There are many variations in billiard games from snooker, to English billiards, to American pool. These variations include the table sizes, ball sizes, rules of the games, as well as the cue that is used. In this post, we will just focus on the different types of cues.
There are several types of billiard/Pool cues and each has a specific use case. The different types of billiard cues include snooker cues, English cues, American cues, break cues, jump cues, and masse cues. These types vary in size, tip diameter, cue material, ferrule material, and specific use. The reason for the different types instead of just having one cue for all the different billiard games is exactly that, there are so many different billiard games that have varying ball sizes and weights which influence how the cue is made. For example, the game of snooker uses much smaller balls which is why there are snooker cues made specifically for that reason with a smaller tip diameter.
If you are looking to pick out a new cue for yourself you should definitely keep reading as I will break down the differences in the types of billiard cues as well as how these differences improve upon the playing experience and longevity of the cue.
Why there are different types of pool cues?
As with any good invention, over time the initial product will be enhanced and improved upon to address any issues that are discovered. Think of these different types of cues as such, enhanced improvements to the original cue. They are created to address a specific use case that a player can take advantage from.
A good example to get this point across would be to look at the break cue. The break cue’s only purpose is for the break at the start of every game and that is it. For this reason, the cue is heavier than your normal shooting cue would be to help achieve more power for breaking the balls. It will also have a harder leather tip or even a plastic phenolic tip to handle the hard impact over time without ruining your tip on your shooting cue.
Let us dive into a deeper understanding of the different types of billiard cues. I am going to divide the different types into two main categories: Shooting Cues and Specialty Cues.
Okay, so you are probably wondering what is a shooting cue? A shooting cue is the main cue that you will use for 99% of your shots. They can come in different materials ranging from wood to fiberglass. They also can vary in lengths and in weights. Most shooting cues will be 57 to 59 inches in length and can weigh 15 to 20 ounces.
Shooting cues can come as one-piece, two-pieces, or three-pieces. The most popular being a two-piece shooting cue for its portability, being able to break it down and put into a case. One-piece cues you typically will find at bars and pool halls for shared use.
Shooting cues will vary by the type of billiard game you buy the cue for. There are snooker cues for snooker, English cues for English billiards, and American pool cues for games like 8-ball and 9-ball. You are probably wondering why there would be different shooting cues for the different games that you play, well keep reading as I break down how the different shooting cues differ.
Snooker is a different game than what most people think of when they talk about billiards or pool. Most people think of the game of 8-ball but billiards is a broad term with many different games that involves a table, billiard balls, and a cue that you hit the balls with. You may now be asking well what is snooker and how is it different?
Snooker is played on 6ft by 12ft table which is a much larger table and its balls are smaller as well as smaller pockets. The smaller balls and smaller pockets with a larger table makes it a difficult game to play and is why the game has its own cue.
The snooker cue is normally made from Ash wood with a brass ferrule. The tip size of a snooker cue is smaller ranging from 9mm to 10mm to accommodate for the smaller ball size. Snooker cues are much lighter as well typically weighing around 17-18 ounces.
English Pool Cue
English pool cues are like snooker cues in that they are also made from Ash wood with a small brass ferrule. The tip of an English pool cue is smaller than a snooker cue ranging from 8mm to 9mm. These cues much like a snooker cue are made for accuracy and not power like the American pool cue.
American Pool Cue
American pool cues are typically made from maple and will have a larger plastic ferrule. The tip size of this cue is the largest being between 12mm and 14mm. The tip size needs to be larger because the balls are larger and heavier compared to snooker or English. This extra weight of the balls is the reason a plastic ferrule is used instead of brass or steel to help absorb some of the shock from the contact between the cue and cue ball.
Unlike shooting cues, which are your main cues to use for most of your shots, there are specialty cues that are used for certain shots. These cues are not a necessity for any player but can come in handy in certain situations you may find yourself in any game. These specialty cues include the break cue, the jump cue, and the masse cue.
The break cue is probably the most common of the specialty cues that you will find most players will have in their case of cues. Using a separate cue for your breaking of the racks in any game will increase the life of your shooting cue. As I mentioned earlier in this post, having a separate cue to do a particular task allows you to take advantage of that fact.
