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Pool & Billiards FAQs

  • What is the difference between pool and billiards?
    Billiards is a very general term that refers to any game played with cue sticks on a cloth covered table with rubber cushions. Snooker, Carom, and Pockets billiards are some more specific classifications of games. The term pool was born from a time when gambling parlors existed, and often had billiards tables on which people would gamble on. The phrase originated from the "pool" of money that existed at this gambling parlors.

  • Is there a standard size for a billiards table?
    The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) has guidelines for tournament play, however table sizes can vary by game and geography. Snooker and tables are generally 12' x 6' table. Carom (straight rail - no pockets) tables are generally 10' x 5'. Pool tables usually vary between 7' x 3 1/2', 8' x 4', and 9' x 5'. You will commonly see 8' pool tables in home due to size restrictions, while 7' tables are most common in bars as coin operated amusement. Pool rooms will usually have 9' tables for their patrons to play on, as it is the standard size for most professional tournaments.

  • What size pool table do I have?
    Table size is determined by the paying surface rather then the overall outer dimensions. Measure from inside rail to inside rail to determine if your table is 7', 8', or 9' in length.

  • What size room do I need for a pool table?
    As a general rule, you will want to allow 5' from the apron to the wall on any side of a table in order to use standard 57"/58" pool cues. Here is a chart for common table sizes and the space needed for full shots will standard length cues:

    What height should my table be from the floor?
    • 7' table - 13 1/2' x 17'
    • 8' table - 14' x 18'
    • 9' table - 14 1/2' x 19'

    Keep in mind though, that there are shorter cues that can be used and that may require less space.

  • WPA specifications require playing surface heights to be 29" - 31" inches from the floor. Most manufacturered tables are pretty close to these specifications.

  • How high should I hang my pool table lights?
    Lights should generally hang about 32" above the table, however, keep in mind that the objective is to provide the best lighting and eliminate any shadows, and since lights can vary based on style and manufacturer, you may have to adjust your light height to achieve this goal.

  • What is a bar box?
    A bar box is a term used to refer to a 7' pool table, since they are most often found in bars.

  • What is the difference between worsted and woolen cloth?
    Worsted cloth is spun from combed wool into parallel fibers and can be identified by its weave. Worsted cloth is mostly used in tournaments and in pool rooms as balls roll much fast and more consistently on the woven cloth.

    Woolen cloth is woven as well, but there is no combing and laying the fibers parallel. This creates a thicker, cheaper wool product that looks and feels more like felt.

  • What type of glue should I use for cloth or cushions?
    For cloth, we recommend 3M Super77. For cushions, we recommend contact cement, and that can usually be found at your local hardware store.

  • Where does the ball spot marker go?
    Measure half the width of the table and use that same distance from the end. If the width is 50", then measure 25" from the sides and 25" from the end. That's the spot.

  • How do I clean spills on cloth?
    The SimonisNCAA, and ArtScape Custom Cloth we sell is treated with a Spillguard protection, developed by Milliken, a worldwide leader in textile and chemical technology. Should you have a spill on this cloth, you simply dab the liquid up with a dry towel. The Spillguard treatment prevents the liquid from staining the cloth.

    The Championship Invitational cloth is treated with a teflon coating, so spills should clean easily from the cloth with a dry towel.

    Any spill should be addressed immediately to help make sure the cloth continues to perform at its highest level.

  • What is a break pad?
    Since the break shot produces friction between the cue ball and the table cloth, there is a tremendous amount of heat generated. Since many types of billiard table cloth use some combination of wool and nylon, the nylon can burn under the heat and stress of these shots. These often show as white spots or lines on the table cloth. A break pad is used to reduce the stress on the cloth generated from a break shot.

  • What is the cue ball?
    The cue ball, most often white, is the ball that is struck by the cue stick and aimed at the "object" ball, which is the intended target.

  • What is the standard weight of a cue ball - balls?
    According to WPA specifications, all standard balls should be 2 1/4" in diameter (+.005) and weigh between 5 1/2 and 6 ounces.

  • What are the different types of cue balls?
    Coin operated tables will sometimes use either a weighted cueball, or an oversized cueball, to allow for the proper ball return on a scratch. For regulation play, the only differences in cueballs are whether they have spots or dots on them, and these are used only for aesthetic purposes or to determine the quality of the cue ball.

  • What are pool balls made out of?
    Years ago, billiard balls were made of ivory, however in the modern era of pool, billiard balls are made from polyester and resin compounds.

