Friday, June 4, 2010

My Equipment

Given that I'm still very much in the "lay out some background" phase of this blog, I felt it'd be a good time to give some details about my equipment... what I'm using now as well as how I got here.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I've only been playing consistently/seriously for about a year and a half now. There's a minor sidebar to that detail: I played fairly seriously for a period of time (about a year) some 25 years ago while I was in the Navy. I was in Orlando, FL at the time, attending the Naval Nuclear Power School (NNPS). I bought my first cue back then, and remember marveling at the silky-smooth feel it had compared to a standard bar cue. I don't recall many details of that cue, other than it was simple but decent maple one and fairly heavy: 21 oz. Like NNPS in Orlando (and the entire base, actually), that cue disappeared... it was stolen during my move from Orlando to my next stop in the Navy's nuclear training pipeline: the S1W training reactor in Idaho. The loss of the stick, along with a change in venue and the appearance of other bright shiny objects (I really got into pistol shooting in Idaho) put my pool shooting days on the back burner for, well, 25 years or so.

Fast forward to the new millennium. I met a girl at work... cute brunette, sassy attitude, gorgeous doe-like deep brown eyes, and we seemed to hit it off pretty well. I remember one conversation with her in particular - at a company-hosted party at the Moon Nightclub here in Las Vegas. We were out on the balcony at the top of the Fantasy Tower of the Palms Casino with the lights of the Vegas Strip sparkling below us. As I gazed into her eyes, she stated quite matter-of-factly that she "could easily play all night with me" and I felt something stir deep down inside. She was talking about her passion for pool, of course, and it brought back memories of the good times I had in Orlando some 25 years prior. She told me that she was playing in a league (APA) and encouraged me to check it out. I hung out while her team played a few times, then decided to dive in. I literally bought my 'first' cue the day of my first match as an APA member.

As you might imagine this first cue was pretty much an impulse buy, although it turned out to be a fairly decent one. I walked into a smallish billiards shop less than a block away from my team's home bar (The Brewery) to see what they had. Having been away from pool for so long I really had no idea about brands and so on, so I just focused on something that had a good feel to it, looked decent, and was priced reasonably. I settled on a 20 oz Cuetec. I have no idea what model it is, but it's a fairly standard mass produced one... as I recall, I paid somewhere in the ballpark of $100 for it. I've already run into a couple of people with very similar models (similar enough that we've accidentally swapped cues at times). It doesn't have any of Cuetec's higher-end shaft technologies, just a basic fiberglass-sheathed shaft. This cue worked well for me, but it didn't take very long to realize there was some room for improvement on the tip. Doing a little research online, I decided to go with the Tiger Everest tip. The Everest was a notable improvement over the stock tip in terms of being able to move the cue ball and at least attempt to work on better position play. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an extra shaft for this cue and decided to try out the Tiger Sniper tip on it. In comparing the two tips over time I developed a preference for the Sniper and have since standardized on it. This is the cue setup that took me to the 2010 APA Singles Nationals, so it could obviously get the job done.

Next up was a break cue. Again, doing a little research online, I found that there were two very different schools of thought in a break cue. Some prefer a heavy "power" stick that weighs 21 oz and beyond (a friend has a modified Predator break stick that weighs in at 23 oz) while others prefer a lighter "speed" stick that (in theory, at least) allows you to stroke the stick at higher speed prior to impacting the cue ball. This latter school of thought really intrigued me, but I unfortunately didn't have any immediate means of trying before buying since I didn't know anyone with a light break stick. So I went on faith based strictly on several online reviews and bought a Fury Jump/Break stick with a phenolic tip. I ordered an 18 oz stick, but it actually weighs in at 17.6 oz. I'll admit it took a little getting used to... and I still miscue every once in awhile (luckily not a big deal in the APA)... but I have to say I've been very pleased with the results. I dropped the 9-ball on my very first league break with it... my opponent re-racked, and I dropped the 9-ball again on the very next break! I've dropped as many as five balls on a 9-ball break, and I've done that three times now in the time that I've had the Fury (less than a year). I've also used it successfully as a jump cue. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased with that purchase. The only unfortunate thing is I found out about the BCA phenolic tip ban after I bought it... but given that I'm not in the BCA yet, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I've noticed that some cue manufacturers have offered replacement shafts for their cues to help deal with this issue, but I haven't specifically checked whether Fury does this yet or not.

More recently, I went to the BCA Nationals here in Las Vegas to check out the vendors. My original mission was to get an advanced shaft for my cue. I tried out several advanced shafts at the vendor's booths; including the Cuetec R-360, the Predator 3142, and the Tiger X-Ultra. I have to say that I really fell in love with the Tiger. To me, it had the best feel and feedback, and it already came with the Sniper tip that I was accustomed to. After talking to the crew at the Tiger booth about what it would take to get an X-Ultra shaft for my existing cue, I decided it would be a bit more hassle than I really wanted to deal with. Don't get me wrong, they were very helpful and very willing to help me out... but they didn't have a shaft on-hand that would fit the Cuetec, they wanted me to bring my butt in so they could measure it and I didn't have it with me (my cue butt)... and I wouldn't be able to walk out the door with it... they'd have to ship it to me. Thinking through all that, I decided to get a whole new Tiger cue that was all designed to work together from the start, and I'm absolutely loving that decision! I bargained with them a bit and got a good deal on a limited edition 19 oz TPC6 Professional Cue with the X-Ultra shaft, their killer Stack leather wrap and of course the Sniper tip. I used it the very next day at an un-handicapped APA Masters match and won, so I was off to a great start with it right away! If you've been keeping track, you'll notice that I went lighter with each successive playing cue that I've purchased. I definitely think the 19 oz cue gives me a lighter touch on the table, and that was one area that I've been working to improve.

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