The sport goes by many names: pool, pocket billiards, six-pocket if you’re a bit older. There are hundreds of pool games that you play, though the most common game types include Eight-ball, wherein the objective is to pocket all the solid or stripe balls first, then sink the eight ball to claim victory.
Other popular game varieties include Nine-ball, Three-ball, One-pocket, and several others. The objective for each style of pool is different, but they all have one critical detail in common: you can’t play them without a pool table.
Furthermore, you need to make sure you get the right pool table, as it’s easy to mistake other similar tables for the one you need or get a pool table that won’t properly do the job.
Read on to learn which is the best pool table overall.
Factors & Differences in Pool Tables
The first thing we need to do is differentiate the pool table from other similar tables for which you could easily mistake it. A billiards table, for instances, looks suspiciously similar but is designed for a separate game. As the objective of billiards is to strike the target ball, have it bounce and hit a second target ball, the standard billiards table is larger than a pool table and has no pockets. The fabric that tops the traditional billiards table is also different.
A pool table, as the above description would indicate, has pockets to sink the balls (six, to be precise). There’s a pocket on each corner of the table, and two in the center. So, what should you be taking into consideration while you’re looking at pool tables?
Size is a major factor, as it will determine whether it will fit into the space you’ve designated in your home to use as a personal pool area. For small spaces, a six-foot table might be all you’re able to manage. Pool tables range from six to ten feet, however, with the largest table varieties usually reserved for specialized pool establishments, pool halls, if you will.
Commensurate with size is the weight of the table. This is determined by both the size of the table and the materials used in construction. Most tables contain a core that is composed of a mixture of concrete and wood, or simple plywood/particle board.
The all-wood construction is lighter, but also cheaper. For most serious players of the game, a slate table is preferable as it feels sturdier. The drawback is that the heavy slate can sometimes put undue pressure on the table construction, causing the rails and other components of the table to warp after a few years.
Speaking of table construction, solid wood is the superior options. Pool tables made from pressed wood will provide an adequate level of play, but solid wood far outclasses it in nearly all aspects. Rails made from solid wood offer more bounce, support the table better, and does not deteriorate as quickly.
High-grade cloth is your best choice for the table surface, worsted cloth varieties from the best manufacturers (like Brunswick, or Simonis) being an optimal choice. As for the pockets, real leather is preferable (since it lasts longer). However, vinyl pockets will still give you several years of sturdy use (and are usually less expensive).
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that the overall design and price of the table is one that fits your personal sensibilities. You’ll doubtless find many fine options in your search, and should expect to pay a bit extra for more ornate tables, particularly if they are constructed from all hardwoods.
Best Pool Table Brands: Your Options
As mentioned, there’s wide range of manufacturers, each putting out great tables with different individual characteristics. We’re going to look at three that may catch your eye.
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The Mizerak brand is named after late pool legend Steve Mizerak, AKA “the Miz.” Overall, they are known for producing a rather well-received line of eight and nine-foot pool tables, but the Dynasty is a “space saver” design, intended for use in tighter quarters. It measures about six-and-a-half feet, comes with cues and a complete set of balls, and has a few features to enhance the game.
What’s Great About the Mizerak Dynasty?
- Compact Size. The first thing you’ll notice is that the Dynasty is much smaller than most other pool tables. For some, this might be a drawback, but for a table meant to fit in a residence, you can view this as a strength. Particularly in homes with smaller rooms, as every bit of space counts.
- The Leg Levelers. Something that stands out on this model is the leg levelers on the bottom of the table. These levelers help to stabilize the surface under a range of conditions, ensuring that you have a level playing field no matter what. This stability is enhanced by cross supports between the table legs that counteract any wobble that might occur during play.
- Rubber Cushioning. The inside perimeter of the playing surface includes rubber cushioning. This increases the rebound effect, or “bounce” of the balls when they strike, allowing for better shots, increased precision, and a faster game.
