Whether you want to get a pool table to play at home or you’re playing competitively in tournaments, you’ll need some essential equipment to play pool. In this article, I’ll take you through every piece of equipment you need to play pool and the different options available.
Equipment Needed for Table Pool
To play pool you will need a pool table, cue, set of balls and pool chalk. Some players also find a cue rest is necessary for reaching more difficult shots. You should also get either a case or stand to store your cues, and ideally you’ll need a cover the table if you’ve purchased one for your home.
Essential Equipment to Play Pool
- Pool table
- Set of pool balls
- Pool chalk
- Ball rack
- Cue rack or case
- Cue rest
- Pool table care supplies (table cover and brush)
- Pool ball cleaner and polish
- Additional lighting for the table
If you are playing pool in a hall, pub or bar, then of course you can skip ahead here, but if you are looking to play pool at home then there are many different considerations you need to make to ensure you end up with the right table for you.
English vs American Pool Tables
English pool tables are designed for a smaller set of balls than American tables so are much smaller in size. American pool tables are either 8ft or 9ft (full-size) in length whereas English tables are usually either 6ft or 7ft (full-size).
The pockets on American pool tables are sharper and more angled compared to English tables which have more curved pockets. The cloth also differs, with English pool cloth having a nap so it essentially looks furry and needs to be brushed in a particular direction compared to American cloth which does not have a nap so you can instead see the weave. American cloth plays “faster” than English cloth.
Slate Bed vs MDF Pool Tables
The bed of the pool table impacts the playing experience significantly. The cloth is placed over the bed so the quality and materials used affects how the balls move on the table’s surface.
Slate bed tables are more expensive but offer a better playing experience whilst MDF tables are cheaper and lighter so easier to transport.
Pool Dining Table
If you are purchasing the table for your home and you want to make the most of the space, then opting for a pool dining table is a great option. It offers the same quality playing experience but you can place the covers over the table and transform it into a dining table whenever you need to.
I’ve written a full guide to the different types of pool tables which is well worth checking out if you’re looking to buy one so you know which type will be best suited to you.
If you aren’t playing pool at home, most venues will offer pool cues that you can either rent or come included with the playing-entry price. However, if you’re serious about playing pool then buying your own cue is essential.
If you’ve just bought a pool table for your home, then it probably came with at least 2 cues, but generally they will not be as good in terms of quality compared to cues purchased separately.
There are several considerations you need to make here:
- Type of game (American or English)
- Cue length
- Cue construction
- Tip Construction, Diameter and Hardness
English vs American Pool Cues
Just as with the tables, the cues for American and English pool are different. Since American pool uses larger balls, the cue tip is larger on an American pool cue.
American pool cue tips usually have a 13mm diameter, whereas on English cues this ranges from around 8-10mm.
English cues are made of ash so have a more prominent grain compared to American cues. English cues have a brass ferrule and American cues have a longer plastic ferrule which helps them to hit the larger and heavier ball with more control.
It’s really important that you select the correct type of cue for the game of pool that you’re playing. Check out my in-depth comparison between English and American pool cues for all the information you’ll need.
Pool Cue Length
Pool cues come in various lengths, the most common being 57 inches (full-size), 48 inches and 36-inches. The full-size 57 inch cues are recommended for most adults, whilst 36-inch cues are better for younger players. However, you may need to choose a cue based on your playing area as well.
If your pool table is in a small space, then selecting a 48 inch cue instead of a 57 inch cue is a good idea. It’s always recommended to measure the area around your pool table to ensure the cue size you’re selecting is suitable.
Pool cues can come in various formats. Some are made from a single piece, and others are made from 2 or 3 pieces which are split down for storage and screwed together when playing.
Many players find that the experience when playing with a single piece cue is better as there is less energy loss so the shot feels the most natural. However, split cues are pretty much essential if you’re going to be taking your cue to different venues.
Cues can either be split in the centre or in the 3/4 position (furthest from the tip). Most American cues are split in the centre, but English pool cues can be split either way.
Some players simply prefer the look of the 3/4 joint, whilst others find it easier to play with. The 3/4 joint causes the weight of the cue to be balanced further back (closer to the player). It’s all personal preference though and you should try both types when making your decision.
Check out my article comparing one, two and three piece cues to learn more.
The weight of the cue will affect the playability. In general, lighter cues allow for more control and finesse whereas heavier cues allow for more power. However, there is no optimal weight and many players will have a specific preference so make sure you try some different cue weights before selecting one to buy.
Most American pool cues weigh between 18 and 21 ounces and English cues usually weigh between 15-19 ounces.
There are several variables to consider relating to the tip of the cue: diameter, hardness and construction.
Most American pool cue tips have a 13mm diameter however you can select smaller sizes, usually 11mm or 12mm if preferred. English pool cue tip diameters range between 8-10mm.
