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Last updated: March 04, 2021
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Billiards is a highly competitive sport, not just ‘that one game’ you like to play in your local bar; if you are getting into the pool scene then it makes sense to begin looking to get yourself a new pool cue, and often you can even find the best pool cues under $100. These sticks should be easy to handle, durable, straight, and sized correctly for your arm span and general reach. So, before you rack those balls and break them, consider our review on these top beginner pool cues.
The main features which will ensure the best pool cue include their whole-body materials as well as their wrap materials – depending on the wood used in each design your break might come with a little more strength, finesse, or even better natural aim; likewise, the wrap material can greatly affect the weight of the pool cue as well as your grip. Other features covered in our review are the length, overall weight, and even warranty for these beginner cues.
In researching this sport and the best cues for someone just beginning we consulted professional Billiard players about the cues they first started with and their opinions on how different brand cues might change a player’s overall game. We also spoke with manufacturers for the products listed below and consulted verified customers to see what they liked or didn’t like about their purchase. The following results are organized into a comprehensive product chart listing in-detail reviews of each product, as well as a buying guide included at the end.
Crafted from 100% North American grade “A” hard rock maple, the shaft of this pool cue ranks well against professional cue’s which are much more expensive than this, meaning if you’re looking for a budget option that you can use while playing competitively, this is a great pick!
Its maple shaft has been turned and dried up to seven times to ensure there was no warping, additionally the wood has received treatment with a wood stabilizer to keep it from changing due to age, water damage, etcetera. The finish is high gloss UV for added protection against sun-related fading and from otherwise chipping. It’s design features a pro taper for an extra smooth stroke, and its exotic hardwood butt is not only stylish but highly valued in the billiards community. The ferrule is designed with specialty high impact strength for a lifetime guarantee against chipping or play related damage. Next, the wrap is made from fine quality Irish Linen, double pressed, with a layer of extra strength nylon.
Each inlay you see in the picture is hand crafted, including the terrific graphic brand design. All in all, for under $100 this is a professional level pool cue that you shouldn’t pass up! Owning it will improve your game when playing competitively.
What we liked:
Grade ‘A’ hard rock maple shaft
Quality French Le Pro Tip!
Treated with Nelsonite to protect from warping and chipping
What could be better:
The grip can be slippery and adding a rubber grip changes the overall balance
The UV coating wears off with constant use longer than a month
This pool cue is well within your price range while also featuring really cool and stylish designs (up to 10 different) that don’t change the cues overall balance, wood type, or usability.
These cues feature a shaft made from Canadian Maple Wood and featuring the union decal butt; the design creates a back weighted cue which offers better grip and added control when making a shot. Overall length is the standard 58 inches with a weight of 19 ounces, and this cue comes in a two-piece design for easier break-down and better travel; the joint between the connecting parts features a joint protector and solid threading.
The wrap is threaded linen for a standard grip, the main perk being that your hand won’t get sweaty while playing. The tip is below professional quality and is glued in place, creating somewhat lesser impact than fully integrated tips; however, the tip won’t come loose and is still great for casual play. Purchase comes with a cue cleaning towel, a stylish CueSoul Case with extra pocket for tips or chalk.
Overall, this cue sets a high standard for other cues under $100, and for the most part is a great option for bulk order so you have cues for your home, business, or even your school campus.
What we liked:
Comes with 10 different style options during order
Extras include a case and cue cleaning cloth
Shaft made from rock hard Canadian Maple Wood
What could be better:
Is not crafted with warp treatment; keep it out of the rain
Not all cues from this company have arrived perfectly straight
Not all billiard players like using a cue with a wrap, in fact many complain that wraps make their hands sweat and end up messing up their grip altogether. If this is you, this particular cue is designed without a wrap and features a straight design with two parts that come together via a join collar with a Turbo Lock.
The overall weight when assembled is 25 ounces fixed, with the standard player length of 58 inches. The butt features a white design with the embossed brand signature, but this part in no way will alter the important simple grip on wood that the North American shaft offers; additionally, the wood type allows for rock hard grade ‘A’ contact while playing, with a 12.5mm Phenolic jump break tip. Purchase comes in silver, red, or black styling with a black rim representing the joint between both pieces; however, purchase does not include a carrying case, cleaning cloth, or any other extra accessories.
