How To Play Bumper Pool + Pictures

  • By: Rob
  • Date: April 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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Want to know how to play bumper pool? Maybe you are unsure of the bumper pool setup? Or maybe who goes first? 

Well, I have this handy guide to help you know when someone isn’t playing by the rules. Luckily the rules for bumper pool are pretty simple and straight forward. With fewer rules and more play it’s definitely a game to enjoy. 

What’s ideal about bumper pool is its the perfect home game. Regular pocket billiard tables are usually pretty big, but bumper pool tables are around 46 x 62 inches making them perfect for home use. And they really a good laugh!

Check out all the bumper pool rules here and some nice tips and strategies to help you get one over on your opponent.

how do you play bumper pool

How to set up bumper pool

As you could have imagined, the rules and the general gameplay of the bumper pool is different from other billiard games. Before you know how to play bumper pool it’s essential to know the bumper pool set up.

First, bumper pool is played with a total of ten balls. 5 red balls and 5 white balls, 

On the table, there are 10 spots. 5 spots for player 1 and at the other end of the table, 5 spots for player 2. These spots are where you place your balls. 

5 red balls will be placed on the side with the white bumpers next to the pocket

5 white balls will be placed on the side with the red bumpers next to the pocket

At the start of the game, you arranged the balls so that each set is on the four spots to the left and right of the pocket. You’ll find one ball from each set is marked, this ball needs to be placed directly in front of each of the pockets.

bumper pool setup

When you have set up the table and balls as shown in the picture you are ready to start your game

Aim of bumper pool

The goal of the game is for players to shoot all the balls (five in total) into their allocated pocket- usually aiming for the pocket on the opposite side of the table. 

Using a pool cue, the balls are shot by the players into the pocket. As there is no direct line of sight to the pocket on the first shot, most players will bank the first shot towards the pocket.

There are some bumper pool table rules that state that in order for the ball to be a legal pot, it needs to either be banked or come off one of the bumpers before entering the pocket. 

 If the player misses his shot then it’s his opponent’s turn to take aim. 

As mentioned, to win the game, the player who pots his or her last ball wins the game. With there only being 5 balls to start with for each player, that means to win, the player needs to pot all 5 of their balls first.

how to play bumper pool

Who starts in bumper pool

There is no, “white to start” or “red to start” rule in bumper pool. 

In order to determine who starts in bumper pool, both players need to strike there “spotted ball” from its starting spot opposite their opponent’s pocket – on your side of the table.

Both players will hit their spotted ball at the same time and bank the ball of the player’s right cushion. By both player’s banking off the right cushion, it will avoid any collisions on the first shot.

start in bumper pool

The person so gets their ball closest or into their pocket goes first.

If a situation arises where you both pocket the ball then you will pick another ball from your remaining balls and place it on the spot opposite your opponent’s pocket. 

If you both manage to pot all 5 balls without missing, then a draw is awarded.

Check out this video where two people do just that!

How to play bumper pool

So, you now know the:

  • bumper pool setup,
  • The general aim of the game
  • Who starts and how a draw is awarded

With all these details on how to play bumper pool, let me finish the last bit off.

Once a player has been declared the starter, they need to pot their ball. 

If they manage to pot their ball then they select another ball and shot it from the spot it is in.

If they miss that shot, the other player comes to the table and tries to pot their shot.

This will continue until someone has potted all their balls.

There are some rules of bumper pool that state you can have more than one of your balls in play at any one time.

Here is a fun game between friends being played

Fouls in Bumper Pool

Above are the essentials of how to play bumper pool. Now its time to look at some of the fouls of the game. When learning how to play you have to know the bumper pool rules when fouls are committed; here they are:

  • Ball off the table

You must keep your balls on the table if You hit your ball and it bounces off the table, the ball is to be replaced in the center of the table – between the center bumpers.

If you hit an opponent’s ball and it bounces off the table then replace your opponent’s ball in its position before your shot was played and place your ball in the center of the table – between the bumpers.

  • Jump shots

Bumper pool games do not allow for jump shots. 

  • Potting wrong ball

In Bumper Pool, a foul is committed when a player sinks any of his balls (excluding the last one) in the wrong pocket. In that case, the opposing player will drop two balls into their pockets as a penalty. 

Also, any player who sinks their last ball in the opposite/wrong pocket will lose the game. Usually, a set of bumper pool instructions are attached to bumper pool tables to help beginners in gaining a better understanding of the game and its rules. 

How do you win at bumper pool

To win while playing bumper pool you need to be the first person to sink all 5 of their balls into their pocket at the opposite side of the table to where they start.

Bumper pool is a turn-based game, much like regular pool, once your opponent misses, you can try and win the game. If you pot one of your balls, you can continue your turn to pot another of your balls

In order to make it harder for your opponent to sink their balls and win the game, you can hit your balls leaving them strategically placed on the table. For example, you can put your ball close to their pocket obstructing their shot to pot their ball and win the game.

What happens if you hit a ball off the table in bumper pool

It’s a foul if you hit your ball off the table, if this happens you place the ball in the center of the table between the bumpers.

If it’s your opponent ball you hit off the table then you place their ball back in its position and put your ball in the center of the table, between the bumpers.

Can you jump the bumpers in bumper pool

Jumping over the bumpers in bumper pool is a foul.  If you jump over the bumpers then your opponent can put two of his own balls down the pocket.

With only 5 balls on the table to start with, having your opponent drop two of his balls is a huge advantage.

How do you play bumper pool on an octagon table

Most people play bumper pool on a rectangular table, that’s usually sized 41.5″ x 57.5″. But how does it work on an octagon bumper pool table? how do you play bumper pool then? 

Bumper pool can also be played on an octagon table. The game is played the same way as with a rectangular table, the only difference is that the playing surface is not a perfect rectangle. There are 8 bumpers on an octagon table instead of 4 bumpers on a rectangular table. This makes it more difficult to pot your balls, as the bumpers are further apart.

Tips and strategy in bumper pool

We have looked at how to play bumper pool, but what are some bumper pool strategies to help you win? Let’s take a closer look at some tips and strategies when playing bumper pool.

Tip 1

Use the cushions and bumpers to gain an advantage. Learn where you need to bank it from on the start to either pot the ball or gain a good potting position. The same goes if you are next to the pocket obstructed by the pocket bumper, use the central bumpers to bounce the ball back toward to pocket. 

Tip 2

Consider hitting your ball into your opponents, leaving him in a less favorable position.

Tip 3

Similar to tip 2, just this time with the balls not already in play. If your opponent is in a clear potting position and you feel using one of your balls still on its spot to knock him into an unfavorable position will give you an advantage take the advantage!

Tip 4

You can strategically hit your ball so it covers your opponent’s pocket. This makes it difficult to pot their balls without fouling and potting yours.


This guide was here to help you understand bumper pool rules completely so you can start playing straight away!

Like with any sport, once there are rules in place and everyone knows them, things run a lot smoother. I hope you learn from these rules on how to play bumper pool and implement them in your own play. Happy shooting!

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Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.

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