So, you’re finally ready to amp up your games room, huh? Tired of calling it a games room when all it really has a card table and a video game system? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re hoping to add a solid pool table to the mix.
I know how important it is to get what you want when you’re looking to make a purchase like this. It isn’t a completely objective question: “Which on is the best?” I mean, what you want and what I want from a pool table could be two very different things.
For that reason, I’ve collected an assortment of pool tables, each (in my opinion) the best in their “category” so that, regardless of your preferences, you should be able to get your hands on exactly what you’re looking for!
Top Pool Tables in 2018
Fat Cat 3-in-1 – Best Under $2000
This Fat Cat is pretty comparable to the Triumph 3-in-1 I will be discussing below. But what makes it stand out and why would you want to purchase this one instead of the Triumph? Great questions. Glad you asked them.
Let’s get through the basics, here, first. Like the Triumph, this table packs three games into one and utilizes a flipping table to accomplish this feat. The billiards table flips 180 degrees (with the assistance of a rotating hinge) to expose the air hockey table.
It is atop this air hockey table that you can set the tri-fold table tennis play surface. To store the table tennis play surface just fold it and tuck it below the rest of the table.
The air hockey portion of the table is powered with a 110V blower fan and plugs into the wall with a 16-foot cord so that you can give yourself ample space to move around the table.
Though this table has a lot in common with the Triumph there are a few key differences. First, it is more expensive. It’s kind of hard to ignore the differences in the prices between these two 3-in-1 tables. This one is about $400 more than the other one.
But why? It’s hard to say, really. It seems to be a matter of personal preference to choose this one over the other, so you have to ask yourself if the following advantages are worth the extra money.
Whereas the manufacturers of Triumph won’t spill the beans about their felt surface, the makers of this Fat Cat table happily brag about their special, secret blend of fabric called “Tetolon.”
It’s safe to assume that this Tetolon surface isn’t nearly up to par with the surfaces on high-quality billiards tables, but it is said to be a durable surface which still provides an all-around positive playing experience.
As 3-in-1 game tables go, this one is of a higher caliber of quality than most on the market today. Its superior materials and excellent storage show that Fat Cat put a lot of thought into the overall user experience.
Triumph 3-in-1 – Best for Home Use
It should seem obvious that I’m going to compare this to the Fat Cat since both are 3-in-1 tables but I also want to talk about a few things which are unique to the Triumph.
To begin, let’s look at the overall construction of this table. While this and the Fat Cat both use their share of plastic in their design, I want to point out how much sturdier this one is. I still wouldn’t recommend sitting on it to get that perfect shot the way you might with the wooden tables
Like the Fat Cat, this table comes with everything you need to have a great time. You get the three-sport tables all rolled into one and all of the accessories necessary to play each of those games.
Though there is no special storage zone for your pool cues there are a couple of storage areas for most of the other accessories. Additionally, the pool cues can be collapsed for easier storage, though it doesn’t appear that there is a storage spot for them anywhere on the actual table.
Measuring 84 inches long, 44.5 inches wide, and 32 inches tall, this table is slightly larger than the Fat Cat table, overall, but I’m pretty sure that’s because its outer framing is bulkier. The playing surfaces appear to be about the same size.
Though large enough to create a good playing experience and small enough to fit into cramped quarters, this table isn’t nearly as large as a typical billiards table. You’ll have to adjust your shots accordingly.
For that reason, I won’t suggest you purchase this one if you’re placing it in a recreation center or similar venue where it will be played many times per day every day.
If, however, you’re putting it in your home for your family and friends to play on occasion it’ll probably work out well. There wouldn’t be much of a reason, in the latter case, to invest in something more expensive, like the Fat Cat.
A great three-in-one game table for people who value sturdiness and durability over convenience and cloth quality.
MD Sports – Best Brand
I love this table. I have to say, out of the five I’ve chosen to talk about this one is, by far, my favorite. I love the style of it. I love the colors and the rich wood tones. I love the details! Have you looked at the details on this thing? They’re outstanding!
The way that MD Sports decided to use woven leather drop pockets instead of some ugly ball return or just black holes of doom where your balls get stuck and are difficult to retrieve. Sorry, I was having a brief flashback of frustration from a past pool hall experience.
