The Wagon Wheel System

by: Bob Jewett


Bob Jewett

If you were around the Sacramento pool scene in the 1970s and 80s, you probably saw a distinguished gentlemen by the name of Ted Brown. He was one of the game’s greatest fans, a very good player and also the author of booklet on position play. The full title of the booklet is “Wagon Wheel System: Secrets of Fine Position Play” and it was published about 1990. In the introduction, Ted mentions that his inspiration came from a solo game called “One-Pocket Points” in which you get a free smash break and then try to run as many balls as you can into one pocket. A miss or foul ends the try. Your score is the total number of balls pocketed in five racks.

What Ted discovered with this game was that he had to perfect his position play, and in particular get to exactly the spot he needed rather than leave the cue ball in the general neighborhood of position. The tool he developed to help him progress is the subject of the booklet.

Wagon Wheel System

In the diagram is an overview of the main idea. You set up an easy shot into the side pocket with position targets set up on the rails to give you very specific goals for position. For example, to pocket the 15 and have the cue ball just touch the 1 ball, you would set up for a nearly straight

shot and hit the cue ball well above center. How “nearly straight?” That’s what the practice is for.

How far above center? You’ve probably caught on that the answer will be found on the table. Since the cue ball is in hand for each shot, you can make things easy or hard for yourself. Try to do both. That is, at first find out where the cue ball needs to be to make each position play as easy

as possible. For example, to get to the 1 ball you need a nearly straight shot, but if you are trying to go straight up the table to the 5 or 6 balls, a larger cut angle is preferred but not actually needed.

Some details: Don’t cheat the side pocket; try to put the 15 straight into the middle of the side. There is no need for left or right english. You are not using the cushions, so there is nothing useful for the side spin to do. Work hard to just get the cue ball to the target position, so on a “good” shot, the cue ball will end up within one ball diameter of the target ball. Try the drill to both sides of the table.

The advanced form of this drill is to place the cue ball at the limits of where the position is possible. For example, when going to the 5 or 6, try both nearly straight shots and very thin cuts. For the former, you will have more trouble getting exactly the right small amount of draw or follow on the cue ball, while for the thin cut, you will need to find the angle at which the both the cue ball and object ball barely reach their goals. In this part of the drill, it’s OK to cheat the pocket, but then you have to make the shot even harder.

Master the Wagon Wheel and you’ll be on the road to success.


Pitching Curve Balls

Bob Jewett

by Bob Jewett

Can you make the object ball curve? There are some easy ways and some other ways that may be


Usually you want the object ball to take as straight a line as possible. This makes planning shots

much easier. Sometimes you would like the ball to curve some, and then you need to be creative.

The table can help in some situations. I first learned to play on a table that was tilted enough that

if you shot a ball off the spot from the kitchen, you could aim full at the ball and by the time the

cue ball got there, it would have moved a half a ball off-line which is just what you want for that

cut shot. When playing a straight-in shot, like the one ball in the diagram shooting with the cue

ball at A, all you had to do was shoot straight at the one ball with the right speed. The cue ball

would curve a little to the left in the short distance to the one ball, the one ball would go to the

right around the two and then take a big curve to the left to get to the pocket. For your next shot,

you could play the two ball slowly along the rail with just enough speed to get to the side pocket,

where it would take a hard left turn and score.

While such conditions can be amusing and even help you trim the suckers, they are not exactly

pool. A more legitimate way to make an object ball curve is to have it hit a cushion while rolling

smoothly on the cloth. Just bank a ball three cushions around the table and watch carefully as it

comes off the third rail — it will hook five or ten degrees right after the rail contact. On new, slippery

cloth, the hook might last for a foot of travel depending on the speed.

Similarly, if you shoot an object ball to travel a fair distance and it hits another object ball, it will

curve after the collision due to the follow it has picked up from the cloth.

On strongly napped snooker cloth, the ball is said to curve depending on whether it is running

with or against the nap, but I’ve never seen a noticeable effect.

But the most interesting kind of object ball curve is the sort shown in the diagram. Is it possible to

get some kind of spin on the object ball, presumably by putting the opposite kind on the cue ball,

to make it curve over enough to go into the pocket? There are some very good players who claim

to be able to do such shots, but I’ve never seen it demonstrated. I played with the shot for hours

after first hearing the claim and the best I could ever do was maybe a quarter-inch of curve in six

feet. Considering how many times I ran the one ball partly into the two in the attempts, one very

slight success is not promising. Maybe I just didn’t have the right idea about cue ball placement

and spin — I put the cue ball as shown and usually used right english. To see your progress, freeze

a third ball to the cushion at B and see how much of it you can hit.

So, here’s deal: if you can teach me how to make the one ball legally and consistently on good

equipment with curve — jumping the one over the two is easy but that’s not what I’m after — I’ll

buy dinner the next time we’re in the same place. You get to pick the restaurant, but your share

has to be less than two Ben Franklins.