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A Clean Slate

The playing surface of a billiard table has traditionally been made using a large slab of slate.
Slate is a bluish-gray rock that cleaves (splits naturally) in broad, flat segments. Mainly
composed of chlorite, mica and quartz, slate is formed when layers of clay sediment (the soil
and debris that settles at the bottom of a body of water) with large concentrations of these
minerals are compressed into sedimentary rock. The sediment hardens in thin layers as it
compresses, creating a very hard rock with hundreds of naturally flat layers.
Slate can be ground and polished into a perfectly flat surface fairly easily, which is why it is
sought after for billiard tables. Slate can be found all over the world, but major exporters include
Italy, Brazil, China and India. The best slate for billiard tables comes from the Liguarian region
of northern Italy. Because of this, Italian slate is preferred for a quality billiard table.
The cost of transporting slate due to the size and weight add considerably to the overall cost of a
quality table. The slate is normally three-quarters of an inch to 1-inch (1.9 cm to 2.54 cm) thick
and weighs between 400 and 600 lbs (181.4 kg to 272.1 kg). To make it easier to transport and
less prone to fracturing from stress, the slate is normally split into three slabs, each about 150 to
200 lbs (68 kg to 90.7 kg). While this makes it much easier to move and set up, the three-slab
version requires some work to ensure that the three slabs match perfectly and are flat all the way
across. A few manufacturers use a single, large piece of slate instead of three pieces, but the
three-slab method is generally preferred.

The slate should be framed on the underside with wood.

Ideally, the slate should be oversized. This means that the slate is slightly larger that the actual
playing surface so that it extends beneath the rails of the table, providing additional strength to
the rails. Most quality tables have the slate framed as well, with a wood backing glued to the
underside of the slate. The felt cloth that is stretched over the slate is stapled or tacked to the
frame. Without the frame, the cloth would have to glued directly to the underside of the slate.
The slate is carved out around the edges where the pockets will go. Also, holes are drilled along
the edge so that the slate can be bolted to the top of the table frame.

Italian slate is considered the best slate to use because it absorbs water better than any
other type. This means that there are few problems with dampness or humidity affecting
the cloth.
Inexpensive recreational billiard tables use non-slate playing surfaces, including

Slatron and Permaslate - Hard, synthetic materials that are basically sheets of plastic
layered over particle board
Honeycomb - A stiff plastic honeycomb structure between two sheets of plastic
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) - A flat piece of material made from compressing
tiny pieces of wood together, also called pressed wood or particle board

The biggest problem with non-slate surfaces is that they warp easily and don't have the durability
to maintain a perfectly flat playing surface for any length of time.
The quality of the playing surface doesn't matter unless it has a solid foundation to support it. In
the next section, we will look at the construction of the table itself.

A Solid Foundation

The table cabinet starts with a large, rectangular, wooden frame, typically made of thick
hardwood planks. Usually, there are one or more cross beams, along with a center beam, to
provide additional support to the slate. The frame is connected at the corners either with metal
brackets or wooden blocks. The metal brackets or wooden blocks are placed in each corner and
bolted to the planks, forming a very solid frame.
Depending on the size of the table, and the thickness and weight of the slate, there will be four,
six or eight legs supporting the table. Some designer tables replace the legs with a large pedestal
base. Table legs can be hollow or solid, although solid legs are the preferred choice. While the
legs may just go to the bottom of the frame, most experts agree that solid legs that extend to the
underside of the slate provide the best support.
A billiard table factory is essentially a specialized woodshop. The process goes like this:

A good billiard table has a grid of wooden support beams to hold the slate.
The table cabinet normally falls into one of five categories:

Laminate - MDF with a paper or plastic woodgrain glued on the exposed surface;
normally found on inexpensive non-slate tables
Wood Veneer - MDF or solid wood with a thin piece of hardwood glued to the exposed
surface; found on inexpensive to moderate tables
Wood-on-Wood - Quality hardwood glued on top of another type of wood; found on
moderate to good-quality tables.
Solid Hardwood - Entire cabinet made of quality hardwood, such as oak, tulipwood or
mahogany; found on top-quality tables
Metal-on-Wood - Sheets of metal, such as aluminum, attached to a wooden frame; found
on commercial tables

Most billiard tables have drop pockets, which simply means that some type of net or container
is under each pocket to catch the balls that fall into that pocket.
Some tables, particularly commercial tables, have a ball return.

