Pool table Buyers Guide


THINKING POOL TABLES?

A pool table can be a great investment for any home entertainment area whether it’s in your parlor, basement or even your decked out garage. With sensible care, it will last for many years, providing your family with thousands of hours of pleasure. Before you call the Pool Table Movers, we have listed below some questions you need to ask yourself when considering your huge purchase. It is much better knowing a few basic points before stepping into a standard billiard store than having to rely on that lone salesperson who gets a commission from your purchase…Or equip yourself with knowledge about pool tables right here and save a few dollars without the pressure or bad suits!


Wondering which pool table is right for your home?

Where will your pool table go?

Let’s start with size.

What size table are you seeking?

Now back to where the table will go. The two questions go hand in hand.
As you may know tables come in a number of different sizes, the most common of which are 7' (bar size), 8' (home size), Oversized 8' (commercial size), and 9' (tournament size). Regulation-size pool tables have a playing surface that is twice as long as it is wide. As a general guide (some manufacturers may vary) the following chart to show you the four common sizes depicting surface and outer dimensions:
Bottom of Form

The larger the table, the more challenging the game becomes because the pockets are farther apart and of course, there is more playing surface. No matter which size you choose, keep in mind that minimum space requirements will change depending on the length of the cue (stick) you select. Of course, also keep in mind, if you plan on sharing the space with other rec-room games be sure to add more square footage. We have charted minimum and optimum room requirements for you below:

Room Size Requirements Chart

7' Table 8' Table Oversized 8' 9' Table
48" Cue 11'6" x 14'6" 12' x 15'6" 12' x 15'8" 12'6" x 16'6"
52" Cue 12' x 15' 12'6" x 16' 12'6" x 16'4" 13' x 17'
57" Cue 13' x 16' 13'6" x 17' 13'6" x 17'4" 14' x 18'
Optimal 17’ x 13½' 18’ x 14’ 18' x 14'6" 19’ X 14½'
Dimensions
covers all cues

Now that you have that out of your way, the next question: Who will be playing on the pool table? That question will address ware and tear that occurs through play, normal or otherwise. If your five year old will be playing with his friends, perhaps you may want to consider a starter table and not invest too much. Or you want to look for a quality, durable standard pool table if it is used occasionally by a youngster with you playing the majority of the time. Which leads to: How much do you want to spend? Most of the time price reflects the quality and workmanship of the pool table. It is wise to check out the materials used in the construction of the table. Look for structural integrity plus rails and cushions that provide better ball response. Remember the better the materials and quality, the more you will be spending. Basically the ranges are as follows:

  • Least Expensive Models $ 495 to $ 999
  • Economy Models $ 1,000 to $ 1,999
  • Mid Range Models $ 2,000 to $ 3,499
  • Custom Models $ 3,500 and up 
 
 


Price Ranges:


Least Expensive:


Usually lacking quality the least expensive level is considered a toy and is ideal for really young children. This table is not made for precision play. The playing surface is made of artificial materials. The toy table is designed for you to take home, assemble, adjust and play. The materials used in manufacturing this level of table are inferior, therefore, the guarantee, if available, is very limited and the life of the table is short-lived (less than five years (count on it being more like two to three years.)

Economy Level:

Look for this level table to have a ¾" slate playing surface; however, in many cases, manufacturers will use faux or fabricated slate. Short slate, which is another method manufacturers use to cut cost, is slate picture-framed in wood, holes are drilled in the wood and the rails are fastened to the wood, not the slate. This will result in poor rail alignment, rail vibration and ultimately poor table play. The cabinet material and top rails are typically made of particleboard covered in low-grade laminate or vinyl. They appear beautiful in the beginning, but keep in mind, particleboard will crumble or decay over time. The cushions and hardware are typically of the lower grade. You can expect fair table play at this level. The normal warranty is a one-year limited warranty. The average life expectancy of an economy level table is about five to seven years.

