Knowledge Fundamentals : Billiards, Snooker, Pool Tables

Date Posted:1 February 2018 

In Australia ,we commonly refer to all types of  cue sports tables as a  "Billiards table", which is a general term to encompass all types of games that can be played on these tables,
when in fact  there are different categories of tables : Snooker, Pool ( or 8 Ball). Billiards, Carom, Russian Pyramids.
The most common tables for home (domestic) or business environment’s are Pool tables or Snooker tables.

 Pool table: A pool table is commonly used in a home or pub, and can be 7ft, 8ft, 9ft, in size. Pool tables can be described as Australian pool tables and American pool tables.


(A) Australian pool table:

The Australian pool table is the reduced size  snooker table, typically a snooker table size is understood to be 12 ft x 6ft, but the game of snooker can and is played on smaller sized tables. The typical sizes are 7ft, 8ft, 9ft, it has one piece slate 19mm in thickness, it has a directional napped cloth, it has 6 pocket openings with cotton crotchet net pockets, or empire rail pockets to capture the balls.

What to look for when buying a  pool table:

1. Make sure the slate is standard at 19mm in  thickness and is one piece. The slate comes from one of three sources : Italy, Brazil or China , originally and traditionally Italian slate was the best known and most used in the  industry,  however due to economic circumstances   Italian slate has now become more expensive, alternate supply had to be sourced. Some of the major Italian slate manufacturers moved their machinery and technology to Brazil. The Brazilian slate has become popular and the quality is as good as Italian slate, also, Brazilian slate is harder due to the mineral content, it has much less chance to warp caused by variation in temperature and moisture.
Chinese slate: It’s a good natural stone, however, because there are so many slate manufacturers in China there is no consistency in the production methods, the technology, the machinery and quality control is below standard and the result is a slate that is not acceptable.

2. Cloth: The cloth used to dress the table must have a directional nap (i.e, if you run your hand lightly over the cloth down the table away from the breaking end it feels flat and smooth to the touch, going back in the opposite direction it feels prickly to the touch). Cloth is produced in England, Spain and  China.
The best cloth is English made, branded Strachan6811. There is no material which can provide so suitable a surface over which a ball can travel with the truth, steadiness and quietness that the cue stroke demands as this fine woollen cloth. This cloth is the official cloth used for all world championship and major tournaments, it’s made from 100% pure new wool. When the cloth is new, it appears to have a beautiful sheen which no other cloth can match in appearance. There is a long tradition of craftsmanship behind the making of this cloth.
Spanish cloth is good enough for home or business use, but the cloth colour is not as rich and dense and is less attractive than English made cloth.
Chinese cloth is tough, normally containing some man made fibers, polyester or nylon together with wool or cotton, as a result this cloth tends to ball or fluff up just after a few games.

3. Pocket openings and assembling

The entrance to the pockets has a bearing on potting ability. Both pool or snooker tables need to have a certain shape to maximize potting ability. An official template is used on authentic and true tables to shape the entrance of the pockets as there is a certain way to shape and cut the edge in this area, therefore, when the ball hits the edge it drops into the pockets. 
A common problem which is seen with improperly made tables is that the ball hits the   edge at the top of mouth of the pocket then the ball bounces between two rubber edges which is the result of incorrect entrance shape and cutting of the rubber.
When assembling cushions, the manufacturer should use the template to measure every pocket to ensure all corners are the same size and shape , as is often seen pocket openings  are not the  same size and shape because a template was not used in the assembly process.

4. Cushion and feast.
The cushion and feast contains rubber and timber hand rails. These have a direct bearing on the cushion bounce performance. If the cushion and feast are not made properly it reduces the bounce capacity and the bounce away angle, particularly when using side spin technique during the game.
From a manufacturing view point, there is a quick and easy way, and the professional way to make the cushion and feast. To achieve the best performance it has to be done in a professional manner. 

5. Timber and the table.
Pool table timber can be of any type and varied in quality, hardwood is best. Be aware of  the MDF(Multi Density Fibreboard) made material, MDF will absorb  moisture from the air, it can be used in the frame , cushion feast and legs, parts that could become loose and expand with exposure. 

6. Room size requirements (as a general rule of thumb)
For 7ft table, room size require 4.90m x 3.80m,
8 ft table, room size require 5.20m x 4.00m
9ft table, room size require 5.50m x 4.30m

7. Care of your cloth .
The need to maintain cleanliness cannot be over emphasized. A lot of trouble is taken to see that the cloth is free of impurities when supplied and fitted. The cloth is a carefully constructed fabric made on strictly scientific principles, and the care of a cloth is important to maintain its longevity.  Light regular brushing is necessary to remove chalk dust which with other impurities has an abrasive effect on the fibres and can seriously increase the rate of wear.
a. Never use vacuum to suck and clean table.
b. Only use a  brush , do not “scrub” , or brush against the nap.
c. You can iron cloth ;  to iron cloth bed , make sure to follow direction of nap.

An   overheated iron has a directly injurious effect on the fibre cells which are the very life of the cloth.

d. Never throw a ball on to the table with a fairly sharp concussion; it should be placed gently into position, as it can cause bruising of the cloth fibre cells , lessening their efficiency and usefulness .

e. Do not use chipped or worn balls.

f. Keep tables covered when not in use. This helps to keep the cloth clean and preserves the brightness of the colour.


