The world of pocket billiards, at first glance, can be quite deceiving. The popular consensus is that the game, in general, is all about slamming balls into the pockets like polished rockets. The truth is, though, that 80% of the game is mental, 15% is position and about 5% is pocketing the shot. In this short guide, i will give you some pointers on becoming a better pool player, at least raising your game to the point you can play competitively with almost anyone at your local pool hall. With these basic fundamentals under your belt, you are ready to begin your journey to becoming one of the best (or maybe even THE best) pool player in history.
First, lets start with your equipment that you will be using. Minimally, you need a cue and a case, although there are dozens of various accessories out there, and i will outline some of them here. When it comes to your cue, consider your cue your weapon, and generally, you get what you pay for. If you invest $10 into a cheap, Asian-made Ramin Wood stick, then your shooting results may reflect as much. I suggest getting at least $50 and investing in a good hard-wood stick, usually maple. You can find these almost anywhere, locally or online. Ebay is a pretty good source for used cues, i think, and the prices are also very reasonable. Eventually you will gravitate towards certain brands and styles of cues as you get better and your tastes refine themselves. Personally, i shoot with a Meucci original, with a red dot shaft and a medium moori tip. Cues may look similar, but they sometime have varying qualities, depending on the materials used to make the cue.
Starting from tip to bumper, ill outline the different components of a cue, and their function. The tip is hands down the most important part of the cue, since its the only part of the cue that (legally) hits the cueball. There are many different types and styles of tips, varying in materials used to make it. The most common kind in leather tips, although you can find tips made from water-buffalo. Additionally, you can pick up a phenolic tip, which is made from a very hard resin, but generally only used on jump and break cues. You also have single-layer, and multi-layer tips. The most common tip (in my opinion) is the “Le Pro” tip, a medium-hardness single layer leather tip. Another shooter-favorite is the moori tip, a multi-layer tip from japan. What you want to shoot with depends on your tastes, which will probably change every so often until you find something that suits you.
Next is the ferrule, often referred to as “the little white thing under the tip.” It is usually made of a fiber composite, or some hard resin or even plastic. Historically, they were made of ivory, the tradition still trickling into today where its still quite common to find synthetic ivory ferrules.
Working down the stick, next you have the shaft, one of the most important parts of the cue. They normally come in 12mm or 13mm diameters for pool, but as small as 8-9mm on snooker cues. As a general rule of thumb you want the shaft to be straight as arrow, thus helping you hit the intended spot on the cueball that you are aiming for. Many players use chalk to “lubricate” the shaft, but i prefer to use a mild scouring pad that keeps the shaft extra smooth and free of sweat and dirt. Being so thin, you often have to be careful not to leave the shaft (or any other part for that matter) in extreme heat, as it will lead to warping in the shaft. If this happens, as i was told by my mentor “Shawty” LaGrange, you can just hang it up straight in the closet for a week or so and it will straighten it out pretty well.
The joint of the cue is a very overlooked part of the cue when it comes to picking and choosing your preferences. Steel joints shoot very solid, in general, and i find you tend to get better drawback and follow english(explained in later articles) while plastic joints “give” a little more, and you seem to get better spin, or left and right english.I personally do not prefer steel joints.
The butt of the cue is the most beautiful part of a stick, but not one of the more important parts of the cue though. The only thing you really have to consider is where the balance, or “sweet spot” is at, as it will affect your stroke, and thus, how good you shoot. Also on the butt (of some cues) is the wrap, generally or pressed irish linen, nylon, leather or even exotics like snake, alligator, or ostrich skins. At the end is the rubber bumper, which you don’t have to worry about as long as it is attached.
The case is just a matter of vanity, as you can get those in many different styles. The key is getting a case that will hold all of your cues. If you only have one cue, a 1×1 case is fine, but if you have a break stick and a jump stick also you might want to look into a larger case to accommodate your cues.
What you will prefer is a matter of taste, and i will let you decide that for yourself. Follow this guide, get a nice cue, do some shooting and find out what feels right for you. Shoot Straight!!