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Although I'm involved in 'real' sports on a regular basis, I also play the age-old game of snooker at least once a week. Most snooker clubs will have a rack of cues that you can use for free, but these house-owned potting sticks are often in bad condition, so it's best if you bring your own.
What type of snooker cue should I buy?
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Cues frequently come as a one piece, two-piece, or three-piece variety - the type you choose will depend on your personal preference. Some people will only buy the one-piece cues, claiming the 'feel' is better - but for an amateur player, you'll probably notice little difference between them. I normally opt for the two-piece variety, as the one-piece cues are just too cumbersome to carry around - in fact, getting in and out of the car with a one-piece cue is a nightmare! The other thing you should consider when buying a cue is the diameter of the tip - the standard size is 9.5mm, but there are smaller and larger varieties to choose from. I personally can't use a tip of less than 9.5mm, as it just appears too small and I lose confidence when potting.
How much should I spend on a cue?
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The cheapest snooker cues can be picked up for only a tenner - but their price can range up into the hundreds of pounds. Frequently the difference in cost is down to the way the cue is made, and also the grade of wood which is used. Basically, It doesn't matter how expensive the cue is - if it isn't perfectly straight, it isn't going to be any good. And this is the first rule of buying a cue - make sure it's not bent. Hold the thicker 'butt' end up to your eye and look down the shaft - you'll get a pretty good idea of its straightness - unfortunately, this isn't possible if you're buying online, which is why I would always recommend buying your cue from a high street sports shop.
Caring for your snooker cue
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One you have the cue in your possession, it needs to be properly looked after - this isn't an especially difficult task... just keep it in its case and NEVER rest it up against a warm radiator. Radiators and cues don't go together especially well, and a blast of heat on your wooden wonder is one sure-fire way to warp it (it's pretty difficult to be a accurate potter if you've got a bent stick!). A cue isn't a disposable item, and with proper care even the cheapest ones should last for many years.
I have been playing both Snooker and Pool for well over 12 years now. As a result I have had a dabble with some of the cues that have been available on the market. From two piece, to three piece to one piece, made from wood, graphite carbon, even to a dodgy steel one that felt like I was playing with a sledge hammer. That is until I heard the Lady of the Lake calling me. As I walked closer she threw out to me the cue I have had, and been using religiously, for the last 6 years, Excalibur! It glistened in the morning light, and as I gripped its shiny shaft I felt its power flow through me. On a more serious note I purchased this cue back in the days when I started to become good enough (in my opinion) to deserve, and need one. So after much looking I ended up in John Lewis, and there it was, the cue of all cues. It was a Riley produced cue, with the immortal signature of Stephen Hendry on the base. It is a two piece cue, weighing 12 KG, as I prefer a lighter cue as it is easier to play positional play, at least I find it easier. The cue itself is made from pine with a black painted lower half, a bronze screw joint in the middle, and the upper half of the cue showing the pale complexion of the wood. The finish is done with a smooth, clear lacquer, giving it its mighty shine. It has a small fibre tip, and after 6 years of hard, continuos play, I have only had to have it replaced once, which was around a year ago. I have to admit that I am a bit lazy, and most often after a late night session my cue usually ends up in the boot of my car in the case which it knows as its home. For new starters out there this is the worst thing to do with an ordinary cue. The reason being is that climate changes cause the wood to deform, usually in a banana shape, ruining your cue for good. But as I just said this would happen to an ordinary cue, not to Excalibur. After nights of wind, rain, hail, snow, and frost, the cue is still as straight as the day I bough
t it. After 6 years of rigorous action the cue still has its lacquer in tack, the shaft is still straight, and the bronze joint still shines when it catches the halogen lights from above. It has to be said that even though this cue contains supernatural qualities, something has to be said about the build quality the Riley. If anything was to ever happen to Excalibur I would be devastated, but I would definitely purchase another Riley cue without the slightest shadow of a doubt.