Cue sports are challenging, interesting and addictive. Like activities that force us to use hand-eye coordination and strategy, they remain one of the most popular sports ever to be invented.
Several categories of cue sports exist with pool, billiards and snooker being top examples. Though all share core similarities such as the use of balls and tables, they have distinct differences as well. In pool, six pockets, table dimensions ranging from 7 feet to 9 feet, and a bed that must be made of slate measuring no less than an inch thick (according to WPA regulations) are the key characteristics.
Pool table prices vary from a few hundred dollars to over $5,000 and beyond. It's widely agreed that the more expensive the table, the better a player's performance. However, price alone isn't the deciding factor and there are several attributes one must examine.
A pool table's bed can be made of three materials – slate, wood slate and slate core. Slate, as we know, is solid rock. High-end tables always use it. It doesn't warp even after years of use and is extremely level. Much depends on the manufacturers and installer's expertise, however, as even expensive slate can turn out to perform below par if not made or laid properly.
With wood slate, tables are lightweight and easily warped. It's a no-no for professional play and should only be considered for children's use. You'll get one for as low as less than $500 so when you equate price with quality you can imagine just how long it'll last.
Slate core, meanwhile, is a combination of concrete and wood. It's not as flimsy as wood slate but nowhere near what slate offers. Since it isn't heavy you'll find it warping after a year or two of uses as the rails on the edges of the table weigh it down. The level of the surface will be compromised and you won't be able to keep balls centered.
While slate is the best bed material, worsted wool provides the perfect covering. It ensures a hard, smooth surface absent of naps to make game play superior. There are cloths of lesser quality (those with 60 percent wool) that function very well too and it's not necessary that you purchase a table with worsted wool if you plan to use it for casual play. Stay away from cheap felt, however, as it can't take the abuse of more than a few games. Choose it only if you're purchasing a table for the kids.
The rails of a pool table should be sturdy and heavy because they need to support your weight and influence the ball's bounce. Solid wood is the perfect choice and it also boasts a unique beauty with its fine grain patterns. It can be expensive, though, so consider it only if the table is to be used for daily or professional gaming.
Pressed wood or engineered wood is another option. It isn't as heavy or dense as solid wood but will serve for casual play. Note that it tends to warp and weaken if the table's cloth is repeated replaced. This is true even if the table bed is made of slate and the cloth of worsted wool.