of billiard balls.[3] In billiard's early days, before the cue tip was invented[3] reportedly by François Mingaud,[11] little spin could be intentionally placed on balls with the tool then predominantly in use, called a mace,[12] which consisted of "a square-fronted box-wood head, attached to a fine ash pole, of some four of five feet in length",[12] nor by the first cues which predated the innovation of of cue chalk, and which had a flat-fronted end, which made slippage without a central hit inescapable.[13] Since finger billiard was practiced for many years prior to the cue tip's invention, it is probable that it the placing of such spin was known through finger billiards long before there was any way to impart it with implements.[3]

According to the Brooklyn Citizen Almanac, Finger billiards came into professional vogue in or about 1855, and that the principal players in its early years, at least in the United States, were Yank Adams and Louis Shaw.[14] The game never caught on with the masses as a pastime, and was mostly relegated to exhibition and challenge matches by top practitioners. In the realm of exhibition, however, it was a popular attraction.


Yank Adams[edit]

Main article: Yank Adams

Yank Adams in particular was a huge crowd draw. He was a a finger billiards specialist, disdaining the cue stick entirely.[15], named by his professional peers the world's best player of finger billiards and the "greatest exhibition player who ever lived."[2] Adams performed about 80 shots per exhibition and had a large repertoire of practiced shots—more than 500, affording him the luxury to not repeat a single shot when playing at an exhibition venue for a week's time.[2] Over an extensive career, Adams gave exhibitions in nearly every city in the United States and a large number of cities in Europe.ref name="Years">"Still Playing Finger Billiards Although Sixty-Seven Years Old" (PDF). The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. February 23, 1913. p. front page. </ref> In 1868 Adams appeared before the Prince of Wales in London and the Comte de Paris in Paris.[1] Adams also gave exhibitions for three U.S. Presidents and for prominent figures of the age such as the Vanderbilts and Goulds.[1] Bullocks Billiard Guide said of Adams that he had been paid more than $70,000 for exhibition alone over 7 years, which was more than the balance of all other listed billiardists combined.[1]

1878 Adams–Sexton matches[edit]

Starting on March 15, 1878, a series of three billiards matches[16] at the game of straight rail[17] took place between William Sexton and Yank Adams at Manhattan's Gilmore's Gardens[b] that pitted a finger billiards player against a player using a cue stick[16] for a purse of $500.[18] The terms of the match were that Adams using his finger to propel the balls, was required to score 2,000 point to win the match, while Sexton, using a cue, was required to make 1,000 points.[16] The venue was one of the largest at which any form of billiards had ever been featured.[19]

On the first day of the match Adams ran 1,110 points employing finger billiards.[16] Despite Adams' impressive opening performance, by the third and last day of the match Sexton was far in the lead.[19] In Dewey-Defeats-Truman-style, many newspapers reported that Sexton won the tourney, as their reporters left the tournament before it was over at a time when Sexton had a seemingly indomitable lead.[19] The New York Times, for example, reported that Sexton won the match, though they leavened the result by reporting that despite the prize fund, it was a "friendly match",[17] geared toward exhibition, and that "Adams could undoubtedly have run the game out on three occasions, but preferred to make 'display' shots in place of his usual "nurse" play, against which a cue player stands no chance whatever."[17] What actually occurred was that with Sexton needing only seven points to sew up the championship, Adams stepped to the table and ran out, making 1,181 points in a row for the win.[19]

M. Adrian Izar[edit]

New Yorkers had previously been treated to finger billiards exhibition by French master M. Adrien Izar, who had astonished spectators with his finger billiards performance in an exhibition held on September 20, 1875.[20] The game was little known in the United States prior to that display, and Izar was considered the game's champion player, at least in France and in England, where he popularized the game.[20][21] The night before the 1878 exhibition, Adams received a telegram from Izar challenging Adams to play for the championship and naming Chicago as the site for contest, though ultimately the challenge match was not arranged.[15]

Louis Shaw[edit]

Adams' chief professional rivalry in later years was with Louis Shaw.[14]

Richard de Kuyper[edit]

Eugene Carter[edit]

George H. "Handless" Sutton[edit]

Arthur Thurnblad[edit]