8. Table levelling:
Australian pool tables should have leveling adjusting feet on each of the  legs, to enable you to level  the table.
a. Set spirit level in the  middle of the table between the two centre  pockets,  check and adjust the lowest end,  to make the legs level , then repeat at other opposite end of table.
b.Set spirit level at one end of table between corner pockets ,check and level  end legs, repeat at other end of table.
c. Repeating procedure a. check level once more between centre of table to each of corner pockets, adjust feet accordingly if required.
d.Use a ball to  test  the level of table by hitting ball straight down centre to other end  make sure  not to hit  ball with side spin. Repeat for left and the right of centre of the baulk line.
e.Use ball test again by  hitting  from centre of table to each pocket with a light touch shot.
f.Micro adjust the feet where necessary.


(B)American pool table:

American pool is very popular in the USA: North America, also in Europe and Asian regions. Typically American Pool is played on tables which are 8ft,or9 Ft.
 The slate is 1 inch (25mm)  in thickness, and made in  3 pieces butted together.
American tables have bigger pocket openings cut straight at 45 degrees leading into the back of the pocket opening (Australian pool tables have a rounded cushion that leads into the back of the pocket)
The cloth used on American pool tables is without a nap, and referred to as a napless cloth, it offers no resistance to the balls, so plays faster.

The rubber used in the cushions is triangular in shape and the profile is set higher above the surface of the table as 2 ¼ inch balls are used to play the games of pool using 15 coloured and numbered balls, or 9 balls and/or 10 balls .
Due to the balls being larger in size, the tips on the cues  have a diameter of  between 11mm and 13mm plus, as the point of contact when hitting the ball is also larger and the balls are also much heavier, even so, potting balls is easier because the pocket openings are bigger. it makes for  great fun .

What to look for when buying an American Pool Table:

1. No Australian company produces  American pool tables, all tables are imported from the  UK, USA,  or China.

2. Brand.
a) Riley -  Is a recognized brand  around the world,  an established manufacturer in  the UK, with  60 distributors globally. Riley is the world’s largest manufacturer ,  with  120 years history and manufacturing experience making the finest  of cue sports tables.

The Riley tables are regarded as worlds finest , many  of the world championship titles  are played  and competed on them.

b) BCN – This is a product of  China, newly introduced to the American pool table industry. In recent times BCN has produced  the OEM for the American  market and has been recognized  and acknowledged  for its technical expertise and quality control, meeting world standards . In the last 7 years, BCN American pool tables have been the official tournament table for  9 ball and 10 ball world championship.

c) Olhausen - This is a home brand in the USA it is a quality product  and widely recognized,   mostly in the  USA market.

d) Brunswick- This is a USA brand, also famously known in the global market and has been the official table on several occasions for the 9 ball world championships.

e) Mosconi- This  brand  known widely in  the USA .

(C) Snooker Table:

The game of snooker  is the most popular professional cue sports game, this game requires greater skill for cue ball control and strategic table ball  positioning. The game’s official governing bodies are the WPBSA ( World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) and the  IBSF ( International Billiards and Snooker Federation).

Snooker table is 12ft and 10 ft in size,

Snooker tables have  two types of  cushion,  the traditional timber cushion and steel block back cushion. The traditional timber cushion still applies to home use snooker tables, however, in the professional arena the preferred choice is  steel block back cushions,  as it gives more accurate  and even rebound on  each section of the cushion, also more accurate cue ball side spin performance.

Snooker tables have a  5 piece slate,  its thickness is between 38mm (1 ½ “) - 50 mm (2’) weighing  approximately 740 kg’s.
There is an enormous challenge in the installation of a snooker table , as a snooker table has a very large play field with 5 piece slate butted  together to form a combined area of 12 ft x 6 ft( 3.66 m x 1.83m), the leveling and assembly  work needs to  be precise and only an  experienced and qualified tradesman can do it properly and to the correct standards. If the installation work is not carried out properly in the first instance, it  becomes a very costly exercise to do the leveling work again.

The snooker table is clothed using English made Strachan 6811 cloth, 30- 32 OZ cloth is used to cover the bed (playfield) ,30 OZ is used to cover the cushion strips  for world championship  titles or world ranking events, the bed cloth is  No.10 Strachan 6811, this cloth is double shaved  making the nap shorter and thinner than other cloths, as a result the speed on this cloth is faster than others.

(1) Riley: The Riley  brand snooker tables are the  world most famous , made in the UK, and  are  used in  many world championship and world ranking events.
Riley tables have a  respected reputation, a 120 years of history, long standing  heritage which offers craftsmanship work  to  professional players and clubs alike  globally.

(2) Star- For the last 10 years the Star brand snooker tables have been made in China. Due to the  popularity of the game of  snooker it has spread  far and wide into  the Asian and China  markets becoming one of the fastest growing sports, however even with this  growing interest  in these  regions with the game of snooker , there are  few Chinese manufacturers who have  became  major producers, apart from Star who have had their  
 snooker table accepted and approved by the  WPBSA  nominating it as their official table in last few years for tournament play.

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