The Path of Least Resistance

If you look inside a commercial table, there is a system of chutes that connect to the table's six
pockets. Each chute is angled slightly downward from the pocket to the ball return. When a ball
falls into that pocket, gravity causes it to roll along the guide until it reaches the ball return.
A pocketed ball is sent to a collection chamber where the balls line up single-file in a trough.
These numbered balls remain locked in the chamber, which you can see behind a piece of
Plexiglas, until someone wants to play a game and inserts some coins. By placing coins in a slot
and pushing the coin arm in, you trip a lever that allows the balls to roll out of the trough into a
large open access area at the foot end of the table.

A coin-slot mechanism uses a lever to open the chute, allowing the balls to fall into the
access area.

Cue Balls

If a player accidentally pockets the cue ball (an act known as a scratch), the cue ball needs to
come back out from the access area at the foot of the table. For the most part, coin-operated
tables use two types of cue balls that can be easily separated:

An oversized ball that is separated by a radius gauging device.

A magnetic cue ball that triggers a magnetic detector.

The oversized ball is approximately 2-3/8 inches (6 cm) in diameter, which is about one-eighth
of an inch (2 mm) larger than a normal ball. This slight difference in size allows the cue ball to
be separated before it gets to the storage compartment. The smaller numbered balls are able to
pass through a gauging mechanism, while the larger cue ball is directed through a second chute,
where it falls out into an opening on the side of the table.
For players who dislike using the slightly larger cue ball, there are also coin-operated machines
that can use a magnetic ball, in which a magnet is built into the core of the cue ball. Magnetic
cue balls that go into a pocket are separated from numbered balls by a magnetic detector. As the
magnetic ball passes this detector, the magnet triggers a deflecting device that separates the cue
ball and, again, sends it into the opening on the side of the table.

The cue ball returns to a small opening at the head end of the table.
Both the oversized and magnetic cue balls can be used interchangeably on most of today's coinoperated tables, but each has its shortcomings. If you are a beginning pool player the larger ball
might not affect your play, but it can disrupt the play of some advanced players who are used to
playing with the normal 2 1/4-inch diameter (5.7cm) cue ball. Likewise, some players will notice
a difference in the properties of a magnetic ball, which sometimes lacks a true roll. Also, because

the magnetic ball has the magnetic material inserted into it, it has a greater tendency to shatter if
dropped on a hard surface.
Whether the table uses drop pockets or an automatic ball return, the components on top of the
table are the same.

The ball return in a commercial

billiard table

Rails, Cushions and Felt

All around the edge of a billiards table are rails. Ranging from about 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 cm
to 8.89 cm) in width, the rails are normally made of the two pieces. The top part is made of the
same hardwood or other material as the rest of the table. Glued to the bottom of this is a piece of
of wood or MDF that the cloth will staple to when it is stretched over the cushion.
The cushion is a long, wedge-shaped piece of hard rubber that is glued to the side of the rail that
faces into the table's playing surface. Cushions are covered with the same felt cloth used to cover
the slate and should provide a consistent response to any ball that strikes them. All good tables
will have K-66 cushions, which refers to the shape and angle of the cushion rubber.

Cushions are made of hard rubber, and are glued to the rail. Canvas is then glued to the
rubber to keep it from bouncing more than once when a ball strikes the cushion.
Attached to the outside of each rail is the apron. Also called the blind, this is a strip of wood
that matches the rest of the table. It is designed to hide the outside edge of the rail and should be
very firmly secured to the rail.

The cloth is made of wool and nylon. In this picture, you can also see one of the inlays.
Inlays are normally made of mother-of-pearl or plastic, and are used as reference points in
most billiards games.
The final piece of the table is the cloth. Billiard tables normally use tightly-woven cloth made
primarily of wool with a synthetic such as nylon added for durability. The cloth provides a
consistent and smooth playing surface. Billiard cloth is often referred to as felt, but it actually is
nothing like real felt. Real felt is not a woven material but is formed from compressed and
matted fibers and would not work well at all as a smooth playing surface.

A table before the cloth is added

Now that you know how the table is made, what can you do with it?

A rail with the cushion attached

Rack 'Em Up
There are a variety of games played on billiard tables. The games are split into two general
categories: pocket billiards and carom billiards.
Pocket billiards

Called pool by most people, pocket billiards has six holes (pockets): one in each of the four
corners and one in the middle of each long side of the table. An interesting fact is how the name
pool came about. As pocket billiards increased in popularity in England in the late 1800s and
early 1900s, gambling houses called pool rooms installed the tables as another form of
entertainment. They were called pool rooms because people would place bets into a common
fund ("pool") that would pay out to the winners. Eventually, the billiards tables proved so

popular that they became the predominant entertainment at these establishments and the name
"pool room" came to refer to a place where you played pocket billiards, and therefore pocket
billiards became "pool."