  • Why do the balls have the colors that they do?
    American pocket billiard balls sets have a fairly standard color set of solids (1-7 ball) and subsequent matching colored stripes (9-15). In The game of 8-ball, solids and stripes are essentially to the gameplay. In rotation games such as 9-ball and 10-ball, only the number of the ball matters. Some colors have been developed specifically to show up better on television, but you will only find these in a very few ball sets. In Snooker, there are 15 red balls and 7 other balls of various colors. Carom balls will often use only 2 or 3 colors.

  • What is the correct way to rack balls?
    Each league has a slightly different set of rules regarding racking. Racking can also vary based on "house" rules. Click here for World Standardized rules regarding various games and how they should be racked.

  • What do I need chalk for?
    Since the cue ball is smooth, and the cue tip is smooth, chalk is used on a cue tip to increase friction and prevent miscues.

  • What does scratch mean?
    To scratch is to pocket the cue ball. This most often results in a foul and ball in hand for your opponent.

  • What is "English"?
    "English" is the spin of the cue ball, which will in turn affect how the cue ball moves after contact with an object ball. Extreme cases of english can result in "masse" shots that curve the path of the cue ball before making contact.

  • What does ball-in-hand mean?
    "Ball in hand" means that a player may place a ball anywhere on the table after a foul. This rule exists so that an opposing player may not use committing a foul to their advantage.

  • What does behind the eight-ball mean?
    In the game of 8-ball, you must contact one of your own balls first for a shot to be considered legal. If the 8-ball is in your way, and there is no clear shot at your own object ball, then you are "behind the 8-ball" and in a very tough situation.

  • What does it mean to break and run?
    To break and run means you pocket at least on ball on the break, continue shooting, and proceed to pocket every subsequent ball in that rack. In 8-ball, this would mean all of your balls (either stripe or solid) and in rotational games such as 9-ball and 10-ball, it means pocketing all the balls consecutively.

  • What is a bridge?
    bridge is the cradle of the cue and can be a reference to either your hand position when you stroke your cue, or to the separate apparatus used to reach long shots across a larger table.

  • What is the "standard" weight of a cue?
    The most popular cue weights are 19 and 20 ounces. Most all cues made are between 18 and 21 ounces. There is no truly established "standard" weight as the playability of a cue can be determined by both the weight and the balance of a cue and this will vary from cue to cue. However, we allow that as an option to avoid an agonizing decision over what weight to choose. Luckily, most all of the brands we sell use interchangeable weight bolt systems, so weights can be easily adjusted at any point during the life of the cue.

  • What is the standard length of a cue?
    Standard length pool cues are 57-58 inches in length. There are variations of shorter cues, usually either for tight spots in a room without proper clearance on all sides of the table, or for children who find standard length cues too unwieldy. There are some cues that are slightly longer, at 59-60 inches, and you will usually find these variations in a product description.

  • What is a Sneaky Pete?
    The term Sneaky Pete as it relates to pool cues, refers to a style of cue that uses a simple, four point design and most often a wood-to-wood joint. The idea being, a player can have a personal cue, tweaked to their specifications, that looks very similar to the average house cue. It is also referred to as a "hustler" cue, as there were tales that this cue style was used by hustlers so as to not announce their skill level with a fancy cue to an unsuspecting mark they intended to gamble with.

  • What is a house cue?
    one piece cue found on the walls of most bars and pool rooms are often referred to as "house cues" since this is what the House is providing to play with. Some upscale pool rooms will deploy much nicer two piece cues as house cues.

  • Which cues would you recommend for a child?
    Since children come in various shapes and sizes, there are no hard and fast rules about cue lengths for kids. The only potential drawback for children and full length pool cues is their ability to handle and control the cue. If your child is too small to handle a full length cue, there are a variety of pool cues available in lengths ranging from 36 inches to 52 inches. 

  • What is deflection?
    The laws of physics dictate that some energy will be lost in an action where two objects collide. As it refers to pool cue shafts, this loss of energy is expressed as a deviation in the path of the cue ball when struck with a cue. The deviation is very slight, and mostly imperceptible to most amateur pool players. All pool cue shafts will deflect to some extent, some more than others.

  • What is a house "pro"?
    A house pro is typically a high level player, who often competes in professional level tournaments or has teaching certifications, who plays and practices at a single pool room, offering that room the added value of having a high level player who can give lessons or perhaps even run a pro shop where patrons can shop for cues and accessories.

  • What is pill pool?
    Pill pool, also known as "Kelly Pool" and "Pea Pool" is a game playing on a pocket billiards table using 15 "pills" and a pill bottle. It is popular in the sense that more than 2 people can play at once. See our "official rules" section to learn how to play pill pool.