If you’ve recently purchased your first pool table, or are just starting out in the sport, you may have heard some terminology that you did not recognize. For example, most people can figure out where the pockets and bumpers are on the table, but what about terms like “head string,” “cabinet,” or “The Kitchen?” There are plenty of terms used by pool players that are not very intuitive if you have never heard them before, and it can be embarrassing to have to ask “what’s that” every time you hear a term you are unfamiliar with. That’s why we would like to take the time to help our customers become more familiar with the different parts and terminology that are required knowledge if you want to play like a pro.

If you need pool table repair or are in the market for a new pool table or pool table equipment, contact Extreme Billiards Indy today! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Pool Table Structure (Top Image)

In this blog, we have created a handy infographic to follow along with to make it more clear what parts of the table we are referring to. In this section we will review the different parts shown in the top half of the infographic above.

  1. Top Rails – “Top rails” or “rails” refers to the top of the wood or other material that borders the slate which the cushions are attached to.

    • The term “rails” is also commonly used to refer to the cushions themselves, however, this is not exactly accurate
  2. Slate – Also known as the “bed,” the slate refers to the actual material making up the play field that the bed cloth is applied to.

    • It is called the slate because quality pool tables actually use large sheets of slate — a blackish blue type of rock that is known for being flat and rigid
    • Smaller pool tables may only be made up of two pieces of slate, while full tables are typically made up of three
    • There are less expensive tables that use plywood or other materials for the slate, but these tables often warp and break down over time
    • A well constructed slate bed can last for decades without ever changing its shape
  3. Play Field/Playing Field – The space on top of the slate that the object balls move around in
  4. Cushions – Also known as “rail cushions,” “cushion rubber,” or “bumpers,” cushions are the angled walls that the object balls bounce off of in the play field

    • They are typically made from vulcanized rubber and are affixed to the rails
    • The cushions are covered in the same cloth used to cover the bed slate
  5. Bed Cloth – Often erroneously called “felt,” the bed cloth is the cloth material covering the bed slate and cushions called “billiard cloth”

    • Traditional bed cloth is green to represent the grass where old lawn games were played which billiards evolved from
    • Tournament or competitive tables now use blue bed cloth because the object balls contrast better, making the table appear brighter
  6. Pockets – The holes which the object balls must be hit into

    • Typically the back rim of the pockets are lined with leather or plastic
    • “Drop pockets” refer to receptacles beneath the holes used to catch the balls.
    • Many commercial tables will have a ball return system that routes the balls to a single opening in the cabinet
  7. Legs – The legs of pool tables have to be extremely sturdy as they must be able to support the immense weight of the table itself, as well as the weight of a player if they ever need to lean on the table

    • The vast majority of pool tables have four legs, however it is possible to see tables with six legs
  8. Blinds – The wooden or plastic walls affixed to the outside of the rails
  9. Cabinet side – “The cabinet” refers to the walls surrounding area beneath the slate and the side refers to the long side of the cabinet

    • Commercial tables will typically have the main opening for their ball return system here
  10. Cabinet end – The short side of the cabinet

    • Tables with ball return systems will also have openings on the cabinet ends for when the cue ball is scratched (falls into a pocket)

Pool Table Play Area (Bottom Image)

This section of the infographic focuses mainly on the play area and all the different areas and markings on the top of the table.

  1. Head of table – The space behind the table where a player would stand to “break” the object balls in their initial set up
  2. Cushions – See definition above
  3. “The Kitchen” – The area of the play field between the head rail and the head string
  4. Head Rail/ Short Rail – The rail at the head end of the table
  5. Cue Ball – The white ball that is struck by the player with the pool cue (stick)
  6. Head String – There are three lines that divide the table into four equal parts — the head string is the first of these lines marked by the second diamond

    • Most tables do not have markings for the strings
  7. Head Spot – Often marked with a small circle, this is the spot at the center of the head string
  8. Diamonds – Markings along the wall meant to help players line up shots
  9. Side Rail/Long Rail – The longer rails on the sides of the table
  10. Center String – The second imaginary line which splits the table in half
  11. Center Spot – The spot in the middle of the center string, marking the exact center of the table
  12. Pockets – See definition above
  13. Foot String – The last of the imaginary lines that split the table into fourths
  14. Foot Spot – The center of the foot string

And there you have it! You are now equipped with all the terminology you need to become a pool pro! We hope that this post will be helpful for anyone who currently owns a pool table as well as anyone in the market to buy a new one. If you want more information about pool and other tabletop games, contact Extreme Billiards Indy today!