Generally, the smaller the diameter, the more control you will have. However, larger cue tips can be more powerful and easier to use for beginners.
Check out this article I’ve written comparing the pros and cons of different size cue tips.
Harder tips result in more powerful shots, which is why hard cue tips are often selected for breaking. However, the issue with harder tips is that they give you less control over spinning. It’s best to try different levels of hardness to figure out which feels best to you.
Finally, when I’m talking about construction, I’m really referring to whether the tip is glued in or whether it screws on. Glued-in tips result in a better playing experience, whereas screw in tips are cheaper and easy to replace if damaged. Most cues will have a glue-in tip.
Have a look at my article article comparing glue-on vs screw-on cue tips to learn more.
Take a look at my guide to how much pool cues cost on average for examples and the differences between cheap and expensive cues.
If you’re playing pool at home, then you’ll need a set of pool balls. Most pool tables will come with a set included, but you may want to upgrade them or use a different set to play a different version of pool.
It’s important that you select the correct set of balls for your pool table (English or American), so that they match the size of the pockets.
- American 8 Ball Sets have a diameter of 2 1/4″ and these have a spots and stripes design
- American 9 Ball Sets have a diameter of 2 1/4″ and have a solid colour design
- English Pool Balls have a diameter of 2″ and come in a yellow and red set
It’s also possible to get 2″ English pool balls in the spots and stripes design if desired, but traditionally they will be reds and yellows. You can also get other colours to suit your preference and ensure the balls contrast the colour of the table cloth.
There are varying degrees of quality when it comes to pool balls. The cheaper, entry-level sets that often come with a pool table are a bit duller looking and lower quality than premium sets.
You can get higher quality balls such as those made by Aramith which are made from phenolic resin.
These are much shinier which of course increases the aesthetic appeal, but it also reduces the friction on the cloth which results in less wear and tear. They are also checked more rigorously for quality, including ensuring that they are perfectly spherical.
Here is a link to a set of Aramith balls on Amazon so you can check the current price.
Image links to Amazon
Check out my article comparing cheap and expensive Aramith pool balls to learn more about the differences.
It’s recommended to chalk the pool cue before every shot, so it’s a good idea to have a decent supply of chalk available at all times. Most venues will have chalk available but it is likely to be low quality, so purchasing your own is recommended. Chalks differ in consistency, and some are smoother than others.
Make sure you choose chalk that is the same colour as the pool table cloth, otherwise your pool table will look dirty whenever you’ve played on it.
Here are some chalk recommendations (both images link to Amazon).
Exceed X-Chalk (highest quality)
Master Chalk (best value)
To start a game of pool, the balls must be arranged in a certain order with a rack. For 8-ball pool, the rack is triangular, and for 9-ball pool the rack is diamond-shaped. You’ll need to make sure you purchase the correct size rack for the type of game you’re playing (English and American).
You can get racks made from different materials depending on what look you’re going for. Plastic racks are the cheapest, but you can also find well-priced wooden and metal rack as well.
A cue rest is useful for reaching difficult shots which are on the opposite side of the table. Here is an demonstration of a cue rest being used on YouTube.
Cue Rack or Case
If you have a table at home, or have purchased your own pool cue for out and about, then it’s essential to invest in some storage.
If you’ve purchased a table for your house, then a cue rack will allow you to safely store all your cues when not in-use to prevent them from becoming damaged. There are a few different types available to suit different needs. Here are some images (all link to Amazon) below as an example.
Care and Maintenance Supplies
If you have purchased a pool table for your home, then it’s important to invest in some supplies to help care for it and keep it looking good and playing well.
Purchasing a cover for your pool table is a good idea for a few reasons:
- It protects it against spills
- It prevents dust settling on the table
- It prevents the table from fading and discolouring due to UV damage
Something like this Kohree 8ft table cover on Amazon is a good option as it offers a sleek look and excellent protection.
Pool Ball Polish and Cleaner
If you want to keep the set of pool balls in the best possible condition, then cleaning and polishing them periodically is a good idea. The Aramith Phenolic Ball Care Kit on Amazon consists of a cleaner and restoring polish which is perfect for a set of high quality Aramith balls.
Table Brush (English Pool Only)
English pool tables have a napped cloth which means they need to be brushed in a particular direction to ensure you are getting the best playing surface. They’re pretty inexpensive and something like this Euroscrubby Brush Set on Amazon is perfect for the job. This isn’t necessary for American pool table cloth.
Do You Need Additional Lighting?
A pool table must be well-lit, so if the lighting in your room isn’t cutting it, then consider investing in some dedicated pool table lights. There are various different lighting designs, most of which are mounted over the table and consist of 3 separate lights.
They usually range in price from around $150-$400 depending on the style you’re looking for.