Breaking requires a lot of power and creates a lot of shock down the cue when it contacts the cue ball. For this reason, if you were using a regular shooting cue with a soft tip for your breaks over time it will compress and mushroom out your tip requiring more frequent reshaping. The constant reshaping will wear down the tip faster requiring it to be replaced more often. So knowing that breaking can impact the life of the cue, and the fact that cues can get pretty expensive, buying another cheap cue to do all your breaks with is a smart investment for any player.
Any cue can be a break cue there are nothing that necessarily makes a cue a break cue. Typically, I always recommend buying a cheap cue to be used as a break cue and a more expensive shooting cue. With all the impact involved in the break, the break cue has a higher probability of splitting and breaking. Over the years I have snapped two break cues during a break, so I always buy the cheapest ones I can find with my required specifications.
Break cues will typically weigh more than your standard shooting cue ranging from 20 to 22 ounces although I have seen some go all the way up to 25 ounces. The heavier weight allows for more power to be transferred in the break. The tip you should use on a break cue should be a very hard tip so that it will last overtime. My recommendation is to go with a phenolic resin plastic tip and ferrule combination. They are extremely durable and will probably never need to be replaced.
The jump cue as you can guess is used for jump shots exclusively. You will not see these cues as often considering most pool halls have a no jump policy because they are worried the player will damage the felt on the table. So you are probably wondering what is different with a jump cue compared to any other cue, and the main difference is in the size of the cue.
Most new players think you hit low on the cue ball “scooping” the ball up into the air but that is an illegal shot and is not allowed. The proper way to do a jump shot is to elevate the cue and strike down into the ball causing the ball the jump off the table slate. That is why jump cues are shorter and lighter cues with a hard or phenolic tip like you would use on a break cue.
The shorter length and weight of the jump cue will make it easier to elevate and control the stroke. The hard phenolic tip allows for more power to be transferred to the cue ball resulting in more height the cue ball will jump off of the table. Shooting cues are normally 57 to 59 inches in length compared to jump cues which are 40 to 48 inches in length.
Sometimes you will find a jump and break cue combination. These will break down into three pieces, the shaft, and the butt which breaks down into two pieces. The second piece of the butt will twist off allowing you a shorter cue to be able to jump with. Since they both require a hard tip the combo is very popular.
Masse cues are pretty rare to see in your average pool hall or bar as they are not able to be used in tournament play but are more commonly found in artistic pool or trick shots. To understand what a masse cue is its best to go over what a masse is.
A masse shot is when you apply enough speed and spin on the cue ball that it will curve. These shots are very impressive to pull out in a game and just look great and can be intimidating to your opponent. These shots are rare to see used because the accuracy of getting the right amount of seed and spin on the cue ball to know exactly where the ball will head is challenging.
Small masse shots do not need a specific cue to implement but having a masse cue will allow you to achieve a sharper curve for more fancy shots. If you are interested more in masse shots, I highly recommend you look up Florian “Venom” Kohler on YouTube to see how incredible some of these shots are.
Okay so now that you understand what a masse shot is, what is a masse cue and how does it differ from a standard shooting cue. Well Masse cues are shorter, heavier, and wider than your standard shooting cue. They tend to be short like a jump cue averaging around 44 to 50 inches in length and weigh 22 to 25 ounces. The shaft and tip will have a wide 14mm to 16mm diameter.
The shorter length much like a jump cue will help you to be able to elevate the cue and control the stroke as well as help with overhead clearance. The extra weight of the cue helps to be able to drive enough force into the ball to get the action needed for those sharp curves. The wider diameter of the tip and shaft is to increase durability and flex in the shaft to allow maximum transfer of energy to the cue ball.
Those are all the different types of billiard cues that are available. So to sum it all up, every serious player should buy their own shooting cue to give them the consistency in there game to improve. If you are always changing cues every time you play you are having to readjust to every new cue weight, tip size and hardness, as well as the length of the cue. In order to maximize your ability to improve having you cue be consistent will allow you to spend more time improving your fundamentals rather than having to adjust to a new cue every time you play.
I think a break cue will also be a good investment to any serious player as it will also allow the same consistency for your breaks without all the wear and tear on your shooting cue and tip. These two cues will be all you will need to purchase the other specialty cues are just that a specialty. It may have its uses here and there that you can take advantage of but for most players, the cost of the cue is not worth the use you will get out of it.