I’m frequently asked about the differences between a $50 pool cue and $500+ pool cue. In the past, the answer was simple. The difference used to boil down to quality of workmanship and quality of materials used to construct the cue. The cheap cue would have a nylon wrap and the expensive cue would have an Irish linen or some type of leather wrap. The cheap cue would have overlays, (basically decals) on the forearm and butt sleeve for decoration and the expensive cue would have inlays of actual exotic woods, and other hard to find and costly materials. Essentially, the expensive cue was more a work of art and the cheap cue was more of a workhorse to be used by beginning players until they “get good enough” to upgrade to something pricier.
Times have changed and technology has had as much as, or more of, an impact on the pool playing world than any other part of our daily lives. The above description is still true to a lesser degree, but the overall quality of a cheap cue has improved dramatically and there are now cues in the $500+ range that are very bland aesthetically (no wrap, little or no inlay work). “What’s up with this?” you may ask. One of the main forces behind this phenomenon is the low deflection shaft. Pioneered by Predator TM several years ago and now almost every pool cue manufacturer has a competing version. What used to be a single piece of wood that could be shaped and finished rather quickly and inexpensively has given way to a cue shaft that is constructed of multiple pieces of wood that are spliced, laminated and with some or all of the core replaced with sturdier, lighter weight material to reduce the front end weight to reduce deflection. “What is deflection?” you may ask. In a nutshell, if you strike a cue ball with your tip contacting it on the left of the vertical axis of the cue ball, the cue ball will first be deflected or pushed off to your right (and vice versa) as the cue ball heads toward its destination. However, to truly understand deflection may I suggest you try this little exercise. Set up a straight in shot to the corner pocket with the cue ball 2 or 3 feet away from the object ball. Aim for the center of the object ball but before you stroke, pivot your cue tip 1 tip distance to the left of the vertical axis on the cue ball. You’re applying left spin or English on your cue ball. Did you pocket the object ball? If you played this as I described the object ball doesn’t even scare the pocket much less go in! Deflection is the cause and you must compensate with your aim to some degree in order to shoot this way to successfully pocket the ball.
It has been proven that one of the major differences between a novice player and a seasoned professional player is the ability to consistently strike the cue ball on it’s vertical axis. It stands to reason that the pro has learned to compensate his/her aim properly when applying side spin to the cue ball to successfully pocket object balls (usually several in a row!) versus the newbie that struggles to make a short, straight in shot because he/she is inadvertently applying side spin to the cue ball and deflection is the thief that is stealing the joy of ball pocketing.
So, to all of you pool players out there (particularly newbies) if you’ve been on the fence about buying a pool cue or shaft that is low deflection I encourage you to go for it! If you already have a cue that you like, you can get a low deflection shaft to pair it with for $200-$300 dollars and if you don’t already have your own cue, you can get an Ozone brand pool cue with a low deflection shaft for under $100… How cool is that?!