Mid Range Level:

This level of table has been the most popular. Many different styles are available, to compliment any décor. The interior cabinet will be supported by both cross and center beam supports. The top rail will be made of laminated hardwoods, the cushion rubber should have a Pro-Am K-66 blended gum rubber profile. (The Billiard Congress of America approved!) Color blended pockets add to the design at this level. The frame cabinet, blind aprons and legs will be constructed of density board covered in a variety of materials. Make sure the legs will transfer support strength to the slate playing surface. The mid range level offers excellent playing characteristics, attractive designs, and should be considered a lifetime investment. Shelti Pool Tables, one of the finest Pool Table companies, although priced economically, are constructed just like the ones you see in pool halls and taverns. From ball chutes to table construction, including a magnetic cue separator, the Shelti tables are made to withstand rigorous play. So do not overlook tables just because you think the price does not reflect the overall performance quality of the table.

Custom Level:

When purchasing this level of billiard table, you should expect only the highest grades of materials, designs and quality workmanship. This range table will feature exotic veneers, or exotic hardwoods, inlays and other embellishments like mother of pearl or even semi-precious gems. This level table should have all the construction features of the mid range table with higher-grade materials used in all facets of the manufacturing process. Unique features and intricate designs are standard at this level. Although they add to the cost, it truly sets them apart from the average pool table. This range table should be considered an "heirloom" that can be passed down to generations to come. At this price point you should get an "Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee!”

Pool Table terminology:


Familiarize yourself to a few words to promote your buying power!

Ball return or chutes: Enlarged openings in all six corners and three in the center where the ball travels

BCA: Billiard Congress of America- the governing body of billiards or pool tables.

Blind Rail or Blind Apron: Attached to the side of the top rail. The blind apron finishes off the top of the table and it covers the edge of the slate, cloth and slate support pad providing a finished look

Cabinet/Frame: The large wood cabinet between the playing surface and the legs.

Center Bracing: Support beam(s) that run down the center of the interior frame cabinet.

Cloth: Usually a blended wool and nylon fabric used to cover the rail/cushions and playing surface. Some companies offer as assortment of colors to choose from to complement your décor.

Cross Bracing: Support beams that run across the width of the interior frame cabinet.

Cushion, Cushion Rubber: The pliable rubber cushion bumper that is attached to the top rail. The cushion is what the ball makes contact with when playing pool.


Facing: A hard rubber lining attached to the top rail at the pocket cut. This rubber lining finishes the top rail covering exposed wood that could damage the pool balls. 


Frame Liner and Slate Support Pad: The slate rests on the top of the table cabinet assists in fusing the frame together and supports the playing surface. The frame liner is critical when anchoring the slate surface to the frame cabinet.

Hardware/Fasteners: Nuts, bolts, screws and staples used to construct the components of the pool table.

Knock Down Cabinet: A frame cabinet design that can be disassembled and re-assembled.

Leg Gusset, Leg Mount: The interior frame support system for the table leg.

Playing Surface: The flat area between the top rails and the cushions where the game is played.

Pocket: Attached to the top rails. Where the object balls are supposed to go.

Sights: Markers inlayed into the top rail also known as diamonds. 


Slate: A metamorphic rock, millions of years old, extremely stable and durable. Resists temperature and humidity changes, precision honed and surfaced. Genuine slate is the only material that is approved by the BCA. Some manufacturers use synthetic slate, so watch out.

Top Rail: The top part of the table; the cushions and pockets are attached to the top rails and the rails are fastened to the playing surface.

Ideal Components:


Now that you have Skimmed through the Glossary, here’s what to look for:

Slate: A slate-playing surface is recognized and approved by the BCA as the only playing surface sanctioned for tournament play. Genuine quarried slate is extremely stable, durable and can resist temperature and humidity fluctuations when precisely honed and surfaced. It should be a dead flat playing surface providing you with that true roll. Look for manufacturers to give measurements that specify the level of precision. Some manufacturers use synthetic slate, so watch out for use of prefixed or suffixed slate words, i.e., perma-slate.

Slate thickness does affect the manufacturing cost of a table, but not the playability of your table if it is properly supported and installed. It is recommended that a minimum of ¾" thick slate be used. Tournament sanctioned tables use 1” slate per BCA regulation.
Pool table slate can come in 1 or 3 piece configurations. Coin operated Pool tables are usually 1 piece slate tables. The advantage of a 1 piece slate table would be that it is much easier to level for the average person. Most will come in 3 pieces as it is easier to transport.

