Why do snooker tables have heaters? Well, how do you feel when a shot you just knew was headed for the pocket rolls up a little short or drifts off line and hits the jaw of the pocket. There is less chance of that happening on a heated table.
Here are the three reasons why:
1. Less friction makes for easier prediction. You know where your shot will go.
Underneath every snooker cloth on a full-size table are 5 large slabs of slate. They used to come from Wales (some interesting history at The Billiard and Snooker Heritage Collection) but, these days, the slate is more likely to come from Italy, Brazil or China.
Here’s a picture of a snooker table awaiting assembly. The slates are stacked against the wall. They are as tall as me and each one weighs over 200kg!
Because they are really just large, flat pieces of rock, snooker table slates absorb the temperature of their surroundings. In a cool, dark snooker room, you can imagine how they might feel to the touch. Think of the flagstones in a shady courtyard and you’ll get the idea.
What you might not have realised is that even something as solid as slate expands and contracts as the temperature changes. Although the amounts might be microscopic, they are enough to affect the tautness of the cloth stretched over the playing surface. That’s the first reason why snooker tables are heated.
Large, electric heating panels are placed beneath the slates. These panels heat the slates to around 45 degrees which tightens the cloth ever so slightly. Take a look at these heating panels, installed by Hotwire Table Heating.
A cold table allows the cloth to relax, which can cause tiny wrinkles that slow the balls down or cause them to deviate from their expected path, especially when playing against the napp. When your dead-weight shot doesn’t travel as far as you expected, this is likely to be one reason why.
Of course, the better the cloth, the smoother the surface will be. For more information, check out our post on which snooker cloth is best. A Strachan Superfine or No. 10 cloth on a heated table will feel almost as smooth as silk.
2. There is less need for speed on a heated table.
Speed kills, right? The harder you hit the cue ball, the less accurate you are likely to be. Even if you’re playing on a lower quality cloth, if it is on a heated table the fibres will be lying flatter than on a cold table. This means that you don’t have to hit the cue ball so hard.
A heated table allows you to play with more delicacy and precision. Finesse shots are easier to play. Even those shots requiring some cue power won’t need as much. For instance, a cluster of reds will open much more readily, as 2022 Welsh Open Champion, Joe Perry, demonstrates in the video below.
3. A dry cloth is a true cloth
Finally, just as the slates change with the temperature of their surroundings, so the playability of the cloth is affected by the humidity in the room. A damp cloth affects the balls in all kinds of unwanted ways. Most clubs simply iron their tables to prevent this but we use dehumidifiers to keep our snooker room as close to 40% humidity as possible. Then the fact that our cloths are also heated from underneath means that, even if it’s pouring down and the air is damp inside and out, our tables always retain their professional-level playability.
So, why do snooker tables have heaters?
In a nutshell, as the professionals know, it’s about marginal gains. A good player will be a good player on any cloth, but on a heated cloth the good player will play just that little bit better.