Ultimate Guide to Bumper Pool: Tables, Strategy, and More!

Pocket billiards or pool is a popular tabletop game that you might find in some bars and bowling alleys. If you enjoy the game and want your own setup, though, you’ll need quite a bit of space. Fortunately, you have a more unique option: bumper pool.

Similar to traditional pool, the goal of bumper pool is to sink all of your pool balls into a pocket before your opponent. However, the table has obstacles called bumpers and only two pockets: one on each end of the table. Another difference is that there are fewer billiard balls, and the pool sticks that you use to hit them with are about half the length of traditional billiard sticks. The biggest difference and main attraction of bumper pool, though, is that the table is much smaller.

Although bumper pool is a lesser-known game in the billiards family of activities, it can be a lot of fun for children and adults alike. Before you jump into the game, it’s helpful to learn more about the bumper pool tables, balls and rules.

Bumper Pool Tables

There are a few bumper pool table designs for you to choose from, and they’re all smaller than the pocket billiards tables that you’re used to. While octagonal and rectangular are the most common shapes, you can special order hexagonal, eased octagonal and scalloped rectangular tables.

In general, octagonal bumper pool tables measure 48 inches wide, 48 inches long and 30 inches high. The rectangular ones have standard dimensions of 41.5 inches wide, 57.5 inches long and 32 inches high. By comparison, a standard pool table measures 42 inches wide and 84 inches long.

However, these are just the standard measurements for bumper pool tables. Several companies manufacture tables of various sizes.

Best Bumper Pool Tables

Now that you have an idea of what shaped table you might be interested in, lets take a look at the best bumper pool tables. If you still are unsure of what you are looking for check out the small section below the reviews for some information on the differences in table layouts. Two of the biggest factors to consider and the amount of space you have and if you plan on using the table for something other than bumper pool.

Playcraft Hartford Slate Black Bumper Pool Table

Dimensions: 54″ L x 39″ W x 31″ H
Slate: Yes
Includes: Two 48″ cues, set of ten 2 1/8″ balls, brush and chalk

Where to Buy:

Playcraft makes the Hartford bumper pool table with solid plywood and medium-density fiberboard. It measures 39 inches wide, 54 inches long and 31 inches high. The Hartford has a carpeted ball return system, cast metal corner caps and posts, and a black finish. Best of all, you only have to attach the legs to the table before you can play. Also, it comes with everything that you need: chalk, a table brush, two 48-inch cue sticks and 10 balls.

Hathaway Renegade 54-in Slate Bumper Pool Table

Dimensions: 54″ L x 39″ W x 31.5″ H
Slate: Yes
Includes: Two 48″ cues, set of ten 2 1/8″ balls, brush and chalk

Where to Buy:

The Renegade bumper pool table by Hathaway is rectangular and has the same dimensions except that it’s an extra ½-inch tall. Its premium features include quality blended felt, K66 gum rubber bumpers and a genuine slate area of play. It comes with all of the equipment that you need to play the game too. However, you’ll have to put the table together first.

Atomic Classic Bumper Pool Table

Price: Click HERE for current price
Dimensions: 54″ L x 54″ W x 31″ H
Slate: No
Includes: Two 48″ cues, set of ten 2 1/8″ balls

Atomic is another brand that makes a classic, rectangular bumper pool table with the standard dimensions, so it’s slightly larger than the Playcraft and Hathaway tables. This free-standing table has 5-inch square legs, medium-density fiberboard and an internal ball return system. It also has high-quality bumpers and a wood-grain laminate exterior. All of the equipment to play is included as well.

The biggest difference between this bumper pool table and the other options is that it doesn’t have a slate-based area of play. Because of that, there’s no guarantee that it will be level for optimal ball movement. Also, it is a little bit larger than the previous ones so keep that in mind.

