Best Pool Cues for the Money
As a rule, I hate bars. I have never been much of a drinker, and loud groups of drunk people give me a headache. But there’s one reason I’ll often go to one anyway: to play pool.
I’m a big fan of the game and jump at any opportunity to play with someone I know. I even own my own cue: custom ordered about 10 years back from a place that has sadly since shut down, and which I paid more money for than I’m entirely proud to admit for something that was a pretty infrequent hobby at the time.
In A Rush? Here’s the Top Rated Models that Suit your Budget
I’ve learned a few things over the years about pool cues and what kind of stick is right for the right kind of person (and how much one should pay for one). Today, I want to impart some of that hard-won wisdom on
|Under $50||AB Earth 2 – Piece Pool Cue, 18-21 Oz 13mm|
|Under $100||Mark Richard Professional Custom Pool Cue with Ebony Inlay Points, 2 Shafts, 13 mm Tip, 18-20 Oz|
|Under $150||Players Technology Series HXT-15 Two Piece Pool Cue|
|Under $200||Cuetec R360 Edge Series 58” Two Piece Canadian Maple Pool Cue|
|Under $300||Lucasi Custom Bird’s Eye Maple Sneak Pete Pool Cue|
How to Choose the Perfect One?
First, let’s lay out the groundwork:
There’s one thing you need to know: a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you.
What I mean by this is, the more casual player you are, the cheaper stick you can get away with. A lot of the extra price in a cue stick is going to come from the quality of the materials themselves, the style and “fashion” of the stick, and some amount of “brand name markup” for the best pool cue brands.
Still, for a beginner or casual player, you can afford to skimp a bit on material and make up for it by simply being more careful with your cue; past a certain point cues all play roughly the same, it’s long-term durability that increases or things that fall to personal preference (like tip hardness or softness).
We’re going to stick in the under $300 range in this article; more than that is generally only necessary if you want a professional grade cue stick.
As mentioned above, appearance is one of the things that will most consistently raise the price of a cue stick. Looks are somewhat important, to be sure: you’re probably taking it out in public after all and having something ugly in your hands all night probably isn’t what you want.
Still, I’m generally going to avoid talking about appearance as a factor for purchase for two reasons: your tastes may (and probably do) differ from my own, making my opinion on the matter largely meaningless to you, and it’s a large price factor apart from actual performance which may weirdly skew price ranges.
Instead, I’m going to inform you of well-constructed cue sticks with a good performance potential so you know what PRIMARY factors to look for, and then you can cross-reference that with cue sticks that have that desired level of performance while also having the looks you prefer, though I won’t hesitate to mention when I think one DOES look nice.
Most high-quality sticks are made of wood (maple wood, specifically, with some variation). While it’s possible to find good sticks made of other stuff (my personal stick is made of titanium and graphite, with a rubber grip), rock maple is by far the most common material for a pool cue to be made of.
For our purposes today, that means we’re excluding sticks made primarily from metal or other non-traditional materials; in the price ranges we’re talking about the non-wood constructed sticks are either incredibly cheap (and not just in price) or are simply outperformed by wooden sticks close to the same price.
Tips come in two main sizes: “Dime” tip and “Nickel” tip, referring to their size compared to the “dome” of the respective coins.
They also come in a variety of hardness. The best pool cue tips…are whatever works for you, really. There are arguments to be made for softer tips, and equally valid ones for harder tips.
Harder tips are generally more durable, where softer tips, some believe, allow an easier time adding “English” (spin) to the ball when you hit it, allowing greater control.
Use what’s right for you, though if you play for a bit with both and don’t notice any difference in your game, stick with the hard tip. You’ll replace it less often.
While this is not a guide for buying the “best pool cue chalk” or “best pool cue cases”, I’ll take a quick moment to discuss these.
Cases come in three general types:
Soft Cases, which are essentially a small duffle bag with separate pockets for the two parts of your pool cue, and a bit of storage for chalk, hand powder, and other things.