- It’s A Package Deal. The Mizerak Dynasty comes equipped with everything you need to get started; this includes a set of standard balls, two pool cues, a triangle, chalk, and a table brush. They aren’t the highest quality by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re good enough to get you started.
- Automatic Ball Return System. Built into the table is a ball return system that collects the balls from the pockets to a centralized location after they’ve been sunk, allowing you to start a new game quicker.
What’s Not So Great About the Mizerak Dynasty?
- It’s Not All Hardwood. The Mizerak Dynasty is composed of a bamboo laminate exterior. While it looks nice, it isn’t quite up to the quality standards of traditional hardwoods, and serious players will notice the difference.
- MDF Surface. The playing surface of the Dynasty is a double-sealed MDF board, essentially, wood topped with a green nylon cloth. It’s durable, and Mizerak has designed theirs to resist the warping that is usually associated with this kind of pool surface. Still, it just isn’t the same as playing on traditional slate, and you will be able to notice the difference.
The Fat Cat name is associated with quality and elegance. That’s mirrored in the design of the Reno II, an updated version of their classic Reno pool tables. This version includes a red-cloth playing surface as opposed to traditional green, adding an air of liveliness and luxury that few can imitate. The advantages of the Reno II go beyond improved looks, however.
What’s Great About the Fat Cat Reno II?
- Wood Construction & Solid Design. The Reno II includes many sturdy hardwood elements. The six-inch rails are of a solid wood construction, and the legs are tough with a wood veneer maple. This gives the table a heft and stability that is widely sought among pool aficionados. The rails themselves have a great bounce, and while a pro might find them substandard, casual and intermediate players will have a fine time using them as the balls rebound just as expected.
- Includes Leveling Pads. They aren’t obvious, but they’re there, hidden in the feet of the table. You can use the levelers to ensure even play in multiple environments, a factor that is paramount to enjoying the game.
What’s Not So Great About the Fat Cat Reno II?
- The Playing Surface. Instead of the slate playing surface that pool snobs are accustomed to, this table uses Accustate. There’s no stone within the playing surface at all, and while Fat Cat manufactures the Accustate in the Reno II to exacting standards, it still doesn’t hold a candle to traditional slate.
- Assembly Is a Bear. You’ll have to break out the tools to put this one together, and it won’t be a simple process either. The tools that come packaged with the Reno II for assembly leave much to be desired, so if you don’t have your own kit on hand, you can expect a fairly difficult go of getting this thing in working order.
- Not top-of-the-line prices, mind you, but you’ll be paying a few hundred dollars more for the Reno II than you would for the Dynasty.
By some estimates, Empire represents the Cadillac of pool tables. Elegant, well-constructed, and expensive. That price is worth it for many pool enthusiasts, however, as the Empire line is manufactured with them in mind.
What’s Great About the Empire USA Signature Series?
- High-Quality, Bar None. This is the defining feature of the USA Signature Series. Everything about this table meets an unrivaled standard—slate playing surface, hardwood construction, hand-crafted design. If you’re looking for a top-tier pool table, this is the likely option for you.
What’s Not So Great About the Empire USA Signature Series?
- It’s Heavy. Well over five hundred pounds, to be more exact. This helps with keeping the table sturdy, but it’s hard to move, so make sure you know precisely where you want to put it ahead of time.
- It’s Expensive. You’re going to pay more than two thousand dollars for this table. It’s worth the cost for many, but if you’d rather have something cheap, this might not be the table for you.
- You Have To Put It Together. Empire has done their best to make the DIY assembly process as simple as possible, but you’re probably going to need professional assistance in getting this one completed.
In Summation: What Is The Best Pool Table?
There’s a wide range of factors that determine the worth of any given pool table. The Empire USA Signature Series has high marks in all categories, and while it’s pricier than the other options presented, it is the highest-quality of the bunch. It has the slate playing surface, is made from hardwoods, and heavy so that it will stay in place while you practice or compete. If you have the space, the money, and the time to put it together, it’ll provide the most value and the greatest level of play. Overall I think it is the best pool table for most people.