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The History of Cue Sports
Invented in the mid to late 19th Century, Snooker has become somewhat of a phenomenon; ripping through the established sports and placing itself as one of the most popular pastimes in the United Kingdom and also throughout the world. Originally described as a ‘gentleman’s game’ for its tendency to be played within the aristocracy over the 20th century the sport has branched out to all social classes with enduring popularity and affection. However many, in particular those who are not entirely familiar with the sport, have trouble differentiating between Pool and Snooker. Whilst fundamentally they are entirely different games – other than the fact that the object of both sports is to pot balls and are both played on a table – we shall focus on one such difference; the cues.
The main difference between a Snooker and Pool cue is that the Snooker Cue tends to be up to 2″ longer – 58″ as opposed to the normal 57″ that the standard Pool Cue will be. Furthermore Snooker cues are generally slightly lighter at around 16 to 19 Oz and Pool Cues will be somewhat heavier as they weigh in at around 21 Oz. Again the tip of the cue offers a substantial difference in that the tip at the end of a Snooker Cue will be much thinner (as is immediately noticeable) compared to that of a Pool cue which will boast a thicker and flatter tip. Why is this? If both games are share the same fundamental basic principle – to pot balls – then why the differentiation in dimensions and weight? The felt on a Snooker table is generally much faster – in that the balls travel faster and longer with less effort – than a pool table and the balls themselves are smaller therefore a more fine cue is required. Pool, on the other hand, has a slower cloth and a much smaller table with bigger object balls (also the pockets tend to be much wider) therefore a chunkier cue is required.
However what should you look for in choosing a Snooker or Pool Cue? The first obvious difference in cues of each sport is that they can come in either one or two pieces (indeed some even come in 3 or 4). Just about every player of the sport will advise you against purchasing a one piece cue as they, not only tend to be of lower quality and class, but it is also not very practical for carrying around. A two piece can easily be fitted into a case. Although what about the material that it is made from? Like most sports, Snooker and Pool have both seen big technological advances in recent years and it seems as though a slight shift is appearing dragging people away from the traditional wood cues and onto cues (usually handmade and custom cues) made of other materials. The advantages of having a handmade or custom cue consisting of, say, Graphite for example is that it won’t warp. Wood cues tend to warp and get slightly distorted in shape after prolonged use – especially if it is kept somewhere warm – therefore giving your snooker or pool cue deformed line; certainly not what you want when you are supposed to be shooting straight with the cue. Now that more and more custom cues are being made out of other materials this distortion will not happen; however the flip side to this is that many players do not like the feel of a graphite cue. While it may be lighter and not suffer from getting bent out of shape it just doesn’t feel like a snooker or pool cue, regardless of whether it is a handmade cue or not. For this reason the majority of players are still using traditional wood snooker and pool cues – generally made out of maple or ash – as opposed to resorting to the ‘new generation’ of custom and handmade snooker and pool cues.
The sport has seen a revival of popularity in recent years, particularly in China, where both snooker and pool and spreading like wildfire and enticing young players to improve their skills and master the table. While having a good brain, technique and strategy are all important in both snooker and pool it is your cue that ultimately will decide the game; if you are not comfortable with your cue then chances are you won’t win. Whether you opt for a speciality handmade and custom cue tailored specifically for your needs or just a regular one from your local sports store it is imperative that you are happy; the next frame will depend on it.
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