Slate can come with or without a wood backing connected the underside of the slate. The BCA requires that slate have a wood backing for a table to be tournament ready. You can also staple the cloth to the sides of the wood backing in order to stretch the felt tightly. The alternative is gluing the felt to the slate on the outer edges of the slate. This can alter the playing surface of the table after being re-covered or moved.

Slate that does not have wood backing should sit on the frame of the table directly. Some pool tables will have a slate frame liner that is attached to the top of the frame of the table. The slate should line up directly on the liner and the felt can be stapled onto the liner itself. The biggest problem is that the shims that are used to level the table will separate the slate from the slate liner. Other cheap tables will have an MDF top, but can be of good quality too.
The slate should be fastened by screws into the frame or frame liner of the table. There may also be screws that line up down the middle of the table. This can help if the slate has any warp, but slate that is true will not need them. Professional pool table installers can also drill holes with carbide bits if they need to pull the slate down.

Cushions/or Bumpers: Look for the natural gum rubber content in the cushion to be in the range of 65% or higher. Cushions, such as the Pro-Am K-66, that have a 72% natural gum rubber content will provide years of accurate, consistent and lively table play. They allow for the best reaction of the pool balls and are less likely to dry rot over the years. The higher percentage of live gum rubber, the better and more consistent the rebound will be. K-66 cushions are required by the BCA for tournament pool play and have been thoroughly tested for accuracy and speed.

Live air space is another thing you should look for on a cushion. It is on the rear side of the cushion. It also helps control the accuracy and speed of the rebound. It gives the cushion the ability to breathe throughout and maintain its consistency. Without the pocket of air space, the cushions are more likely to harden over time because it cannot breathe. If you are buying a new table it’s more than likely equipped with the K-66 so there is no need to ask the salesperson about it.

Blind Rail: The blind rail gives a finished look to the top portion of the pool table. The blind rail receives a lot of abuse during table play. Players lean on it to make a shot and constantly bump the blind rail. The blind rails should be securely fastened to the side of the top rail. Ask how the blind rail is attached and what type of material is used.

Rails: A two-piece cross-laminated hardwood oversized rail design will give you a component that will resist cracking, cupping or warping. Look for MDF or other high-tech composites to be appearing in the market.

The sub rail or rail liner is a part of the rail that is not visible when the pool table is assembled. The sub rail attaches to the bottom of the visible top rail or rail cap. It is also where the rubber bumpers attach to the rail of the table. The sub rail also attaches to the slate when bolted down. You should look for a solid wood sub rail. Solid wood will give you the best support. You may see MDF or some other high-tech composite here as well.

The Rail Cap is the exposed top of the rail on the pool table. It should be made from solid hard wood so that it may resist the scratching and hitting of pool cues and balls. Some less expensive models will have veneer or laminate on the rails. Laminate can be a very durable substance to resist scratches.

Standard profile rails are a common type of rail found on pool tables. These rails usually have leather pockets that are exposed to the outside of the table. Most of these have rail caps that are about 4 3/4 inches.

Wide profile rails are a little wider than that of the standard profile rails. They measure around 6 inches wide, give you a larger area to place your bridging hand during play, and give the table a nicer look as it is a piece of furniture.

Commercial profile rails are usually made with a veneer or laminate. On the less expensive tables, there will be plastic pockets, which can actually last longer than leather.

Another critical part of the top rail is the hardware used to fasten the rail to the slate-playing surface. One fastening method is a rectangular floating nut plate embedded inside the rail. These nut plates, along with a 3/8" hex bolt and dome toothed washer, provide the ultimate downward torque and tensile strength, eliminating vibration.

Sights are the markers on the top side of the pool tables rails. While playing pool, many players use the sights for reference points for aiming bank shots. These sights do not structurally affect the play of the table, but are used for shooting, and provide aesthetic enhancements. Pool tables come with round or diamond sights. The diamonds should line up. This is where custom tables add their bling.

Frame Cabinet: It is worthwhile to look at how the table fits together when examining the frame cabinet of the table, The more rigid and sturdy the frame cabinet, the less chance the slate will shift or pop out of place therefore not be level. If the frame support system is designed and engineering properly, the frame wall thickness is not all that significant. The only reason for a thicker frame wall is to ensure that the table panel will not sag from all the weight.

