Jacksonville, USA, October 10th, 2019
Thanks to an amazing team of passionate individuals, the company has revolutionized how the game of pocket billiards is played since the introduction of the original 314 low-deflection shaft in 1994. A quarter of a century after this ground-breaking technology was introduced, this United States-based company has grown to become the largest and most innovation-driven manufacturer in pool and billiards worldwide.
Out of all the billiards shafts, cues and components that Predator Group has been associated with over the last 25 years, none may be more important than the tip that was on Allan McCarty’s cue in the early 1990s.
A frequent player who had dabbled in developing inventions, McCarty was leading his opponent during a billiards match when his tip loosened and popped off of the ferrule. He switched out that shaft for his reserve and immediately struggled to make balls. McCarty lost the match, walking away from the experience lighter in the wallet and questioning how these two seemingly identical shafts could play so differently.
McCarty teamed up with Steve Titus, a self-made engineer he’d met at a tournament a couple of years before. Together, the two constructed a mechanical arm for testing billiard cues named Iron Willie. This helped them to develop a product which would deliver more consistency and accuracy. They toiled away in their Clawson, Michigan shop for about a year and a half, ultimately creating a six-piece spliced wooden shaft.
That desire to design and develop a superior performing product led to Predator’s initial product creation – a multi-splice shaft introduced as the original 314 shaft in 1994. Predator’s cutting-edge shaft technology reduced the error factor called “cue ball deflection”, where the mass of the shaft pushes the cue ball off the aiming line when using English or side spin. Put simply, this new technology made it easier to pocket balls using English and helped players progress faster.
What started as two guys fighting to educate the industry on their research findings now has evolved into the industry trendsetter in pool and billiards technology. The company has grown into the largest billiard cue manufacturer worldwide – thanks largely to the people who work for and with the company.
“There’s all the cue makers and then there’s us,” said McCarty. “They’re selling design, we’re selling performance with design.”
“When we received our first cue and shaft combination way back in 1998, we knew immediately that Predator was an innovative and technology-advanced cue manufacturer,” said Sid Kreis of Seybert’s Billiard Supply, one of Predator’s leading distributors.
It would have been easy to sit back and be satisfied with creating the billiard cue shaft which revolutionized the industry. “However, the goal is to always challenge the standards of the industry – then design a completely new standard.” said President Karim Belhaj, who rose from company intern in 1997 to owning the company today. “Every time we made it to the top, we thought ‘how do we better ourselves?”
In a company that was created by pool players, it didn’t take long for the team to realize there was more to playing proficient pool than simply minimizing deflection. Predator released the first BK break cue in 2001, equipped with a balanced weight design as well as a tip and ferrule developed to transfer maximum energy. Four years later, a reengineered break cue called the BK2 would hit the market with an improved grip, phenolic and carbon fiber tip plate and improved shaft design.
A dozen years after the original 314 shafts became available to consumers, Predator introduced the second generation of low-deflection shaft technology – featuring a lighter and improved 10-piece spliced construction, which resulted in better wood grain consistency throughout. Four years ago, the company debuted the third generation of these revolutionary shafts, featuring a lower front-end mass, V-Tek front end construction as well as the eight-layer Victory tip. “We design every single shaft based on what the player needs to improve his or her game,” said Belhaj.
Since the turn of the century, Predator’s engineers have been working on methods to build a cue shaft from composite technology. As materials improved and processes perfected, the years of trial and errors resulted in the debut of Predator REVO shaft in 2016. Made from aerospace grade carbon fiber, this latest innovation offers reduced deflection at high and low speeds coupled with unmatched durability. When Predator’s Chief Engineer Paul Costain had his first prototypes of REVO ready for field testing a few years ago, it was essential for him to see the players’ feedback: “I remember very well the first time I saw people testing the Predator REVO - at first they were skeptical. So, to see their face when they hit the first few shots was quite enjoyable - I could see instantly they could feel the difference... and then of course they didn’t want to give the shaft back!”
Following this success, the carbon composite BK Rush break cue was released in 2017 - the most powerful and most accurate break cue ever designed.
