Why are some pool tables fast, while others are extremely slow?
I play pool in 3 pool leagues. My home tavern is the same on all 3 teams. The tavern is Diamond Jim's in Pueblo Colorado. We have 6 tables there and they are all Diamond smart tables. These tables have Simonis 860 cloth on the bed and the rails and they do play fast.
The schedule for all 3 pool teams calls for one week in our home tavern and the next week we are in the other teams home tavern. To the best of my knowledge, we have the only Diamond pool tables in town. The most common tables in the other taverns would be the Valley Cougar or one of the older Valley bar tables. (AKA Bar Box)
There are a couple establishments in town that specifically cater to billiards players. The owners of these bars understand that true pool players like a nice level and fast table with reasonably tight pockets. These tables are good to play on and I even have an old Valley Bar Box with double shimmed pockets and fast cloth in my house. (No room for 9 foot Brunswick Gold Crown)
The other bars in town only have one or 2 tables and the cloth is usually worn out or it has the rubber backing that makes a ball roll turtle slow. You will find billiards tables with dead rails (bad rubber) and sometimes they are way too close to the walls and or dining or drinking tables.
I would have to say that with the right kind of felt (cloth) and good rubber with a nice level playing surface, most brands of tables will play real nice.
The tables with backed cloth or the thick cloth will slow down the cue ball in a big way. The tables with bad rubber will make playing pool miserable.
The good news is that with a few hundred bucks maximum for the right kind of felt and some new rubber for the rails (only if needed), and possibly some pocket shims, almost any table can be made to play pretty sporty.