Bar Table Pool: Good or Bad?

Here's Our Good Debate On The Issues

Bar Pool
Bar Pool. Smith Collection/Getty Images

The question at hand for our experts: Is it better to learn 8-Ball on "bar box" pool tables or on "full size" tables?

Tables measuring 4' x 8' in total playing surface are typical in small poolrooms where space is costly (or unavailable!). This size, common for home poolrooms and basements, is less costly than the 4½ x 9's, but these and smaller "bar pool tables" have a key disadvantage (or challenge).

The balls are often the same size as on the larger tables and so tend to huddle together on the smaller table, making any runouts challenging. Playing on a small table also weakens one's ability to shoot the cue ball accurately over great distances.

The bigger table forces more of an aiming and playing effort. 4' x 8' is a common size for bar pool tables, the wondrous inventions found in pubs, fine dining establishments, and other watering holes worldwide.

Payment for table time is on a game-by-game basis, put your quarters (or British shillings or rupees) in the coin slots and go to work. If you scratch the cue ball, it is magnetized to (or outsized) to return via a separate exit for your free reuse.

Sink an object ball, however, and it stays down beneath the table surface--until you pay to play again.

Let's hear from the experts:

Donny And Matt: The 8-Ball Debates

Donny: First off, let me say that I think children should begin playing pool on a table that is suitable to their height. Even bar boxes (the 3½' x 7' tables first appearing in the 1960's) are too big for most little folks!

Beginning on a table that is too tall causes the development of the "side stroke" that Willie Mosconi used. It worked great for him, but even he said it was not the best way to learn.

Matt: But Keith McCready can now devastate from the side and Tommy Kennedy's elbow does bizarre angles, too. But on the point, who played fantastic pool in the early days who learned on a bar box?

Mosconi and Greenleaf competed on ten (10) foot tables-with tight pockets! That's how Greenleaf became Greenleaf and Mosconi knocked in 526 without missing when he "slummed" on a 4' x 8'. I recommend nine-foot tables for learning.

Donny: True, but many of the top players of the past thirty years started on bar boxes, including Buddy Hall and Johnny Archer.

I'm convinced that it's much harder for youngsters less than 5 feet tall or so to learn on a full-size table. rather than a bar pool tables. It would be like a grade school baseball player being asked to play on a full-sized infield and hit with a full-size bat.

In fact, it's silly for anyone to try learning 9-foot shots before they learn two-foot shots. We learn best in increments, not with super-size challenges.

Matt: Some started on boxes, yes, but eight-foot tables were once a living room enthusiast's dream and even nine-foot tables could be though of as "downsizing".

Rather than pursuing billiards box competition, pros like Nick Varner recommend opening pockets wide to draw more tournament fans and participants. Boxed 8-ball means more clusters and defensive play to watch.

We used to take pool balls to a big Snooker table with tight pockets to warm our strokes. Many of this generation's finest played Snooker first. Like you, I teach short distance strokes first to beginners, but intermediates soon need to send cue balls sizable distances, for certain must-do position plays.

Donny: Nick Varner actually did pursue bar box competition, winning the 1981 BCA 8-Ball U.S. Open on bar boxes. Here are two more reasons for learning on bar boxes first.

First, because of the clusters you mentioned, precision cue ball control is demanded more on the smaller table. I believe strongly that cue ball control should be learned before learning to pocket balls (as is the case with most Asian players), so learning on bar pool tables gives you a feel for the cue ball that takes much longer to achieve on the big boxes.

The other reason is that most amateur tournaments, especially at the national level, are played on 3½' x 7' tables.

Donny "The Grumpy Old Coach" Lutz, BCA Certified Instructor, has recorded over 200 league and tournament titles including 43 league MVPs. Reach Donny at

Matthew "Quick Draw" Sherman is the Guide to Pool and Billiards at, a top five website with millions of unique visitors monthly.

Donny and Matt live on opposite sides of Gainesville, Florida and are on opposite sides on many issues, but have somehow managed to win 5 doubles titles in recent years!

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