If you’re looking for something to unearth and simplify all the mysteries of pool cues, then this article is right on cue in your life. Pun!
But seriously, pool cues can be a bit of a hassle to buy because of all the various different types out there. Some of you may not even be sure what exactly constitutes a ‘pool cue’.
Rest assured that by the end of this article you’ll have a thorough understanding of pool cues to rival that of Efren Reyes (also known as “The Magician” in professional pool circles).
In this article, we’ll cover everything you could possibly need to know about pool cues, from the basics of what they are right through to which manufacturers and accessories are worth considering. We’ll also briefly go over the different games cues can play.
To start off with, let’s cover what exactly a pool cue is…
Put simply a pool cue is the stick used to hit balls on a pool table. A cue stick can be called a snooker cue, billiards cue, pool cue or simply a cue. All of these descriptions refer to a generally tapered stick with a soft tip at the end.
57-59 inches (1.5m)
16 – 21 ounces (500g)
Usually wood, sometimes covered with other materials for aesthetics or feel. These materials can include both carbon fiber and fiberglass.
Not all pool sticks are the same but the vast majority comprise of a tip adjoined to the “shaft” portion of the wooden stick by a plastic or metal piece called a ferrule.
The shaft is attached at its other end by a “shaft collar”, “joint” and “butt collar” to the fore wrap part of the stick. This fore wrap part as well as the wrap grip and after wrap which follow it tend to be darker in color than the shaft.
The after wrap is then finished with a “butt cap bumper” which is a curved piece at the end of the pool cue stick. We’re glad it’s curved, because those pool sticks will poke you everywhere while you’re playing!
The above is a general description of modern day pool cues, but these fancy sticks didn’t just pop up from no where! They actually have a really fascinating history…
Designers had to go through quite a few iterations (and a few versions of the game of pool) before the modern day cue was invented. The first ‘version’ of a cue like object to come to mind is the mace.
Maces were used in the 1600’s in order to shove cue balls along tables. As they were shaped similarly to a golf club it was not always easy to hit balls when they were up against the side of the table. As such many players ended up using the butt of the mace to hit balls instead.
Designers took note of this and by the 1800’s sticks were being used without side bits on them. Shortly after this style of cue was invented the idea of tips came along and many different people experimented with different materials for them.
Although cotton, linen, rubber and leather were all experimented with – rubber won out in the end.
Always on the move design wise, the next change to happen to pool sticks was chalking. Players had discovered that by twisting the ends of their pool sticks into a plaster wall or ceiling they could get a chalky deposit the gave their tip a firmer grip on the ball.
As such “boxed chalk” was invented to fill this need, firstly called “twisting powder”. And since then, things have stayed more or less the same in the world of pool cues.
As cues developed so did the games played with them. Two other main games developed alongside traditional pool, those being carom and snooker. As the ball sizes for these games are different so are the cue types.
Getting the right type of cue to suit your game table and balls is essential both for getting the best out of a recreational at-home table as well as being allowed entry into competitive games. If you’re going cue shopping, it’s important to know what you’re buying!
These are the cues that you are probably wanting to buy if you play regular pool the most often. You can skip back to the previous section “detailed anatomy of a pool cue” if you can’t quite remember what these should look like.
Be aware that regular pool cues to come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes to suit different player arm lengths and body heights as well as skill levels.
Also known as billiards cues, these cues tend to be the shortest cues on the market. They are made to play carambola which is a game with much larger balls than regular pool.
You’ll notice that the taper on carom cues are conical/European. This style of taper means that the tip of the carom cue is often very small compared to a regular pool cue.
The conical taper of these cues will feel stiffer when played with, but has been done in this way to allow players to hit through carom/billiard balls easier.
These cues are generally both thinner and lighter than regular pool cue sticks. They are lighter because the balls in snooker are lighter than the balls in regular pool. They are thinner because the tip doesn’t need to be so big considering the smaller balls.
