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Does Your Pool Cue Matter? The Truth About Modern High Technology Pool Cues
I started playing pool at the age of 7, growing up in northern Maine during winters when it was minus 50 degrees and too cold to ski. The recreation room at Lorraine Air Force Base had several pool tables, and as a very athletic kid I had a natural curiosity for the sport, and after watching a few games, an airman invited me to play with him. He showed me how to hold the cue and build a bridge, and gave me a little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It didn’t take long for me to be addicted to the game, and I soon invited my friends to play together. We spent many cold winter days in that rec room, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, eventually even betting nickels on the outcome. Yes, we are big spenders!
When summer came, we put away our clubs and played baseball all day. My dream was to be a professional baseball player, since I was 5 years old, I watched the Dodgers in Los Angeles many times before my dad was transferred to Lorraine, I ended up getting a baseball scholarship to Texas In 1966, I spent every free moment in the pool hall except for baseball practice. After my baseball career was ended by a torn pitching shoulder, billiards became my first interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17 at the pub where my sister worked and won a club as first prize. I was unbelievably excited until I twisted the stick together and rolled across the table. To my horror, it rolls like a corkscrew and is too twisted to play! Back to playing bar sticks!
For the next 20 years, I kept busy playing pool where I was working. I drilled oil wells all over the country, helping rough labor after shifts, making as much as my salary. As a mud engineer, I am responsible for inspecting many different rigs each day and meet and play hundreds of different pool players each year. Moving around the country to different areas each year, I’ve been able to keep a low profile and remain relatively unknown, so there’s never any difficulty playing the money game. I don’t think I’ve ever met a rough guy who doesn’t play pool, and most of them think highly of their game. This usually changes upon payment!
In 1989, I met Brother Alexander at a golf course in Dallas. Nick, a lawyer, founded Clicks Billiards many years ago and now has 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, including his original pool hall on Abrams Rd in Dallas. and Northwest Highway. His brother Greg is the general manager and is responsible for hiring managers for all 20 pool halls. By this time I had retired from the oil business and lived off golf and pool halls every day. Both Greg and Nick are members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in South Dallas, where I play golf every day. Greg was a handicap 3 and after I played with him for a few months, 3 or 4 days a week (and took a lot of money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Hehehehe. “A little bit,” I said, and he took me to the old Clicks Billiards that night to win back a little of his money.
After he paid off the one hundred dollars I beat him that night, he offered me a job as an assistant manager for the original Clicks. He knew I had never been a bartender before but assured me I would take over quickly and would fit in nicely with the pool players who make up their core client base. Is he right! I was a duck to water and got to know most of the best pool players in Dallas and some of the best pool players in the country. Clicks has several exhibits, one by Grady Matthews and one by Ewa Mataya, Striking Viking. The Clicks is also where I met CJ Wiley, the road player who won ESPN’s Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or ’96. Clicks has lots and lots of top pros, lots of people playing $1,000 one-pocket games around the clock, there are lots of major dallas bookmakers funding a lot of action, and there are dozens of sweaters on the rails, just watch… …or pray, lol.
CJ entered the Clicks in 1990 and began terrorizing the local pros. He was an instant legend, overwhelming every major player in town. The guys who scare me won’t even touch CJ when CJ gives them a 5 and out. As his fame grew, so did his rankings, eventually ranking fourth or fifth in the pool world. Working there, CJ and I became good friends, and when he opened his own room at CJ’s Pool Palace Dallas, I eventually left Clicks to manage CJ’s place. When he’s on, 90% of the action and pros follow him. He has 12 Gold Crowns, Clicks has 4, and the kitchen is open 24 hours. The action never stops.
So, you ask, what does all this have to do with the subject of the title? I bought my first cue in ’91, a Thomas Wayne model, and while it was beautiful, had lots of gorgeous inlays, and was responsive, it really didn’t improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, I love the club but I can play just as well with a stick club as long as it is the right weight and has a good club head. I spent $700 on clubs that I really didn’t need. It doesn’t give me any advantage over house clubs.
In 1994 I suffered a severe back injury which took me out of golf and pool. I didn’t want to risk surgery, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I got some non-narcotics from the VA that allowed me to bend over again without excruciating pain. That’s when Predator Cues introduced a 10-piece shaft with a hollow top that significantly reduces the deflection of the cue ball at impact…or so they claim. After 14 years away from the sport, I rarely read these tips, and I’m intrigued, to say the least.
For those reading this who don’t know what cue ball deflection is, here’s the nutshell: When the cue ball is struck either side of the vertical axis… the centerline… The cue ball will deflect or “jet” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball with the right “English”… hit the cue ball to the right of the vertical centerline… the cue ball will deflect to the left and vice versa. The amount of deflection will vary depending on the speed of the shot, how far the cue ball is hit from the centerline (or tip offset), and the quality of the tip. In other words, the more English you use, the harder the stroke and the greater the mass of the nib…all of these factors increase the amount of deflection, or jet volume. This jet has to be compensated for when aiming, or you will often miss shots.
This is where Predator technology comes into play. With a small hollow space at the end of the tip, the reduced mass greatly reduces the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft away at impact rather than the shaft pushing the cue ball away. The 314 axis was an instant hit with professionals, and the Z axis further reduces deflection by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. The shorter ferrules also help reduce mass, further reducing deflection. Independent testing shows that Predator’s Z² shafts and 314² shafts are the #1 and #2 shafts in the world that cause the least amount of deflection. According to the Predator website, Predator clubs and shafts are used by more than half of the 40 professional players, 3 of the 5 female professional players and more than 35,000 players worldwide. These professionals do not get paid to play these cues. They play them because their lives depend on their ability to play, which is enhanced by this high-tech device.
Since the Predator pioneered the trend in the mid-90s, many companies are now joining the technology revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offer zero flex point shafts on all of their hybrid models. The shaft uses technology similar to the Predator shaft to significantly reduce deflection. They offer a variety of joint types for these shafts to fit most clubs manufactured today. World champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now rides a Lucasi Hybrid.
OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low-deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently switched to OB clubs. He said he hit more than 400 shots in his second day with the OB shaft.
I had to try one of these cues for myself and I must say: I love the new high-tech pool cues. I play a Predator 5K3, and despite not playing a game in 14 years, my gaming level has risen to a higher level than anything I’ve played before. Reduced deflection makes hard hitting easier with English by reducing the amount of jet offset.
All in all, advancements in technology have shortened the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection, and requiring less jet effect compensation. And what about the pros who make a living out of clubs? Almost all use some kind of low-deflection shaft. Why don’t they? If they don’t, their competitors (who do) take the money.
While Predators are still the benchmark for low deflection, they aren’t cheap either. Z² shafts retail for close to $300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues with similar technology (and new grip technology that reduces shock vibration) are a good low-cost alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft, you can get a great Lucasi Hybrid [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] Has advanced low deflection technology and plays very well. If a world champion like Thorsten Hohmann is using the Lucasi Hybrid, you know it’s a great club.
So think carefully when buying new clubs. If you’re not using a club with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponents will. All else being equal, a modern low deflection club or an older club with a new low deflection shaft will win in the vast majority of cases. Greatly improved accuracy will make it a reality.
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