How to Play Bumper Pool (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

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If you were young in the ’70s or ’80s, your old house almost definitely had a bumper pool table in the basement. Even though it is not as popular as it once was, it is still a great casual bar game.

In this article, you’ll learn what bumper pool is and how it’s different from normal billiards. Also, you’ll see what you need to play bumper pool as well as the rules and a few tips and tricks to make your game better.

How to Play Bumper Pool
Photo by Dax476 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

What Is Bumper Pool and How Is It Different from Regular Pool?

Bumper pool is a lot like pool in that the game is played on a flat, (generally) green felt surface that simply looks like a normal pool table with some bumpers coming out of it. Also, bumper pool is played with the same type of balls as normal pool and uses wooden pool cues as well.

However, that’s about all the similarities you’ll get between the two. Bumper pool can be played on either an octagonal or diagonal table and the table itself is way smaller than a normal pool table.

Plus, instead of having six pockets in the corners and centers of the table, there is only one pocket on each of the ends of the bumper pool table.

Both of these pockets have two adjacent bumpers and these are like goal posts when you’re trying to shoot the ball into the hole. Also, in the bumper pool table’s center, there are 2 more rows of bumpers that cross through each other.

Large bumper pool tables will have six bumpers in these two rows. Meanwhile, small tables will usually have four bumpers in each row, which means, there will be eigh bumpers overall.

The bumpers are typically white or red-colored and are made with a rubber top which can bounce the balls around in various ways.

What Equipment Do You Need to Play Bumper Pool?

Other than the table itself you will need pool cues that are roughly half as long as normal pool cues. You will also need 10 balls: four should be white, four should be red, and you should also have one white one with a red dot and one red one with the same kind of dot that is white-colored.

The bumpers should come with the table and you can also get either a hexagonal table or rectangular one.

Bumper Pool Table
Photo by WKALT (CC BY-SA 4.0).

How to Play Bumper Pool: The Rules

With the basics out of the way, let’s jump into the rules.

Starting a Game

To begin, bumper pool can be played by two players or four players in groups of two. Each side should have five red balls or five white balls. Of these five balls, one on both sides will be marked with a dot to indicate it is the cue ball.

The starting position is, if you have the red balls, to put two red balls on both sides of your white pocket. If you have the white balls, put them in the same positions around your red pocket.

When you begin, each player shoots their cue ball simultaneously and tries to hit the side-cushion first, attempting to bank their ball near or into your color cup. The one who plays their ball nearest their cup or makes their ball in shoots again.

If both of the cue balls are made on the first shot, both players take one of the balls they have left and place it in front of their cup. Then, they both shoot these balls simultaneously again and this process goes until someone gets closer or makes it, or both players make all five of their balls simultaneously for a tie and a funny story.


The cue balls should always be pocketed first because if someone makes a different ball before their cue ball is made, their opponent can remove 2 of their own balls and put them into their own pocket. From there, you continue to take turns shooting, starting with the person who makes their ball or is nearest to their pocket.

A player gets another shot when they sink their own color balls in their same color pocket and can continue shooting until they do not make a ball in their pocket.


If one of the players hits a ball off of the table, the opponent can place that ball wherever they want on the table and can take two of their own balls and put them directly into their pocket.

If one of the players sinks their opponent’s ball there isn’t a penalty. However, if one of the players sink one of their own balls into their opponent’s pocket or shoots their opponent’s ball, the opponent can drop two of their balls into their pocket.

Also, neither of the players are allowed to try to jump their ball over bumpers or other balls when trying to make a shot. The penalty for doing this is, once again, the opponent gets to put two of their balls in their own pocket.

How to Win in Bumper Pool

The game ends when someone makes all five of their balls and that player is declared the winner.

Although, if a player shoots their final ball into their opponent’s cup it is an automatic loss and their opponent wins the game no matter how many balls they have left.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

The best bumper pool players play using a strategy primarily based around defense. A carefully placed shot can put a ball in your opponent’s way making it difficult to make their next shot.

For instance, if your opponent makes a shot that is close to their pocket and you have not served yet, you can shoot one of your balls to knock away that ball close to the pocket and make a harder shot for that ball to go in.

With some good aim, you could possibly knock a ball of your own toward your hole while also defending an easy shot for your opponent as well.

Also, the hole in the center of the table between all the bumpers is big enough for one ball to fit inside. If you knock any ball into this center hole it takes that ball off of the table and must be served again from its original starting point.

You can use this center hole well by knocking some opponent’s balls into there as much as you can. It’s a good strategy to do this while your opponent is in the laed because it will negate any of their shots beforehand with that ball and it can buy some precious time to make some of your own balls in.


Hopefully, you now have all you need to know to start playing the fun and easy game of bumper pool.

The tables can fit in just about any room and it’s a wonderful, short game that is fun for all ages.