Another key reason for these differences between the cues is that snooker games value accuracy higher than pool games. As such, the thin, “inflexible” and lightweight cues of snooker provide more accuracy than regular pool cues.
If you were to hold both a regular pool cue and a snooker cue in your hands you might be able to tell that pool cues are weighted more towards where their grip is, whereas snooker cues are weighted more towards the tip.
This difference in weight helps snooker players to play accurately and pool players to play forcefully, with both skills being more important in the respective games.
As the name suggests, these are specialized cues made for professional or high level pool players. As you upskill in the game of pool you will find that you like certain aspects about some cues, and certain aspects about others.
Serious pool players usually invest in having a personalized specialty cue created just for them. This ensures that they can get the optimal length, taper and tip type to suit their particular playing style.
If you’re looking at getting a specialty cue, then you may have to dig a little deeper into your pockets. Apart from looking pretty cool (you can get them in personalized designs too!) these do tend to be on the expensive side – especially if you want a high quality one.
Before you go out and get pool cues, you’ll need to learn how to play pool! To do so you’ll first need to go out and get a set of 15 pool balls, a triangle, a pool table and at least one cue (preferably two so the players don’t need to share).
Once you’ve got the equipment, you’re ready to play. Here’s a quick rundown on the order of a regular 8-ball pool game:
Now, the above game may sound relatively simple to play, but as with any game, becoming truly good at it takes practice and skill.
An easy way to ensure you upskill quickly is to make sure that you are holding your cue stick correctly.
The best way to hold a cue stick is with your dominant hand at the rear of the stick where it is balanced. Ideally, you’re hoping to form a 90 degree angle between your hand/arm and the cue stick, while holding this at your hip.
With your other hand, you want to make an open bridge on the table. The closer you place your hand to the white ball the more accurate your shot is likely to be, so aim for about 6 – 8 inches or 15 – 20cm in distance.
It’s difficult to explain how to do a good open bridge using words, so we recommend you get an experienced pool player to show you, or watch an example on YouTube. In essence, you will be resting your cue between your index finger and middle finger knuckles.
As mentioned previously there are a whole range of table ball games that are different from regular 8-ball pool. If you’re interested in trying a few of them out, here’s a quick overview of how to play a few different games.
This game is very similar to regular pool but the black 8 ball is replaced by the nine ball, oh and you can sink the nine ball to win the game at any time.
To complicate matters, a player must always hit the lowest numbered ball on the table first during their shot. So, for example you would hit the white ball into the 2 ball (assuming the 1 has already been sunk) in the hopes that you could use rebound to sink the nine ball.
Initial setup of this game is slightly different to regular pool as well as the balls 1 through 9 are placed in a diamond shape at the top of the triangle before the break. The 1 ball needs to be at the top of the triangle with the nine ball in the middle.
Snooker is quite different from regular pool and involves completely different balls. To play snooker you will need:
The point associated with the above balls are as follows:
Once the table has been setup (see a snooker guide for this) players take turns sinking a red ball first and then attempting to sink as many colored balls as possible within their turn. As soon as no ball is sunk the play passes on to the next player.
Regardless of whether you want to play regular 8-ball pool, 9 ball, snooker billiards or some other form of the tabletop balls game, you’ll want to purchase your equipment from trusted sources. Below is a quick synopsis of some of the best brands on the market today.
A well-known brand in the pool cue industry, Mcdermott has been around since 1975. The brand is now spread across 12 sub-brands which are all aimed at providing unique offerings to cue owners.
This brand prides itself on using the latest technology and high quality materials to create state-of-the-art pool cues like none other on the market.
Definitely a pricey option, but one that’s reliable and will give you a great cue, Mcdermott pool cues are well worth considering if you’re looking to become a high level pool player.
Another revered brand in the pool equipment marketplace is Meucci. This brand has deeper roots even than Mcdermott, having been around since the mid 60’s.
