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Buying Your First Pool Cue Part 2
How do I know that buying an inexpensive cue that looks really nice is a waste of money? For the same reason that I know that actually shooting with a pool stick before buying one is of utmost importance. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I really wish I hadn’t! Let’s take a little closer look at these things, shall we?
I bought my first pool stick for $65 at a sporting goods store, because I had no clue where else to get one. Back then I wasn’t a very good player, but I wanted my own stuff. It was nice blue color with a patterned design in the wrap (which was cotton thread and came unraveled in a month). I didn’t get to try it out in the store so I had no idea how it would play. It had plastic joints with the requisite metal threaded stud in the center, and I found out later it weighed 16.5 ounces. It was straight when I got it, but the shaft warped within six months. It played like crap, it was junk, and I usually used house cues even though I had my own. Besides everything, what did I do wrong?
Wood. Remember – you get what you pay for and cheap cues are made of cheap wood. The shaft should not look like a well sanded 2X4. The grain of the wood should be very straight and close together. Put the two pieces together, hold the butt tightly between your feet and grasp the shaft with both hands. Cautiously try to flex it. If it cracks or wobbles like a wet noodle you probably don’t want it. Next, grasp it near the tip and gently strike the shaft from the side with your other hand. It should feel nice and firm. While we’re talking about the shaft – run away from screw-on tips. They are junk and you really don’t want them, trust me.
The butt half of the cue can be complicated. For the basics though, points are good – as long as they are actual points of wood that have been splined together, painted on points do absolutely nothing for you. Good cues have an adjustable weight under the rubber butt cap. The grip area can be bare, wrapped (with real linen, not cotton thread), or have a covered wrap.
The joint connection between the shaft and the butt of the cue is extremely important. It must be solid and it must provide an excellent wood-to-wood connection when assembled.
The weight of your pool cue is an entirely personal decision, but most shooters start out with a 19-20 ounce stick. Personally I think that 19.5 is the ultimate weight for a first cue. I shoot with an 18.75 now – but that’s just me.
That second cue that I bought was a beautiful 19 ounce Viking, with four points and nice hardwood inlays. It cost $750 and after awhile I hated using it. It shot like a dream, but it just wasn’t the right choice for me. Why did I make that mistake? I didn’t practice with different brands before I bought it. Hey, at least this time I bought a cue with a good brand name!
Always buy a pool cue with a recognized brand name. If you don’t know any names ask around. McDermott makes excellent sticks with very good prices – you just can’t go wrong with one of these. Lucasi, Phillipi, Player, Viking, and Meucci are all excellent names to look for. Just ask around. All manufacturers make sticks that play differently, so be sure to try each before buying.
I’ve learned my lessons the hard and expensive way so you don’t have to. I’ve become a fairly accomplished shooter though I play only occasionally anymore. For the last 10 years I have been very pleased with my 18.75 ounce Meucci, two points, with a Predator shaft. Play hard, play fair.
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