Does your pool cue matter? The truth about modern high-tech pool cues

I started playing billiards at the young age of 7 during the winters growing up in northern Maine when the temperature reached 50 below and it was too cold to ski. The recreation room at Loring AFB had a couple of pool tables and as a very athletic kid I was naturally curious about the game and after watching a few games I was invited by one of the airmen to play a game with him. He showed me how to hold the cue and build a bridge and got me a small wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It didn’t take long before I became addicted to the game and was soon inviting my friends to play. We spent many cold winter days in this lounge, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, and eventually even betting candy bars on the outcome. Yes, we were big donors!

When summer came, we put away the cues and played baseball all day. Becoming a professional baseball player has been my dream since I was 5 years old and I watched the Dodgers play in Los Angeles several times before my father transferred to Loring and eventually I got a baseball scholarship to college in Texas where my father retired in 1966. Over the years, I spent every spare hour I didn’t practice baseball at a billiards hall, and after my baseball career ended with a torn pitching shoulder, billiards became my main interest. When I was 17, I won my first tournament at a bar my sister worked at and won a cue for the grand prize. I was incredibly excited until I screwed the stick together and rolled it across the table. To my horror, it rolled like a corkscrew and was so warped it was unplayable! Back to playing with a pole stick!

For the next 20 years I played billiards wherever I worked at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country and made as much money hustling the thugs off their shifts as I did my salary. As a mud engineer I was responsible for reviewing many different rigs on a daily basis and met and played against hundreds of different pool players each year. As I moved across the country to different areas each year, I was able to stay under the radar and relatively unknown so there was never any problem getting a money game started. I don’t think I’ve ever met a brawler that didn’t play pool and most of them had pretty high opinions of their game. That mostly changed when it came to paying!

In 1989 I met the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, an attorney, had started Clicks Billiards many years ago and now had a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida with his original pool hall being right there in Dallas on Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the general manager and responsible for hiring managers for all 20 of their pool halls. By that time I had retired from the oil business and was making a living every day on the golf course and pool halls. Greg and Nick were both members of the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in south Dallas where I played golf every day. Greg was handicap 3 and after I played with him 3 or 4 days a week for several months (and took quite a lot of money from him) he asked me if I played pool. Hehehehehe. “A little,” I said, and he took me to the original Clicks Billiards that night to try and win some of his money back.

After paying the hundreds I beat him out of that night, he offered me a job as assistant manager of the original Clicks. He knew I’d never been a bartender before but assured me I’d pick it up quickly and fit right in with the billiards players who made up their regular clientele. Was he ever right! I took it like a duck to water and ended up hitting most of the best billiards players in Dallas and some of the best in the country. Clicks has had several exhibitions including one by Grady Matthews and one by Ewa Mataya, the Striking Viking. Clicks is also where I met CJ Wiley, the street player who won the ESPN Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 96. There were many, many top-notch professional players at Clicks, with many $1,000 one-pocket games going on day and night, with many big Dallas bookies funding much of the action, and sweaters by the dozen on the rails just watch…or pray lol.

CJ joined Clicks in 1990 and terrorized the local pros. He was an instant legend, crushing every big player in town. Guys who scared me to death wouldn’t even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His reputation grew and so did his ranking, eventually reaching number 4 or 5 in the world of billiards. I quickly became friends with CJ while working there, and when he opened his own room in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I eventually quit Clicks and went over to manage CJ’s apartment. When he opened, 90% of the action and pro players went with him. It had 12 gold crowns as opposed to Clicks’ 4, a kitchen and was open 24 hours a day. The action never stopped.

What, you ask, does all this have to do with the cover story? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in ’91 and while it was beautiful, with lots of beautiful inlays and very responsive, it really didn’t do anything to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen and loved the cue but I could play with a bar cue just as well provided it was the right weight and a good tip. I spent $700 on the cue but really didn’t have to. It gave me no advantage over a house cue.

