Before you buy that pool table, you should make sure you have all the space you need. And don't plan on moving it around at the drop of a hat.

A century-old pool table that has taken its turn from a pool hall to a couple of private homes is now the centerpiece in the basement game room of Rob and Barb Watson of Springfield.

The 4 1/2- by 9-foot restored pool table anchors the Watsons’ 700-square-foot game room, which has all sorts of entertainment, including a foosball table, dartboard, antique slot machine, antique jukebox, flat-screen television and a custom-made bar.

Because it’s so big, the pool table has to be an anchor, Rob says. So, it’s there to stay.

“It came out of a pool hall in Chicago, was in my grandfather’s house in Oak Park … went to my parents’ house (in Oak Brook) when I was growing up,” says Rob, who with Barb has two daughters, Bev 11, and Mandy, 9.

“Then it came down and sat in a pile in my basement until we were able to get it all together and finish that part of the basement. Nielsen’s (Billiards) was able to put the thing back together.”

Most people may not have a 100-year-old pool table as a focal point in their home game rooms. But most people, like the Watsons, can design recreation rooms that fit their wants.

People wanting to feature pool tables in their game rooms should consider space and lighting, says Kathy Sullivan, office manager of AAA Nielsen’s Billiards in Springfield. Another thing to consider in any game room is how to decorate it, says Susan Day, owner of Exciting Windows!

Evaluate space

Customers should have their game rooms’ dimensions and information about other furniture in the rooms before purchasing a pool table, Sullivan says.

“The most helpful information that somebody can bring to us as a sales company would be what size room they have so we cannot fill the room, but we can accommodate the room with the right-sized table,” Sullivan says.

Pool tables come in three sizes: 7, 8 and 9 feet long. Seven-foot pool tables are the most common size in the United States and often are found in bars, taverns and small “mom-and-pop” restaurants. A 9-foot table is what professional billiards players use.

Eight-foot pool tables seem to be the standard in-home size, Sullivan says.

“I think it’s because of room dimensions. (With) an 8-foot table you need 13 feet, 2 inches by 16 feet, 10 inches (room size) so that you don’t bump the wall with a cue on your longest shot,” Sullivan says. With a 9-foot table, you need almost 15 feet-by-19 feet of open space.

Nielsen’s can adjust the size of a pool cue, making it shorter to accommodate a room size that’s short on length or width, Sullivan says.

Pool cues need to be stored securely, so you’ll need a pool cue rack or stand. Racks can be hung on the wall, or they can stand on the floor. Just be sure to keep the rack far enough away from the table so you have room to play.

Solid flooring

Because a pool player should be able to lean on a pool table for certain shots that require body contact, a true pool table should weigh about 750 pounds, Sullivan says. Authentic pool tables are made of slate.

“When you buy a slate table, generally they come with a cabinet that can accommodate that 450 pounds of slate, so then the cabinet will weigh 300 pounds, roughly,” Sullivan says.
“It’s really a piece of furniture. They last a lifetime.”

Because of their weight, it’s common to put a pool table on the lowest floor of a home. But because pool tables are considered furniture, some people may think they can’t have them in unfinished basements with a bit of moisture, or in garages that lack insulation or air conditioning.

There is a solution.

“There are tables that are up on leg castors. They are a professional-grade table, and the cabinet and rails are made of Formica like kitchen countertops,” Sullivan says.

“The slate, it is 32 inches off of the floor, so chances are it’s not going to get wet.”

Light the games

People should have a light source that’s around 36 to 40 inches above the playing surface of a pool table, Sullivan says. Professional lights get rid of shadows on the balls and make it easier to see the playing field.

Scott and Susan Day and their children, Maggie, 19, and Spencer, 16, of Springfield have a low-key basement game room that doesn’t include a pool table, but it does have fun accent lighting such as a neon clock and lighting with dimmers.

“When kids are watching a movie, they want a little bit of dimmer light, but then other times if they’re playing a game, they need enough light in that area to see a keyboard or see other things.
When it’s time for them to clean up, we want lots of light,” Susan says about the Days’ game room, which features games centered on a television.

Customize the game room

Because a game room isn’t a public space, it doesn’t have to look serious, Susan Day says.

“It’s probably one of the most fun things to decorate,” says Susan, whose game room is decorated with her children’s colorful art.

“They can pick up a theme that has to do with their kids’ interests or one of the parents’ interests. If there’s a sports team or Coca-Cola merchandise, some kind of theme that fits their family or way of entertaining.”

More than 40 different colors of cloth are available for pool tables “to accommodate the interior designer in all of us,” Sullivan says. “You can actually color-coordinate your pool table to your room design.”

The green cloth on the Watsons’ antique pool table complements the vintage, pub-like atmosphere they were looking to achieve. The bar, which was custom-made by Ben Kruger of Beaver Creek Woodworks, adds to the feel.

“I wanted the room to look like its 100 years old,” Rob says.

Tamara Browning can be reached at (217) 788-1534 or tamara.browning@sj-r.com.

For more information:

AAA Nielsen’s Billiards, 2601 Taylor Ave., Springfield, IL 62703-4326. Phone: 585-1660

Exciting Windows! - Phone: 652-2821

Rules to common billiards games

8-ball

One player tries to hit all of the solid balls (numbered 1-7) into the pockets, while the other player tries to hit all the striped balls (numbered 9-15) into the pockets.
Players must call their shots (for example, “4 ball in the corner pocket”). If a player’s ball goes into a pocket other than one he calls, his turn is over.

After a player pockets all of his billiard balls, that player tries to pocket the 8-ball. The first player who pockets the 8-ball after pocketing all of his billiard balls wins.

If a player pockets the 8-ball before pocketing all of his billiard balls, he loses and the game is over.

9-ball

Played with only the first nine numbered balls, the object of 9-ball is to sink the 9 ball before your opponent.

However, the cue ball must first come in contact with the lowest-numbered ball remaining on the table. For example, if the 1 ball is on the table, the cue ball must hit it before it contacts any other ball. If the cue ball hits a ball with a higher number first, that player’s turn is over.

Players do not have to call their shots.

A player can try to sink the a higher-numbered ball (such as the 9 ball) with a combination shot as long as the cue ball hits the lowest-numbered ball on the table first.

Cutthroat

Played with three players. One player shoots at balls 1-5, the second player shoots at balls 6-10 and the third player shoots at balls 11-15. The first player to sink all five of his billiard balls wins.

— Billiard Congress of America