billar-1If you're going to spend time in Colombia, you'll probably sooner or later come across billar. We should start with a clarification: billar in Spanish refers to both the sport of a billar, and the place where you play billar. Billar refers to two closely related games which use a pool table without pockets and three balls: billar libre, and billar de tres bandas. It's a game with an illustrious history in Colombia: in the Museo Nacional in Bogota, you can see a billar table that was used by Francisco Paula de Santander.

Billar Libre

Billar libre features a pool table without pockets. There are three balls: yellow, white, and red. One player plays with the white ball, and the other with the yellow ball. The objective of the game is simple: you must strike the other two balls on the table with your own. It sounds simple, but it's really anything but. Points are called carambolas in Spanish, and a typical game is played to 50. While some shots in billar libre are quite simple, other involve very complex and precise angles. Additionally, billar libre typically employs the use of "efectos", or striking the ball with various spins to produce various types of shots.

Billar de Tres Bandas

Billar de tres bandas is a more complicated version of billar libre, which features a larger table. In billar de tres bandas, you must strike one ball, then three sides of the table, before striking the second ball. Billar de tres bandas is typically the domain of middle-aged men in Colombia.

What You'll Find in a Billar

In a typical billar, you'll find tables of all three games: pool, libre, and tres bandas. Most also feature card tables where you can play chess (ajedrez), checkers (damas), dominos, or various card games. Some also offer rana. Typically they will also feature a bar serving Colombian beer, liquor, coffee, and softdrinks, and sometimes snacks such as empanadas. Also, they usually have several televisions that are almost always showing a soccer game.

In a billar you typically walk in and look for an employee, and then select a table. Billar tables are rented by the hour, at quite reasonably prices: normally between $4.000 and $6.000 an hour. The employee will take your drink order, and then you'll pay your bill in cash on the way out the door.

Where to Find Billars

Two of the best billars in Bogota are located in Chapinero and the Centro.billar-2

Chapinero: Calle 57 with la Caracas...on the southeastern corner, right next to the Calle 57 Transmilenio stop. This billar is one of the largest in the city, with great tables, great staff, and three floors of billar enjoyment!

Centro:  Calle 17 between la Septima and la Sexta...in the middle of the block. This billar is your best bet if you want to play in downtown Bogota. It's got around twenty tables, and it's just a few minutes walk from the Museo de Oro Transmilenio stop.

CBP Housing Ad