The details used to craft this table make it especially impressive when you consider its price. Usually, a table that looks this nice runs you up to $3000.
Personally, I really don’t care that it’s made of particle board in some places. There are people who will be bothered by this. They’ll want a table made completely of hardwood with a pure slate top covered in a premium wool-nylon blended cloth.
While that sounds like an incredible table, most of us simply aren’t in the market for something of that caliber. Not to mention that, even for those of us having semi-serious competitions with friends (or even those of you who want to buy a table for your own bar or pool hall) this table is plenty good enough.
Some people may worry that particle board is kind of lumpy or that it is imperfect in places which would make the actual playing surface a little iffy. With a full inch of felt on top, though, you won’t have to worry about lumps or bumps, here.
If you have the space to accommodate a large table like this one it only makes sense to add its style and superior quality to your home.
Hathaway – Best for the Money
Whether you plan to bring it to parties, buck and doe celebrations, or even on a camping trip, this is THE pool table for people on the go.
Weighing only 110 pounds and completely collapsible, you can take this thing with you almost anywhere as long as you have a vehicle large enough to accommodate it. You may be surprised at how sturdy it is, though. Looking at it, it really doesn’t look that sturdy.
But when you consider that it weighs 110 pounds you can see that the metal used to construct it isn’t flimsy and hollow (otherwise it would weight about 50 pounds). So, it’ll stand up to the test of time and play longer than you’d expect. Which is a great thing!
Though it isn’t my personal favorite, I must say that it is the prime choice for people who like to bring their own pool table to parties.
Mizerak – Best Affordable Table
Larger than the Fat Cat and Triumph tables but still significantly smaller than the MD Sport table, this one from Mizerak fits itself into the category of: good for people who have mid-sized rooms and want full-sized fun!
This is the typical pool table you (or at least I) usually see in a small pool hall or cramped into the corner of a bar. It has a mid-quality nylon cloth built for durability more so than gameplay quality and is constructed of plywood and plastic.
The plywood framing gives it sturdiness (something it’ll need so that you can, indeed, climb on top of it to play). The plastic encasement has a wood grain to look nicer but keeps costs low while offering an elevated level of durability.
If you’re planning to make this a pay-per-use table inside your own rec. center or bar you can easily retrofit the ball return to require quarters to play and to lock up as the balls return.
A great choice if many people will be using the table or if you want a little extra style without breaking your bank.
Pool Tables – Buyer’s Guide
Step 1: Ask Yourself – How am I Going to Use This Table?
Alright, this is probably the most important thing to consider. Mostly because it will significantly narrow your selection. In the general scheme of things, you could potentially weed out 75 to 90 percent of the actual options available to you. On this page, just answering this one question could be enough to narrow your options to one, single pool table.
So, how do you plan to use it? Will you be holding competitions among your family and friends? Will you be training for an actual professional competition? Or, do you just want a pool table you can play with on occasion which you have absolutely no problem watching your three-year-old destroy with a set of crayons?
The amount of money you spend on your table (and, as a result, the materials it’s made from) will be largely determined by how you answer that question.
People who will be using their pool tables to play with family and friends will want to look for something of about medium quality. You’ll want to remember that it isn’t necessary to sink big dollars into a top of the line table (that is, unless you want to impress the heck out of your friends).
The truth is, in this situation, that what you need is something solid, sturdy, built to last, with good felt or cloth made to stand up to a bit of a beating.
If you are planning to enter any competitions or, for whatever reason, you’re just super serious about your billiards game, you’ll need to turn your attention to some of the more advanced (and expensive) pool tables on the market. Usually, these are ones with high quality cloth and solid frames.
Naturally, if you have children and intend to let them use the table as they see fit you may want to think twice before investing thousands of dollars into a top-of-the-line model.
Step 2: Look at General Construction Materials
Regardless of the use you have for your new pool table you need to make sure it is made of quality materials – at least at its core.
While you will probably select a higher quality of cloth for your professional-style table than you will for your family-friendly table, you will never want to skimp on things like framework.
Solid wood framing is your best option. By solid wood I mean real, solid wood – not particle board or pressboard or MDF. I mean real wood.
This type of frame is going to be the sturdiest and offer the most support. This is especially important if you or any of your fellow pool players like to climb up onto the table to get the perfect angle on that bank shot.
