Are Expensive Pool Cues Really Worth the Money?


With pool cues ranging in price from $20 to $2000, it’s no surprise that people wonder: are expensive pool cues worth the money? The answer is yes— and no.

The fact is that expensive cues are worth it to some players, but not others. It depends on the individual player’s experience level, preferences, style, and skill. Beyond a certain price-point, however, you’re going to be paying not so much for enhanced playability as you will be for collectability and appearance. Really expensive pool cues ($1,000 and above) generally aren’t going to shoot all that much better than mid-range ($250-$500) cues, but they’ll look nicer. On the other hand, a mid-range cue will shoot decidedly better than a cheap cue.

There are many different factors to consider when buying a new cue, like shaft and tip construction, butt design, weight, balance, feel, and appearance. So, whether you’re a beginner, advanced, or professional, this article can help you determine if buying an expensive pool cue is worth the money.

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The Most Important Factors

When deciding whether or not to invest in an expensive pool cue, you should first familiarize yourself with the most important factors of cue construction. The major components are the shaft, tip, ferrule, butt, and the overall weight and balance. Aside from function, the appearance of the pool cue is a determining price factor as well. Expensive cues are made with exotic woods and other materials, which we’ll discuss below. Shaft and tip are the most important factors affecting function, so we’ll start with those.

Low Deflection Shaft

Many pool players today are divided on the issue of low deflection (LD) shafts vs. standard shafts. But whether you’re playing on a standard or LD shaft, chances are it’s made out of hard rock maple wood, the favorite for shaft construction.

Low deflection shafts are a fairly recent invention, which may be why there are differing opinions. Once you get used to playing with a standard shaft, it can be a bit of an adjustment to play with a low deflection cue, and vice versa. Many people who were playing pool with regular shafts before low deflection became popular developed their skills on those cues and have to re-learn if they play with low deflection shafts.

But the more people play with LD shafts, the more they insist on the quality of those cues. Many professionals play with low deflection shafts, and they’re quickly gaining popularity. By most accounts, spending the extra money to buy an LD shaft is worth it, especially if you’re just starting out. If, however, you’re used to playing on regular cues it would be worth it to ask your friends if any of them have a low deflection shaft you could play with a few times, to see how it feels for you.

Low-deflection cues are typically found on all high-end models. This is because they perform better than standard shafts and are quickly becoming the norm for professionals and beginner players alike. This is just one of the upgrades you can expect when buying an expensive pool cue. For more information on Low-Deflection pool cues check out my article What You Need to Know About Low Deflection Pool Cues. There you will learn all the ins and outs of LD shafts and whether or not buying one is a good investment for you.

Tips and Ferrules

Most pool cue tips are made from leather of varying hardness, with medium being best for overall gameplay. Tips made especially for breaking, however, are made from hard phenolic resin to allow for maximum force. A difference in tip quality can definitely affect gameplay.

Ferrules, which sit in between the tip and the shaft, are also important for protecting the wood. Most are made from carbon fiber or high-impact resin. Expensive pool cues tend to last longer in part because they include high-quality ferrules.

Expensive pool cues also come with high-end leather tips that are built to last. The tip, ferrule, and shaft construction are important for energy transfer down the length of the cue. A poorly constructed shaft or tip can eventually cause warping or cracking in your cue stick.  

As an example, high-end cues can come with Kamui or Tiger tips which run somewhere around $30 for a single tip. The tips you find on cheaper cues usually cost less than a dollar to replace. Since the tip is the only part of the cue that actually touches the cue ball, it’s worth it to have a quality tip for better gameplay.

Forearm, Wrap, and Butt

While the shaft and tip of a pool cue are important for accuracy and shot consistency, the rear of the cue is important for feel and aesthetics. The forearm and butt are where expensive cues show their beauty. While most cheap and mid-range cues aren’t particularly pleasing to look at, expensive cues feature intricate designs and inlays that can sparkle, shine, and awe.

Many expensive cues are considered collector’s items, especially those that are one-of-a-kind, limited edition, or made by a famous cue maker. There are many different materials used to decorate pool cues, but here are the most common to give you an idea of the work and detail that goes into making an expensive cue.

Wood

For cue shafts, hard rock maple is almost always used, due to its strength and durability. Cue butts, however, are made with many different types of wood.  Zebrawood, cocobolo, snakewood, bocote, African Blackwood, and ebony are all tropical woods found in high-end cue butts. Black ash, black maple, purpleheart, and bloodwood are other woods that are usually found in mid to high-range cue butts.

The grain, color, and treatment of the wood all contribute to the beauty of a cue. But wood isn’t the only interesting thing going into expensive cue butts.

Inlay Materials

Many cue butts and forearms have great designs. One difference between a cheap and expensive cue is overlay vs. inlay. Overlays are commonly found on cheaper cues and lay over the wood of the cue butt. Inlays, on the other hand, are laid in the wood of the butt and/or forearm during crafting, sometimes even by hand.

