Buying a Pool Cue - Part 2

Written by Bryan Mitchell

In part one we discussed some of the reasons you might want to buy a new pool cue. This may be your first personal cue or an upgrade to the one you are currently using. For the sake of simplicity we are going to break down the pool cue market into three distinct categories: cheap cues, middle market cues and expensive cues. Most of our focus will be on the mid-priced market, as this is where you are most likely to shop and this is where most cues on the market will reside. Remember that a pool cue is a personal matter. The style, price range, brand etc. is a matter of personal choice. This article is intended to help you from a general point of view. Also keep in mind that low priced, middle market and expensive are relative terms. So work with me a little. Let’s start with the lower side of the market.

Cheap Cues

Notice I did not refer to this category as low priced cues. The reason is simple. A low priced cue is a cheap cue. Yes, there are times when someone is selling something and they do not recognize it’s true value. There are times when an Ebay seller, or local retailer has a batch of overstocked cues that they need to move because they are going out of business or they are having a slow year. But other than these hard to find, unique situations, if you pay less than about $75 for a pool cue, chances are it is not very good quality. If the cue is being sold at Kmart, Wal-Mart or almost any sporting goods store, chances are it’s a low end cue. You are not going to find quality cues at these stores. These stores are great places to buy cues that you might put on the wall in your pool room for guest to use. You may also have a youngster interested in pool and you can usually find them something suitable at these places; but your quality playing cue is not going to be found in a department store or even a sporting goods store.

When we say low quality cues we mean that it may be prone to warping, made of a low quality wood, has plastic in parts where there should not be plastic, etc. In some cases the cue may already be warped. I know one Ebay seller that makes a very good living selling “factory seconds.” He does not hide the fact that his products are seconds and when you buy his cues on line, you are getting something that has an issue with it. This issue is most likely a defect in the wood, not just a cosmetic issue. Defects in the wood will reduce the performance of the cue. In most cases, “factory second” is code for, “we could not sell this at regular price because it’s crap.” For these reasons, we will not spend too much time talking about the lower priced end of the market.

Before leaving this section, it should be noted that there are many casual players and even amateur league players who make do with very cheap cues. On the other hand, I play with a lot of highly ranked players and I have not run into any top ranked players with a $50 pool cue in his bag. At the same time, it should be said that if you do not have $100 or more to invest in a pool cue, you can still get by with a cheaper cue until you can pick up a better cue. Remember also that you might be able to find a used cue that is good quality but marked down in price. Research the price that the cue sold for when it was new and ask someone who knows about cues what they think it is worth before buying it.

Middle Market Cues and High End Cues

Much like the middle class in America, the middle market in pool cues has a very large range. We are talking about cues between $200 and $600 dollars. The reason for the low end number of $200 is that this is where you find cues that are not so fancy but are of good enough quality that they will be straight for years, assuming you care for them properly. Some brands make cues for as little as $100 that would be ok for casual use as long as you had a good quality tip mounted. Brands in this area of the price range include companies like Players and Cuetec. We will talk about tips in part three of this series.

The first cue which I bought as a kid was a cheap cue bought at Kmart, and it is long gone. It was long gone after about 6 months. It warped like crazy and the nylon cord around the base started to come apart in short time. I don’t know what brand it was, but I got what I paid for at the time. My second cue which was made by Players, cost about $100 ( in the 80s,) and is still with me today and is as straight as the day I bought it. I have replaced the tip about six or seven times from wear and tear but it’s still a great cue. I don’t play with this cue very often these days, but if I needed to play a tournament and it was all I had, I would be very happy to play with this cue. It’s very interesting that you could buy a decent cue by Players in the 80s and in 2012 for about the same price. For those of you who are too young to remember the 80s, it was back when people listened to records, there was no such thing as the Internet and Madonna was, well, pretty much the same as she is today. Hmmmm. Much like pool halls, Madonna has not changed very much. OK back to pool cues.

The high end of this middle market is the sweet spot for performance and price. This area includes companies like Predator, and OB. This is where you are getting the best performing cues at the best price. In other words, the best performing, highest quality cues cost around $400-$600. After that point you start paying for things like ivory and mother of pearl inlays, exotic woods and grips, etc. None of these cosmetic extras will improve your game and the technology that is delivered in a $2,000 pool cue is not one iota greater than that in a good $400 cue. But, it is a great feeling to play a great game of pool with a custom made or even a factory made masterpiece in your hand. So there is a place in the world for cues that cost over $1,000 if you can afford it appreciate it and put it to good use.

When we talk about technology in pool cues we are usually talking about low deflection shafts. The shaft is the upper part of the cue that strikes the cue ball. A low deflection cue is one which does not cause the cue ball to drift off target as much when English is applied to the ball. Many players, especially old school players, have become accustom to making the adjustment for cue ball deflection, so they sometimes do not like low deflection cues. Which is better, high or low deflection? It’s a matter of personal choice. My primary cue is a low deflection cue, but it did take some getting used to at first. Also remember that you can purchase a reasonably price cue and put a high end shaft on that cue. Most low deflection shafts cost about $250-$300.

Whenever possible, you are going to want to try out the cue you are going to buy. This might be difficult unless you know a number of people with different types of cues, who are willing to let you run a rack or two with their cue. You will not, in many cases (unless the cue is used,) get a chance to shoot with a cue at your local billiard retailer or pool hall. Once you chalk up the cue and shoot with it, it’s a used cue and has lost value.

One thing you will want to find out before buying a cue is the weight of cue you prefer to use. Most cues come in weights from 19-21ozs. If you do not specify a weight when ordering a cue on line, you will very likely end up with a 19oz cue by default. Try shooting with a number of different weights to see what feels best in your hand. You can use a friends cue or a house cue to see what works best for you. Just because you might be a big guy does not mean you want a heavier cue, but if you are unsure of the best weight for you, buy a heavier cue and adjust the weight later. The way most cues are weighted is with a bolt under the rubber cap at the bottom. This bolt can be removed with an Allen wrench to make the cue lighter. If you order the lightest weight cue, this weight bolt will not come with the cue at all and you will have to buy one that fits that cue in order to add weight to it. The bottom line is, if you order on line, order the heavier cue, and you than have the bolt you need. If you order the lighter cue, you need to buy the bolt.

In part three of this article we will discuss different types of cue tips to have mounted on your cue and the best places to shop for your cue.

About The Author: Bryan Mitchell is a highly skilled player/instructor from the Northern Delaware area.

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