How to Choose a Pool Cue
Whether you're an avid or recreational pool and billiards player, you know that choosing the right pool cue off the rack is oftentimes an inexact science that comes down to a combination of look and feel. However, it's important to understand that there are many different types, sizes, weights and styles of pool cues that you can choose from to fit your game.
Whether you're a serious player or just like to go out and play a little pool with friends on Friday nights, choosing the best pool cue to fit your game is easier and more essential than you might think.
Like most recreational sports and activity equipment, pool cues vary in length, weight and material. There are the minimum and maximum lengths and weights for regulation pool cues, so choosing the one that's best for you might require a combination of research and simple product testing on your part. If you're wondering how to choose a pool cue that's right for you, then you should consider this pool stick buying guide before making your choice and hitting the tables.
Pool Cue Length
The ideal length of your pool cue depends on a few different factors such as the type of shot you're shooting and your height. Your height is directly correlated to your wingspan, or the length of your arms stretched from the tip of your middle finger on one hand to the tip of your middle finger on the other hand. This will dictate how long your pool stick should be. Your pool cue should comfortably fit your arms if you want to have the maximum control over your shots.
However, most standard pool cues are 58 inches long and are suitable for players ranging anywhere from 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches in height. The range in heights covers most pool players. If you're taller than 6 feet, 5 inches, then you might want to consider a longer cue stick. You can order pool cues that are as long as 61 inches. Likewise, if you're shorter than 5 feet, 8 inches, then you might want to consider a shorter cue. Standard cues start at 48 inches and range to over 61 inches in length. This is a wide range to consider when choosing the cue that's right for you.
In order to determine the right length cue to fit your game and your body type, you'll want to try out a few different cues. It might not seem like a few inches is going to make that much of a difference in your game, but given that billiards is a game of millimeters that requires great control and touch on your shots, the length of your cue is a big deal. You don't want to choose a pool cue that's either too long or too short for you as you'll sacrifice that control.
Pool Stick Weight
Pool cue weight difference is measured in ounces. As you can imagine, the weight of your cue will affect your shots and needs to vary based on the types of shots. For example, when shooting breaking shots, you'll want a heavier cue that garners more power. Standard cues generally weigh between 17-21 ounces or 25-27 ounces for tournament and league play sticks. One of the first considerations you should make when choosing a cue is what you'll be using it for. Are you playing a few recreational games with friends or are you diving into competitive league and tournament-style play?
The weight of your pool cue is typically dictated by the butt of the cue, but that's not always the case. Some cues are designed to have a heavier, more weighted shaft and are ideal for shorter players who need more balance in their cues to match their stature. The weight of your cue does not have much to do with your level of strength or power, and instead has more to do with feeling.
You want your pool cue to feel comfortable when you're stroking your shots, so choosing a cue that you can control easily is key here. The majority of the cue's weight lies in the butt, or the end of the stick where your back hand grips the stick. The butt of the cue is where you get your power as you stroke your shots. Some cues are designed with removable weights on the butt to make the stick lighter or heavier depending on the shot. These are ideal because you don't have to worry about swapping out cues for various types of shots, and you can use the same cue for any shot by simply adjusting the weights on the butt of the stick.
Pool Cue Material
For centuries, pool cues were strictly made of wood. Today, you can choose a pool cue made from a range of materials that best suits your preferences and style of play. Pool cues come in these different types of materials:
When trying to decide what makes a good pool stick, consider only the top three options from the list above. Wood, graphite and fiberglass cues are three standard types while the other two, aluminum and plastic, are considered poor quality material for cues. Even beginner pool players are going to want to avoid choosing a cue made of either aluminum or plastic. Aluminum is easily dented, causing you to lose accuracy and power over your shots, while plastic cues break and chip easily. Keep in mind that the harder the material, the more powerful the cue will be and the more power you'll have over your shots.
You're likely most familiar with wooden cues as, again, wood was the standard material for making pool cues for centuries. Many players still prefer wood given its durability and feel. Wooden cues are also easily fixed if your stick gets scratched or nicked. Wooden cues are the material of choice for most professional players because of the feel they offer when stroking your shots. You want your cue to glide easily through your hands and across the fingers of your bridge, and wooden cues offer the smoothest stroke. Wood is widely accepted as the best material for pool cues.
Fiberglass cues are popular amongst pool players. Similar to wooden cues, fiberglass sticks are a durable option. Unlike their wooden counterparts, fiberglass cues don't warp, meaning they will not become crooked or misshapen due to a combination of heat and moisture. The only drawback of a fiberglass cue is it can stick to your hands and fingers when stroking your shots. This is troublesome because you need your cue to glide across your hands and through your fingers to ensure accurate shots.
