Billiards is one of the popular games which has been in existence for many years. Many of the billiard enthusiasts want to have their own table at home to spend time with their family and friends playing their favorite game.
One needs to choose billiard/pool table sensibly to get the best from the game. Today, a large variety of billiard/pool tables, designed to suit the needs of different individuals/groups, is available in the market.
You can make a better purchase decision if you have knowledge (at least basic) about them. In this article we tried to give you some basic information on different types of billiard tables segregated based on the make, material and mechanism.
Basic types of pool tables
Basically, there are two types of pool tables that are used to play billiards. They are the English pool tables and the American pool tables.
English pool tables The English pool tables are usually 6 to 7 feet long and are mostly used in clubs and pubs. The balls on these tables are small in size measuring between 1.5-2 inches and so are the pockets. The center pockets are open allowing the players to pot even from tighter angles, while the corner pockets or the ‘jaws’ are narrow.
American pool tables Compared to English tables, American tables are larger, usually 7 to 9.5 feet long. Even the balls and the pockets are big; they can easily accommodate balls as big as 2¼ inches. Unlike jaws on English tables, the jaws here are wide making it easy to play shots along the cushions. The center pockets are not that open, supporting a straight-cut style rather than angular shots.
Billiard tables based on the make and the material
The playing surface that lies beneath the cloth of a billiard board, typically called as the ‘bed’, is the main component that decides the playability and precision of the game. Different materials are used to make these beds, based on which the cost and durability of the table varies. Following are three popular types of billiard beds.
Slate bed tables These tables are made of thick slates whose thickness varies from 19mm to 30mm. Slate bed tops are used on bigger and expensive tables which sometimes accommodate 2-3 beds. These tables provide an excellent even playing surface that makes it easy for the balls to roll smoothly at precise directions and that is why they are the only table tops that are used in tournaments.
Slate beds are durable than any other tops and withstand water and moisture. The cloth stuck to this top may wear overtime but it can be easily replaced. The only disadvantage of these tops is they are very heavy, thus the transportation and installation becomes cumbersome.
Slatron bed tables Slatron bed tables, made of a synthetic material called slatron, are synthetic alternative for slate beds. Slatron is composed of a plastic layer that surrounds particle board. Though the quality of slatron beds is far below that of slate beds, they are durable than any other synthetic beds. These beds are less expensive, light in weight and thus are easy to transport and install.
The disadvantage of slatron table beds is their tendency to decay over time causing the table to warp. Further, as they are light in weight, the pool table can tip over when someone leans on it with force. However, good quality slatron tops last long and cost less compared to slate tops.
MDF bed tables The medium density fibreboard (MDF) bed is another type of synthetic bed used as an inexpensive alternative for slate beds. MDF surfaces are made by compressing tiny pieces of wood or saw dust together under heat and pressure. They are just like particle boards used in slatron beds. MDF beds are also lighter and the repairs are also affordable.
If you want to buy a billiard board at low budget, these synthetic boards are good choices. Moreover, they come in small sizes, thus, can fit in small rooms. However, to protect them from warping and wearing, enough care should be taken they should be stored away from water, moisture and highly humid environments.
Billiard tables based on the mechanism
Some billiard tables will have inbuilt mechanism which makes it easy for the players to retrieve the balls or control the game. Broadly, they are of two types –
Drop pocket tables No mechanism is used in these tables. The balls simply go and sit in the pockets. After every game players need to retrieve them from the pockets. American pool tables usually have drop pockets.
Ball return tables In these tables, once the balls are potted, an inbuilt system sends all the pocketed balls to the collection chamber, where the balls will line-up based on their number. All the balls remain in the chamber until the next game starts. There are two types of ball return tables available –
Free play tables After the pot, the balls return to the holding area which is at the end of the table. These tables are ideal to use in homes, work places, and clubs.
Coin-operated tables These tables are similar to free play ones except for one simple in-built mechanism. The player needs to insert a coin to retrieve the balls back to play a new game. The mechanism could be either electronic or mechanical. Coin-operated tables are usually found in commercial locations.
Billiard tables designed for homes
Apart from the traditional and commercial billiard tables, there are some tables that are specifically designed to suit the home environments.
Pool dining table If you are running short of space, a pool dining table is of much help. As the name says, it is a table for dining as well as playing billiards. It is specially designed in such a way that it can be used for both the purposes. By simply adding the table top, the pool table converts into a dining table. For playing pool you can easily remove that table top.
Folding pool table You can play the game wherever you want if you have a folding pool table. The folding leg system of these tables helps you to fold them when not in use. Folding tables are generally made up of MDF, which makes them lighter and thus are easy to move around.
Outdoor pool table If you want to have your pool table in your garden or lawn, then you can go for outdoor pool table. These tables are made with weatherproof material like marine ply-wood that can resist to extreme weathers.