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Does Your Pool Cue Matter? The Truth About Modern High Technology Pool Cues
I started playing pool at the young age of 7 years old, during the winters growing up in northern Maine when the temperature reached 50 below zero 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 had a natural curiosity 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 stick and make a bridge, and gave me a small wooden box to stand on the table. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to the game, and soon invited my friends to play. We spent many a cold winter day inside this recreation room, playing for hours, making our own rules and games, and eventually even betting nickel candy bars on the outcome. Yes, we were big spenders!
When summer hit, we put the signs away and played baseball all day. My dream, since I was 5 years old and saw the Dodgers play in Los Angeles several times before my father transferred to Loring, was to be a professional baseball player, and eventually I received a baseball scholarship to college in Texas, where my father retired from 1966. Over the years, every spare hour not spent practicing baseball was spent in a pool hall, and after my baseball career ended with a torn pitching shoulder, pool became my No. 1 interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17, at a bar my sister worked at, and I won a cue stick as first prize. I was happy beyond belief, until I screwed the rod together and rolled it on the table. To my horror, it rolled like a corkscrew, they were so deformed that they can not play! Back to playing with a low stick!
Over the next 20 years, I moved to the pool where I was working at the time. I’ve drilled oil wells all over the country, and I’ve made a lot of money doing the wrong people after the changes, just like I did in my salary. As a mud engineer, I was responsible for checking several different machines every day, and I got to know, and play against, hundreds of different pool players every year. Moving across the country to different areas on a yearly basis, I was able to keep under the radar and remain a relative unknown, so it was never a problem to get a money game going. I don’t think I’ve ever met a roughneck who didn’t play pool, and most of them had a very high opinion of the games. This usually changed when it came time to pay!
In 1989 I met the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, a lawyer, founded Clicks Billiards many years earlier, and now has a total of 20 pool rooms from Phoenix, Florida, with his original pool room right here in Dallas on Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the General Manager, and responsible for hiring managers for all 20 of the pool halls. Then I retired from the oil business, and made my living on the golf course and pool hall every day. Greg and Nick were both members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in south Dallas, where I hustled golf every day. Greg was a 3 handicap, and after I played with him 3 or 4 days a week for several months (and took a little money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Heh heh heh. “A little”, I said, and he took me that night to the original Clicks Billiards, to try to win a little of his money back.
After paying the hundred (100) I beat him out that night, he offered me a job, as assistant manager of the original Clicks. He knew I had never been low-key before, but he assured me I would pick it up quickly, and it would fit in well with the pool players who made up their core customer base. 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. Klik had several exhibits, including one by Grady Matthews, and one by Ewa Mataya, the striking Viking. Clicks was also where I met CJ Wiley, the road player who won the ESPN Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 96. There were many, many great professional players at Clicks, and many a $1,000-in-a-pocket game going on all day. night course , and many of the big Dallas bookmakers bankrolling a lot of the action, and sweaters on the rail by the dozens, just watch … or pray, lol.
CJ joined Clicks in 1990, and terrorized local professionals. He was an instant legend, steamrolling every major player in the city. The guy who scared the dickens out of me wouldn’t even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His rep grew, and so did his ranking, eventually reaching #4 or 5 in the world in Pool. Working there, I became fast friends with CJ, and when he opened his own room in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I finally left Clicks and went on to manage CJ’s place. When it opened, 90% of the action, and professional players, went with him. It had 12 gold crowns, as opposed to 4 in Clicks, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours. The action never stops.
So what, you ask, all this has to do with the topic of the title? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in 91, and while it was beautiful, with lots of gorgeous inlays, and lots of response, it really did nothing to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, and I liked the cue, but I could play the same with a low cue, provided it was the right weight and had a good tip. I spent 700 dollars for the sign, but I really didn’t need to. It didn’t give me any advantage over a house sign.
I had a serious back injury in 1994, which put me out of golf and pool. I didn’t want to risk surgery, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I got some non-narcotic medication from the VA that let me bend over the table again without excruciating pain. At the time, Predator Cues came out with a 10-piece shaft that was hollow at the tip, significantly reducing cue ball deflection at impact…or so they claimed. Having been away from the game for 14 years, I read a little about these signals, and I 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 black shell: When a cue ball is hit on either side of the vertical axis…the center line….the cue ball will deviate, or “judge” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using the right ‘English’… hit the cue ball to the right of the vertical center line… the cue ball will deviate to the left, and vice versa.. The amount of deflection varies, depending on the speed of the stroke, the distance from the center line (or tip offset) is hit by the cue ball, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more English you apply, the harder the stroke, and the greater the mass at the tip…..these factors will all increase the amount of deflection, or squirt. This squirt must be compensated for when aiming, or you will miss the shot quite often.
This is where the Predator technology comes into play. With a small hollow space at the end of the tip, the reduced mass drastically reduces the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the path of impact, instead of the shaft pushing the cue ball out of the path. The 314 shaft became very popular immediately with professionals, and the Z shaft reduced deviation even more by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter ferrule also helped reduce mass, and therefore reduce deflection even more. Independent tests have the Z² shaft and the 314² shaft from Predator as the #1 and #2 shafts in the world that cause the least deflection. Predator cues and handles are used by more than half of the top 40 pros, 3 of the top 5 women’s pros, and more than 35,000 players worldwide, according to the Predator website. These professionals are not paid to play these signals. They play them because their lives depend on their ability to play, which is enhanced with this high-tech equipment.
Since Predator led the way in the mid-90s, many companies are now joining the technology revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offer Zero Flex Point shafts on all hybrid models. This shaft has technology similar to Predator shafts to drastically reduce deflection. These roots are offered with many types of joints to fit most signals made today. World Champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now plays Lucasi Hybrid.
The OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently switched to the OB signal. He said that he ran more than 400 balls playing pool straight, the second day he used the OB shaft.
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 even though I haven’t played in 14 years, my game has risen to a higher level than I’ve ever played before. The reduced deviation makes difficult shots using English much simpler, by reducing the amount of compensation for squirt.
In summary, the advancement of technology shortens the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing rebound ball deflection, and requires less compensation for the squirt effect. And the pros, who make their lives with a sign? Almost all of them sport a low-deflection shaft of some kind. Why wouldn’t they? If they don’t, the competitors (which all do) will take the money.
While Predator remains the benchmark for low deflection, they are also not cheap. 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 lower cost alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft alone, you can get a Lucasi Hybrid bumper. [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] which has advanced low-deflection technology and plays fantastically well. If a world champion like Thorsten Hohmann is playing a Lucasi Hybrid, you KNOW it’s an outstanding sign.
So think long and hard when buying a new cue stick. If you don’t use a sign 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 the vast majority of the time. Much improved accuracy will make it so.
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