Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sneaky Pete Cues: A Matter of Taste

Though I had shot a little pool at the YMCA, where the walls were too close to the table on all four sides, and at a social club for kids that met afterschool downstairs at the First Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dover, New Jersey, I didn't really get into the game until I started going to Teasdale's Billiard Academy.

Typically, upon arrival, I'd search through the cue racks until I found my favorite cue. Since I wasn't an accomplished player - I was only 12 when I started going to the poolroom on a regular basis - I'm guessing my primary criteria were straightness and feel. Yes, I was one of those morons who rolled his cue on the table to see if it was straight, not realizing that any irregularity on the butt end would cause the cue to wobble, even if it was straight. And, I've always liked a smooth slick feel.

Since I was outside, waiting, every day when Teasdale arrived, he asked if I might want the job of helping him remove the covers from the tables on a daily basis. It wasn't a paying job, but he did offer to give me a half-hour free practice time in exchange for my assistance and that seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

It wasn't too long after that that he presented me with my own cue, an 18 ounce house cue that he had sanded down and given a new tip. It wasn't mine to keep, but it was mine to use whenever I wanted. He had written "Ace" on the butt and kept it on a special rack behind the counter.

Soon after that, he began selling "Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards." Following his suggestion, I bought a copy. I almost immediately began improving at an amazing rate. That book became my bible. By the time I was 15 I was running 50 balls in straight pool as easy as rolling off a log and making a pretty good allowance spotting older guys who were already out in the working world 15 or 20 balls in games to fifty points.

And through all that time I had that trusty house cue that Tizzy had customized for me. That's the feel I grew up with and most likely that's why I prefer that same feel today. In my Sunday-Goin'-To-Meetin' 3x6 Instroke cue case, I carry three cues. My regular playing cue is a Josey purple heart sneaky pete. I've used it a few years, now, and it has become as much a part of me as my first cue did 50 odd years ago.

I also carry a 90's vintage Meucci cue which has a wrap but since it's all varnished over it has a nice smooth feel. I remember an old friend of mine, Tennessee Joe, had a collection of Meucci cues. Whenever he played with one you would see him regularly applying powder to the shaft and the butt, just to maintain that smooth slick feel.

The third cue in my case, my break-jump cue, also is without a wrap. That's how I roll.

Now, I've been known to play in bars from time to time in leagues and in tournaments. I would never... NEVER bring my prime equipment into a bar. Not only because it's kind of dorky to beat up on bar players using a custom made stick, but because with all the metal on the tables and drunks wandering back and forth it's too easy to damage your equipment.

My favorite bar cue is a Falcon Sneaky-Pete I picked up back in 2006. It still looks and plays well. Before that I was using an Elite EP01 stick. It had a wood to wood joing and played pretty well but a piece of the cherrywood at the butt end broke off and, even though I reglued it with super glue, that bothered me and I wound up selling it to a guy one night for $20.

For several years I was content to use a basic $50 Players stick, but years of sanding reduced the shaft to the dimensions of a snooker cue and I started havin trouble controling old whitey, drawing it much farther than I intended.

For those thinking about buying a Sneaky Pete Cue, here are my thoughts. If you want a better stick, most of the custom cue-makers offer sneaky-petes. Go to their sites. Ask them. Like I said, I'm happy with my Josey and wouldn't trade it for anything.

As far as manufactured cues go, Predator, Meucci, Mezz and Joss each offer sneakies that look and play extremely well.

Admittedly, pool cues are a personal thing. Some prefer sticks that look like they belong in a woodworkers museum. Others, like me, just want one that feels right and does the job. If you've never owned a cue before, buy a cheap one in the $50 to $100 range and see how you like it. Maybe it'll be all you need.

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