What things are important in selecting a cue?

When selecting a cue at a pool hall or bar, the basic things you should check include:

  1. Make sure the tip and ferrule are firmly attached to the end of the cue, with no cracks in the ferrule or cue wood.
  2. Make sure the tip is not hardened and glazed-over on the surface.  If it is, it won’t hold chalk and the tip won’t grip the cue ball very well (especially with off-center hits, intentional or not), which could result in miscues.
  3. Make sure the cue is relatively straight.  You can check this by rolling the cue flat on the table (or at an angle with the middle of the cue on the cushion), making sure it doesn’t wobble too much.
  4. Choose a cue weight that feels the most comfortable. 19oz is a typical weight used by most people.

It is best to have your own personal cue that will provide you with consistency. When selecting a cue to purchase, consider the following:

  1. Choose a cue with the amount of CB deflection you prefer. Even though you can learn to aim when using sidespin using any cue, an LD shaft can offer some advantages.
  2. A carbon fiber shaft offers some advantages.
  3. Choose a stiffness and tip hardness resulting in your preferred “feel” and “hit.”
  4. Choose a balance that feels right to you, but this really isn’t very important unless you are very short.
  5. If you are tall, choose a length or add extensions (joint or butt) that are appropriate for your height.
  6. If selecting a break cue, choose an optimal or preferred weight for you. Otherwise, 19oz is a common weight for both playing and break cues.
  7. For a break cue, choose a natural pivot length well matched to your preferred bridge length, and get the hardest tip possible for the best hit efficiency.

Otherwise, just pick something in your price range that looks and feels good to you. The following video covers many of the important things to consider:

The most important advice concerning choices for both playing cue weight, tip hardness, and CB deflection is to pick something and stick with it so you can develop a complete and consistent feel for shot speed control and aim compensation when using sidespin.

The choice of cue is not as important as some people think as long as you spend time to get accustomed to the cue. Don’t keep changing equipment, thinking a new or different cue will make you a better player. That is not the case. A good player can play well with any decent cue with a decent tip, assuming the player is familiar with the cue. It’s not the cue … it’s you. Buying an expensive cue will not make you a better player.

from RSB FAQ:

In general, it is difficult to tell if you would like a cue stick just by reading about it. Even the terms that different people use to describe these characteristics (hard, soft, harsh, stiff, forgiving, well-balanced, etc.) are subjective and difficult to quantify. Some of the important things can be quantified (length, weight, balance point, shaft taper, shaft diameter, squirt), but they’re not the whole story. And if you are a beginner, or seriously working on your game for the first time, you can expect your own preferences to change as your game matures.

Shun a cue that’s more than two parts, has a screw-on tip, is painted in festive colors, or is made in Taiwan. Made in Japan is OK, the Adam line, made there, is one of the best. Get the best tips you can, the return on the money you spend is greater there than anywhere else.

The plainest butt is probably also the most solid. If you want fancy inlay work, consider Baroque antiques, not cues, unless you are collecting rather than playing with them. Beyond being solid and the right weight and length, and perhaps having the style of grip you prefer, there is little the butt does for the cue.

The tip is important. Many tips are no good. Tips can be replaced; learn how to do it yourself. The tip has more effect on how the cue plays than the butt.

The shaft is the most important part of the cue. Shafts are relatively cheap. Some highly regarded cue makers make unusable shafts.

Here’s a quick test to see if the cue is worth looking at further. It tests the amount of “squirt” or deflection on extreme english shots. Many expensive sticks fail this test. This idea can also be used to compensate for squirt for some sticks, and when it is used for that it is sometimes called “backhand english” since the back (grip) hand is moved over to get side spin.

For each cue stick, there is a particular length of bridge for which you can aim straight at a close object ball and then pivot about your bridge hand and shoot straight through the new line and hit the object ball full. (You can also use this (very old) method for non-full shots too, but a full shot is best for finding the right bridge length.) For a stick you want to measure, just find the needed bridge length. A hint: if you shoot softly at a ball far away, the cue ball will curve on its way to the object ball, and your measurement will be useless. Do not give the cue ball the time or distance to curve. Shoot firmly. Use as much side spin as you can without miscuing. The shorter the bridge, the more squirt the stick has. (“Close object ball” means about a diamond away.) The cue ball should sit in place spinning like a top when it hits the object ball full.

If several cues are available, including house cues, compare them. Squirt is the most important characteristic of a cue stick after solid construction. Less squirt is usually better, especially if you use something close to “parallel aiming” on spin shots. More squirt means more aiming compensation on any shot with side spin. The one possible advantage of squirt is that if the pivot length is the same length as the bridge, it can compensate for inaccuracies left-to-right in the final stroke.

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