Though, for your consideration, at this value this cue represents one of the finest heavy hitters for billiards without being unaffordable; and if you’re just learning or looking to start competing, it’s smart to switch over to a heavy-hitting cue.
What we liked:
No wrap, meaning a much finer grip and better control
5mm Phenolic jump break tip
Made from Grade ‘A’ North American Maple wood
What could be better:
Expensive considering it doesn’t include a case or any other extras
If you’re not used to a heavy cue, this stick will mess up your game
Once again this is another cue which features no wrap along with North American Maple wood; what this means is that this cue is best for hard hitting –after all, its available up to 21 ounces in weight – and because of this having no grip will give you more control during those power shots.
Of course, for its price this hard hitter greatly outranks the other hard hitters listed, though only because it comes with tons of extras. Purchase is available in styling options dark grey and white, the package itself includes a high-quality case with a smart side pocket, two pieces of billiard tip chalk, a chalk holder, and even a tip shaper.
Speaking of the tip, it is a scuffer tip design at 13mm, meaning its best for hitting right at the base or side of the ball when certain angle requires it or the other billiard balls are getting in your way.
Last but not least, this brand offers an excellent 3-year manufacturers warranty on all their cues which covers any and all errors which are the fault of design, shipping, or manufacturing.
What we liked:
No wrap means better grip and better control
Cue features a heavy hitting hard maple wood shaft
This cue offers the most extras
What could be better:
Many customers quickly replaced the scuffing tip
Shaft is not treated against warping
Surface of the ferrule on some customers cues hasn’t been level
This cue represents the budget pick for our list, but in no way does that mean the quality of this pool cue is ‘cheap’. Immediately from purchase this cue feature over 7 different styling options, with out favorite being green.
The design itself offers a uniquely weight butt with the brands signature embossing and slight silver colored inlay; the wrap is thin Irish linen twice wrapped for a great and comfortable grip. Shaft wood type is North American “A” grade Maple wood and offers the potential of hard-hitting strikes, while balancing that with the precision of 13mm leather tip. Cue comes in two pieces with a stainless steel threaded joint and joint protector along with a straight high impact resistant resin ferrule.
The size is 58 inches standard for competition, and weights very between 18 and 21 ounces. Finished product is treated against warping and coated in a UV polish that additionally protects against fading and chipping. The added lifetime warranty is also a major bonus as it double protects the buyer against any warping which still might occur.
Overall, this is one of the best cues on our list; it looks great, plays very well, offers good control, but is also capable of those rock-hard impacts for power shots across an entire table and straight into the pocket.
What we liked:
Leather professional tip
Irish linen wrap for added grip
Lifetime Warranty against manufacturer defects
What could be better:
Two-piece design does not come with a carrying case
Not a good cue for breaking
Things to Consider
The remainder of this buying guide has been written to provide you (the customer) all the information you might consider during the buying process. In this section we focus on the features for these pool cues, as well as what you should expect from buying one and what you should know about the game of pool. Frequently asked questions and nominations are given at the end.
What to expect from a budget pool stick?
Budget pool cues typically have half the perks that professional expensive cues offer, but not all of the features in one package that you would want. For instance, the best cues typically feature a fantastic wrap, a leather pro tip, a shaft made from North American maple, and every accessory you’d want for a two-piece design (such as a carrying case, oil for the leather, chalk, and others). The budget pool sticks on this list are affordable and great for bulk purchases when you need multiple sticks for your home, business, etcetera. However, if one stick is made from high quality wood, it budget price typically means that its lacking a case or other accessory, as well as not having a professional tip.
Beginner’s guide to the pool game
8-ball pool is the most common, though there are other ways to play. With the standard 8-ball billiard setup however you have two types of balls: coloreds and tripe’s. You set these balls up in a ‘V’ formation using a shaping tool (typically its on or near the billiard table), and one person ‘breaks’ using the white ball (or cue ball). ‘Breaking’, means you shoot the cue ball at all the balls to scatter them around the table; typically, the person who breaks also gets to decide whether they want stripes or colors. If any balls go into pockets during breaking, this is what the person who broke will be going for.
For instance, if the first player pocketed the colored red ball, they would be after colors. The next player to go would be after stripes. If you miss your shot, it is the next persons turn. If you make your shot, you take another turn. The player who wins will sink all their balls (all the colored or stripe balls except for the black 8 ball). Final shot is the black 8 ball, and if you make that shot than you win the game.
