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Bumper Pool Rules

Learn how to play bumper pool.

Bumper pool is a form of obstacle billiards which is played on specialized bumper pool tables. Bumper pool tables are either octagonal in shape, or rectangular with a pocket centered on each end.

The rules for bumper pool are generally similar for both types of bumper pool tables.

Rules of Bumper Pool

There are many bumper pool "house rules" which deviate from the standard rules. Common variations include differences such as the length of time winners may continue playing. Be sure to clarify the rules when starting a game at an unfamiliar venue or with unfamiliar players.

Number of Players for Bumper Pool

Bumper pool is played with either two players or four players in pairs of two.

How to Rack the Balls in Bumper Pool

Each player or team has five balls of the same color, either white or red. One of those five balls is designated to be the cue ball. To set up a game of bumper pool, players place the designated cue ball in front of the cup on their side of the bumper pool table. The remaining four balls are place to the left and right of the cup, two on each side.

You rack the balls in bumper pool as follows:

How to Rack the Balls in Bumper Pool

Bumper Pool Rules

To start the game, both players shoot the marked cue ball at the same time, toward the side cushion to their right, with the goal of banking it into the cup at the other side. Shots must hit cushion on player's right side.

Continuing play is as follows:

  • If no balls are pocketed on the first shot, the player shooting their marked ball closest to the pocket may continue shooting.
  • If one player successfully shoots the marked ball into the pocket, that player may shoot again.
  • If both players pocket their marked balls, they both shoot again at the same time.

NOTE: As user Jerry Brown notes in the comments, you do NOT move your next ball in front of the pocket before you shoot it (as many online bumper pool rules state). You must shoot subsequent balls from the spot in which they lie. Moving the ball by hand is not permitted.

Players must pocket the marked ball first according to the rules of bumper pool. (see "Bumper Pool Fouls" below).

If no ball is pocketed on a shot, the opponent's inning begins. Play rotates until a player legally pockets a ball, in which case their inning continues.

Players must directly strike the ball which is in-play and which you intend to pocket. Before playing any of their other balls, the player must directly strike and score his or her object ball.

Bumper pool is a game of offense and defense. That is, you can either shoot to pocket your ball, or you can shoot to have your ball knock an opponent's ball into a less-desirable position on the table. This means that players may strike their "ball in play" toward an opponent's "ball in play" in order to knock it into a less-desirable position.

Players may also shoot to block an opponent's scoring hole with one of their own balls if such a strategy is desired.

Bumper Pool Fouls:

The rules of bumper pool specify numerous technicalities which result in a foul. Unless otherwise specified, the offending player's inning is over and the opponent takes the table after a foul has been committed.

  1. Playing a non-spotted ball before pocketing the spotted ball - All balls distributed must be placed in their original position. If the incorrect ball is actually pocketed, see below.
  2. Sinking one of your object balls before pocketing your marked ball - If a player sinks another ball before his or her marked object ball is successfully potted, the opponent may remove two of his or her own balls from the table and drop them into the offending players cup.
  3. Causing your opponent's ball to leave the table - If a player strikes their opponent's ball off of the table, the opponent's ball shall be replaced to its original position, and the player shall place one of their balls in the center of the bumpers at the middle of the table. The opponent is next to shoot.
  4. Causing your own ball to leave the table - Your ball is placed in the center of the bumpers at the center of the table, and your opponent is next to shoot.

    NOTE: Some bumper pool rules online specify alternative penalties for causing a ball to leave the table. The alternative most commonly see is: If the player causes a ball to leave the bumper pool table, the opponent is allowed to spot that ball anywhere he or she wishes on the playing surface of the pool table, and remove two of his or her own object balls from the table and deposit them into his or her pocket.

  5. Accidentally sink an opponent's ball into your own target pocket - The opponent removes that ball from the pocket and places it anywhere on the table, and may also remove two of their own balls from the table and drop them into their pocket.
  6. Accidentally sink an opponent's ball into your opponent's target pocket - Indirectly pocket opponent's ball (into the correct pocket) - Any opponent's balls indirectly pocketed as a result of a shot with another ball shall remain pocketed and is scored in favor of the opponent. If a player sinks one of an opponent's balls into the correct pocket, there is no penalty.
  7. Accidentally sink your own ball into your own target pocket - The shooting player continues their inning and may take another shot.
  8. Accidentally sink your own ball into your opponent's target pocket - If it was the shooting player's last ball, it is an automatic loss of game. Otherwise, the opponent may remove any two of their own balls from the table and drop them into the offending players cup.
  9. Jumping balls over the bumpers - You can not jump balls in bumper pool, including jumping the balls over the bumpers. If this occurs, the opponent may remove two of their own balls from the table and drop them into their pocket.

A player wins the game of bumper pool if (a) they are the first player to legally pocket all 5 of their balls, or (b) their opponent forfeits the game.

Bumper Pool Rules

If you have any questions about Bumper Pool Rules, please post them in the pool rules forum.

...or view existing Bumper Pool Rules questions in the forum.

Bumper Pool Rules History

Valley Manufacturing, makers of the popular Valley brand of coin-operated pool tables, introduced bumper pool the world of coin-operated amusements.

The Valley coin-op bumper pool game was played on a smaller bumper pool table with two holes, one on each end of the table. There were eight bumpers placed in a cross-like patter in the middle of the table.

Players started a game by inserting a dime, and each player would get five balls (red or white). The object of the game was to shoot your ball into your opponent’s pocket at the other end.

Valley's bumper pool game was hugely popular and ultimately became a staple in arcades and bars. If you grew up in the 1970's or 1980's, there is a good chance that played bumper pool.

Source: bargames101.com/bumperpoolrules

The original bumper pool rules are trade-marked by the Valley Company and can be found in the older BCA rule books.

The official Bumper Pool Rules are predominently observed in North America.

How to Play Bumper Pool

Questions about Bumper Pool Rules:

  • Title: Bumper Pool Rules
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 4/18/2008 12:47:00 AM
  • Last Updated: 9/5/2023 5:01:01 PM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum
  • Source: Internet, Various Sources

Bumper Pool Rules

The Bumper Pool Rules article belongs to the Obstacle Billiards Rules category. Obstacle billiards is a class of billiard games that are played with various obstacles on the table.

Bumper Pool Rules Comments

  1. Jerry BrownJerry Brown from Saint Cloud, FL on 11/4/2011 3:41:25 AM

    These bumper pool rules, and many others on the internet say something to the effect of:

    if both players make the ball in on the initial shot (and good players usually do), then they are to manually place ANOTHER ball in front of the pocket and shoot simultaneously again.

    This is WRONG.

    If you both put your marked "dot" ball in on the first shot - you move to the next ball to the left and shoot simultaneously again from the SPOT THAT BALL IS AT.

    You DO NOT move the ball in front of the pocket. Moving the ball by hand IS NOT PERMITTED. This is what happens to rules when one person puts an inaccuracy on the net and people copy paste it forever.

    We frequently shoot and pocket four or five balls in a row simultaneously - where basically if you miss you loose the game. I am 100% sure on this.

  2. billiardsforumbilliardsforum from Halifax, NS on 12/13/2011 7:57:19 AM

    @Jerry Brown - Thanks for the heads up. You are 100% correct. I have updated the rules of bumper pool above to reflect this, and specifically called it out in the appropriate section, since so many online bumper pool rules are incorrect in this regard.

  3. Texas MarkTexas Mark from Russia on 4/19/2018 4:17:17 PM

    I love bumper billiards. It is an interesting game that requires special skill.

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