8-ball - Arguably the most popular billiards game in the United States, 8-ball uses 15 numbered
balls and a cue ball. One player attempts to "pocket" (put the ball in a hole) balls 1-7 and the
other player tries to make balls 9-15. When a player makes all seven of his balls, the player
attempts to make the 8 ball in a specific pocket. If he does so and does not also pocket the cue
ball, he wins the game.

9-ball - One of the quickest and simplest forms of billiards, 9-ball uses 9 numbered balls and a
cue ball. Players are required to shoot at the lowest ball on the table, beginning with the 1 ball.
Whichever player makes the 9 ball in a way that is within the rules wins the game.
Snooker - While 8-ball is the game in the United States, English players favor this game, which
uses 21 colored balls and a cue ball. 15 of the balls are red and count as one point each when
pocketed. The other balls include one each of yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black, with
point values ranging from 2-7 respectively. A player must first make a red ball before attempting
to pocket any of the other colors, which must be made in order of their value. When a player is
left without a clear shot, they are said to be "snookered." The term "snooker" originally referred
to a recruit in the British Army, where this game originated.
Straight pool - Also known as 14.1 continuous pool, straight pool uses 15 numbered balls and a
cue ball. A player attempts to make the balls in any order, but must specify which ball and what
pocket he plans to make it in. When there is only one ball left on the table, the other 14 are
racked again and the player attempts to break them apart while making the other ball. A point is
given for each ball made with the required number of points to win normally set at 150.
One pocket - This game is played with 15 numbered balls and a cue ball. Before play
commences, the first player chooses one of the corner pockets at the foot end of the table. His
opponent then has the other corner pocket at that end. Each player attempts to make balls in
their pocket, gaining a point for each one made. Points are subtracted for making balls in other
pockets or scratching (making the cue ball).
English billiards - Played with only three balls, there are also three specific ways to score. The
player can make the ball he strikes deflect off another ball and into a pocket. He can hit one ball
and make it strike the other two balls. Or he can strike a ball and make it knock another ball into
a pocket.

Carom Billiards

These games are played on tables without any pockets. Both variations are played with three
balls, one white, one red and a white ball with a red spot.

French billiards - The player chooses one of the two white balls as his cue ball. He must then
cause the cue ball to hit the other two balls.
Three-cushion billiards - This variation requires that the cue ball strike one or more cushions
three times before contacting any object balls.

Table Designs

A standard-sized table

A tournament-sized table
There are nearly as many types of tables as there are variations on billiards.
The information below lists the specifications of some of the more common table designs.

12 ft (3.7 m) x 6.1 ft (1.9 m)


English billiards

12 ft (3.7 m) x 6.1 ft (1.9 m)


Carom professional

10 ft (3 m) x 5 ft (1.5 m)
No pockets


9 ft (2.7 m) x 4.5 ft (1.4 m)


Carom standard

9 ft (2.7 m) x 4.5 ft (1.4 m)

No pockets


8.3 ft (2.5 m) x 4.15 ft (1.25 m)



8 ft (2.4 m) x 4 ft (1.2 m)


7 ft (2.2 m) x 3.5 ft (1.1 m)



6 ft (1.8 m) x 3 ft (0.9 m)

The tables listed above are the most common, but you can find billiards tables in all shapes and
sizes. A version that you sometimes see is called bumper pool and has rubber columns
(bumpers) arranged on the playing surface. Most of these tables are round or octagonal in shape
and have one or more pockets between the bumpers.

Billiards is an exciting and challenging sport that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you can hold a
cue and hit the balls with it, you can play a basic game of billiards. But, like any worthy skill,
excellence at the sport does require practice and an understanding of the equipment.

A bar-sized table

In pool (the common American term for pocket billiards), a ball is struck with the end of a long,
slender stick (cue), causing it to roll into other balls and knock them into holes (pockets) around
the edges of the playing table. A short wall (rail) around the perimeter of the table keeps the balls
on the playing surface. The rail is faced with a rubber cushion so balls that strike it rebound
predictably and remain in play.
In the United States, the game's governing body is the Billiards Congress of America (BCA).
One of the BCA's functions is to define specifications for equipment acceptable for sanctioned
tournaments. Although it does not specify the exact size of an approved pool table, the BCA
requires that its playing surface be twice as long as it is wide. BCA specifications for the table
include maximum allowable surface deflections under a specified vertical force, surface flatness
tolerances, size and shape requirements for the rubber cushion and the pockets, and composition
requirements for the playing surface and its cloth covering.