Helpful tips on playing with the cue stick
First, hold the pool cue right at your hip and do so with you dominant hand – typically you’ll hold at the point along your stick where the rear is balanced (this point might even already have tape or a faint marker). Put even more specifically, your hand should grip around 4 to 5 inches back with your back hand at a 90-degree angle.
Next, relax your grip slightly – too much tension and you’ll actually limit the amount of control you have during any given shot. Your body should come into line with the cue while you aim your shot, and then you’ll bring your free hand/arm forward toward the top-middle of the cue for further lining up your shot.
Depending on how you play, you can vary this next part. Typically though, most players make a shot through their loose non-dominant hand, and don’t move it off the table.
For example, if your dominant hand is the right one, you’ll grip the back of your cue with the right hand; meanwhile, your left hand will center the cue’s tip on your shot. You’ll take the shot without removing your left hand, and instead will use this forward hand as a loosened guide for the perfect connection against the ball… and CRACK! You’ve made your shot.
Consider the following features to choose the ideal pool stick
Many of the features listed above in the product descriptions are further explained here for your convenience.
Size and Weight
Size and weight can actually come down to something as simple as personal preference; there are professionals out there who greatly prefer a lighter cue over a heavier cue, and this can have anything to do with the way they play or the natural force they’re aware of typically applying to a shot. The average weigh of a pool cue is between 18 and 22 ounces, whereas the average length is between 57 and 59 inches.
As you’ll see from the products on our list, not many of these beginner cues come with multiple length options, but many come with plenty of weight options. As you start playing in leagues and trying to figure out your preferred cue weight or length, try handling other players cues and make a couple shots to test the feel for yourself.
Until then, 20 ounces is generally an ideal weight for beginners. This is because the heft can result in a better ball spin. However, if you’re a hard hitter and prefer your power shots, we suggest you go with either the Players C-960 or the Rage Heavy Hitter.
Put very simply, the harder the materials used, the more power a shot will have. This is why you’ll see most beginner cues using maple; maple wood offers great control but also a ton of power when you need it. For the best power shooters there is no better wood than North American maple, and obviously this means that our hard hitters are the Players C-960, Rage Heavy Hitter, and also the Viking Valhalla.
As you play against other, test their cues out and ask them what material they’re using. Some professionals actually prefer lighter materials – for instance, blended materials like fiberglass and maple – since these materials equal better control overall. However, cues which blend materials are typically more expensive, and that’s why you don’t see any listed in this buying guide.
Another added perk to fiberglass or even graphite designs is that these are resistant to natural warping and even maintenance issues; however, you will see that most professionals prefer wood every time. Hybrid cues are only just finding a place in the market, but it’s worth mentioning that many experts claim these hybrids offer the best mix of power and control than they’ve ever seen with other models.
The joint of the cue should be flush to the wood and match when screwed together. There should be no light showing at any point between the shaft and butt facing when screwed together. The pin should be perfectly centered in the butt. If it not then it could mean that the wood was cut at an angle to force it into shape, which can then mean that it is in a state of stress instead of a state of rest. The pin should be free of glue and polished. The parts should go together easily and snugly. It’s our opinion that all the cues on our list match this feature with their high-quality jointing and design.
Better grip with better wrap
Many first-time players want a leather wrap when they first look to purchase a cue of their own, however even though that seems like the cool thing to do, these thicker wraps wont necessarily add to your game. It makes sense that most beginners wouldn’t know what wrap they prefer, and again the best wrap can depend greatly on the player. The wrap you choose can also depend on the cost of the cue, seeing as wrap-type will drive the cost higher. Genuine leather wraps are easily some of the most expensive – these wraps are soft in the hand, but many players agree that they make your grip weak because leather promotes sweating.
Leatherette is cheaper for a wrap, but again the problem of sweat. We suggest Irish linen, seeing as this is the number one preferred wrap for billiards players. This classic cue wrap offers the ideal middle grip and doesn’t promote sweating. From our selection, this makes the Player C-960 and Viking Valhalla cues two of the best picks. Or, if you want even more control and don’t mind those harder grips which hurt your hand a little during and at the end of play, a lot of hard hitters prefer wrapless designs such as the Rage Heavy Hitter and McDermott Classic Pool Cue.
