When buying a pool table for a business, a common concern is getting the best table available for the budget. While the game as a whole may seem straightforward, there are variations in tables that come into play when choosing which to buy. What you purchase impacts the enjoyment and convenience of play for your guests, employees, or any other individuals who have a match. Size and style are important, but there are other features to consider when you are looking for a professional pool table.
Guide to Professional Pool Table Buying
A pool table is an investment, and the purchase should have long-term value for your business. Don't just make an impulse buy; carefully review the following elements when starting your search.
Professional Pool Table Top Types
The table's top is generally the most important part, as this is where all the action takes place. To pick the right material, think about purpose and budget. As with any purchase, value is about more than saving money. Cheap entertainment shouldn’t be your goal, especially when you remember “you get what you pay for.” A professional pool table should be able to sustain the wear and tear of the players and environment while delivering a quality of play that encourages people to return for more. Don’t just look at the price tag when making comparisons between materials for the top.
The highest quality surface for a pool table is slate. We’ll cut to the punchline straight away here - buy a real slate table - anything else is a step down not worth any cost-saving - especially for a business.
This option is generally the most expensive, but it is an investment worth making. This surface won’t warp or crack under general conditions and gives players a smooth, clean surface for each shot. Premium slate materials typically come from Brazil or Italy. The game of pool requires a completely level surface, and the way slate stone naturally splits into flat, wide pieces make it ideal.
A true slate top can be ordered in a variety of sizes, and though thinner slate pieces may be less costly, it’s best to use at least a 1-inch top. This is the recommendation of the Billiard Congress of America for tournaments, meaning it will stand up to the test of your business use.
Because of its unwieldy weight and size, slate is often separated into three pieces for transportation. In the majority of these situations, you will see each piece diamond-honed, matched, and registered to certify each section came from the same piece of slate. It is a heavy material and difficult to move, so plan on the table staying in one spot or hiring a professional to help to relocate it. If you do get a three-piece slate bed, we would also recommend a professional installer set the table up for you to make sure the seam is perfectly smooth.
There are less expensive options for a professional pool tabletop, including particleboard, honeycomb, and Slatron. Particleboard is lightweight and extremely affordable. However, it is susceptible to damage or warping from changes in temperature or moisture. With a honeycomb top, the surface is made of compressed layers of hard plastic. It doesn’t warp like the medium-density fiberboard, but it can make the surface rougher and more unstable from the lack of weight. Slatron is a mix of hardened plastic over particleboard. It’s a durable, synthetic option that has good quality for the price point. (Disclaimer - serious players - and even most average players - will expect slate, so if you are a business, go with slate!)
Coin-Op or Open-Play Table
The next major choice is the play type. There are two main play types when it comes to professional tables… Coin Operated or Open Play.
When deciding which you want to have in your establishment, it will come down to the type of player you expect to have.
Coin-Op tables are better for casual establishments with 1 to 3 tables, where most users will want to play a game or two, informally. Valley/Dynamo tables are the number one for this market - known as ‘bar-box’ tables and are usually 7-foot in length.
Open Play tables, meaning tables that do not ‘keep’ the balls once they are potted, are for establishments that expect to rent the tables by the hour. These tables are for more serious players. These customers come to play pool, and might have a drink when they are there… Coin-op tables are more likely to be the other way around (people who come in for a drink and might play pool). If you are opening a dedicated pool hall and want to attract leagues etc. then avoid the coin-op route. There are several great brands of pool tables out there - we recommend Diamond tables for open play tables.
Professional Pool Table Construction
The frame or table cabinet is what provides stability to the playing surface. It's generally a large rectangular frame made of thick planks of hardwood. The way the pieces are joined together impacts the longevity of the table, and the chosen tabletop material also dictates how supportive a frame must be. The most common design is to have cross beams and a center beam to support the slate.
Some designs double the center beam or distribute the overall weight from side to side, making the center weight-bearing redundant. The size and material choice of the table impact whether there is a central pedestal supporting the weight or multiple legs. The tabletop is locked onto the frame before the other components are added. The more inexpensive the pool cabinet, the greater the likelihood that the frame's primary components are cheaper particle board or plastic.
Aesthetic and Style
The nature of a professional pool table means it will command attention no matter where is it located, but having the table components complement the surrounding environment encourages a positive reception. Consider the aesthetics of its intended location while deciding what table style would look best for your business.
Different from the well-recognized design of a professional pool table, a modern design is generally high-end with lots of unique features. Pedestals typically replace table legs, and you often see a variety of colors and designs with pockets and felt colors. Some tables are lit with neon or track lighting, and there are options to add a top LED glass cover to highlight the various shot angles.
Less visible than a modern table, the contemporary style updates the more traditional table. Polished, sleek black trim replaces stained hardwoods, and colored or patterned felt designs replace the traditional red or green old-timer felts.
For enjoying the basic style of table that has existed for decades, the classic design is the way to go. This design involves a hardwood frame supported by ornate or antique-style table legs. The top felt is usually vintage green or red.
Professional Pool Table Size
To play a professional game of pool, there must be sufficient space available for the positioning of the table and the movement of the players around it. The types of cues are used to factor into what you should consider adequate space for the table. A professional size is a 9-foot table, while a 7-foot table is considered a bar size. If you are using standard pool cues, you need at least a 14’ by 18’6” room for an optimum playing experience for a 9’ table.
Purchasing a Professional Pool Table
Now that you know what type of professional pool table to look for, you can make more informed decisions about quality and value. At Penguin Brand, we carry high-quality pool table replacements parts and accessories to ensure your games go on. Browse our inventory today if you are looking to repair your bar-box table.
P.S. Don't forget the above-table lighting - playing pool in a dimly lit bar is no fun.