The origin of billiard tables is uncertain. The most common theory is that around the fifteenth
century, tables were used in France and England for an indoor version of a lawn game similar to
croquet. A ball (bille in French) resting on the table was shoved with a stick (billart in French),
in order to propel the ball through a wire gate to strike a wooden peg. The function of six pockets
around the edges of the table is unclear. Vertical walls (banks in English) around the edges kept
balls from falling off the table. The first recorded billiard table was one sold to King Louis XI of
France in 1470.
Billiards developed simultaneously in England. The rules varied from place to place, as
described in The Complete Gamester, a book published in England in 1674. By this time, the
club-shaped billart had evolved into a slender cue. It took another century for the wire gate and

upright wooden peg to gradually disappear from billiard tables. Because playing surfaces were
made of wood, they had a tendency to warp. As players began to purposely rebound balls off the
table's edge walls, builders began to pad the banks with cloth stuffed with horsehair or rags.
During the 1700s, billiards remained popular in France and England, and caught on in the United
States. Table sizes varied, but the 2:1 ratio of length to width became standard. Rails were
padded with tightly rolled cloth, producing a somewhat more predictable ball rebound.
The Industrial Revolution contributed to a series of improvements in billiard tables. Between
1800 and 1850, chalk was first used on cue stick ends to increase friction, leather cue tips were
invented, diamond-shaped sights were added to rails, slate was introduced as a superior table
surface, and vulcanized rubber (which maintained its properties regardless of temperature
fluctuations) was quickly adapted for rail cushions.
Subsequent refinements in pool tables have related primarily to construction techniques. For
example, in older tables horizontal holes were drilled in the slate edges and filled with molten
lead; screws running through the vertical edge of the rail were tightened into the lead-lined hole.
In contrast, rails are

A pool table with frame.

attached to modern tables by inserting a bolt vertically through a hole in the slate and tightening it into
the bottom of the rail, pulling the rail and slate together snugly. Similarly, in older tables brass dowel
pins were inserted into lead-lined horizontal holes drilled into the edges of the three slate sections
where they would join to form the playing surface. In modern tables, the slate sections are held tightly
together by screwing them to a wood frame, and joints are usually sealed with hot wax.

Raw Materials
Although some inexpensive pool tables use synthetic slate or plastic honeycomb sheets, the
preferred playing surface (and the only one sanctioned by the BCA) is natural slate. It is quite
dense, with the amount in a typical table weighing 450 lb (200 kg) or more. This mass helps keep

the table stationary during play. Italian slate has long been the preferred type, but Brazilian slate
now has some proponents.
Slate is prepared at the quarry, where computer-controlled, diamond-blade saws are used in
conjunction with laser measuring devices to cut it into very flat sheets 0.75-1 in (1.9-2.5 cm)
thick. The slate sheets are shipped in sets of three panels, which are certified as having been cut
from the same slab. Three-section table surfaces are preferred because the smaller sections are
lighter and safer to lift, less prone to break, and easier to level during installation. Prior to
shipment, properly sized holes are drilled in the slate for the pockets and for the bolts and screws
that will be used to attach the slate to the table and rails.
The other major component of pool tables is wood. Usually at least two types are used. Poplar
(tulipwood), a hardwood with superior self-healing properties that holds screws tightly and
recovers well when staples are removed, is preferred for the structural framework of the table.
Other hardwoods that provide a more attractive finish and are more resistant to nicks and
scratches are used for the outer surfaces of the table. Examples are oak, maple, and mahogany.
Rails are usually produced by laminating two types of wood-an attractive, durable hardwood for
the upper section and a functional softwood (like pine) or poplar for the lower section. Grade-A
vulcanized rubber is preferred for the rail cushions, which are shaped to a particular triangular
profile approved by the BCA. Canvas fabric is molded to the top and base of the cushion for
proper rebound performance and secure attachment to the rail.
The cloth used to cover the slate and the rails is designed specifically for pool tables. By BCA
edict, it must be primarily wool; available wool/nylon blends range from 100%/0% to 60%/40%.
Although it is often

A diagram of pool table rail and blind.

referred to as felt (a fabric formed by compressing fibers rather than weaving), it is actually a woven
fabric with a nap (exposed, short, fuzzy fiber ends) on one surface.

Small components are made from various materials. Slate-sealing wax is specially formulated for
this purpose, and is harder than beeswax. Diamond- or circular-shaped sights embedded in the
rail tops are usually made of mother of pearl, abalone shell, or plastic. Pocket irons may be made
of cast iron, zinc alloy, aluminum, rubber, or high-impact styrene plastic. Traditionally, pocket
liners are made of leather (solid or net), but plastic or rubber is also used. Some tables use ball
return ramps formed of materials such as polyethylene, aluminum, or heavy-gauge wire; they
may be lined with rubber.

