The pool table is the centerpiece of any great man cave. No home is complete without one!
But before that, we’ll outline some key things to consider when buying, helping you pick the perfect billiards table for your specific needs.
In a rush? Use this handy table to quickly compare our top picks.
Available in 7.5′, 8′, and 8.33′.
Pool Table Buyer’s Guide: What You Need To Know
First, let’s discuss some key things to consider when buying a pool table.
What size pool table should I get?
There are hundreds of pool tables out there, but the majority of them can be classified into one of three broad size categories. This is the first thing you should consider, as it makes a big difference to how the pool table plays.
- Full-size tables offer the best experience. At 9′ long, they’re what the pros use. However, they can be pretty challenging to play on for beginners, and it can be hard to find one which comes with installation included. If you’re new to the game or don’t have room, it’s perfectly fine to start with a smaller option.
- Down-size tables, as the name suggests, are slightly smaller than your full-size 9-footer. The most common lengths are 7′, 7.5′ and 8′. Despite being smaller, these options still play just as nice as a full-size table, and they’ll obviously fit in much smaller rooms. This is why they’re so popular.
- Anything smaller than 7′ long is considered to be a miniature table. These are the best options for younger kids (under the age of 12). Some have the capability to transform into air-hockey, table tennis, or shuffleboard tables. However, these options will almost always have a wood (rather than slate) surface, which won’t be as nice to play on (more on this below).
There are also tabletop pool tables, which are even smaller, at around 40″ long. Although we’ve included one in this piece in case this is what you’re looking for, most of these options are more like toys than pool tables.
When choosing a length, measure the size of the room you’ll be placing the table in. Ideally, you should have 3.5′ of room from each edge of the table to the nearest wall to avoid having to angle your cue when shooting.
Also, all billiards tables should have a 2:1 length:width ratio. Meaning, if something is advertised as 9′ long, it should be 4.5′ wide, and if it’s 8′ long, it should be 4′ wide and so on.
Slate vs wood pool table surfaces
The best pool tables out there will have a slate surface. This material offers an incredibly consistent roll, and is very durable. Once it’s level, it stays level, and with the right felt, the ball will rocket across the surface.
So why would anyone buy a table with a wood surface?
Many manufacturers use material like MDF for their pool table surface because it’s much easier to manage. Slate can be incredibly heavy (and thus very expensive to ship), making it more difficult to put together your pool table.
MDF is flawed somewhat in that it can warp very slightly over long periods of time, especially if exposed to high humidity. However, it’s perfectly fine for casual play – slate just isn’t practical for a lot of people.
Just note that if you are avoiding wood, get something with slate that’s at least 1″ thick. Any thinner and the table can begin to feel like it’s made of wood – although the surface won’t warp, the table will shift around easily.
Can I assemble my own pool table?
If you get a slate table, you almost always want to have a professional come and build it for you, unless you have experience putting together pool tables. These options are designed for serious players as opposed to families, so they’re not meant to be incredibly easy to assemble. Plus, slate is quite heavy – the average table will have around 300-400 pounds of the stuff depending on the thickness.
However, nearly all wood tables come with instructions you can use to put it together yourself with just a screwdriver. Depending on how big (and how sturdy) the table is, you might need one or two people to help you out – especially when you flip it over once the legs are attached.
Multi-function pool tables
If you’re looking for the best possible value for money, or have kids with a bit of a short attention span 🙄 then these 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 tables are definitely worth considering.
Multi-surface options allow you to play other games like air hockey, shuffleboard, table tennis and foosball – all on the same surface. Apart from the flexibility these tables offer, they also tend to be cheaper, and are often smaller, meaning they can fit in tight spaces.
However, most 3/4-in-1 tables don’t actually perform incredibly well when it comes to pool. This is because they don’t specialize in billiards. For example, the surface may not be perfectly level, because the frame that the surface rests on isn’t designed specifically for that surface – it’s designed to fit three or four different table tops.
Overall, if you’ve got kids or teenagers, these products are an excellent option. If you do your research and avoid the cheaply-made tables, it’s possible to score a really great deal. But for serious pool/snooker players, we wouldn’t recommend them – you’d be better offer spending a little more for a proper pool table.
What’s a good warranty period?
When buying any piece of furniture, particularly something you’re going to use all the time, finding something with an extensive warranty is very important.
With billiards tables specifically, there are a lot of delicate parts which could go wrong. For example, the leg length adjuster (or leg itself) could break, making it impossible to get the table level, and therefore impossible to have a fair game. The table might also warp (if it’s made of wood), which is pretty much impossible to fix without replacing the entire top.