True inlays will increase the price of the cue, but they will also increase the aesthetic appeal. Some exotic inlay materials include turquoise, blue denim, pink Asian coral, sapphire blue, cobalt, and all different colors of pearl as well as pewter, brass and colored urethanes.

Wrap Materials

Oftentimes cheap pool cues will be wrapped in nylon. For mid-range cues, the go-to material is usually Irish linen, which is often offered in many different colors, especially when buying a cue online. For high-end cues the favorite material is leather. Here are a few of the different options available: lizard leather, elephant ear leather, gator leather, chocolate leather, textured leather, snake leather, and taupe leather.

What Factors Justify the Cost of an Expensive Cue?

Now that we’ve walked through the overall construction of a pool cues, let’s look at what factors justify the cost of high-end models.

  • Shaft. Most of your high-end cues are going to come stock with a low-deflection shaft. Because of their superior performance and rising popularity, you can expect to find LD shafts on all high-end models regardless of the brand. Some brands have been making LD shafts a lot longer than others so be sure to do some homework before dropping any cash.
  • Tip. Material, hardness, and size are all contributing factors. Most quality cues come with high-end leather tips that not only help accuracy but also serve to protect the wood of the shaft. High-end tips run around $30 to replace, but many people feel they are worth it when compared to replacement tips that sell for $1 or less.
  • Ferrule. The ferrules that come standard on expensive pool cues also help to protect the shaft from repeated impacts to prevent warping and splintering. A well-constructed ferrule makes for a longer lasting shaft.
  • Butt, Forearm, and Wrap. These are the areas where expensive cues shine. Custom designs and inlays, coupled with exotic woods and colorful materials, make cues aesthetically pleasing. Add to that an Irish linen or leather wrap, and you’ve got a cue that doubles as a work of art.
  • Material – Whether you’re looking to get a cue custom made or you’re buying one from your local billiards store, chances are you’ll have the option to own a cue with some exotic material. Tropical woods, creamy leathers, and sparkling pearls are common additions that make cues expensive and beautiful.

What are You Really Getting for Your Money?

There are many different options and many different materials that can determine what you’re really getting for your money when you buy an expensive cue. Let’s break it down with some examples of what you’ll get for different price points.

  • $250 – $500 — Recommend for more advanced and experienced players who are ready to up their game with a quality cue. This price range often includes precision machine construction from bottom to top, complete with a quality tip and often a low deflection shaft. Toward the higher end of this price range, you’ll start to see exotic woods, inlay materials, and more intricately designed butts and forearms. The wraps are often Irish linen, but sometimes you’ll see leather, too. Many reputable brands offer a lifetime warranty, as well.
  • $500 – $1000 — In this price range you’ll still find quality construction and low deflection shafts, but much of the price increase is due to appearance and exotic woods such as cocobolo, zicote, and bubinga. The inlays and veneers on these high-end cues will be more intricate and of higher quality, featuring materials like turquoise, colored pearls, pewter, and brass. You often find different leather wraps in this price range, adding to the beauty of the cues. This range is recommended for those players reaching professional levels or people who want beauty as much as functionality.
  • $1,000+ — This price range is more for collectors and cue enthusiasts. Oftentimes you can find handmade cues in this price range complete with exotic materials and one-of-a-kind designs and inlays. This is also the price-range for completely custom cues that are made to order, and those made by famous cue makers.

Will an Expensive Pool Cue Really Improve Your Game?

Yes, it will. Up to a point.

There are many different factors that come together in order for you to play a good game of pool. Some of it is psychological, and some of it is physical. Having a $1000 cue might give you the confidence and swagger to walk into the pool hall and beat anyone who dares take up a cue against you. But the cue itself isn’t going to be much different than a quality mid-range one. Like anything else, practice is the best way to get better, no matter the quality of cue you own.

There is really no limit to how expensive cues get. Some collector cues can sell for upwards of $100,000. At that point, it is more a work of art than a tool for regular use. But everyone has a preference. A $3,000 cue might work better for one player, where a $100 cue works just as well for another.

If you’re looking for a mixture of quality, craftsmanship, and performance, many will insist that you don’t need to spend more than $300— unless you really want to. For overall construction and quality throughout, you’re looking at spending at least $200 and anywhere up to $2,000 depending on what add-ons or exotic materials you want.

In Conclusion

The price you pay for a cue is totally dependent upon what you need or want in a cue. obviously a more expensive cue is going to outperform and outlast a cheaper cue, but only to a certain degree. Once you get past that $1000 price point, you’re no longer paying for additional performance or playability, as cues in this range already feature the most advanced performance upgrades available. But with that being said, spending $1000+ on a cue is money well spend for someone who wants top-notch performance coupled with a shock and awe appearance!

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