Hard Cases, which as the name implies are hard, usually consisting of a pair of separate tubes for each half of your stick and outside pockets that remains rigid for extra durability.
Box Cases, which are essentially briefcases meant only to hold pool cues.
If you’re buying your own cue stick, you will want your own case. I personally prefer hard cases; they have in my opinion the best intersection of protection, value, and portability. Box cases are too cumbersome in my opinion, while soft cases are little better than throwing your cue and accessories into a gunnysack and hauling it around.
Chalk is necessary, but hard to go wrong with. Pick a color you think will look nice and go with that; the important part of chalk isn’t the brand, price, or quality but how often you use it. Chalk after every hit like you’re supposed to and they’re all exactly the same.
Now, we’re going to break down five sections below, each detailing what I feel are the best cue stick for the five categories: Under $50, under $100, under $150, under $200, and under $300.
Pool Cues Reviews:
Under $50: AB Earth 2 – Piece
For what it is, this is a great stick. While made of overall cheap materials (nondescript wood and lacquer, and the tips appear to be made of cork), you can’t really complain about under $50. It’s of average size (57 inches, usually comes at 19 ounces, and 13mm thick).
By all accounts, this stick performs great, or well enough for a beginner at least. It appears to have a bit of a problem with the shafts not being perfectly straight, and it’s unclear whether they were made that way or were bent in transport (in either case it’s due to the cheaper wood construction, but the former would speak to manufacturing processes being a bit lax too).
Still, even with that in mind, it’s great for someone’s first stick and no worse than using a house stick (which are likely to be bent, weathered, and dented already anyway).
I’d especially recommend buying this for a younger person, 12-13 years old at the youngest or for whole families. It’s cheap enough that you can buy several and easily replace any that get broken or warped while you teach a kid how to properly care for and store their cue.
The one thing I’m really not a fan of is the “ergonomic” handle. I can see it getting in the way sometimes.
Under $100: Mark Richard Professional Custom
Simple, cheap, good. This cue is a bit on the longer and heavier end (58 inches, 20 ounces, 13mm tip), and it’s all around better than the AB Earth. I’ll admit I’m biased toward this one over others in the same price range for two reasons: It looks nice, and it’s my preferred length and weight.
While I don’t think wood is the only good material, I think it’s the best LOOKING material for a cue stick, elegant in its simplicity. In this case, it’s also pretty good wood, maple wood shaft, and ebony inlays.
The other main thing that edged it out over its competitors is it comes with a spare shaft, just in case something happens to the first. Not a primary concern, but when we’re talking under $100, that’s a pretty good deal given anything else in that price range you’d need to replace the whole stick or buy a replacement shaft if it’s an option.
Under $150: Players Technology Series HXT-15 Two Piece
I like this one a lot. Besides looking beautiful, it also has the best construction we’ve seen yet. Made entirely from North American Hard Rock Maple, the traditional material of choice for a cue.
Players have married this traditional material to modern practices, however, coating the wood in a special epoxy finish to keep it safe from moisture and warping, and the wood itself is treated with Nelsonite, which acts as a stabilizer and prevents the wood from warping due to atmospheric changes.
What this boils down to is: this stick is quality, and aims to stay that way.
You can take it pretty much anywhere without having to worry about sudden changes in humidity and elevation ruining your stick (for example, taking a trip to your condo in Florida and bringing your pool cue along), which is very nice.
It has a nice Irish linen wrap, steel joints, and a special proprietary “HTX” ferrule (the part the tip screws into) to round out the well-made construction. The tip itself is a Kamui Black (professional grade), a 10 layer pigskin tip that is one of the softer tips around, theoretically giving you great ball control.
It’s a longer stick (58.5”) but comes in the full range of weights (18 ounces all the way up to 21 ounces in .5 ounce increments).
This one has a great balance between quality and price, probably the best on the list. No one would be ashamed to have and use this on the regular.
Under $200: Cuetec R360 Edge Series 58”
I like everything about this one.