If spending around $800-$1000, a 1-2 year warranty is pretty typical. However, if you’re spending more ($2000-$3000+) you should look for tables with a 3-4 year or even a lifetime warranty.
The playing surface
Since this is where your pool balls are actually going to be spending their time, it’s important to assess the following aspects of the playing surface before pulling the trigger on a specific table.
- The felt. Good-quality felt won’t pill up (meaning no fuzz balls) and will provide a consistent, fast slide. But it should still have the grip necessary to play good English – particularly backspin, which relies on friction between the ball and the cloth. Worsted cloth is generally the best type, but good-quality woolen felt performs great as well. If you do get bad cloth, it can be replaced, but it’s difficult – you’ll need to take off the rails. Read more about pool table felt.
- The cushions – more specifically, the rubber in the bumpers. Right out of the box, these rails should be nice and hard, and provide a solid rebound. Good bumpers will last for five to ten years or more before beginning to lose their bounce, depending on the environment they’re in – direct sunlight can wear down the rubber.
- The pockets. WPA regulation-size pockets are supposed to be between 4.5″ and 4.625″ wide for full-sized billiard balls. Remember, the wider the pockets, the “easier” the table will play. Consider the skill level of who’s using the table. Things can get real boring very quickly if you’ve got a 7′ table, massive pockets, and someone in the house who really knows how to play pool.
Ball return systems – do I need one?
For home pool tables, it’s generally a good idea to avoid tables with ball return systems, unless you particularly want the convenience of having the balls collected at the end of the table automatically.
This is because if the system breaks, you’ll have to take apart the table or hire someone to fix it for you. It’s best to at least avoid ball return systems which have moving parts, as this makes it much more likely that something will go wrong.
The other downside of these mechanisms (on bar pool tables at least) is they require you to use a specialized set of balls. You’ll need some with a magnetic or slightly larger cue ball, so that it can be separated from the rest of the pack when sunk.
How much should I spend on a pool table?
It really depends on what your needs are.
If you’re looking for a genuine slate table, expect to spend at least $2000-$5000 for a good one, depending on the size. Anything less will likely have an MDF surface, or won’t be made particularly well. On the other hand, the best 7 or 8-foot wood tables will set you back around $1000 or slightly less.
If you’re in the market for a 3 or 4-in-1, these options tend to be a little cheaper, often because they’re smaller. You should aim to find one which costs around $600-$1000. If the table is cheaper than this, it’s unlikely to be made incredibly well. However, if you pay more, you might as well get a proper pool table for the money you’re spending.
It’s important to note that there are cheaper options out there, if you’re willing to make sacrifices. Tabletop pool tables can be had for less than $100. However, they’re normally very small (40″ or so), and are only really useful as a children’s toy. This is fine if you’ve got young kids, but if your family’s serious about pool they’ll outgrow it quickly.
Billiard table accessories
Most tables come with a set of pool balls, chalk, a few cues, a triangle, and some even include a brush.
If the table doesn’t come with billiard balls, check to make sure that the ones you have (or are buying) are the right size for the size of table you’re getting. Generally, all 7, 8 and 9-foot tables take regulation size balls, which are 2 ¼” plus or minus .005″ in diameter according to the Billiards Congress of America. Smaller ones will use smaller balls, which are nearly always included with your purchase.
Normally, most of these accessories will do perfectly fine for families or casual players. However, the cues included with tables aren’t often all that good. It’s a good idea to buy them separately if you want to get good at the game.
What color table should I get?
Choosing a felt color is almost entirely down to personal preference.
Green is the traditional option – most English pool and snooker tables still use this color. However, bright blue options are very popular over here in the states.
These days, you can get felt in pretty much any color – red, burgundy, purple, grey, camel, and even yellow options are all out there.
Just think about what would look best in the room the table will be located. No color is strictly better than any other, although blue and green are popular because they make it really easy to see every ball on the table.
Maintaining your pool table
If you’re not an experienced woodworker, best practice is to take preventative measures and then book in a pool table service in a few years when things need doing. After a while, the felt and rubber bumpers may need replacing.
To prolong the life of your billiards table:
- Keep it out of direct sunlight.
- If possible, avoid leaving it in exceptionally humid areas – this can cause wood to warp.
- Don’t let young kids play on a proper slate table without some guided practice first. The last thing you want is holes poked in the felt!
- Brush any chalk dust or other debris off the table regularly – ideally after every time you play. Also, wipe down your balls with a microfiber cloth, to stop chalk being spread all over the table.
