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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, during the winters growing up in northern Maine when the temperature reached 50 below zero and it was too cold to ski. The rec room at Loring AFB had a few 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 pilots to play a game with him. He showed me how to hold the cue stick and make a bridge, and got me a little wooden box to stand on so I could reach 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 cold winter days inside that rec room, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, and eventually even betting nickels on the outcome. Yes, we were big spenders!
When summer hit, we put the cues 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 dad was transferred to Loring, was to be a professional baseball player, and I ended up getting a baseball scholarship to college in Texas, where my dad retired in. 1966. Over the years, every spare hour not spent practicing baseball was spent in a pool, and after my baseball career ended with a torn pitching shoulder, swimming became my #1 interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17, at a bar my sister worked at, and won a sign as first prize. I was beyond thrilled until I screwed the stick together and rolled it across the table. To my horror, it rolled like a corkscrew, being so twisted it was unplayable! Back to playing with a pole stick!
For the next 20 years, I moved pool wherever I was working at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country, and made as much money pushing the roughnecks after their shift as I did from my salary. As a mud engineer, I was responsible for overseeing many different rigs every day, and got to know and play against hundreds of different pool players every year. By moving around the country to different areas every year, I was able to stay under the radar and remain a relative unknown, so running a money game was never a problem. I don’t think I’ve ever met a brute who didn’t play pool, and most of them had a pretty high opinion of their game. That 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 ago, and now had a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, with his original pool hall right there in Dallas on Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the general manager, and responsible for hiring managers for all 20 of their pool halls. By that time I had retired from the oil business, and made my living on the golf course and swimming pools every day. Greg and Nick were both members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in south Dallas, where I chafed at 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 quite a bit of 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 Snap Pool, to try and earn some of his money back.
After he paid the hundred I beat him out of that night, he offered me a job as assistant director of the original Clicks. He knew I had never tended bar before, but assured me I would pick it up quickly and fit right in with the pool players who made up his 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. Clicks had several exhibitions, including one by Grady Matthews, and one by Ewa Mataya, the Amazing 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 high-level pro players at Clicks, with many $1,000 single pocket games going on day and night. , with many major Dallas bookies bankrolling much of the action, and sweaters on the rail of the tens, just watching … or praying, lol.
CJ rolled into Snaps in 1990, and continued to terrorize the local pros. He was an instant legend, vaporizing every major player in town. Guys who scared the dickens out of me wouldn’t even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His representative grew, and his ranking did too, later reaching number 4 or 5 in the world of Pool. While working there, I became fast friends with CJ, and when he opened his own room in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I eventually left Clicks and went to manage CJ’s place. When he opened, 90% of the action, and professional players, went with him. He had 12 Golden Crowns, as opposed to the 4 at Clicks, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours. The action never stopped.
So what, you ask, does all this have to do with the title subject? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in 91, and while it was beautiful, with lots of gorgeous inlays, and very responsive, it really did nothing to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, and I loved the cue, but I could play just as well with a bar cue as long as it was the right weight and had a good tip. I spent 700 bucks on the cue, but I really didn’t need to. It didn’t give me any advantage over house sign.
I had a severe back injury in 1994 that made me stop playing 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. Before that 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 little of these clues, and was intrigued, to say the least.
For those of you reading this who don’t know what picture deflection is, here it is in a nutshell: When a picture ball is struck on either side of the vertical axis…the center line….the signal shell. ball will deflect, or “splash” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using right ‘English’… hitting the cue ball to the right of the vertical center line… the cue ball will deflect to the left, and vice versa.. The amount of deflection varies, depending on speed of the stroke, the distance from the center line (or tip offset) the signal ball is struck, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more English you apply, the harder the stroke, and the greater the mass of the tip…..these factors will all increase the amount of deflection or spray. This splash 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 dramatically reduced the amount of deflection allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the way at impact, instead of the shaft pushing the cue ball out of the way. The 314 shaft became very popular with pros right away, and the Z shaft reduced deflection even further by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter iron also helped reduce mass, and therefore reduce deflection even more. Independent testing has Predator’s Z² shaft and 314² shaft as the #1 and #2 shafts in the world in causing the least amount of deflection. Predator cues and shafts 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 cues. They play them because their livelihood depends on their playing ability, which is enhanced by this high-tech equipment.
Since Predator led the way in the mid-90s, many companies have now joined the technological revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point shaft on all of their hybrid models. That shaft has technology similar to the Predator shafts to dramatically reduce deflection. They offer these shafts with many common types 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 indication. He said he ran over 400 balls playing straight pool, 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 imagers. I play with a Predator 5K3, and despite not having played in 14 years, my game has risen to a level much higher than I have ever played before. The reduced deflection makes the hard shots using the English much simpler, reducing the amount of compensation to spray.
In summary, the advancement of technology has shortened the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection, and requiring much less compensation for the splash effect. And the professionals who make a living on cue? Almost all of them play some sort of low-deflection. Why wouldn’t they? If they don’t, their competitors (who all do) will take the money.
While Predator remains the benchmark for low deflection, they don’t come cheap either. The retail price for a Z² shaft is almost $300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues, with similar technology (as well as new grip technology to reduce impact vibration) is a good lower-priced alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft alone, you can get an outstanding Lucasi Hybrid. [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] which has advanced low-deviation technology and plays amazingly well. If a World Champion like Thorsten Hohmann plays a Lucasi Hybrid, you know it’s an outstanding signal.
So think long and hard when buying a new sign. If you are not using a signal with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponent will be. 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. A greatly improved accuracy will make it so.
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