But what about folding tables? Of course, these unique tables cannot be made with sturdy wooden frames. In fact, most of them are made out of low-grade metals that you really shouldn’t sit on lest you are OK with falling and possibly damaging the table in the process.
You will have to ask yourself, “Which is more important to me: sitting on the table to get a good sightline or being able to fold it up for storage/transportation?” Only you can answer that question.
The general idea is that the right slate gives you the right amount of bounce beneath your cloth. Debate abounds, though, when it comes to the true importance of the slate.
Many people feel that it really is OK to choose slates made of MDF or other sorts of materials if you aren’t preparing yourself for a strict professional competition. These options are also a lot less expensive than real slate.
When looking at the construction of the table, look for evidence that the main frame is bolted together. Bolts are much stronger than screws and mean that your table will be more likely to stand the test of time.
Remember, though, I’m talking about the frame, not the slate. When it comes to the slate there is something special to consider if it is actually made from real slate: slate screws.
Many people don’t realize that there is actually a special kind of screw needed for connecting real slate to a wooden base, but there is.
If you can’t find information about this readily on the table’s product description or from a resale company it would be smart to contact the manufacturer to be sure. But remember, this is only necessary if you’ve selected a table with a real slate top.
Step 3: Check Out the Bumpers
Remember the saying “rubber baby buggy bumpers?”. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but I certainly think of it every time I consider the construction of any quality pool table. Of course, these aren’t buggy bumpers, they’re billiards bumpers, so, perhaps we should change the saying to “rubber billiards bumpers” to help you remember what you should be looking for.
Let’s get one thing clear off the top, when I say bumpers I do not mean rails. Ahh! It’s all so confusing isn’t it? That is, unless you’re a professional pool player or you’ve just been doing this for a lot of years.
I know that it took me a while to learn these key phrases, so I will take the time to explain the differences to you here.
The rail is the actual part that goes around the outside of the top of the pool table. It’s what keeps the balls inside, it’s what houses the holes (pockets) the balls drop into, it’s what you rest your fingers on as you line up your shot.
Bumpers, on the other hand, are the padding that goes around the inside edge of the rail. It is the bumpers that the balls actually hit when you bank a shot (or just plain mess one up).
If you have proper rubber bumpers your ball will travel much further off a bank shot than it would if your table used plastic bumpers.
That all being said, rubber bumpers usually come with a price tag (doesn’t everything of quality?) So, be aware of your budget and contemplate your needs before making any decisions. If you’re used to playing in bars or pool halls and want to have at least semi-serious games at home it is definitely worth it to look into something with rubber bumpers. If you’re just buying a cheap table for your kids to play with plastic should do just fine.
Step 4: Research the Cloth/Felt
If you’ve ever played pool with someone who gets very upset about scratches you know the importance of a table’s felt or cloth. Maybe you actually are one of those people who gets overly upset when someone makes a mistake (“But I’m not overly upset. They damaged my cloth!” You’re probably right).
If that sounds like you, go ahead and skip this section altogether – you probably already know everything I’m about to say.
For the rest of the population (probably most of us) it can be good to know a thing or two about felt or cloth before making your major pool table purchase. The truth is that not all felts or cloths are created the same. Shock, right?
Part of that huge price discrepancy you see among billiards tables is the quality of the cloth laid out on top.
If you just want a quick figure to take away from this whole discussion take this one: 20% nylon, 80% wool.
Pro tables have a mixture that is 10% nylon and 90% wool – offering a better overall playing surface. These tables have the best bounce to deadening ratio but they are typically less durable.
It’s safe to say you won’t want to go this route for a family pool table that your kids will be using. Especially since replacing a cloth of this type can cost upwards of $600.
Lower quality tables specifically built for use by children often have a much higher percentage of nylon which makes them both more durable and less expensive. At the same time, though, these tables won’t have the same look or feel and will not let the ball flow across in the same way.
Ok, so you’ve decided on the ratio of wool to nylon that you’d like. Is there anything else you should consider? Yes, one thing: the type of wool. If you want a premium playing surface, I suggest you find a table with cloth made from (in part) worsted wool.
Unlike other types of wool, worsted wool has very little fuzz and won’t prematurely stop your ball from moving by slowly turning into the soft side of Velcro over time.