Other than that, if you’ve got some handyman experience, you can:
- Replace the rubber bumpers every couple of years – they’re simply glued on to the sub-rail. But re-felting them and getting the rail back on properly can be tricky. You’ll also need to replace the cushion end facings – strips of rubber which attach to the side of each cushion where the pocket opening begins.
- Re-felt the table when the cloth wears out or begins to show signs of ball-burn. As we discussed, this involves taking off all four rails, and stapling new felt to the underside of the table having stretched it across the surface.
- Touch-up the rails, blinds and legs when they begin to show signs of wear. For example, sanding and re-finishing certain edges that get worn out easily.
Best Pool Tables For The Money
First, we’ll look at 5 awesome non-slate billiard tables you can pick up for under $1000.
Unless you and your kids are aspiring pool pros, it pays to be able to switch things up a bit, especially when you’ve got family/friends over.
But even if you almost always use the pool table side of this 3-in-1, it’s still an excellent buy. The surface is 7′ long, which is great for a multifunction table. Although it’s MDF as opposed to slate, it’s easy to get the surface flat during assembly, and the leg levelers make adjustments a breeze. You can get this table built in as little as a few hours – the instructions are reasonably easy to follow.
You also get everything you need to get up and running immediately, for all three game types. For example, you get four air hockey pushers/pucks, two table tennis paddles/balls, two basic cue sticks, a set of billiard balls, pool chalk, and even a brush for the surface. What’s more, this Fat Cat comes with a 1-year warranty, meaning you get a decent level of coverage against manufacturer defects.
Switching between the various modes is fairly simple: just flip the top to change between air hockey and pool. To play ping pong, there’s a separate surface which needs to be lifted onto the table.
But how does the table actually perform? On the whole, the pool side is great once you’ve made it reasonably level. The pockets aren’t too easy nor too hard to sink the included 2.25″ balls, and the surface has a good pace to it. However, the bumpers don’t bounce quite as hard as they would on a professional-grade pool table.
The air pressure for the air hockey is great – pucks glide effortlessly, and the sides rebound nicely. The only real downside to this surface is the goals – they’re a little small, making it a bit tough to score against skilled players. But the table tennis side is nice and level, and the included net is very well-made and easy to attach.
If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced 7′ pool table with a little extra versatility, this is a great pick. It’s one of the best non-slate options out there right now.
Overall value rating
2. Lancaster Traditional Pool Table (7.5′)
If you’re after the best-possible value for money, or only really want to be able to play pool, looking at mid-budget downsized options is a good idea.
This specific billiards table from Lancaster is another non-slate option – its surface is made of particleboard, which makes it relatively easy to assemble. You’ll need at least one other person to help though – this table is well put-together, meaning it’s very heavy.
It comes with polyester felt, which is very resistant to ball-burn, and offers decent speed. The pockets are also really nicely-made – they feature a leather construction and drop design, meaning they look awesome, and fit the classical style of the rest of the table.
Lancaster have finished their leg and rail veneer with a scratch-resistant coating, which is especially useful if you’ve got cats but don’t have a pool table cover. Do note though that the legs are actually made of a resin/plastic material to prevent them warping. You can’t tell the difference though unless you touch them.
Also, the bumpers feel a little bit bouncier than you might expect, considering what you’re paying, which is great. Just be sure to keep the table out of direct sunlight.
Overall, this table is fantastic value for money. The only real downside we can think of is the lack of warranty – Lancaster makes no mention of any sort of quality guarantee.
Overall value rating
3. Hathaway Spartan Pool Table (6′)
Need something a little smaller?
The Hathaway Spartan is a slightly more basic multi-surface table. It’s a 2-in-1 – you can place an included ping pong surface on top of the pool table to change things up a bit.
At 6′ long, this table is perfect for tight spaces, but it’ll feel a little easy for older teenagers and adults – the pockets are quite forgiving. It’s still a heap of fun though, and the price is very reasonable.
Since you’re paying a bit less, the Spartan isn’t quite as sturdy as the Fat Cat 3-in-1 we looked at before. This simple design does make it much easier to assemble and change the playing surface though.
There’s no ball return system, but you do get everything you need to get started, included down-sized billiard balls. These balls ping off the cushions, and the felt is reasonably long-lasting.
Overall value rating
4. Playcraft Sport Bank Shot Pool Table (40″)
Looking for something a little cheaper?
For toddlers and young kids, it’ll take a while before they grow into a 6, 7, or 8-foot table. Until they reach the age of 9-10, most children won’t even be able to reach the top of one of these larger tables!
The Playcraft Bank Shot is a great deal cheaper than the other value-for-money tables we’ve looked at. This is basically because it’s a toy, not a proper pool table. It’s made of MDF, and at only 40″ long, it’s also very small. This makes it fantastic for little ones though – this is one of the best kids pool tables out there right now.
