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Does Your Pool Cue Matter? The Truth About Modern High Technology Pool Cues
I started playing pool when I was 7 years old during my childhood winters in Northern Maine when the temperature was 50 below freezing and too cold to ski. The games room at Loring AFB had a few pool tables, and as a very athletic kid I had a natural curiosity for the game, and after watching a few games I was invited over by one of the Airmen to play with him. He showed me how to hold the pool cue and make a bridge, and gave me a small wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It didn’t take me long to get addicted to the game and I quickly invited my friends to play. We spent many cold winter days inside this gambling hall, playing for hours, inventing our own rules and games, and even betting nickel candies on the outcome. Yeah, we were big spenders!
When summer came, we put away the queues and played baseball all day. My dream, since I was 5 and saw the Dodgers play in Los Angeles many times before my dad transferred to Loring, was to be a professional baseball player, and I finally got a baseball scholarship to go to college in Texas, where my father retired in 1966. Over the years, every free hour not spent playing baseball was spent in a pool hall, and after the ending my baseball career with a torn pitching shoulder, pool became my number one interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17, at a bar where my sister worked, and I won a baguette as first prize. I was thrilled beyond belief, until I screwed the stick together and rolled it across the table. To my horror, it rolled around like a corkscrew, being so deformed it was unplayable! Back to playing with a bar stick!
For the next 20 years, I hustled the pool wherever I worked at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country and made as much money hustling thugs after their shift as I made from my paycheck. As a mud engineer I was responsible for checking many different rigs daily and got to know and play against hundreds of different pool players each year. By moving across the country to different regions each year, I was able to stay under the radar and remain a relative unknown, so it was never difficult to start a gambling game. I don’t think I’ve ever met a thug who didn’t play pool, and most of them had a pretty high opinion of their game. That usually changed when it came time to pay!
In 1989, I met the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, an attorney, had founded Clicks Billiards many years before and now owned a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, with his original pool hall right there in Dallas on Abrams Rd. North West. Greg, his brother, was the general manager and responsible for hiring managers for the 20 pool halls. By this time, I had retired from the oil business and made a living on the golf course and pool halls every day. Greg and Nick were both members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in South Dallas, where I golfed every day. Greg was a 3 handicap, and after playing with him 3 or 4 days a week for several months (and taking quite a bit of money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Hey hey hey. “A little,” I said, and he took me that night to the original Clicks Billiards, to try and get some of his money back.
After paying the hundred I beat him on that night, he offered me a job as an assistant director of early clicks. He knew I had never run a bar before, but he assured me that I would do it quickly and fit in perfectly with the pool players who were their main clientele. Was he ever right! I took to it like a duck to water and ended up meeting most of the best pool players in Dallas, and some of the best in the country. Clicks presented several exhibitions, including one by Grady Matthews and one by Ewa Mataya, the Striking Viking. It was also at Clicks that I met CJ Wiley, the player on the road who won the ESPN Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 96. There were many, many top notch professional players at Clicks, with numerous one-pocket $1,000 games running day and night. , with lots of big Dallas bookmakers funding much of the action, and jerseys on the rails by the dozen, just watching…or praying, lol.
CJ got into Clicks in 1990 and started terrorizing local pros. He was an instant legend, crushing every major player in town. The guys that scared me wouldn’t even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and up. Its representative grew, and so did its ranking, eventually reaching 4th or 5th place in the world of billiards. While working there, I quickly became friends with CJ, and when he opened his own chamber in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I finally left Clicks and went to manage CJ’s place. When it opened, 90% of the action and professional players accompanied it. It had 12 gold crowns, compared to 4 at Clicks, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours a day. The action never stopped.
So, ask yourself, does this all have to do with the subject of the title? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in 91, and although it looked nice, had lots of gorgeous inlays, and was very responsive, it really didn’t do anything to improve my game. I played with for 3 years until it was stolen, and I loved the cue, but I could play a bass cue as well, as long as it was the right weight and tipped . I spent $700 on the tail, but really didn’t need it. It gave me no advantage over a house cue.
I had a serious back injury in 1994, which made me stop playing golf and billiards. I didn’t want to risk surgery, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I received non-narcotic medication from the VA that allowed me to bend over the table again without excruciating pain. At that time, Predator Cues came out with a 10 piece shaft that was hollow at the end, greatly reducing cue ball deflection at impact…or so they claimed. Having been away from 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…the tail the ball will deflect or “squirt” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using the right “English”…hitting the cue ball to the right of the vertical centerline…the cue ball deflects to the left, and vice versa. The degree of deflection varies depending on the speed of the shot, the distance from the centerline (or tip offset) at which the cue ball is struck, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more English you apply, the harder the stroke and the greater the mass of the tip…these factors will all increase the amount of deflection or squirt. This roll needs to be offset when aiming, otherwise you’ll miss the shot quite often.
This is where the Predator technology comes in. With a small hollow space at the end of the tip, the reduced mass has greatly reduced the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the rod out of the way at the impact, instead of the rod pushing the cue ball out of the way. The 314 shaft became very popular with pros immediately, and the Z shaft reduced deflection even further by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter ferrule also reduced mass, and therefore reduced deflection even further. Independent testing has made Predator’s Z² shaft and 314² shaft the #1 and #2 shafts in the world that cause the least deviation. According to the Predator website, Predator cues and shafts are used by more than half of the top 40 pros, 3 of the top 5 female pros, and more than 35,000 players worldwide. These professionals are not paid to play these cues. They play it because their life depends on their playing ability, which is enhanced by this high-tech equipment.
Since Predator blazed the trail in the mid-90s, many companies have now joined the tech revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point handle on all of its hybrid models. This shaft has technology similar to Predator shafts to significantly reduce deflection. They offer these rods with many types of joints to fit most cues made today. World Champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now plays with Lucasi Hybrid.
The OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low-deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently changed to the OB tail. He said he ran over 400 balls playing straight pool on the second day he used the OB shaft.
I had to try one of these cues myself, and I must 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 reached a level far beyond what I have ever played before. The reduced deflection makes English hard hits much easier, by reducing the amount of compensation for the squirt.
In summary, advancements in technology have shortened the learning curve for beginner and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection and requiring far less compensation for squirt effect. And the pros, who earn their living with a tail? Almost all of them play a low deflection tree of some kind. Why wouldn’t they? If they don’t, their competitors (who all do) will take the money.
While Predator remains the benchmark for low deflection, they don’t come cheap either. The retail price of a Z² shaft is nearly $300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues, with similar technology (and also new gripping 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 exceptional Lucasi hybrid. [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] which has advanced low deflection technology and plays amazingly well. If a world champion like Thorsten Hohmann plays a Lucasi hybrid, you KNOW it’s an exceptional replica.
So think long and hard when buying a new billiard cue. If you’re not using a cue with modern low deflection technology, chances are your opponent is. All things being equal, a modern low-deflection cue, or an older cue with a new low-deflection shaft, will win the vast majority of the time. Greatly improved accuracy will make it so.
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