Talk to the pool purist or even the avid novice and most will tell you that the question of whether the best pool table is a slate table or a wood table isn't a question worth asking. Anybody that has played on both variants of table will know the difference between a smooth running slate bed table and a less reliable wooden one. While other factors such as the leveling of the table also play an important part, high quality slate bed tables give a true and straight roll to the ball every time you play a shot.
When we talk about the use of slate or other materials in pool table construction, we're referring to the bed that sits under the felt and on top of the table construction. It is essentially this bed that the billiard balls will roll across when you play your shot so it is important that it is straight, flat, and level. Any deviation can lead to the ball rolling away from the true line. This deviation becomes even more pronounced as the ball rolls slower but may also be noticeable during hard and fast shots.
Consistently Straight Shots
Consistency is the key to a good pool or billiards game. Slatron, a synthetically made material, is the most common slate replacement for pool tables. While it is more affordable than a large and flat slate bed it is still of considerably lower quality. Not only do Slatron beds and beds made from other non-slate materials mean your shots will be more prone to inconsistency but they are also much more likely to dip, warp, and generally disfigure over a period of time. Slate is a strong and robust material that won't suffer the same disfiguration.
Warping And Disfiguring In Non Slate Tables
Non slate beds are also more prone to environmental and atmospheric conditions. Slatron and wood based materials are certainly more prone to the damp and even to excessively low and high temperatures. Some of the lower quality pool tables that don't use slate can warp very quickly. While slate pool tables can work out to be more expensive than their non-slate counterparts you do need to consider how long each will last and how well they will withstand the pressure of being used and of not being used.
Considering The Weight Of Slate
Slate is a heavy material and not only is this a consideration during the construction of a pool table but it may be worth considering when buying too. Hardwood cross frames are usually required in order to ensure that the pool table is able to hold the weight of the slate bed and this can add further weight. However, while this may be an issue for shipping and moving the table, it shouldn't be an issue in most home billiard rooms.
Other Factors That Determine The Quality Of A Pool Table
How level the table itself is will also be a factor that will determine the consistency of shots played. A well crafted table on a level surface that uses good quality slate will play the best shots and it will continue to do this consistently over its life. In contrast, a poorly crafted table, one with substandard non-slate bed material, or one that is not properly leveled, will inevitably lead to poor shots and an unpredictable roll from the balls.