An accurately designed frame construction should have interlocking center bracing and cross bracing anchored directly to the frame cabinet wall. Some manufacturers will support the interior bracing with scrap wood blocks. Although it costs more to manufacture, a combination of steel-timber connectors and/or special alloyed hardware anchored directly into the frame and bracing will give superior strength. This method unitizes the frame cabinet. Steel and/or other alloys will maintain its original shape and strength characteristics forever.

Cloth: will generally be a wool/nylon blend for the most pool tables. A quality cloth that is a blended 75% wool and 25% nylon 19 to 22 oz. fabric will give you excellent playability and durable wear. Some lower end pool tables will use a synthetic nylon such as Taclon® or Tadlon®. Tournament tables are covered with cloth of no less than 85% combed worsted wool and no more than 15% nylon. 100% combed worsted wool fabric is preferred.

Legs: You will find different methods used to fasten the legs to the corner brackets:

  • T-nut design will have holes drilled into the top of the leg and inserting a plug with a T-nut on the bottom side of that plug. That plug is glued into the leg of the table and held into position with dowels to let the legs become bolted to the frame with bolts.
  • Lag bolts will involve putting a wood screw into the leg with the end that is threaded protruding from the leg. The frame is fastened to the leg with a nut.
  • Threaded inserts involve drilling a hole into the top portion of the leg of the table. An aluminum barrel is then inserted into the hole. The insert is screwed and glued in the opposite direction of the threaded bolts.

Quality pool tables will utilize a large heavy gauge 3/8" lag bolt or machine bolt with a heavy gauge fender washer. Rigidity is the key factor between the frame and the legs to eliminate movement. The larger the base, the more balanced the table will be and will evenly distribute the weight from the playing surface to the floor. Quality will dictate price and there are quite a few options out there.

Now you are armed with the basic knowledge to make your purchase. Sure, we could have covered information pertaining to the various wood or veneer finishes and styles of cabinets but you do not need us to tell you what your style or taste is ….

Knowing the manufacturer and retailer is another important aspect of your pool table purchase. Both should be experienced and reliable. Recreational room games should be their primary business. Make sure they are authorized dealers of the brand you ultimately select as this would be pertinent to any warranties attached to your purchase. Many retailers will have a particular product they feature. For example, here at Rec-Rooms.com , we feature Shelti Pool Tables which offers durably constructed tavern style tables for your home. We hope we have provided enough information so that you may make an educated, hassle free decision about your pool table purchase. Whether you choose a storefront or an online retailer you may need to think about taxes, shipping and delivery and set-up costs. In some case, you may not have to pay taxes or worry about the shipping if you do elect to purchase online. Delivery and set-up can be two separate services. Make sure to double measure your doors or other entry points available for delivery and set-up prior to making your purchase!

FUN FACTS

The word billiard is derived from the French word 'Bille" meaning ball, referring to a game involving ball and stick, and "art" meaning the art of playing the game. Exact historical accounts are very ambiguous, although the French have given new meaning and life to the game, refining, evolving and popularizing it, they cannot claim to have invented it. Billiards was played as an out door lawn game, resembling golf or croquet, in Northern Europe during the 1500 century.

The first actual evidence of billiards was found in the 1470 inventory of King Louis XI of France in the form of a billiard game board. However, lawn games were thought to have originated from bat and ball games played as early as the 1300 century. Historians are unsure about the reasons for the evolution of these games. Whether it was purely for entertainment or served some social or religious purpose in ancient times is still hotly debated among historians.

Billiards graduated to indoor games and became popular among aristocrats and commoners in France by the mid 1500's. Billiards a game of subtle physical deliverance, profound concentration and mental agility allowed fair play and equal footage to players of both sexes. By the mid 1600's, the table version similar to today's games appeared. The innovations of the cue, in the 1700's, lead to the disappearance of the mace that was initially used. Soon, billiards acquired its status as a scientific game with precisely designed equipment, manufacturing plants for tables, standardized rules, etc.

The leather cue tip initially designed by Captain Minguard for protection of the cue added a new dimension to the game. By 1850's, billiards spread to most of the world. In 1826, England's John Thurstion changed the wooden game board to slate. By 1797, new fabric replaced cotton or wool to improve smoothness and friction. Balls evolved from wood to ivory to the present Colloidal coated plastic form by 1869.

