Buying Your First Cue

by James Hoover

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Cue Length

Assuming you are going to be playing pocket pool games like 8 and 9 ball, the cue you are looking for will be a two piece, 56"-58" long. The weight should be somewhere between 16oz and 22oz, depending on your particular taste and feel for the cue. The tip diameter should be 12.5mm to 13.5mm. Most cues come with a 13mm tip unless specified otherwise. Many people concern themselves with what they refer to as a "balance point". The truth is that the balance point for a cue will be determined by several factors and will vary from one cue to the next. There is no right or wrong balance point. The only thing that matters is how the cue feels to you.

Cue Weight

Determining the desired weight of a cue is a touchy subject. There are almost as many theories on how to determine the right weight for a cue as there are players who use them. One person might say a player who weighs 90 pounds needs a heavy cue in order to hit with any force. The next person you ask might say a 90 pound player doesn't need to swing a 22oz cue around that is too hard for them to control. And so on. Both opinions are valid. The bottom line is the cue needs to feel right for you. The physics of the sport doesn't make weight selection any easier. Force (how hard you hit the cue ball) is Mass x Acceleration. A heavy cue doesn't have to move very fast to hit with significant force. However, a lighter cue is easier to accelerate and can hit with just as much force as a heavier cue. The increased acceleration however may lead to a loss of control. Conversely, the heavier cue may add more force to a shot than you intended and also cause a loss of control. It all comes down to playing style and personal preference.

The best advice is to try out cues from several different manufacturers. Find out which ones feel right to you and which ones don't. Try a few different shaft tapers and shaft diameters. Try a few different weights. Once you get a feel for a particular manufacturer you can buy a cue from that manufacturer sight-unseen with a fair degree of confidence. Try not to make that mistake with a manufacturer you are not familiar with. You really have no idea what you will end up with.

If you are buying a cue in the lower price range your concern should be with how the cue feels, how the joint fits together, etc. Look at all the general quality issues. Shake the cue or bump it with the heel of your hand and see if it rattles or buzzes. Don't try to sight down the cue to see if it is straight. With perspective, the constant taper of the butt and the varying taper of the shaft, it is highly unlikely you will be able to spot a slight warp at any point along the five foot length of the cue. Instead, roll the cue on a level surface like the top of a pool table, assembled and in parts, to see if it is straight. While the cue is rolling watch the tip and see if it remains the same distance from the surface of the table. Also watch all along the entire length of the cue and see if any part of it moves farther away or closer to the surface of the table while it rolls. These are both signs the cue is not straight.

Inlays

If the cue has inlays look at them closely. This will give you a very good idea of the overall quality of the cue. Are the points equal in length or are they uneven? Did the points chip out anywhere? Are the inlays evenly spaced? Is there excess glue around the inlays? Do the points or inlays in the fore-wrap line up with the points or inlays in the after-wrap? Does the choice of pattern, material, color, etc, make sense? For example, did the manufacturer use ebony points with ivory diamond inlays in the fore-wrap and tulip wood circles with purple heart rectangles in the after-wrap? Not only would that look bad, but artistic error of that severity would make me question the functional quality of the cue as well.

The bottom line is you don't have to spend thousands of dollars to get a good cue. But you should be prepared to spend a few hundred at least. Don't mistake flashy for quality. Make sure the cue feels right to you in every measurable respect.

And, I would also recommend a decent case to carry it in. There is no sense in buying a good cue only to have it damaged in transport. Remember, that cue is an investment, and one you don't have to lose money on.

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