The Manufacturing Process

Construction techniques vary among manufacturers. The following description represents a
generic process rather than an accurate account of a particular manufacturer's methods.
Preparation of components

1 Edge liners made of 0.75-in (2-cm) thick 1 8-in (1.9 18-cm, finished size) and 1 4-in (1.9
9-cm, finished) lumber are glued to the bottom of the slate around the edges. The wider strips
are placed under the edges where pockets will be located. Until the wood glue is dry, the liners
are clamped securely to the slate.
2 Following the pocket cutouts in the slate, pockets are sawed through the liner. Bolt and screw
holes for attaching the rails and the table body are drilled in the liner to match the precut holes
in the slate.
3 Sides for the body frame are cut from 2 12-in (4 28-cm, finished) lumber. Corners and top
edges of the four sides must be carefully cut because once assembled, they will slope inward at
a 15 angle from top to bottom. The frame is made smaller than the slate, so the slate overlaps
the frame by 3.5 in (9 cm) on each side of the table. The sides are glued and nailed or screwed
4 Legs are prepared for the table. Solid wood pieces may be carved in decorative shapes, or
hollow legs can be built by assembling wood sheets in a box shape. Wooden leg supports are
glued and screwed into each corner of the frame.
5 A slate frame is built on the top edges of the body frame. Strips of 1.5 3-in (4 8-cm) wood
are attached so they overhang the body frame by about I in (2.5 cm), except at the corners. Two
cross members made from 2 6-in (4 14-cm, finished) lumber are glued and screwed between
the long sides of the slate frame to support the

Once the seams are sealed on the pool table frame, the bed cloth is stretched tightly over the
frame and secured.
slate seams. A longitudinal support may be installed along the center of the frame, between the
short sides. Pocket holes are cut in the corners and long sides of the slate frame.

6 Lower and upper rail components are sawed from appropriate woods. They are glued together
to make six laminated sections 1.75 in (4.5 cm) thick and long enough to fit between each
successive pair of pockets. The face angles on the rail are cut precisely for proper positioning of
the rubber cushion. A groove is cut along the top edge to accept an anchoring strip for the cloth
that will ultimately cover the rail.
7 Circular-or diamond-shaped sights are carefully placed at three locations on each rail section.
8 An apron (also called a blind) section about 4 in (10 cm) wide is cut to match the length of
each rail section. This component will cover the ends of the slate and liner, slate frame, and
body frame.
9 Each component is stained, fine sanded, and finished with catalyzed vamish, lacquer, and/or
furniture wax. Rubber cushions are glued to the rail sections.

Assembly of components

Pool tables are usually shipped in pieces and assembled during installation of the table at the
purchaser's location.

10 Legs are bolted to the underside of the table body. The structure is checked for level, and
shims are inserted between the legs and the body if necessary.
11 The three sections of slate are screwed into place atop the table body. Shims may be placed
as needed under the slate liners to ensure a flat, level surface. The seams between the three
slate sections are sealed with hot wax, with any residue being carefully removed from the top
12 Cloth is stretched tightly and uniformly across the slate, with the edges wrapped over the
slate liner and stapled to its edges. Rail faces are also covered with cloth.
13 The rail sections are joined by inserting the pins of the pocket irons into holes drilled in the
ends of each rail section. Bolts inserted upward through the slate are used to secure the rail

atop the slate. Care must be taken to ensure that the sections are installed straight and tight.
Pocket liners or ball return ramps are attached.
14 Blinds are glued and screwed to the bottoms of the rails and the edges of the slate liner.

Quality Control
Major manufacturers cut wooden components with computer-controlled equipment to ensure
precision. They assemble the pieces of each table by hand at the factory, checking for proper fit
before disassembling them for shipment. An installer, employed by the dealer rather than the
manufacturer, reassembles the pieces at the purchaser's location. The quality of the
manufacturing operation and of the installation process are both important for proper
performance of the table.
Materials used in the table affect the quality, appearance, and cost of the table. An inexpensive
table, for example, might have particle board components that do not hold screws or staples as
well as solid wood. Tables vary widely in quality and cost; a casual player who wants a table for
a few years of personal recreation can get one for around $600. So-called popularly priced tables,
which are well-built, durable, and attractive, may cost $1,600-$3,000.

The Future
The use of alternative materials continues to be explored. Aiming for durability and stability, for
example, one manufacturer recently introduced a pool table with a frame made of steel and rails
formed of tempered aluminum. The metals are covered with a decorative synthetic veneer. The
slate-topped table weighs 1,050 lb (480 kg), about the same as a wooden table. The manufacturer
claims the table meets BCA specifications.

