What kind of pool cues should I buy?

We bought a pool table for the basement. We bought something on the lower price end; figured we’ll see if the kids (and parents) like it, then maybe buy something better in the future. So far it’s going great but after about two days it’s obvious that the cues that came with it suck.

So what should I buy? I just want something that won’t be visibly warped and is likely to stay that way for at least a year. No need to qualify for tournament play or impress anyone with the gold standard here.

My ex bought me a 20 dollar ‘graphite’ stick from Wal Mart and I love it. When we were dating we’d play all the time. He had his own wooden stick too. We’d always break with a diffrerent stick then use ours to play. Ya just gotta see what feels comfortable - my graphite stick always slid smoothly between my fingers and wooden ones didn’t.

So maybe buy a couple different sticks (diff weights) to break with, those will get messed up first from the force used. Then go out and find some cues that feel comfortable in your hand.

Mine’s been sitting in a cheap case for a year in my car, HOT and COLD, and it perfectly fine.

The most important thing in a pool cue is the tip. As Bob Byrne said, give a good pool player a broom handle with a good tip on it, and he’ll run a rack on you and then sweep the joint out after.

For a home table, find some good quality one-piece cues. One piece cues are superior to two-piece cues because the joint is a weak spot in a cue. Since you’re not traveling with the cue, there’s no need to break it down.

The weight of the cue isn’t that relevant at this stage, nor is the balance. What you care about is that the shaft of the cue is straight, and that it’s the right size for the kind of pool you’re playing. For 8-ball and 9-ball, you want a tip that’s 12 or 13 mm in diameter. For snooker, you want a smaller tip diameter.

The size of the cue depends on two things - the size of the player, and the size of the room. A lot of home pool tables are in rooms that are too small. In which case you’ll want to buy a short cue for using where you can’t use a good stroke with a full sized cue.

The cue should be such a length that if you bend over and line up on the ball, your cueing arm should be perpendicular to the floor when it’s centered in a comfortable place on the butt of the cue. If you’ve got kids who are still a little smaller, make sure you get cues sized for them, as they’ll have trouble with longer cues.

The shaft of the cue comes in two types of taper - a constant taper from the middle of the cue to the tip, or a ‘professional’ taper which tapers down until it’s about 13-18" from the tip of the cue, then maintains a constant diameter from there. Snooker cues generally have a constant taper, and pool cues have a ‘professional’ taper. The reason for this is that if you use a ‘closed’ bridge which is required to put heavy english on the cueball, your fingers will be pushed open and closed with a constant taper shaft as you move the cue back and forth. Snooker players generally use an ‘open’ bridge in which they rest the cue in the ‘v’ of their fingers, so the constant taper doesn’t matter.

Having said all this, there should be no reason to spend more than $50 on a good pool cue. A $1000 cue will be prettier, but won’t play any better.

If you can find a Dufferin store in your area, they make an excellent one-piece cue for under $50. And if you do want a two-piece cue for going out to the billiard hall, the dufferin ‘sneaky pete’ is available for $50-$70, and will play as well as any cue on the market at any price. Another advantage is that when it’s screwed together, it looks like a typical ‘house’ cue, so you don’t have to be embarrassed about having a flashy cue while you’re learning to play.

If $50 per cue is too high, you might want to check out Valley cues. They’re a lower-end cue that you can find for $25/30.

You want a good leather tip on the cue. Do NOT buy a cue that has a plastic tip/ferrule that slides over the top of the shaft, or one that uses screw-in tips. These are junk. You want a shaft that has the ferrule (the white part of the tip) glued on, and a leather tip glued on top of the ferrule. That way, when your tip wears out you can just cut it off with an x-acto knife and glue a new one on.

Tips come in different hardnesses. Good tip brands include Triangle, Elkmaster, Le Pro, and Chandivert. I prefer Elkmasters or Le Pro tips. Some of these tips are very hard, some are softer. A hard tip will hold its shape longer, but won’t hold chalk as well, and has to be kept ‘dressed’ with a rasp or a tip tool to keep the surface rough enough to hold chalk.

Prepare your tip properly. This is more important than anything else on the cue. The tip should be rounded to about the diameter of a dime when held against the side of the tip. Use a file or a rasp to do this.

When you say you bought a ‘lower end’ pool table, what do you mean? Do you mean an inexpensive 4 x 8 slate table, or do you mean one of those small, non-slate tables for under $500? If the latter, you may be disappointed and decide you don’t like the game simply because the table doesn’t play well enough to really learn the game properly. if that’s the case, I recommend taking the family out to a family friendly pool hall a few times to see what it’s like to play on a quality table, before deciding that pool isn’t for you.

Hope this helps.

What don’t you like about the cues? Is it the tip or the thickness of the shaft or what? If it’s the tip, they may just need a little shaping or they can be replaced inexpensively. It you don’t like the thickness or taper then look for some inexpensive cues you do like. I wouldn’t invest much money in what will be your “house cues”.

I think the thing about cues isn’t so much what they are, it’s what you are used to. Consistency is the most important thing to learn. So pick a weight and thickness you like and stick with it for a while. Maintain the tip regularly. If/when you’re ready to invest more time and money in the game then start comparing cues with different qualities. A consistent player used to a cheap warped cudgel of a cue will beat an erratic player with the finest cue more often than not.

One more recommendation. If you’re going to the billiard store, pick up a copy of Byrne’s New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards. It’s a great introduction to the game, and will help you a lot in discovering the nuances of pool. It’s also a fun read. There’s also a video series that goes with it.

Well one of them is already broken and the other is pretty clearly warped.

Sam,

Thanks for all the info, it’s certainly helpful. We may be moving to a larger house soon so we figured we’d try out a small 3’ x 6’ table, which is all we our basement can handle, and then go from there.

I like the idea of taking the kids out to a pool hall with better tables once in a while.

This is the table we bought, but it’s the 6’ version. Nothing too impressive, but hopefully by the time we move we’ll know if it’s worth investing in something bigger and better.

http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=FIT&pid=006CP006000&tab=des#tab

I used to play a lot. Ended up with a trophy one time I did.

Aluminum. I played with a very light cue. 17oz. One Piece. Straight as an arrow and slides real, real nice on the thumb (I play over the hand, not through it). Now I’m a big and long person, so I think my weight allowed me to give it a bit of ‘umph’ when I needed to.

Woods fine. Get a couple of 18oz and a 21oz. Have fun.

Wow. That is pretty cheap. The Dufferin brand that Sam Stone mentioned is generally good quality. I don’t have any experience with Valley cues. I’ve got a set of one-piece house cues by Players that are decent quality but now a little too thick for my tastes - also the range of weights is on the heavy side. If you visit a good quality pool table dealer (Brunswick, Olhausen, etc.), I suspect they will be able to point you to some good quality inexpensive one-piece cues.

I hope you will enjoy your new table. Pool can be a very competitive sport if you want it to be. But it is also a great social tool - A great way for friends and family to get together for an afternoon or evening. You might also consider a local pool league. Some are great social outlets and some are more competitive.

Thanks for all the suggestions