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Dr G's School of Pool
2813 S. Hiawassee Rd Suite 207 Orlando, FL 32835
Choosing a Pool Cue
by Larry Giles - BCA Certified Instructor
The choice of a Pool Cue, whether it's your first cue or if you are upgrading to another cue, is a very personal decision. For the most part, it will depend on personal taste, your own style preference, and the looks of the cue. I, like many others, have bought many pool cues because we like the look of the butt and then played with them for years. I bought my first cue this way over 32 years ago. Fortunately, I had good guidance and bought quality. I still have my first "Custom" cue and have been offered $5,000 for it. It is an "Original by Palmer" and listed in the Encyclopedia of Billiard Cues. For some people, price is the only consideration. For the rest of us who appreciate value and quality, I offer you this insight, regardless of where you purchase your cue.
Here are a few "General Tips" you should know before you even go shopping for a cue.
- The most important part of a cue is the the tip and the shaft. (See the Description below on Shaft and Tip Selection)
- Weight, size, length, and material are the next most important factors.
- Stick with a name brand cue like the ones I've mentioned and have listed above. Avoid Kmart, Walmart, Sports Authority, or other non-billiard cue suppliers, unless they are carrying a brand name cue like I've mentioned. They are only interested in price. How cheap they can make it and how much they can sell it for. I am sure they will eventually have to become concerned with quality as players become more informed and the market becomes more competitive. Some cues are just not worth taking home for anyone that wants to play at even a beginning level. A good quality basic beginner's cue from a name brand manufacturer is only a few dollars more and makes all the difference in the world. A good quality plain cue will start around $35. See Players, Action, and Competition. Almost all makes have a plain model for around $35 - $50. Most Retailers and wholesalers or cues, including myself only resale cues. Only a few actual cue manufacturers of production cues exist.Most American Cuemakers now only do custom cues and start in the range of $500. In my opinion, the finest production cue made today by a Custom cuemaker is a I now play with a Schon - CX 52 Retail $1,250
- Fiberglass shafts are the new craze but I'm not convinced. Metal cues and shafts (Aluminum) are also on the market. I've hit them and they seem "okay". I"m still not convinced on them either. They seem to be a bit pricey to me. You just can't go wrong with a good wood shaft and a good medium leather tip.
- Only a few Production Cues are still "Made in the USA" and have maintained the quality standards of a Custom Cuemaker. They are, Viking, Pechaur, McDermott, and Predator. Meucci Cues, which are also made in the US and used to be a quality Custom Cue, has failed to maintain it's quality in workmanship. Even though I played with a Meucci Cue for several years, I will no longer sell or recommend a Meucci Cue.
- The rest of the cues are now made overseas, usually China or Taiwan. I think they are all made by the same factory, just changing the labels on different days. I do believe that some importers, like Lucasi, Fury, and Nick Varner Cues, have higher standards and get the best quality for the best price. The grades of wood for the shaft and the tips are the biggest factor.
- Imported Cues have steadily increased in quality over the past 5 years. Even the taped on designs of today are hard to distinguish from real wood inlays, which is where the expense of a higher price cue comes in. Again, this has to do with the butt of the cue, not the shaft and tip.
- The standard weight of a cue I recommend is 19oz or less. A lot of pros and good players are opting for a lighter cue (17-18 oz). Earl Strickland plays with a 15oz but he's in a world of his own. We used to think a heavier cue was better and I played with a 21 1/2 oz cue. The heavier cue has some disadavatages and restrictions.
Shaft and Tip Selection
- The standard tip size is 13mm. This is fine and is what you will find on most production cues right off the shelf. This is the maximum. I tend to recommend a 12 1/2 to 12 3/4 mm tip with a pro-taper shaft. European Snooker shafts are 9-10mm and are too small for our billiard play. Again, Earl the Pearl Strickland plays with an 11mm tip and shaft. This I would say is below the normal minimum. As I said before, it's personal taste at this point. When ordering a Custom Production Cue, you may specify tip and shaft size.
- Tips come in soft, medium, and hard. Layered leather tips are the new craze and may have some merit. Hard tips are good for break cues, soft tips usually flatten out too fast and don't keep their shape long. A good medium tip is the best choice unless you prefer otherwise. Avoid the economy tip replacements, do it yourself kits, and slip on tips. Tip replacement by a Pro Shop runs about $10 for a good tip. Invest in a good tip and it will pay you huge dividends in your game. It is the one single factor that can most affect the way you play.
- A broom handle with a Predator Shaft in the hands of today's Pros would play like a Stradivarus. You can buy a Predator Shaft to fit almost any name brand cue. The Predator Shaft runs about $225 alone. I have five of them but I still play with my Schon shaft.
After a couple years of playing with the Schon Cue, I again have made a change. I am now personally playing with a Nick Varner World Championship Series cue. It has a radial pin, 13 mm tip, 19 oz and is black with white inlays. I love the hit of this cue and with a retail price of under $400, I am not nearly as concerned about it getting stolen in the pool room as I am with the Schon. Nick also uses one of his World Champion Series cues. If it's good enough for a Hall of Fame World Champion like Nick Varner, it is definitely good enough for me.
For a beginning or amateur player that doesn't want to spend a fortune on a good cue, but still wants to play and learn with a quality cue, I now recommend the Nick Varner US Open Series cues. Built to the standards set by Nick, this could possibly be the best quality hitting cue for the money on the market today.
I keep a stock of these cues on hand. Available in Black, blue, red, green, brown, and even purple (yes, it is quite attractive) The cue is the same, it's just the staining of the wood and the grain that is different. Because of the wood and stain, each cue can be unique, so if you see one you like, get it, because ordering it may not be exactly the same.
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