Parts and equipment

This section requires expansion with: subsections on rails, frame, etc.. (August 2007)

Table with Players


Cushions (also sometimes called "rail cushions", "cushion rubber", or rarely "bumpers") are
located on the inner sides of a table's wooden rails. There are several different materials and
design philosophies associated with cushion rubber. The cushions are made from an elastic
material such as vulcanized (gum or synthetic) rubber. The chiefly American jargon "rails" more
properly applies to the wooded outer segments of the table to which the cushions are affixed.
The purpose of the cushion rubber is to cause the billiard balls to rebound off the rubber while
minimizing the loss of kinetic energy.
When installed properly the distance from the nose of the cushion to the covered slate surface is
1 716"[3] while using a regulation 2 14" ball set.
The profile of the rail cushion, which is the cushion's angle in relation to the bed of the table,
varies between table types. The standard on American pool tables is the K-66 profile, which as
defined by the BCA has a base of 1 316 inches and a nose height of 1 inch.[4] This[clarification needed]
causes the balls' rebound to be somewhat predictable during game play.
On a carom table, the K-55 profile is used (with a somewhat sharper angle than pool cushions).
K-55 cushions have cloth, usually canvas, vulcanized into the top of the rubber to adjust rebound
accuracy and speed.[4]
Finally, snooker tables may use an L-shaped profile, such as the L77 profile.[5] This is
mostly[clarification needed] because snooker uses balls of a smaller diameter and smaller pocket
entrances than pool does.
The bed

The bed the cloth-covered horizontal playing surface is, on good-quality equipment, made of
solid, finely ground slabs of slate, most often from Italy, Brazil or China. Small pool tables may
use only one or two pieces of slate, while carom, English billiards and tournament-size pool
tables use three. Full-size snooker tables require five. The gap between slates is filled with a
hard-drying putty, epoxy or resin, then sanded to produce a seamless surface, before being
covered with the cloth. When several pieces of slate are joined poorly it is possible for the resin
to deform and cause an uneven playing surface, it can also be difficult to move once joined.
Tables for the home market usually use slate beds as well, but the slate is often thinner, down to
about 12 inch (13 mm). The early table beds were made of cloth-covered wooden boards. Today,
inexpensive but not very rigid or durable materials used for the beds of low-end tables (e.g. for
children's recreation rooms) still include wood, especially medium-density fibreboard and
plywood, as well as plastics and other synthetic materials under various trade names.


Billiard cloth (sometimes erroneously called felt) is a specific type of cloth that covers the top of
the table's "playing area". Both the rails and slate beds are covered with 2124 ounce billiard
cloth (although some less expensive 19oz cloths are available) which is most often green in color
(representing the grass of the original lawn games that billiards evolved from), and consists of
either a woven wool or wool/nylon blend called baize.
Most bar tables, which get lots of play, use the slower, thicker blended cloth because it can better
withstand heavy usage. This type of cloth is called a woolen cloth. By contrast, high quality pool
cloth is usually made of a napless weave such as worsted wool, which gives a much faster roll to
the balls. This "speed" of the cloth affects the amounts of swerve and deflection[citation needed] of the
balls, among other aspects of game finesse. Snooker cloth traditionally has a directional nap,
upon which the balls behave differently when rolling against vs. running with the direction of the

Sights, also known as diamonds (for their traditional shape), are inlaid at precise, evenly spaced
positions along the rails of some tables (not usually on snooker tables) to aid in the aiming of
bank or kick shots. There are seven along each long rail (with the side pocket interfering with
where the seventh one would go, on pocket billiard tables) and three along each short rail, with
each of the four corners counting as another in the mathematical systems that the diamonds are
used to calculate. These sights divide the playing surface into equal squares. Books, even entire
series of books, have been written on geometric and algebraic systems of aiming using the
Spots are often used to mark the head and foot spots on the cloth. Other markings may be a line
drawn across the head string (or across the balk line with the "D", in British-style pool). Another
case is the outline of the triangle rack behind the foot spot where the balls are racked in straight
pool, since the outline of this area is strategically important throughout the game. In artistic pool,
lines may be drawn between opposite sights putting a grid on the playing surface. Other grid
patterns are used in various forms of balkline billiards. A recent table marking convention, in
European nine-ball, is the break box.

Carom billiards tables

Pocketless carom billiards tables are used for such games as three-cushion billiards, straight rail,
balkline, artistic billiards and cushion caroms.

Regulation 10 5 foot carom billiards tables have a playing surface (measured between the
noses of the cushions) is 2.84 meters by 1.42 meters (9.32 4.65 feet) with a 5 millimeter
allowance.[6] The standard height of the table, measured from the playing surface to the ground is
between 75 and 80 centimeters.