Isidro Ribas[edit]

Juan Navarro[edit]

Cue Ball Kelly[edit]

Mike Massey[edit]


  1. ^ Shove-Goat appears in William Shakespeare's Henry IV (Act II, Scene iv), in which the character Falstaff, says: "Quoit him down, Bardolph, like a shove-goat 200 shilling: nay, an a' do nothing but speak nothing, a' shall be nothing here."[22] ("Quoit him down" here has the same meaning as "throw him down".[23])
  2. ^ The building that became the first Madison Square Garden at 26th Street and Madison Avenue was originally the passenger depot of the New York and Harlem Railroad. When the depot moved uptown in 1871, the building was sold to P.T. Barnum who converted it into the "Hippodrome" for circus performances. In 1876 it became "Gilmore's Garden," an open air arena used for sporting events such as marathon races and, in 1877, the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It was finally renamed "Madison Square Garden" in 1879 by William Kissam Vanderbilt.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d "Finger Billiards: Yank Adams to Give and Exhibition at the Standard To-Night". The Saint Paul Daily Globe. April 26, 1888. p. 5. 
  2. ^ a b c d "All Done With the Fingers: The Manner in Which Yank Adams Toys With the Spheres". The Sun (New York, NY). June 14, 1891. p. 16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Shamos, Michael Ian (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford. p. 94. ISBN 1-55821-219-1. 
  4. ^ "Yank Adams, of Chicago". Omaha Daily Bee. November 2, 1889. p. 2. 
  5. ^ "The New Billiard-Player". The New York Times. September 21, 1875. 
  6. ^ Arnold, Karen South (1993). Playing Grandma's Games. Ouray, CO.: Western Reflections. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-890437-47-3. 
  7. ^ Muthiah, S. (2000). At Home in Madras: a Handbook For Chennai. Madras: Overseas Women's Club,. p. 288. OCLC 47893485. 
  8. ^ Fernando, Leslie. "Carrom boss Jayasinghe determined to make Sri Lanka No.1". Sunday Observer. 
  9. ^ Richard Plunkett; Brigitte Ellemor (August 1, 2003). Sri Lanka. Paris: Lonely Planet. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-74059-423-3. 
  10. ^ Naomi Gaede-Penner (July 26, 2011). From Kansas Wheat Fields to Alaska Tundra: A Mennonite Family Finds Home. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-61777-202-3. 
  11. ^ Byrne, Robert (1998). Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. ISBN 0-15-100325-4. 
  12. ^ a b Phelan, Michael (1858). The game of billiards (11th ed.). New York: H.W. Collender. pp. 31–32, 44. OCLC 38536192. 
  13. ^ Johnson, Alvin A. (1893). Robert Lilley, ed. Johnson's Universal Cyclopedia: A New Edition 1. New York: A. J. Johnson Co. OCLC 68137336. 
  14. ^ a b Brooklyn Citizen Almanac. Brooklyn: Brooklyn Citizen. 1893. p. 141. OCLC 12355298. 
  15. ^ a b "The New Billiard Expert, Mr. "Yank" Adams' First Public Exhibition in This City". The New York Times. January 29, 1878. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Finger Billiards vs. Cue Billiards". The New York Times. March 16, 1878. 
  17. ^ a b c "Cue against Finger Billiards". The New York Times. March 17, 1878. 
  18. ^ "Cue and Finger Billiards". The New York Times. March 17, 1878. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Still Playing Finger Billiards Although Sixty-Seven Years Old" (PDF). The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. February 23, 1913. p. front page. 
  20. ^ a b "The New Billiard-Player". The New York Times. September 21, 1875. 
  21. ^ Shamos, Mike (1999). The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York City, NY, US: Lyons Press. p. p. 99. ISBN 1-55821-797-5. 
  22. ^ Shakespeare, William (1901). The works of William Shakespeare. Vol. 6. Philadelphia: J.D. Morris and Co. p. 63. OCLC 28135585. 
  23. ^ Greenshields, John Blackwood (1864). Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow. Edinburgh: The Caledonian Press. p. 210. OCLC 14085485. 
  24. ^ Burrows, Edwin G.; Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-514049-1. 

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