I had a serious back injury in 1994 that caused me to stop playing golf and billiards. I didn’t want to risk surgery, and it wasn’t until 2008 that the VA gave me a non-narcotic medication that allowed me to bend over the table again without excruciating pain. By this time, Predator cues had come out with a 10-piece shaft that was hollow at the tip, which greatly reduced deflection of the cue ball on impact…or so they claimed. Having not played the game for 14 years, I had read little about these clues and was intrigued to say the least.

For those of you reading this who don’t know what cue ball deflection is, here it is in a nutshell: When a cue ball is hit on either side of the vertical axis…the center line…of the cue ball, the ball is deflected or “splash” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball right ‘english’… hit the cue ball to the right of the vertical center line… the cue ball will be deflected to the left and vice versa. The amount of deflection varies depending on the speed of the shot, the distance from the centerline (or toe offset) at which the cue ball is hit, and the mass of the toe. In other words, the more English you apply, the harder the hit and the greater the mass of the tip…these factors all increase the amount of deflection or spatter. This spatter needs to be compensated for when aiming, otherwise you’ll often miss the shot.

This is where Predator technology comes into play. With a small cavity at the end of the tip, the reduced mass drastically reduced deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the way on impact, rather than having the shank push the cue ball out of the way. The 314 shank became an instant hit with pros, and the Z shank reduced deflection even more by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter ferrule also helped reduce mass and therefore further reduce deflection. Independent testing has ranked Predator’s Z² and 314² shafts #1 and #2 in the world for least deflection. Predator cues and shafts are used by more than half of the top 40 pros, 3 of the top 5 female pros and over 35,000 players worldwide according to the Predator website. These pros are not paid to play these cues. They play them because their livelihood depends on their playing ability enhanced by this high tech equipment.

Since Predator pioneered the mid-90s, many companies have now joined the technological revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point shaft for all of its hybrid models. This shaft features similar technology to the Predator shafts to drastically reduce deflection. They offer these shafts with many types of joints to fit most cues made today. World Champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany is now playing Lucasi Hybrid.

The OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently switched to the OB cue. He said he ran over 400 balls the second day he used the OB truck shaft while he was playing pool.

I had to try one of these cues myself and I have to say: I love the new high-tech pool cues. I play with a Predator 5K3 and although I haven’t played in 14 years, my game has risen to a much higher level than I’ve ever played before. The reduced distraction makes those hard shots with English much easier by reducing the amount of compensation for squirt.

In summary, technological advances have shortened the learning curve for beginners and intermediate players by reducing game ball deflection and requiring much less compensation for the squirt effect. And the pros who live off a cue? Almost all of them play a low deflection shaft. Why shouldn’t they? If they don’t, their competitors (who all do) will take the money.

While Predators remain the benchmark for low deflection, they don’t come cheap either. The retail price for a Z² shaft is almost $300, but the new Lucasi hybrid cues with similar technology (and also new grip technology to reduce impact vibration) are a good, cheaper alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft alone, you can get an excellent Lucasi Hybrid that features advanced low-deflection technology and plays fantastically well. When a world champion like Thorsten Hohmann plays a Lucasi Hybrid, you KNOW that it is an excellent cue.[thathasadvancedlow-deflectiontechnologyandplaysfantasticallywellIfaWorldChampionlikeThorstenHohmannisplayingaLucasiHybridyouKNOWitisanoutstandingcue[thathasadvancedlow-deflectiontechnologyandplaysfantasticallywellIfaWorldChampionlikeThorstenHohmannisplayingaLucasiHybridyouKNOWitisanoutstandingcue

So think long and hard when buying a new cue. If you don’t use a cue with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponent will. All else being equal, a modern low deflection cue or an older cue with a new low deflection shaft will win most of the time. Greatly improved accuracy will make this possible.

Thanks to Paul Wooten | #pool #cue #matter #truth #modern #hightech #pool #cues

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