The first public pool hall was built in England during the end of the 18th century. The pool hall featured one billiard table with one pocket. The biggest pool hall in history was built in Detroit in the 1920s; it featured more than 100 tables in addition to an exhibition room attached to a 250-seats theatre hall.

The first world championship in sports history was the 1873 World Billiards Championship. William Cook won the title. John Roberts was the runner up.

The first woman Champion who won the World Billiard Champion title was actually a man. The woman billiard champion, who was known by the name of Frances Anderson and for outplaying (almost) every man and woman in both the American and European billiards world throughout the first centuries of the 20th century, came out as a man that was born under the name of Orie and created quite a stir on the 1920s billiards circle.

Most Popular Pool Games

Eight Ball is a call shot game played with a cue and fifteen object balls, numbered 1 through 15. One player must hit the group of balls numbered 1 through 7 (solid colors) into the pockets and the other player has 9 through 15 (stripes).

The player who pockets his group of balls first and then legally pocketing the 8 ball wins the game. The choice of stripes or solids is not determined on the break, even if balls are pockets from one or both groups. The choice of group is decided only when a player legally pockets a called object after the break.

Nine Ball is played with nine object balls and a cue ball. On each attempt the first ball the cue ball hits must always be the lowest numbered ball on the table, but the balls do not have to be pocketed in order. If a player pockets any ball on a legal shot, he remains at the table for another attempt until he misses, fouls, or pockets the nine ball.

After a miss, the next player must shoot from the positions left by the previous player, only after a foul the next player may begin with the cue ball anywhere on the table. The players do not have to call their shots. The match ends when one of the players has won the required number of games.

The balls must be racked in a diamond shape, with the one ball placed at the top of the diamond and on the foot spot. The nine ball is placed in the center of the rack. All other balls can be placed in random order.

Cutthroat is a three-player pocket billiards game, played on a pool table using cue sticks. Each player is assigned a set of numbered balls. The object is to be the last player with at least one ball still on the table. Subtle differences in game rules exist, with numerous regional variations

When starting the game, the one-ball, six-ball, and eleven-ball should be placed on the three points of the rack. The one-ball is placed on the top where it is spotted.

In cutthroat, the "low" balls are 1-5, the "mid" balls are 6-10 and the "high" balls are 11-15. Each set of five balls is initially unclaimed, the assignment of groups of balls to each player is done during the initial stages of game play. The three players take turns attempting to knock any ball into a pocket. Once a player has knocked in a ball, he knows that he does not own that group of balls. For example, if a player started the game by hitting in the 3-ball and the 8-ball, he would own the high balls, as he has knocked in a low ball and mid ball. The other two players would still not have ownership over a set of balls, and would, during their turns, attempt to knock in balls to gain ownership over a set. This may vary by region. The most common variation is to assign the sets ahead of time in order of play (the first shooter is 1-5, the second shooter is 6-10, and the third shooter is 11-15).

A player's turn continues so long as he knocks in a ball with each shot. A shooter can even knock in his own ball, allowing him to continue a turn in exchange for the now-weakened position. This circumstance is called "cutting one's own throat".

Parts Of The Cue Stick

Tip-The smaller end of the cue, opposite the butt, that makes contact with the ball, usually made from treated leather.

Ferrule-The cap attached to the striking end of the cue for reinforcement and to prevent the shaft from splitting.

Shaft-The thinner part of a cue, on which the cue tip is attached, that slides through the player's fingers while striking the ball. On a two-piece cue, the shaft extends from the cue tip to the joint.

Joint- On two-piece cues, the screw and thread device, approximately midway in the cue, that permits it to be broken down into two separate sections.

Butt of Cue-The larger end of a cue, opposite the tip, held when striking the ball. On a two-piece cue, the butt extends up to the joint.

We are delighted to provide you the necessary information to make a wise purchase for your Billiard Table Supplies. We are happy to help you make the right decision. Our specialty niche is the professional-play arcade or tavern style pool tables that are built tough to withstand many years of rigorous play.

If you haven’t already, check out our pool page our sale pool tables, Billiard Tables for Sale other fine game room products.