The Myth About Deflection
by Andy Segal (Guest columnist)
Different cues have different amounts of deflection. Some say it is the type of wood, some say it is the taper on the shaft, and so on. Once you get a cue, the amount of deflection should be consistent. This, however, is not the case.
I am a trick shot shooter. I set up a shot and shoot it over and over again. The object balls and cue ball are in the exact same spot every time. My aim point is the same every time. The amount of spin that I use is the same every time. On some days, however, I find that I am missing my contact point by as much as a half-inch. After some experimenting, I found that it was my wrist. My wrist was controlling how much deflection I would get on a particular shot. I will explain.
Use this shot as an example, which is from our artistic pool program. Take an object ball and freeze it against the foot rail on the second diamond. Place the cue ball on the head spot. The idea is to cut the object ball into the right hand corner pocket. This is actually a cut shot that is greater than 90 degrees. The only way to make this shot is to put a ton of right spin on the cue ball, aim to barely miss the object ball on the left side, and have the cue ball spin off the rail and into the object ball, causing it to slide down the foot rail and into the corner pocket. Because you are putting right spin on the cue ball, you have to account for the fact that the cue ball will deflect to the left. I generally aim my cue stick through the cue ball at the right edge of the object ball. A center-ball hit along that line would cause the cue ball to hit about half of the object ball on the right side. However, because of the maximum right spin on the cue ball, it actually deflects off to the left and barely misses the object ball on the left side Each player’s aim point will be different since each has his or her own unique stroke. This is just how I aim for this shot.
One day I was practicing this shot, aiming the same way and putting the same maximum right spin on the cue ball. Instead of the cue ball missing the object ball on the left, it was actually hitting the object ball on the way down. The cue ball was deflecting between a half and one inch less than it was previously. I tried to adjust my aim with some success, but that isn’t the solution to the problem. That is just a temporary solution that cures the symptom, not the cause.
After some experimenting, I found that the reason why it was deflecting less was because I had a more solid grip on the butt of my cue. My wrist wasn’t flexing like it normally does. Maybe there was something on my mind, or maybe something was bothering me. The point is that with a tighter, more solid grip on the cue, the deflection was reduced. Now I am back to my original aim point. I just make sure that when I stroke the ball, my wrist is moving back and forth as I stroke. The deflection is greater but more consistent, and I also get more action on the cue ball. I heard Mike Massey say this once at an artistic tournament, “Stroke it, don’t poke it.”
Is deflection good or bad? The answer is both. You can never get rid of deflection 100%. That is physically impossible. If cue makers can manufacture cues that cut down on deflection, fine. As long as you like the way the cue hits, go buy one. Once you have a cue, you should try to develop your stroke. You should keep your wrist loose, moving it back and forth with each stroke. You should not strangle the butt of your cue. Hold it with a medium grip. On the way back, you should hold it with two or three fingers; on the way forward, you should hold it with four or five fingers. Loose, but not too loose. Doing this will improve your stroke, but it will also increase the amount of deflection you get. Don’t fear deflection. Learn to control it, and you will see better results.