It’s got some big names under its hood, having provided pool cue fronts/blanks to famous pool players like Gus Szamboti and George Balabushka.
It’s obvious why professionals like the Meucci brand, as the company seems to keep investing heavily in advancing the technology and shape of their cues to help users perfect the game of pool.
We love “The Myth Destroyer” testing robot this brand developed which tests cue ball speed. Altogether, Meucci pool cues can be thought of as generally very innovative and creative.
The Mizerak brand is a lot more recent than most pool equipment brands in its creation. Getting its name from the famous pool player Steve Mizerak (world champion of billiards), the brand offers affordable pool equipment options to intermediate level players.
This brand sells everything from pool tables, to balls to pool cues and can be found in a variety of online retail locations.
Generally very trustworthy and certainly a lot cheaper than its opposing brands, Mizerak pool cues are a good choice for anyone wanting a high quality cue without an astonishing price tag.
Players pool cues are another medium range pool equipment brand. You’ll find most of their cues in the $50 - $150 price range.
As an indication of the high quality offered by this brand, most of their cues comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects like warping. A manufacturer’s warranty says a lot about the trust they have in the quality of their product. Thumbs up Players!
This brand’s pool cues are well balanced and come with uniquely beautiful design patterns to match their excellent specifications. Players pool cues are definitely some of the best value for money advanced cues on the market.
This brand is a little special in that Athena pool cues are made specifically for female players. Everything from the length of the cues through to their gorgeous designs have been carefully tailored to female players.
Athena is still a relatively new brand in the pool equipment market, having only come into existence in 2004. It’s pool cues are slightly thinner than average, with a 12.5mm shaft that is easier for small hands to grasp.
Most of the previous brands will offer a range of accessories to supplement their pool cues. Some of the most popular and widely used accessories include:
Choosing your pool cue tip is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll make when it comes to your pool cue purchase. Many people have replacement tips on hand for when their original tip wears out as well.
The most important factors to consider when selecting pool cue tips is density and hardness. The softer your tip the better spin you’ll get, but the more maintenance it will require.
Alternatively, the harder your tip the less spin you’ll get but the less maintenance it will require. The best tips are usually medium tips as they provide a good mixture of ball control and consistency.
In most pool halls, you’ll find phenolic tips (made of carbon fiber) being used because they are hard enough to transfer the most power for break shots and require almost not maintenance at all.
We’ll go into more detail on maintaining and repairing your cue tips later, but for now just do be aware that if you purchase an expensive pool cue you’ll want to purchase some cue tip tools to go with it so that you can ensure your cue lasts for a long time.
Common cue tip tools include shaping tip scuffers, table spots, clamps and strong adhesives.
As cue chalk is used in nearly every game of pool, there have emerged a vast number of different brands selling it. The bottom line when it comes to cue chalk is that so long as you chalk often and properly – the brand really won’t make any difference.
Cue cases can sometimes cost as much as the cue sticks themselves! These cases keep your cue stick safe and most of them also have pockets which enable you to store all your pool accessories in one easily portable space.
It’s always smart to maintain your pool cues as that way they’ll not only last longer, but play better for you while you have them. A well maintained leather tip will have a rough domed texture at all times.
To keep you cue tip in tip top shape we recommend always chalking before playing and scuffing when necessary.
To maintain the body of your cue stick (which is usually made from wood) you can burnish the stick before you start using it. Burnishing will help to keep all the dirt and oil from getting into the pores of the wood.
If you enjoy the game of pool, then you’ll probably enjoy owning your own pool cue. Not only will it make you a better player (as you’ll get used to the feel of your own cue) but you’ll also feel more personally connected to the game.
The information contained in this article should have given you a wide and general overview of pool cue tips and games related to them.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a pool cue, then I’d recommend heading over to our buyers guide which will contain more detailed information on pool cue tips and what to look out for when purchasing them.