Pool table sizes may seem pretty straightforward at first glance – most tables come in 7-foot, 8-foot, 8.5-foot, or 9-foot sizes. But if you’ve ever taken a tape measure to your table in preparation for a move, a refelt, or out of plain old curiosity, you probably noticed that something doesn’t add up. To clear up the confusion, I’ll answer the question: How are pool tables measured?
Pool tables are measured by the length and width of their playing surface (the distance between the inner edges of the cushions). This allows for a consistent measurement standard since rail sizes vary from table to table. However, the actual playing surface dimensions aren’t equal to the official table size – the latter also takes the cushions into account.
Standard Size Vs. Regulation Size
Firstly, there seems to be a little confusion regarding what a regulation size is and what a standard size is.
The term “standard” generally means that the table falls into one of the commonly used and accepted size groups (7-foot, 7.5-foot, 8-foot, and so on). If someone is advertising a 7.75-foot table (which is highly unlikely), you can be sure it’s not a standard table – or that they’ve measured it incorrectly.
A regulation pool table is simply one whose playing surface is exactly twice as long as it is wide, with a margin of error of ⅛ inch. Virtually all standard pool tables are designed this way, which is why standard sizes are referred to by their length alone (i.e., 9-foot, 8-foot, etc.) – it goes without saying that they’re half as wide as they are long.
Typically, the only non-standard or non-regulation tables are either miniature “toy” tables or custom-made tables. Not sure why you’d want to have a table made that’s extra-wide or extra-long, but hey, to each their own!
Standard Pool Table Sizes
Before we get into the details of how pool tables are measured, let’s look at a few of the most common standard pool table sizes available.
7-foot tables, often called “bar boxes,” are most commonly found in bars, arcades, and restaurants (usually coin-operated). 8-foot tables are the most popular for home use. 8.5-foot (often called 8-plus or 8 Pro) tables are mostly found in homes but aren’t quite as popular. 9-foot tables are used for tournament play but can be found in the more pro-minded pool halls.
6-foot tables aren’t very common in North America but are quite common in bars throughout England and Australia. 7.5-foot tables can be found in some bars and homes, but aren’t terribly common. Even more rare are 6.5-foot tables and “oversized” 10-foot tables. There are also 12-foot Snooker tables, which are mostly found in the UK.
Pool Table Size and Playing Surface Dimensions
Since the size of a pool table is determined by the dimensions of its playing surface, we can expect a 9-foot table to have a playing surface that’s 9 feet long, right? Well, not exactly.
Let’s look at the standard table sizes and their respective playfield dimensions (the distance between bumper edges).
- 6-foot – 70-74” x 35-37”
- 7-foot – 74-78” x 37-39”
- 7.5-foot – 78-82” x 39-41”
- 8-foot – 88” x 44”
- 8.5-foot – 92” x 46”
- 9-foot – 100” x 50”
- 10-foot – 112” x 56”
- 12-foot (snooker) – 140” x 70”
The reason for the playfield variances among 6’, 7’, and 7.5’ tables has to do with the manufacturer, whether they’re for commercial or home use (most tables of this size are coin-operated), and what country they’re in (British-style pool or “blackball” is played on slightly different tables than American pool).
As you can see by doing a little basic math, the dimensions of each table’s playing surface don’t match up to the table’s size. Here’s where things get a little weird.
How Playing Surface Size Determines Table Size
Determining table size from the playfield dimensions involves a fairly simple equation. The principle is the same for most tables, but for the sake of example, we’ll look at how it applies to an 8-foot pool table.
An 8-foot table is always measured as 8’ x 4’ – like every regulation table, its width is exactly half its length. But its playing surface is 88” x 44”, which equals 7’ 4” x 3’ 8”. The playfield dimensions are closer to 7’ x 3.5’… so why is it an 8-foot table?
Length and Width
The answer has to do with the cushions on each side of the table. Here’s how it works:
We’ll start with the width of the actual playing surface, 44 inches. To this, we’ll add the width of the cushions on each side (the distance between the inner edge of the cushion to the inner edge of the wooden rail), 4 inches (2 inches per cushion). This leaves us with 48 inches or 4 feet.
Now, to get the table’s length, we’ll simply double that figure, leaving us with 96 inches, also known as 8 feet. Voila, we have an 8’ x 4’ table!
The strange thing is, by doubling the width, we’re also doubling the cushion width. As we know, the ends of a pool table don’t have two cushions or even double-wide cushions. But these two imaginary rails – called “ghost rails” – are what give us the extra 4 inches that determine the ultimate table size. Bizarre, I know, but that’s how it’s done.
Of course, the actual distance between the head rail and the foot rail is 92 inches. That’s why doing this process in reverse (adding the length of the playfield to the width of the cushions and dividing it by two) won’t yield the correct result.
This calculation will work with most American pool tables, but not all – some 6-foot or smaller tables may have thinner rails or slightly different dimensions, depending on the manufacturer. Snooker tables also have somewhat different cushions and aren’t measured according to the same regulations as American tables.
How Is Pool Table Height Measured?
The height of a pool table is measured by the distance from the floor to the top of the playing surface. There are two basic methods for measuring pool table height – the eyeball method and the more precise two-step method.
The eyeball method involves measuring from the floor to the approximate height of the playing surface on the outer edge of the rail. This will give you a fairly accurate but imprecise measurement.
The two-step method involves measuring the distance from the floor to the top of the rail, then measuring from the playing surface to the top of the rail. Simply subtract the second measurement from the first one and you’ve got your table’s height.
It’s worth noting that the height of a snooker table, on the other hand, is measured from the top of the rail to the floor. Check out my other article for more about pool table height.
A pool table is always measured by the dimensions of its playing surface, but its official size (the size it’s advertised and sold as) is only arrived at by including the width of the cushions in the equation. The table’s actual size (including the rails) will be several inches larger than its official size and varies depending on the manufacturer and design.
Fortunately, measuring a pool table is easy when you know what you’re doing. And knowing why pool table sizes are what they are can take a lot of the confusion out of it!