Maple with a composite core? What’s not to love? It’s essentially the best of both worlds in looks and performance, having the simple elegance of wood and the more flexible and durable materials inside to help improve stick control and prevent “squirt” (you ever hit a ball and have your stick slide along it weirdly so it goes off into the wide green yonder? That’s squirt).
In addition to performance, this also improves its durability and resistance to distortion and warpage over time.
My only real gripe about it is its size and weight options. Meaning: There are none. It’s 58”, 19 ounces, 13 mm thick or nothing. Which is great if that’s what you like, but not if you don’t.
Still, it has a high-quality Everest tip, good construction, and a very nice finish, so consider giving it a try.
Really, the main thing that causes this cue to suffer is its price range. Not that the price is unfair, but that both a cheaper cue (the Players HXT-15) and a more expensive one handily beat it out. It’s not a bad cue by any means, and the whippier construction and “squirt resistance” (for lack of a better term) make it tempting, but it’s hard to justify the weird pricing gap here when there are two cues (one unequivocally better, and one roughly similar in quality) existing above and below it respectively in price.
Under $300: Lucasi Custom Bird’s Eye Maple Sneak Pete
This one may not look like much, but that’s kind of the point.
A little history: The original Sneaky Pete cue was a made by a man (unsurprisingly named Peter) who was a pool hustler. Supposedly, he stole a house cue from his favorite place and took it to have it turned into a two-piece cue he could take anywhere.
This way, he could play with a stick he knew felt good in his hand and had the ball control he needed, but was made to LOOK like he was just playing with whatever was laying around the bar (everybody knew hustlers brought their own cues after all; nobody would play a man who came in with an overt two piece).
While today’s Sneaky Pete cues aren’t so sneaky anymore, they still have a nice look to them and don’t skimp on the quality either.
This particular “Sneaky Pete” is made from Bird’s Eye Maple and boasts a low deflection core, giving increased stick control. It features a “hidden” (wood to wood, no visible joint lock) quick release “Uniloc” joint, with no wrap by default (which many prefer for a smoother glide), though it can be ordered with a leather or Irish linen wrap.
Much like the Players cue from earlier, it is treated with humidity, and a has a professional grade tip. In this case, a Tiger “Everest” tip that claims to be as durable as a hard tip, hit like a medium tip, and have the ball control of a soft tip, all in one.
It has a few modifications on the standard size of a pool cue, being 12.75 mm thick (as opposed to 13 mm) and is a full 59” long, giving it a different feel than most cues, though it still comes in the standard range of 18 to 21 ounces in weight.
All in all, there’s not much else to say but: it’s a great stick, especially for the price (at the low end of professional grade cues for serious pool enthusiasts).
Lucasi’s take on the Sneaky Pete design is a clear winner here, in my opinion, having the best all-around construction (unless you really think the joints need a ring, which some do) and is one of the better-looking cues around. I think its features pretty much speak for themselves; it’s a cue among cues, at least for the relatively low price.
However, I think another VERY strong contender is the Players Technology Series HXT-15, our winner for “best under $150”. It’s nearly as good as the Lucasi Sneaky Pete in many ways, but it sits around $100 cheaper (“under $300” is a bit misleading for the Lucasi, it’s even under $250), looks nice, and has more standard measurements (the thinner shaft might turn some people off the Lucasi).
The other three have their merits, of course, I wouldn’t have put them on here otherwise, but the Sneaky Pete and HXT-15 stand out a lot for their particular budget ranges, and between the two they cover the needs of almost everyone out there.
I waffled several times writing this as to whether or not the Players cue is the best choice on this list rather than the Lucasi; they’re that close. Getting a professional grade cue for under $150 is a strong selling point in itself, and one it’s hard to put entirely out of my mind.
Let’s call it a tie, and leave it at that: both are exceptional cues, and both offer something for both serious and casual players alike. It largely comes down to personal preference on looks and “feel” of the sticks (the Players stick being very whippy, while the Sneaky Pete is more solid).