The bed

The slate bed of a carom billiard table must have a minimum thickness of 45 millimeters and is
often heated to about 5 degrees C (9 deg F) above room temperature, which helps to keep
moisture out of the cloth to aid the balls rolling and rebounding in a consistent manner, and
generally makes a table play faster. A heated table is required under international carom rules
and is an especially important requirement for the games of three-cushion billiards and artistic
billiards.[1]:115, 238
Heating table beds is an old practice. Queen Victoria had a billiard table that was heated using
zinc tubes, although the aim at that time was chiefly to keep the then-used ivory balls from
warping. The first use of electric heating was for an 18.2 balkline tournament held in December
1927 between Welker Cochran and Jacob Schaefer, Jr. The New York Times announced it with
fanfare: "For the first time in the history of world's championship balkline billiards a heated table
will be used..."[1]:115, 238[7]

Pool tables

A cue ball and the 1 ball close to a WPA-style pocket. (The balls are the same size; the cue ball looks
large due to foreshortening.)

A pool table, or pocket billiards table (as the sport's governing body prefers to call it), has six
pockets one at each corner of the table (corner pockets) and one at the midpoint of each of the
longer sides (side pockets or middle pockets). Historically, as old engravings show, tables
sometimes used to be made with only four pockets, but the rest of this section addresses sixpocket pool tables.

A WEPF-style pool table, showing a cue ball and red and yellow balls close to the small, rounded, nearly
parallel-sided pocket.

Pocket billiard tables come in different sizes, typically referred to as 9-foot (2.7 m), 8.5 ft
(2.6 m), 8 ft (2.4 m), or 7 ft (2.1 m) tables. In all cases, the table is rectangular with a 2:1 ratio
(e.g. 9 4.5 ft).
There are only two sizes approved for tournament play by the International Olympic Committeerecognized sport governing body of pool, the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), and its
various regional and national affiliates; under the World Standardised Rules of pool, these are
the 9 4.5 ft and 8 4 ft models.[8][9] For a 9-ft table, the playing surface (the dimensions
between the noses of the cushions) measures 100 inches (254 cm) by 50 inches (127 cm) with a
8-inch (3.2 mm) margin of error for either dimension. For an 8-ft table, the playing surface
measures 92 inches (234 cm) by 46 inches (117 cm), with the same 18 inch variance allowed.
In the UK as well as a number of other British Commonwealth and European countries, the
typical pool table is a 7-foot model or even 6 3.5 ft (1.83 0.91 m) for the pub and home
market. These are the sizes used by internationally standardised blackball and the amateur World
Eightball Pool Federation, as well as informal pub pool.[10] The 7-foot size is also frequently
used in North American amateur leagues, and are common coin-operated fixtures in bars and
other venues. The playing surface for a 7-foot table is 76 inches (193 cm) by 38 inches
(96.5 cm).

Pockets, usually rimmed at the back with leather or plastic, may have leather mesh or cloth bags
or plastic cups, or elongated wire racks, to catch the balls, common in home billiard rooms and
pool halls, or in the coin-operated tables found in bars/pubs may instead lead to ball-return
troughs inside the table, which channel the balls into a collection chamber on one side of the
table (or, in non-coin-op models, on the racking end of the table). A disadvantage to pockets with
bags or cups is that if too many balls go into the same pocket, it will fill up the receptacle and
prevent any more balls from going in that pocket, requiring that some be moved out of the pocket
manually before shooting again.
Regardless of table size, the WPA standard (sometimes informally called "American-style")
table has wide, angular pockets that funnel notably inward, generally 1.75 to 2.25 times as wide
at the opening as the diameter of the 2 14-inch (57 mm) balls, wider at the side (middle) pockets
than the corners. WEPF pool (sometimes informally called "British-style" or "Commonwealthstyle") is played with 2 to 2 18-in (5154 mm) balls, and this type of table has smaller, narrow
pockets (the width is calculated as the ball diameter multiplied by 1.6, and is consistent at all six
pockets), with rounded entrances and nearly parallel sides, like those on a snooker table. One
tactical consequence of this design difference is that the jaws of the WPA-type pocket are often
used exactly like a horizontal version of the backboard of a basketball goal, to rebound the ball
into the pocket; this technique does not work on blackball tables, and even shots down the

cushion into a corner pocket are more difficult. The same also holds true of snooker and Russian
pyramid tables, with similar "tight" pockets with rounded openings; all require more precise
shots than WPA-style pool.
The bed

For tournament competition under WPA world-standardized rules (and league play under
derived rulesets), the bed of the pocket billiard table must be made of slate no less than 1 inch
(2.54 cm) thick. The flatness of the table must be divergent by no greater than 0.02 inches
(0.51 mm) lengthwise and 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) across the width.[8]