Types of Cues
Aside from the materials, pool cues come in many different types. The two main types of cues are one-piece and two-piece sticks. A one-piece pool cue is just that, one long piece. They are the typical cues you're likely used to seeing and using at your local pool or billiards hall. The one-piece pool cues are great options for public use since they are hard to travel with and do not fit conveniently in your trunk or cue case.
Two-piece pool cues are separated in the middle and screw together using a brass or metal fitting and screw piece. Two-piece cues are great options if you're planning to take your game on the road and need a way to conveniently carry your cue with you. They typically come with a carrying case or sleeve that holds both pieces of the cue and zips from one end to the other. Both two-piece and one-piece cues have their advantages and disadvantages.
With a one-piece cue, you don't have to worry about someone walking off with your pool cue. This might sound strange, but if you are hosting games at your house or your business establishment, the last thing you want is for a cue to come up missing. Walking off with a 5-foot long piece of wood is hard when you can't break it down to conceal it and carry it off.
A two-piece pool cue is again great for traveling. You can break your cue down and take it with you virtually anywhere, but there are a few drawbacks as well. The brass fittings that screw your cue together can wear out and even become cross-threaded, leaving you unable to break your stick down and unscrew the two pieces. Also, these fittings can get bent or warped and make your pool cue crooked, so inspecting them regularly is a best practice.
Since the two-piece cues essentially separate the butt from the shaft, you'll also have the advantage of replacing either end should your stick become warped or bent. This is helpful because you won't be stuck with the cost of replacing an entire cue should something happen to it. Another benefit to the two-piece cues is replacing the tips. The tips are much easier to replace when you can break your cue into two pieces instead of having to handle a five-foot-long solid one-piece cue. The two-piece cues can save you money when you consider this and other advantages.
Different Cues For Different Shots
Yes, there are different cues for different types of shots. There are four different types of shots that you'll make when playing a standard game of billiards:
Depending on the type of shot, you'll want to consider a different cue. Break shots require a heavier cue for more power, and this will differ from your regular playing cue. Many times, your break cues are also subject to more dings, dents and scratches. The nature of the break shot creates more opportunities for you to scratch and dent your cue stick, so consider using a different cue for breaking.
Likewise, jump shots require a very steep angle in order to get the cue ball to "jump" off the table and over other balls, blocking your intended target ball. The stress you'll place on your cue performing jump shots means you might want to consider a different cue stick. These cues are also equipped with harder tips designed for a more direct impact on the cue ball. You'll need hard direct impact to successfully perform quality jump and break shots.
Please keep in mind that the different types of cues are really only essential for more advanced, serious style pool players. If you don't plan to use your pool cue to become a professional hustler or pool shark anytime soon, then you will not really need to worry about this. Advanced shots such as jump-break shots aren't usually something you'll have to worry about playing recreationally with friends.
Pool Cue Tips
The tip of your pool cue plays a key role in your success on the billiards table. The tip of your cue determines the level of impact your shots have on the cue ball. Tips are attached to your cue with the ferrule. The ferrule is a small plastic piece that attaches the tip to the cue stick. When choosing your cue, it's important to note the condition of the ferrule. Check it for any signs of cracking or breaking around the ferrule and replace or repair it as needed.
Cue stick tips need to be replaced periodically as they wear out and start to mushroom. Mushrooming happens when the tip begins to flatten and slightly fray after hitting the cue ball over and over. Pool cue stick tips are usually around 8-8.5 millimeters in diameter and are made of either leather or phenolic resin. Pool cue tips come in three general types classified by hardness:
Hard tips: Made mostly for the break and jump shot cues, hard tips are made from either leather or phenolic resin. They are sturdy tips and don't need to be replaced very often. The downside to hard tips is they don't hold chalk very well and that makes them less accurate.
Medium tips: The most common tip you'll find on most pool cues, especially in public pool halls, is medium tips. They are usually made out of leather but can be made of phenolic resin. Medium tips provide most players with enough hardness to break and enough softness to play regular shots throughout the course of a match.
Soft tips: These give you the most control over your shots over any of the three tips. Soft tips allow you to put more spin on the cue ball, also called English. English on your cue ball makes your target ball go in the direction you want it to, and a softer tip means more control on those shots. Soft tips will wear out quickly if you're using them to hit harder shots, though.
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