I started playing pool at the young age of 7, during northern Maine winters when the temperature reached 50 below zero and it was too cold to ski. The rec room at Loring AFB had a couple of pool tables, and as a very athletic kid, I had a natural curiosity about the game, and after watching a few games, one of the airmen invited me to play a game with him. He showed me how to hold the cue and make a bridge, and he got me a little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It didn’t take long for me to get addicted to the game and soon I invited my friends to play. We spent many cold winter days inside that rec room, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, and eventually even betting nickel candy bars on the outcome. Yes, we were big spenders!

When summer came, we put the cleats away and played baseball all day. My dream, ever since I was 5 years old and watched the Dodgers play in Los Angeles several times before my dad transferred to Loring, was to be a professional baseball player and eventually got a baseball scholarship to college in Texas. , where my dad retired in 1966. Over the years, every free hour I didn’t spend practicing baseball was spent in a pool hall, and after my baseball career ended with a sprained throwing shoulder Billiards became my main interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17 years old, in a bar where my sister worked, and I won a cue as first prize. I was excited beyond belief, until I screwed the stick in and rolled it across the table. To my horror it rolled like a corkscrew, it was so warped it was unplayable! Play again with a bar stick!

For the next 20 years, I played pool wherever I was working at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country and made as much money shoving ruffians after their shift as I did from my salary. As a mud engineer, I was responsible for reviewing many different pieces of equipment on a daily basis, and I got to meet and play against hundreds of different billiards players each year. Moving across the country to different areas on a yearly basis, I was able to stay under the radar and be relatively unknown, so starting up a game for money was never a problem. I don’t think I ever met a thug who didn’t play pool, and most of them had a pretty high opinion of his game. That usually changed when it was time to pay!

In 1989 I put the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, an attorney, had founded Clicks Billiards many years earlier and now had a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, with his original pool hall right there in Dallas at Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the General Manager and responsible for hiring managers for the 20 pool halls. By this time I had retired from the oil business and was making a living on the golf course and in pool halls every day. Greg and Nick were members of the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in South Dallas, where he played golf every day. Greg had a 3 handicap, and after I had played him 3-4 days a week for several months (and took quite a bit of money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Hahaha. “A little bit,” I told him, and he took me to the original Clicks Billiards that night, to try and get some of his money back.

After he paid the hundred I won from him that night, he offered me a job, assistant manager for the original Clicks. He knew that he had never bartended before, but he assured me that he would quickly accept it and be a perfect fit with the pool players who made up his primary client base. Was he ever right? I got used to it like a duck to water and ended up meeting most of the best pool players in Dallas and some of the best in the country. Clicks had several showings, including one by Grady Matthews and one by Ewa Mataya, the Striking Viking. Clicks was also where I met CJ Wiley, the visiting player who won ESPN’s Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 1996. There were many, many top-tier pro players at Clicks, with plenty of $1,000 pocket games day and night. , with many of the major Dallas bookies financing much of the action, and sweaters on the railing by the dozen, just watching…or praying, hahaha.

CJ joined Clicks in 1990 and proceeded to terrorize local professionals. He was an instant legend, sweeping every major player in town. The guys that scared the hell out of me wouldn’t even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His reputation grew and so did his ranking, eventually reaching number 4 or 5 in the billiards world. Working there, I quickly became friends with CJ, and when he opened his own club in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I eventually quit Clicks and went on to manage CJ’s place. When it opened, 90% of the action and the pros went with it. It had 12 gold crowns, unlike Clicks’ 4, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours. The action never stopped.

So, you may wonder, does all this have to do with the theme of the title? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in ’91, and while it was beautiful, with lots of gorgeous inlays, and very responsive, it didn’t really do anything to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, and I loved the cue, but I could play just as well with a bar cue, as long as it had the right weight and a good tip. I spent 700 bucks for the taco, but it really wasn’t necessary. It didn’t give me any advantage over a house taco.

I had a serious back injury in 1994, which made me stop playing golf and billiards. I didn’t want to risk surgery, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I got a non-narcotic medication from the VA that allowed me to lean over the table again without excruciating pain. At the time, Predator Cues had come out with a 10-piece shaft that was hollow at the tip, significantly reducing cue ball deflection at impact…or so they claimed. Having been away from the game for 14 years, he had read little of these signs and was intrigued, to say the least.

For those of you reading this who don’t know what cue ball deflection is, here it is in a nutshell: When a cue ball is hit to either side of the vertical axis…the center line…the cue ball it will deflect or “splash” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using right English… hitting the cue ball to the right of the vertical center line… the cue ball will deflect to the left and vice versa… The amount of deflection varies , depending on the speed of the shot, the distance from the center line (or offset of the tip) that the cue ball is struck, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more English you apply, the harder the stroke and the greater the tip mass… all of these factors will increase the amount of deflection or jetting. This jet needs to be balanced when aiming, or you’ll miss shot quite often.

This is where Predator technology comes into play. With a small hollow space at the end of the toe, the reduced mass drastically reduced the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the way at impact, rather than the shaft pushing the cue ball out of the way. The 314 axis immediately became very popular with professionals, and the Z axis further reduced runout by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter splint also helped to reduce mass and thus further reduced deflection. Independent testing ranks the Predator’s Z² axis and 314² axis as the #1 and #2 axis in the world that cause the least amount of deflection. Predator cues and arrows are used by more than half of the top 40 pros, 3 of the top 5 female pros, and more than 35,000 players worldwide, according to the Predator website. These professionals are not paid to play these cues. They play them because their lives depend on their playing skills, which are enhanced by this high-tech equipment.

Since Predator led the way in the mid-1990s, many companies have joined the technological revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point shaft on all of their hybrid models. This truck has similar technology to the Predator trucks to drastically reduce deflection. They offer these shafts with many types of seals to fit most cleats made today. World champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now plays Lucasi Hybrid.

The OB-1 and OB-2 axles also offer low deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently switched to the OB cleat. He said he ran over 400 balls playing straight billiards the second day he used the OB shaft.

I had to try one of these cues myself, and I have to say: I love the new high-tech pool cues. I play a Predator 5K3 and despite not having played in 14 years, my game has risen to a much higher level than ever before. The reduced deflection makes hitting hard using English much easier, by reducing the amount of compensation per jet.

In short, the advancement of technology has shortened the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection and requiring much less compensation for jet spin. And the professionals, who earn their living with a cue? Almost all of them play with a low deflection shaft of some sort. Why wouldn’t they? If you don’t, your competitors (which they all do) will walk away with the money.

While the Predator remains the benchmark for low deviation, they’re not cheap either. The retail price of a Z² shaft is almost $300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues, with similar technology (and also new grip technology to reduce impact vibration) are a good lower-priced alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² axle alone, you can get a great Lucasi Hybrid [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] which has advanced low deflection technology and plays fantastically well. If a World Champion like Thorsten Hohmann is playing a Lucasi Hybrid, you KNOW it’s an exceptional sign.

So think hard before you buy a new cue. If you don’t use a cue with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponent will. All else being equal, a modern low deflection cue, or an older cue with a new low deflection shaft, will win the vast majority of the time. The greatly improved accuracy will make it so.

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