Snooker and English billiards tables

Snooker table, drawn to scale

A billiard table designed for the games snooker and English billiards is usually called a snooker


The playing area of a tournament snooker tables, as standardized by the World Professional
Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA or World Snooker) and the amateur International
Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) which uses WPBSA rules,[11] measures
11 feet 8.5 inches by 5 ft 10 in (356.9 cm by 177.8 cm) with a tolerance of 0.5 in (13 mm),[12]
though commonly referred to as 12 ft by 6 ft. Smaller tables, approximately 10 ft by 5 ft down to
half size, are also sometimes used in pubs, homes and smaller snooker halls. The height from the
floor to the top of the cushion is between 2 ft 9.5 in and 2 ft 10.5 in (85.1 cm and 87.6 cm).[12]

A snooker table has six pockets, one at each corner and one at the center of each of the longest
side cushions. The pockets are around 86 mm (3.5 in),[clarification needed] though high-class
tournaments may use slightly smaller pockets to increase difficulty. The amount of undercut
(trimmed underside of the rubber cushion's protruding nose at the pocket opening),[13]:8 if any,
has a strong effect on how easily a ball is accepted by the pocket (the "pocket speed"). On
snooker and English billiards tables, the pocket entries are rounded, while pool tables have sharp
"knuckles". This affects how accurate shots need to be to get into a pocket, and how fast they can
be when not dead-on, including shots that run along and against a cushion, making snooker more
difficult to play than pool. According to the WPBSA official rule book, "the pocket openings
shall conform to the templates owned and authorised by The World Professional Billiards and
Snooker Association (WPBSA)".[12] The WPBSA and IBSF rule books' equipment sections do
not actually specify the measurements and shapes of these proprietary templates[11][12] which
change from time to time, requiring that the templates be dated.[14] The organisations do not
recognise tournament play or records (maximum breaks, etc.) if not performed on tables that
conform to then-current templates.[14][15]

The cushions (sometimes known as rails, though that term properly applies to the wood sections
to which the cushions are attached) are usually made of vulcanized rubber.

The baulk area is marked by a baulk line drawn on the cloth across the width of the table at 29
inches (737 mm) from and parallel to the face of the bottom cushion.[12] A semicircle with a
radius of 11.5 inches (292 mm) centered on this line within baulk forms the "D"[12] in which the
cue ball must be placed when breaking or after the cue ball has been potted or shot off the table.
The position of four of the colours are marked along the long string (lengthwise centre) of the
table, perpendicular to the baulk line: the black spot, 12.75 inches (324 mm) from the top
cushion; the centre spot or blue spot, located at the midpoint between the bottom and top
cushions; the pyramid spot or pink spot, located midway between the centre spot and the top
cushion; and the baulk spot or brown spot, located at the midpoint of the baulk line[12] (and, thus
of the "D"). Due to its obviousness, the brown spot is not always marked (neither are the
unmistakable green and yellow spots,[12] at the left and right intersections, respectively, of the

baulk line and the "D"'s curve.[1]:116, 278[12] The exact placing of these markings are different on
smaller tables, but proportional to the full-size model.
The bed

The playing surface of a good quality snooker table has a bed of slate and is covered with baize
cloth, traditionally green, though many other colours are now available. The thickness of this
cloth determines the table's speed (lack of friction) and responsiveness to spin, thicker cloths
being longer lasting but slower and less responsive. The nap of the cloth can affect the run of the
balls, especially on slower shots and shots played with sidespin applied to the cue ball. A
snooker table traditionally has the nap running from the baulk to the top end and is brushed and
ironed in this direction.

Other billiard tables

Other types of billiard tables are used for specific games, such as Russian pyramid, Asian four
ball. Games such as bagatelle often had more than six holes, including straight through the bed in
the middle of the table, a feature still found in bar billiards and bumper pool.
Novelty billiard tables

There are novelty billiard tables, often for pool, that come in various shapes including zig-zag,
circular, and hexagonal. For the home market, many manufacturers have produced billiard tables
(in the broad sense) that double as dining tables or as table tennis or other gaming tables, with
removable hard tops.

Russian pyramid ball at a corner pocket. The relative size of the ball and the pocket
makes the game very challenging.

A bar billiards table, showing the holes but not the mushrooms that are placed in front of
the holes. All players stand in front of the table (no side access is permitted).

A rectangular bumper pool table

An original Ford Mustang converted into a novelty pool table, exhibited at the 2011
Montreal International Auto Show.

A billiard table the bed of which can be flipped over for use as a regular table; produced
by Heinrich Seifert & Shne around 1910.