Spinning the Wagon Wheel

by Bob Jewett

Bob Jewett

In my column last month, I described the basics of the Wagon Wheel position system. The idea was to use just follow or draw to take the cue ball the right distance in the right direction to just touch a target ball for position. (You’re not actually getting position on the other object balls; they are just providing a goal for position. If you prefer, just place a coin where you want the cue ball  to go.)

Spinning Wagon Wheel

This time I’m going to ask you to perfect your side spin to achieve the same sort of result using a cushion. In the top shot in the diagram, the object ball is by the middle of the end cushion about one ball’s width off the rail for each shot. The target object balls are placed on each diamond. The cue ball is placed so that when shooting the shot, your stick passes over the 11 ball.

For your first shot, pocket the 15 and use right English to send the cue ball towards the 1 ball. Adjust your spin and speed so the cue ball just reaches the 1. This will probably take your best side spin. Consider your control on the shot good enough when you can leave the cue ball within a ball diameter of the position target, and go on to the next shot. For the 2 ball, you will need less right side spin, but you probably can’t get the angle off the cushion with just follow. By the time you get to the 4 or 5 ball, just follow with no side spin should be sufficient.

To get to the 6, you have a choice. You could play with no side spin and hit the cue ball below center so it arrives at the 15 ball without follow or draw. Then the cue ball will simply bounce off the cushion more or less straight to the 6 ball. An alternative is to let the cue ball roll with follow and correct the angle off the cushion by adding a little left English. The two effects will fight against each other and the result can be the path you want depending on how much side spin you have added. This technique of cancellation is useful when you don’t want the follow to bend the ball forward but if you hit the ball hard enough to keep its draw it will also have too much speed. Try both ways and see which works best for you.

As you move on to the 7 and 8, you will need to use both draw and left English at some point and by the time you are sending the cue ball to the 11, you will need your best side and draw simultaneously.

Table conditions can have a large effect on how both draw and side spin work. With sticky cloth, any draw will quickly turn into follow but the side spin will generally take more, especially if you are at maximum RPMs. With slippery cloth, the spin may not take completely on the cushion, but draw shots will be easier. If possible, try this drill on a variety of tables — you could use it as a warmup in competitions.

In the lower part of the diagram the cue ball has been moved to a harder cut shot. This will make it difficult or impossible to reach the spots nearest the corner pockets. Can you achieve the cue ball angles indicated? Experiment with your mixture of draw/follow/side to see which combination makes each shot easiest.
Remember to shoot the shot in the other direction also, or you’ll get lop-sided

Even More Practice to Make Perfect

Samm Diep

I’ve always been told that it takes 21 days to form a habit. If there’s something you want to learn or a behavior you’d like to develop, give it 21 solid days and it should become second nature by then. New information tells us to throw that number out the window. Recent studies by the Medical Research Council indicate the new magic number is 66. Their research has shown that it actually takes us more than three times as long to learn to do something automatically.

According to Professor Jane Wardle, of University College London, “What we found was that it takes 66 days on average for people in our study to acquire a habit.” Though the studies varied between individuals, they were able to determine that if you do something every day for 66 days, in the same situation, it will become automatic.

Also, “performing an action for the first time requires planning, even if plans are formed only moments before the action is performed, and attention. As behaviors are repeated in consistent settings they then begin to proceed more efficiently and with less thought as control of the behavior transfers to cues in the environment that activate an automatic response – a habit.”

What does this mean for pool? Well, depending on what your personal goals are, you may want to consider this information the next time you decide to take the day off from practice.

If you’re a beginner, learning a new shot, or changing your mechanics and you do not have 66 straight days to spare in the pool room, it will now take even longer to learn this game. If you’re only committing 2-3 days a week to your training, it could take in excess of six months before changes become automatic to you. And who has that kind of time and patience?

If regular practice wasn’t important enough before, we are now reminded of just how detrimental the lack of it can be to our progress. An hour a day keeps the misses away. Even if you only have an hour or less, put in the time and continue to develop that muscle memory.

Samm Diep, “Cherry Bomb” (DenverCherryBomb.com)

House Pro at Rack ‘Em Billiards (Aurora, CO)

Author of “You Might Be A D Player If… (101 Classic Moves That All Pool Players Can Appreciate)”

Player Representative for Chris Byrne Custom Cues, PoolDawg, Predator, Jim Murnak Custom Cases, & Delta-13 Rack