Check the Pockets Before You Play...

Author: Curt Riedy

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Let it be known that not all pool tables are indeed alike. If you’re considering your first pool table purchase, it’s something you might not be aware of. The truth is, many tables actually feature different sized pockets that cater to either the advanced or beginning players. It’s very important to thoroughly check all six pockets before you seriously consider any table purchase.

The Best Pocket Checking Method – Roll a Few:

Whether you’re playing a game at a local hall or making your first table purchase, what’s the best method of checking a pool table? The most highly recommended thing to do is to roll a few balls into all the pockets at different speeds and angles. This should give you a good idea of what to expect when it comes time for you to line up your shot. This method is also very effective when checking for signs of wear to both the pockets and the table itself.

Two Major Differences in Table Pockets: 

Standard Pool Table Pocket Dimensions
Corner Pocket Mouth Between 4 7/8" minimum to 5 1/8" maximum
Side Pocket Mouth Between 5 3/8" minimum to 5 5/8" maximum
The Differences in "Four by Nine" Table Pockets
Corner Pocket 2 1/4 Balls' Width at Opening (Incredible Precision Necessary)
Side Pocket 2 1/2 Balls' Width (Slightly More Forgiving than Corners)

Tables with “Loose” Pockets make it relatively easy for players to sink their pool balls, and are tailor-made for both the beginning and intermediate player. However, it’s the tables with “Tight” or “Pro” Pockets that the relatively inexperienced player needs to watch out for. These specific tables, commonly used in tournament play, demand a great deal of precision from a player’s shot. In some cases, what appears to be a simple sink can actually be quite deceiving.

Just how tricky are they? Well, considering the side pockets are almost the exact size of the ball itself…pretty tricky. Most advanced tables, referred to as “four by nines”, have corner pockets that are 2¼ balls' width at their openings, pretty much ensuring that the player has to make a perfect shot in order to sink their ball.

The side pockets, however, are slightly larger (typically 2½ balls' width), as they are more difficult targets in general. Thankfully, the difference in pocket sizes allows for a relatively equal playing field.

Billiard Hall Tables – A Bit of Warning:

In addition, it’s also not a bad idea to do a quick table check when at your local pool hall. Considering most halls tend to have 1 or 2 tables specifically made for local champs and advanced players, this is especially important if and when money comes into play. In addition to tighter pockets, these tables tend to have a felt that allows for a faster speed than your average table.

You should also keep in mind that these “pro” tables not only make for a much more difficult game, but they’re often devised as traps for the unsuspecting player to get caught up in a hustle. Hopefully, your local billiards hall has put up some signs such as “Easy” and “Hard” to designate the difference between these two tables. When it comes to having a plain ol’ good time at the pool hall, knowing the type of table you’re playing on can make a world of difference.

Pro Table Home Use – A Good Idea:

While they may be tricky outside of your playing zone, becoming adept at a home “pro” table will most definitely allow you to achieve a notable advantage over your competition. It may even encourage you to have more at-home tournaments. Just remember, simply owning a “four by nine” won’t do anything but take up a lot of space. You’re going to have to practice on that thing, too…so no funny stuff.

Basically, it all comes down to the gaming challenge you want to face. Is a quick and easy sink enough to make you happy when enjoying a home game? Will a rejected shot caused by a difficult pocket create enough motivation to make you want to practice harder and enhance your game? Well, the answer is simple. Check the pockets on that table you’re considering for purchase and see for yourself.