As the technology and innovation improved, so too has the playing experience for beginning and amateur players. With cue ball deflection significantly decreased compared to the equipment of decades ago, the competitors of today can pocket balls more accurately while utilizing English and sidespin with much more ease. “Due to the Predator equipment, the pockets for amateurs seem bigger than normal because you can play more precisely,” said Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Ralf Souquet, who has won every major title in the sport using a 314 shaft.
Today, Predator’s extensive family of products connect with different players - from the road hustler to the World Champion, there is a Predator cue for everyone. We not only specialize in performance but also in design. From the entry-level Roadline “Sneaky Pete” to the 25th Anniversary limited edition cues, there is an artistic and fashionable style to match the various preferences of players. Whether a player is looking for a classic or intricate look, Predator has a design which can connect with the individual and provide a unique style, coupled with unmatched construction and technology.
“Predator helps players be the best version of themselves,” said Karim Belhaj.
Ever since Titus and McCarty started working on the original shafts, Predator has been striving to connect people to the game as well as give back to the billiards industry.
When the company was in its infancy, McCarty made sure the product was in the hands of not only nationally known professional players but those dominant at the regional level as well – recognizing word-of-mouth exposure would be essential to the product’s growth. As Predator slowly grew to become a worldwide company, the manufacturer’s commitment to providing professionals with the tools needed for success has not changed. Today, countless players all over the world rely on the company’s cues in tournament competition – including World Champions and BCA Hall of Famers. As a result, players using Predator cues have won more titles than all of the other cue brands combined.
As a company which constantly strives to improve its equipment and the players’ experience, this working relationship also allows Predator’s designers to receive valuable feedback on its products from some of the best professionals competing today.
“I remember one year every European Mosconi cup player played with Predator. That’s mental,” said Hall of Famer and longtime brand ambassador Darren Appleton. “They have helped me massively in my career and God knows what I would not have been able to achieve without them.”
“Predator brings the equipment and I bring the skills, so together we can achieve greatness,” said women’s professional, Jasmin Ouschan, who started using the company’s equipment as a junior.
Predator is also proud to support John Schmidt and his quest to beat the longest-standing record in the sport, Willie Mosconi’s 526-ball run. John achieved his dream by an astounding 100 balls, running 626 without a miss, which already placed the formerly nicknamed “Mr. 400” in a class of his own: “I was using a P3 Red with a REVO 12.4 shaft - fantastic cue. Everybody loves their cue, that sounds forced but it’s really the best cue I’ve ever played with”, said John “Mr. 626” Schmidt.
Predator’s support of the industry also extends to professional and amateur tournaments throughout the world, as well as in the United States. The company has been a longtime title sponsor of the Mosconi Cup, Matchroom events, the Euro Tour for both men and women, Tony Robles’ Predator Pro-am Tour in the northeastern United States, the World Pool and Billiards Association’s Players Championship, and many other events.
“Predator has been a big part of the industry so far and will be even more so in the future,” said Emily Frazer, Chief Operating Officer for Matchroom Multisport, producer of the Mosconi Cup. “Predator has been in business for 25 years and Matchroom has shared a relationship with them for the majority of that. We only hope to continue and strengthen that partnership as we push together our passion and goal of taking our sport to the next level.”
This past year, the company again expanded its position within the professional billiards industry with the debut of the Predator World 10-ball Championships which brought back a World WPA event in the United States for the first time in over 20 years.
The event had been dormant since 2015 as it struggled to find available sponsors and prize funds, but Predator saw the event as a unique opportunity to help grow the number of professional events worldwide while celebrating the company’s silver anniversary. Partnering with Cue Sports International, the inaugural tournament was played this past July in conjunction with the BCA Pool League’s national and world championships in Las Vegas. This event, which was won by Ping-Chung Ko, showcases the best professional players in the world and helps in the company’s mission of building a bridge between the recreational pool player and the game’s elite. As WPA President Ian Anderson said, “We are very proud to be associated with Predator and to have them as a partner in the promotion and development of pool and billiards.”
Predator continues to focus on the future by making the world a better place, one pool game at a time.