Fairview Game Rooms 54″ Combination 3-in-1 Game/Dining Table in Chestnut Finish

Price: Click HERE for current price
Dimensions: 57.5″ L x 41.5″ W x 32″ H
Slate: No
Includes: Two 48″ cues, set of ten 2 1/8″ balls, brush and chalk

Among the octagonal shape of tables is a combination 3-in-1 game and dining table with a chestnut finish. Measuring 54 inches wide, 54 inches long and 31 inches high, the table has a top that you can flip over or remove. You can leave the top on for dining, flip it over to play cards or remove it to play bumper pool. There are even cup holders on the card-playing side.

This table is also doesn’t have slate center so the balls won’t roll as well. However the added features might make this the best bumper table for your needs. As of this writing it only has 5 star reviews on Amazon. You can also buy a set with 4 matching chairs here.

Table Layout and Differences

Whether you get a rectangular or octagonal bumper pool table, the layout is the same. There’s one pocket at each end of the table and a bumper on each side of the pockets. In the middle, there are two rows of red and white bumpers that cross each other. The rows typically have four bumpers each, but large tables have more. The balls bounce off the bumpers on contact, which is what makes the game challenging.

Clearly, the shapes and sizes of octagonal and rectangular bumper pool tables differ. However, there are other differences too. Most rectangular tables are constructed with wood, slate or another durable material. Octagonal tables are typically made from walnut, oak or mahogany. They’re usually combination tables too.

In addition, having eight sides in the area of play on an octagonal table adds another level of complexity to the game. You have to maneuver the balls at different angles to get them around the bumpers. With a rectangular table, you can mirror the gameplay of traditional pool.

Bumper Pool Balls

ACTION BBBUMP Bumper Pool Ball Set, 10 Red and White Bumper Pool Balls
  • SET OF 10 BUMPER POOL BALLS: 4 RED, 4 WHITE POOL BALLS. 1 white ball with a red dot and 1 red ball with a white dot. The game is played with 5 red and 5 white balls, with one marked ball in each set
  • REGULATION SIZE BUMPER POOL BALLS: This bumper billiard ball set is regulation size 2-1/8″ diameter and weighs 5oz. A full set should include 10 balls total
  • FUN FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS The objective is simple: be the first player to sink all five of his balls into the opponent's pocket. There is no cue ball. Players hit their own balls directly with their cues
  • USE FOR EVERY LEVEL: This 10 Piece billiard fun bumper set will meet the needs of beginners, college students, and tournament tested shooters. A perfect gift for pool players and billiard lovers

Most bumper pool tables come with everything that you need to play. However, you may need to purchase the equipment separately if you special order a table. In that case, you can find the table brush, chalk and pool sticks pretty easily. You shouldn’t buy just any billiard balls, though.

Click HERE for bumper pool balls on Amazon

For bumper pool, you need a set of 10 balls, and Action makes the perfect set. Four of them are white, and four are red. Then, there’s one white ball with a red dot and one red ball with a white dot. Playing with the regular solids and stripes that are used for pocket billiards could cause confusion during the game.

How to Play Bumper Pool

When you’re ready to play bumper pool on your new table, you and your opponent choose your respective sides. If you wish, you can play with a partner to make two teams of two. As a result, up to four people can play bumper pool. In either case, the rules of play are the same.

Step 1: Each side will get five balls to shoot into the opposing pocket: red or white. The starting positions for the solid-colored balls are on each side of your pocket. Then, you place the spotted ball in the starting position in front of your pocket. This is also the first ball that you shoot to begin the game.

Step 2: You and your opponent agree on a count down to hit your spotted balls at the same time. The goal is to get your ball into the opposite pocket or as close to it as possible. Since there are bumpers in the center of the table, you can’t make a straight shot. You must bounce it off the side cushion of the table to your right, which avoids your ball from interfering with your opponent’s ball.

Step 3: You can determine who will make the next shot by seeing who is closest to the opposing pocket. If one of you makes it into the pocket, then that person will get the next shot. If you both make it, then you’ll perform another opening shot with your left-most ball on the table. In any case, you have to sink your spotted ball before you can strike any of the others.

