The most obvious requirement for a game of pool is the table itself. Pool tables come in a variety of sizes, configurations, and designs. A standard American pool table is usually 7-8 feet in length and features enlarged pockets in comparison to UK counterparts. You can read about pool tables here and what you require for a pool table at home.
Both 8-ball and 9-ball pool are played most commonly, with 8-ball being the more popular choice. Billiard balls – as they are known – are most widely used throughout the world and are slightly larger than British style pool balls. In accordance with the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) specifications, they may weigh from 5.5-6oz with a 2.25″ diameter (+/- 0.005″). There are a total of 16 balls, comprising balls 1-7 (solids), 9-15 (stripes), a white cue ball, and the black 8-ball. Traditionally, billiard balls were made from polished wood or ivory. Today, the balls are made from industrial plastics including polyester, acrylic, and thermosetting polymers.
In addition to a table and a set of billiard balls, a pool or snooker cue is the final essential requirement for a game. Cue sticks are used to strike the cue ball, are typically 57″ in length, and weigh between 18-21oz. Cues are normally made from wood, but some are bonded or wrapped in materials such as fibreglass, graphite, or carbon.
Pool cues comprise three main sections: the tip; shaft; and butt. The tip of a pool cue is made from leather of varying curvature and hardness. A rounder tip allows for a greater degree of spin control and cue ball accuracy while a flatter tip can transmit more power to the ball. The shaft of the cue tapers towards the tip and, in the case of a 2-peice cue, connects to the butt with a threaded screwing mechanism. The majority of a cue’s weight is in the butt, being the part of the cue that the player holds. Various grip wraps are used and exotic materials such as cocobolo, bocate, ebony and ivory can be inlaid into the cue butt to achieve pleasing designs. At the very end of the cue butt is the bumper – a rubber stop to protect the cue.
A pool triangle – known as a rack – is not an essential piece of equipment, but is cheap to buy and makes it far easier to organise the balls before a game. As the name suggests, the rack is triangular in shape and is usually made from plastic or wood. For games of 9-ball, a diamond-shaped rack is used.
A slippery rounded cue tip striking a hard rounded plastic ball is a miscue waiting to happen. Players frequently apply chalk to the cue tip to increase the friction between the tip and cue ball during contact. More friction means greater cue ball control, which is why players are more likely to chalk their cue when attempting a spin shot. Chalk comes in various grades ranging from very soft to very hard.
The equipment listed above is most commonly used in day-to-day play. Additional equipment may include rests for those stretched shots, brushes and cloth cleaner for the table surface, chalk holders, cue racks, and cue extensions.