Apart from the price, the other upside to this compact design is that it makes the table incredibly easy to put together (and take apart if need be). You can simply detach the legs to store it somewhere else.
It comes in three different felt colors, and has everything you need to begin playing pool. However, its legs are very short – you might want to place it on top of another table unless it’s being used by toddlers.
Overall value rating
5. Fat Cat Trueshot Pool Table (6′)
This option from Fat Cat is a particularly versatile table. Not only is it great for smaller rooms (at 6′ long), it comes with folding legs, meaning you can pack it away when you need the space for something else.
Apart from its size, the Trueshot is great in that it has pretty much everything you’d ever want in a kids’ pool table. It’s excellent value for money, and simple to build with the included instruction manual. Since it’s so light, and has very few parts, you could assemble it by yourself in about an hour, but having a helper would make the process more efficient.
The pockets are forgiving but not too easy, and have nets so you can see how full they are. You get cues, chalk, a triangle, pool balls, and even an included brush to keep the felt chalk-free.
Overall, this is a fantastic table, in particular for younger kids learning to play pool. The only issue is the lack of a warranty – but you can buy a protection plan for a pretty reasonable price. Surprisingly, you can get it fairly level – it’ll just take a bit of time to get the legs in the perfect position.
Overall value rating
Best Pool Tables
In this section, we’ll review the 7 best pool tables in terms of overall quality (including slate options) available in 2019.
6. Brunswick Danbury Pool Table (8′)
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Brunswick! This all-American company has been producing some of the best billiards tables in the USA since before the Civil War.
Because each of their tables is a true piece of art, the Black Wolf isn’t something you can put together yourself. Professional installation is included in the purchase price, which is part of the reason this table is so expensive.
For serious players though, it’s a price worth paying. You get a perfectly flat slate surface, which will stay perfectly level for literally decades. The pocket protectors and rails are also incredibly durable, meaning they’ll last even the most intense (read: drunken) pool sessions. Brunswick is so confident in the quality of their craftsmanship that you get a full lifetime warranty with this table.
As you’d expect (considering what you’re paying), the Black Wolf comes with a really nice-quality felt – a woolen variety made in-house by Brunswick. The bumpers also have a fantastic bounce to them, just like a professional table.
Unfortunately, the free shipping offer doesn’t cover states requiring ferry service – you can’t buy this table in Alaska or Hawaii.
Overall value rating
7. Olhausen Belmont Pool Table (8′)
This table is quite similar to the Danbury we just reviewed.
Like Brunswick’s table, the Belmont comes with a top-quality slate surface. You also get free delivery and installation, meaning you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to lift three 1″ thick pieces of solid slate. Plus, you can choose which color felt you’d like the installer to use, which is great.
What really sets this table apart though is the quality of the wood. Olhausen have used “slow growth” hardwood lumber. Not only is this stuff really resistant to knocks/dents, but it’s also cured to stop it from warping – even in the most humid of climates.
The company also use their own “Accu-Fast” cushions, which remain really springy for a really long time. They’re K66 bumpers, so if they do wear out, you should be able to find replacements quite easily. You also get all the accessories you’ll need to get up and running.
Ultimately, this option is a little bit more expensive than the Danbury. The warranty is pretty similar – it covers all manufacturer defects for the lifetime of the table.
Which one you go for really depends on what you like to look of – they’re pretty much identical in terms of build quality.
Overall value rating
8. Harvil Beachcomber Pool Table (7′)
Need a top-quality table, but only have room for a 7-footer?
The Beachcomber’s driftwood-inspired finish would slot right into any retro man-cave. With its squared-off hidden drop pockets and chrome corners, this thing is as close to a physical slice of the 1960s you’re ever gonna find.
However, this table features a wood surface – Harvil haven’t gone for slate on this particular model. The upshot of this though is that it’s pretty cheap, especially considering how well-made it is. You do have to pay extra for installation, but the parts are made in the USA.
This table comes with blue “tetolon” felt. We’re not really sure what this stuff is – it seems to be a bit tougher than your average cloth, but the ball still flies across it like you’d expect from a good-quality worsted felt.
You get everything you need to start playing (although the cues are pretty average), including an instruction manual. Assembly is relatively simple, but you might need a little help since some parts are fairly bulky.
9. Imperial Outdoor Pool Table (8′)
Who hasn’t dreamt of playing pool with a beer in hand, sun on their face, and breeze in their hair?