All about the tips
You’ll hear it argued that the tip of the cue is the most important feature of the entire stick. The reason this is so important is because the hardness of the tip has a large impact on how a ball will react to a player’s strike. Tips made with leather – pretty much the vast majority of expensive tips out there (typically cues over %100) – are actually somewhat difficult to judge, seeing as leather can offer a varying degree of hardness. One major perk, however, is that leather tips rarely need to be reshaped and almost never mushroom the way softer tips do.
Other notes! Leather is longer lasting, actually gets harder over time, and is the easiest material to maintain, so your best option when it comes to a tip is the Viking Valhalla. Oils can keep your leather tip softer, as can other treatments; whereas chock typically keeps the tip harder. There are drawbacks and perks to both. Harder tips give more power but typically result in lower control; softer tips on the other hand work in the reverse with more control but less of a bashing power effect behind each shot.
As your tip ages and you want to replace it, there are also “slip-on tips” now available on the market. These literally slip over the end of the cue stick and glue in place; though a wide range of these are generally low quality
One-piece or two piece?
Two-piece cues are almost always a step up from a one-piece cue. Almost always, because some retail stores do sell two-piece cues made out lower quality plastics rather than wooden bar cues with attaching joints. With a two-piece cue, you get better quality, more selection and the option of having a wrap to grip onto. Not to mention, a two-piece cue will fit in a case for easy portability! However, if you’re going to buy a two-piece cue and it doesn’t come with a case, it can actually be more annoying to travel with two pieces rather than one long connected one. Also, eventually you know you’ll just break down and buy a case for both parts.
Upon arrival to test the straightness of your cue set it down on a flat surface – the billiards table is typically the best place for this – and roll your cue; it should roll without any wobble, although a cue can be straight though not perfectly round due to how the handle was sanded. Another test is to sight your cue – aim it down between both hands like a rifle and look down at it as you turn it in your palms. Trust me, you’ll see if its warped at any point in the design.
Additional accessories can never hurt! The cues which come with carrying bags are easily worth double the consideration you give other cues, only because in the end this investment will save you the money you want to save when looking at cues under $100. Other great accessories are tip shapers for removing those mushroom shaped heads that can come from playing, as well as chalk and a cleaning cloth.
Choosing a warranty which best protects the value of the purchase depends on what you can afford and the warranty which comes with the specific cue. If your cue is under $100, it makes sense to have a warranty of at least 1-2 years which covers scratching, nicks, and bumps, and even the unlikeliest breakage. For truly the best deal and best warranty, consider our budget pick: the Viking Valhalla with its Lifetime Warranty.
Harder tips will hold their shape longer but dry out faster, whereas softer tips will hold their shape for a shorter time but dry out slower. For leather, oil can keep your tip soft and it shouldn’t really lose its shape for at least the first year. As well, some player prefer hardened tips for power hitting, however these hard tips have much lower control and can end up damaging a players overall game. The professional opinion is use a tip which offers something in the middle; soft tips typically do this, but only for a short time. Once a soft time gets a mushroom shape, it’s time to replace the tip. Once a tip goes hard, its time to replace the tip or try and use some oil to soften it (in the case of leather).
You should replace the ferrule if there is ever a split down the side or a tenon running right through the center. First, you’ll use a lathe (or a pair of pliers) to completely remove the ferrule. Squeeze the split on the opposite side and move it around to fully remove; just be careful not to damage the wooden tenon in the middle of the cue stick. Replacing the ferrule is a little more difficult as you need the right parts and correct materials for the cue; we suggest contacting someone who restores cues or (more simply) contacting the manufacturer of your cue.
A taper means to make or become gradually smaller towards one end. There are two different types of tapers. The European taper is commonly known as a ‘straight taper’ and simply means that the shaft will be cone shaped. A pro taper, on the other hand, will remain the same diameter for some distance before gradually increasing for the remaining distance to the joint.
Wrapping It Up
For the best shot at picking nothing but the best pool cue under $100, we suggest you take a final double look at our top three nominations.
Players C-960. This cue has one of the most professional designs for a cue that matches your budget, and because of this it’s also rated for professional competition.
CUESOUL Billiard Stick. This cue is one of the most affordable, is quite stylish, and includes a case/cleaning cloth.
Viking Valhalla. Finally, this budget pick is the most affordable cue and has impressive shaft materials for hard hitting, as well as a professional leather tip which will add control while also lasting longer than other cheap tips.