Step 4: Take turns shooting the balls into the opposing pockets. You can only have one ball in play at a time. If you don’t sink a ball on your turn, the turn passes to your opponent. When you sink a ball, you get another shot. The winner of the game is whoever sinks all of his or her balls into the opposing pocket first.

Note: If your ball goes into the middle of the central bumpers for any reason, you return it to the starting position on your next turn.

Fouls and Penalties

It’s important that you follow the above steps for bumper pool and avoid fouls. Otherwise, your opponent will get a major advantage. Keep these penalties in mind while you play so that you don’t end up at a disadvantage.

Foul: Playing or sinking a ball other than the spotted ball first.
Penalty: Put all of the balls back where they were positioned before you took the shot. The turn passes to your opponent. If you sank a solid ball first, your opponent gets to sink any two of his or her own balls by hand.

Foul: Hitting a ball off the table or making a jump shot.
Penalty: Your opponent gets to choose any place on the table to position the ball, including in the middle of the central bumpers. He or she can also sink two balls by hand.

Foul: Knocking your opponent’s ball off the table.
Penalty: You return the ball to where it was positioned before you knocked it off the table. Then, put one of your own balls in the middle of the central bumpers.

Foul: Sinking your opponent’s balls.
Penalty: The only penalty for doing this is that it gives your opponent an advantage. The ball doesn’t return to the table and counts toward your opponent’s success.

Foul: Sinking your ball in your own pocket.
Penalty: Your opponent can choose two of his or her balls to sink by hand.

Foul: Sinking your last ball in your own pocket.
Penalty: You automatically lose the game, and your opponent wins.

Bumper Pool Strategy

The rules for playing bumper pool are pretty straightforward. However, you can still use different strategies and techniques to accommodate your skill level and improve your chances of winning.

Two offensive strategies are knowing the banks and playing the bumpers. When you know exactly where to hit the sides of the table, it becomes easy to angle your shots so that your balls end up in your opponent’s pocket. Similarly, you can use the bumpers to redirect your shots into the pocket.

Playing the bumpers also comes in handy when you don’t have a good angle to bank off the sides of the table. For example, you could shoot into a bumper so that the ball will bank off the table’s side and into the pocket. On the other hand, you could bank off the table’s side, into a bumper and then into the pocket.

A third offensive strategy is to set up your ball for an easy shot into your opponent’s pocket. This involves using a turn to position the ball. You can bank off the table’s sides or bumpers to get into the right position.

In a different approach, you could play defensively by using your turn to knock your opponent’s ball out of position or block it from a straight shot into your pocket. For instance, you can nudge your opponent’s ball closer to the bumpers, preventing an easy sink.

You might even knock your opponent’s ball into the middle of the central bumpers. Doing that can buy you some extra time to score because your opponent will have to re-position the ball at its starting point.

History of Bumper Pool

The specifics of how pocket billiards developed is a mystery, but bumper pool is a variation of the game. It’s likely that pocket billiards emerged as an evolution of croquet or a similar lawn game. Croquet is a French outdoor game that involves using a mallet to maneuver a ball through hoops in the ground. The goal is to reach a cone or stick at the end of the course.

Bumper pool is a spinoff of the indoor, tabletop evolution that developed over time. First, bumpers or rails were added to a pocket billiard table to prevent the balls from falling off. Then, the two sticks or cones that players used as goals became pockets. Eventually, more pockets were added to create the modern game of pocket billiards.

The game became so popular that even Shakespeare referenced it in one of his plays. In fact, pocket billiards was very common in the United Kingdom. In the mid-19th century, Brunswick Company mass-produced the tables in the United States.

However, owning a pocket billiards table was expensive and took up quite a bit of space. This led to the development of bumper pool with cheaper, more space-efficient tables. The addition of bumpers increases the difficulty compared to pocket billiards. It forces you to plan every shot carefully. Despite that, it’s a unique challenge that makes playing this tabletop game a little more interesting.

Amazon products last updated on 2021-07-31 at 01:44 / Affiliate disclaimer / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family.

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