The German Pyramid Game
From "The Billiard Book" by Captain Crawley, published 1866
The German Pyramid Game (Pyramiden-Partie) is played in the following manner:_ 'Twenty-one balls are arranged close to each other in the form of a triangle, by means of a triangular wooden frame. The frame is removed, and the balls stand on the part of the table of which the spot forms the centre, and with the base of the Pyramid about a foot from the cushion. The object of the game is to make a succession of Winning Hazards without once failing, and without making a Losing Hazard till the balls are all in the pockets.
'The player first breaks the mass of balls with his own ball. This may be effected either by a strong stroke on the point of the triangle, or (in cases where the player is allowed to miss once) by a Bricole taking the small end of the mass angularly, after which he may drive the remainder of the mass before his Cue, pocketing as many as he can, except the ball he plays with.
Much depends on the manner in which the balls are broken, to ensure a succession of winning strokes into the different pockets, and for this purpose it is best for the balls to be spread well over the table. The player selects any ball he pleases, to play at any other ball so as to make a winning stroke each time.
He is not limited in his choice of ball either to play with or at_only he is bound to make a Winning Hazard every stroke, and never to pocket the ball he plays with. The first failure forfeits the stroke, and the balls have to be replaced for another player. It is also necessary that three balls should be holed in each pocket, leaving two others to be disposed of at pleasure.
The last stroke of all should be made with the player's original ball, pocketing the last ball and at the same time losing the other, either by a Following-stroke or Pyramid, or by any other mode of obtaining a Losing Hazard. Should all these conditions be fulfilled, and the table be cleared in twenty successive strokes, with at least three balls in each pocket, the player obtains the highest degree of success, and scores 398. Should he not succeed in losing his own ball at the last, as well as pocketing, only half (199) is scored.
If he miss a stroke, so that the game is up before all the balls are pocketed, the score is determined by the number of balls in the pockets, provided each pocket is found to contain at least one ball.
The score is then in proportion to the number distributed: as each ball of three in a pocket counts for more than if it were only one of two, if any pocket has only one ball, it lessens the value of each of those, however numerous, in the other pockets; and a single pocket remaining empty renders the whole void, and nothing is scored for the game, whatever number of balls may have been made in other pockets.
The Marker walks round the table during play, and warns the striker how many balls are already placed. The adversary is perfectly inactive during the alternate games. It is, in fact, a sort of solitaire for each player in turn.
'When the first game is over and the score marked, the balls are replaced for the second player; and after he is out the first player resumes, and so on in succession. The scores of the game on each side are added up at the end of the match, and he who has scored most wins, bets being regulated by the number of points.
'Odds are given by allowing the inferior player to make one, two, or three faults in the game: i.e. missing his ball, or his stroke, or losing his own ball so many times in the game.'
'There is less difficulty' (says the writer I quote) 'in playing the Pyramid on a German table than on ours, the pockets being cut into the table, instead of being bags extending beyond it; so that in the case of two cushioned balls, either might pocket the other by a straight stroke, which on our tables is next to impossible. Indeed, very great skill would be required to complete the game of 398 on an English table. The great art consists in varying the stroke, from one pocket to another, so as to fill all; the player usually keeping the ball he plays with stationary, by striking it very low, so as to place it for the next stroke, and avoid the risk of a Losing Hazard.'