Although the idea of an outdoor pool table is nothing short of revolutionary, it’s not something you can pull off cheaply. To keep this table looking its best and prevent rust, Imperial have had to go all out.
Pretty much the entire frame is made of aluminum, and they’ve had to use a special synthetic cloth to ensure it can withstand heavy rain. The balls are also made of polyester, to prevent chipping. You still get traditional K66 rail rubber though.
However, if you do shell out for this table, you can be confident that you’re getting what you’re paying for. As you might expect having looked at the picture, this thing is built like a tank. Not only is it waterproof – it’s fire-retardant as well, and there’s no worrying about warpage like you would with MDF. Best of all, pretty much the entire thing is already assembled once it arrives. All you have to do is bolt on the legs.
Obviously, this table won’t play exactly the same as an indoor table – the felt is a tiny bit slower, and the balls don’t quite feel the same as proper phenolic resin ones. But it does a pretty good job, especially considering this thing could live on your deck or patio, no problem at all.
10. Playcraft Southport Pool Table (9′)
Wanna go the whole 9 yards (or feet, in this instance)?
The Playcraft Southport is another groovy retro-looking table. But unlike every other option we’ve looked at so far, this billiards table comes with its very own ball return mechanism. This is one of the best non-essential features you can have, especially if you play a lot of racks at a time (best of 25 games, for example). Do be aware though that in rare instances these mechanisms can break – and they’re not simple to fix by yourself.
It also comes with a three-piece slate surface, which feels fantastic to play on, meaning the Southport isn’t exactly cheap. Unfortunately, installation isn’t included in this price – you’ll need to hire someone to put it together for you, which will probably cost another hundred bucks or so.
If you really like the look of this table though, it’s well-worth the investment. The pockets are nice and challenging, and the balls ping off the rails (and fly along the felt) really nicely. You can also specify what color cloth you’d like, but nothing beats that blue in our opinion.
Overall, if you particularly want a retro 9′ table, and don’t mind hiring someone to assemble it, the Southport is a great buy. It is a bit expensive compared to comparable 8′ tables, like the Olhausen Belmont, though.
11. Barrington Slate Pool Table (7.5’/8’/8.33′)
Be aware that Barrington sell eight different tables, ranging in size from 7.5′ to 8.33′. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the wooden ones, except for their size – they all play pretty nice for mid-budget tables.
However, the biggest one features a slate surface. Although it’s quite a strange size, we really like it because it’s the cheapest proper slate table you’ll find online at the moment.
Despite being on the inexpensive side, you still get genuine K66 bumpers, and the slate itself is 1″ thick – meaning you won’t shift this table accidentally mid-game without some serious force.
Shipping is free, but installation isn’t included, so you’ll need to hire someone to come and put it together for you unless you’re able to do it yourself.
The smaller wood options are also great-quality tables. Essentially, they act as slightly more sturdy versions of the first five budget tables we looked at. You can put them together yourself, but you’ll need one or two other people to help flip it over. However, the legs are made of plastic – you can tell this by touching them.
For the price, both the slate and fiberboard tables are good picks. They offer gameplay that isn’t too challenging nor too hard, and are very well designed.
12. Valley-Dynamo Coin-Op Pool Table (7′)
Want a table for a hotel/club? Or are you looking to complement the bar you’ve just built in the man cave?
As a fully coin-operated table, this thing is pretty expensive. But with enough use, you can earn (some of) that money back! The coin mechanism can be set to release the balls for as little as a quarter or as much as two dollars’ worth of change.
Apart from the relatively high up-front cost, there’s another slight downside to these bar tables. The ball return and coin-operated release system isn’t exactly simple to build. As a result, if it does develop issues, you’ll have to get a professional to come out and service it.
However, we must say that this thing features one of the best return mechanism designs out there. It uses a magnetic cue ball to sort it from the rest of the colors, meaning there are no moving parts internally, which greatly reduces the chances of it breaking. The settings can be a little difficult to program, but emptying the coins is easy as pie.
As for the actual gameplay, the table is impeccable. The included balls fly across the felt, and the pockets aren’t too forgiving. They even have that awesome “thunk” sound when you absolutely smash the ball in, which is great. If you’re replacing older worn-down tables with this model, you should expect to see a decent uplift in revenues once it’s installed.
Leveling the legs is easy, and the table comes with two tough bar cues, meaning you don’t have to buy any equipment to get up and running. Plus, it’s available in an 8′ variety if you’re looking for something a little bigger.
You’ve reached the end of this buyer’s guide!
We hope you found the perfect pool table for your bar, home, or club! If you’re still having trouble deciding what to get, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you within 24 business hours.
About the author
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.