The Difference Between English and American Pool Tables

Pool table
Pool tables in the Globe bar in London, United Kingdom.

 WPA Pool/Getty Images

A billiard table, billiards table, or pool table is a bounded table on which billiards-type games are played. In the modern era, all billiards tables provide a flat surface usually made of quarried slate, that is covered with cloth (usually of a tightly-woven worsted wool called baize), and surrounded by vulcanized rubber cushions, with the whole elevated above the floor. More specific terms are used for specific sports, such as snooker table and pool table, and different-sized billiard balls are used on these table types. 

A pool table, or pocket billiards table (as the sport's governing body prefers to call it), has six pockets—one at each corner of the table (corner pockets) and one at the midpoint of each of the longer sides (side pockets or middle pockets).

Pool Table Size

Overseas, people want to know whether they should use “American” or “English” for their base pool table size.

The main difference between these terms? Table dimensions and equipment sizes. American pool tables usually employ balls that are 2¼" in size. English pool uses 2" balls.

Also, table sizes differ, with your best challenge on the American table of 4' x 9' and the English pool tables are really mini-tables, even diminutive 6-footers! The minis tend to crowd the balls together excessively into little clusters that create frustration when you attempt to pry them apart. Of course, the pockets on American tables are larger to yield wiggle room for the bigger object balls.

There are only two sizes approved for tournament play by the International Olympic Committee-recognized sport governing body of pool, the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), and its various regional and national affiliates; under the World Standardised Rules of pool, these are the 9 × 4.5 ft and 8 × 4 ft models. For a 9-ft table, the playing surface (the dimensions between the noses of the cushions) measures 100 inches (254 cm) by 50 inches (127 cm) with a ​18-inch (3.2 mm) margin of error for either dimension. For an 8-ft table, the playing surface measures 92 inches (234 cm) by 46 inches (117 cm), with the same 18-inch variance allowed.

Why So Different In Pool Table Size?

Ye’ Olde English pool tables hit the British pub scene during the 1960s. Lounges were already wall-to-wall with darts players, drinkers, conversationalists and smokers. The sport flourished and there are now British tournaments run by the English Pool Association.

The British also use smaller cue tips of only 8 to 9 millimeters in width for play (and up to 11 mm for break cues). Most Americans use 13 mm tips for pool. As 8-Ball and 9-Ball have grown in popularity in Britain, the bigger American tables have also.

The moral of this article is choose your pool table size carefully, as it will surely influence your style of play for years to come.