by: 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.