I'm currently using a Falcon cue and am looking to buy a Predator cue very soon. However, I'm pretty torn between the 314-2 or the Z-2 shaft. I've tried both Predator shafts out quite a bit, for roughly 3 hours of play, and I seem to play pretty much the same with both, which makes it harder for me to choose. Which would you personally think is better? The 314 is a 12.75 millimeter tip and the Z is 11.75. I can get a bit more action from the Z. But really overall I seem to play the same with both. Any ideas what tip size most pros like to use? Would most pros like to use a smaller tip size, closer to 11.75 mm?
I was also wondering which material of cue joint would you recommend? Stainless Steel, wood to wood, plastic? Is there one particular joint material that's a bit more famous among the pros and advanced players?
I appreciate your time and thanks so much for your help. Your articles online have always been very helpful and I'm an avid reader. Keep up the great work!
Great questions, all, Eric. Here's the deal:
Deciding Between Predator Cues
A lovely decision to make here. Choosing between two Predator cues is like deciding between Peking Duck and Russian caviar. Peking Duck is different from Russian caviar, but I love 'em both. And Predator cues of both kinds have made billiards history by bringing together spliced shaft sections to eliminate wobbling coming from regular turned wood shafts and in providing heightened power and accuracy. Therefore, 40% of billiards pros are using Predator cues or Predator shafts attached to other cues on tour, if not more.
But simply put, the Z line in Predator cues is newer shaft technology that is slightly more advanced than the 314 line. As you wrote, you get more spin, more power, more action with the Z line of cue.
So here's how to decide. 1) Almost guaranteed, that Z shaft cue is more expensive today than the 314 shaft Predator cue, unless there's something classic in the 314's design driving its price up as a whole cue. When I shoot Predator style, I use a 314 and not a Z shaft, but besides being frugal, I'm skilled enough that the difference to me is negligible. It's worth repeating, it's all about learning the pro pool stroke for yourself and not about using a costly cue stick to excel in billiards. : )
2) Eric, are you getting too much action with the Z cue? Most amateurs love the Predator cues as they get lots of extra backspin and topspin, so much so in fact, that they tend to over-hit shots and ruin playing position on a regular basis. Start using what I call the inertia pool stroke and much of this problem will disappear. I can't remember the last time I found far more spin using Predator cues than expected, but I see intermediate players fall in this error constantly with Predator cues and Predator shafts.
And to answer your question on shaft diameter, it's whichever thickness you place more personal confidence in. There's no hard and fast rule here for you or for the pro. Whichever diameter shaft you can consistently aim for spins and sidespin (and then consistently hit the cue ball where you aimed upon it!) is the choice of diameter for you. I personally prefer the wider shaft and use close to 13 mm cue tips, but I also always find the thinner cues too reedy and light in my hands.
As for male to female joint connection on your cue, stainless steel is great in a break cue-a stick you hit super hard; wood to wood joints are preferred by some purists for their ultra solid connection and feel, and plastics go on cheaper cues (like the one I often play with, so people know the magic is in me and not a costly cue... again, there's no rule that defines what top players choose, as some people prefer a softer hitting cue and some a harder striking cue stick to perform their personal best, and that includes folks like me and top players worldwide.
But, this is how I would decide for you, Eric. Go to the cheaper cue until you develop your skills further. There should be a marked difference in play between thick and thin shafts for most people. So without looking at your personal strokes, I'd say if it costs less and you'd play the same anyway as you wrote, save your bucks until you hone a specific preference.
Thanks, Eric, and keep those questions coming in for me at About.com, everyone!
To Read Next: Predator Cues: Overhyped Cue Sticks Or Not?