Carpet Ball Game: Game Rules and Instructions

carpet ball game rules and instructions

Carpet ball is an action-packed game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages from young children through to seniors. It is an incredibly fun and social activity that is perfect for camps, family get-togethers, school events, church events, and parties of all kinds.

The real beauty of carpet ball is that it anyone can play. Young, old, male, female, athletic, couch potato, short or tall – carpet ball is a game that can be enjoyed by all.

In this post, I’ll explain the rules of carpet ball and why it is a great game to play at your next event.

What Is Carpet Ball?

Carpet ball is a unique ball game that combines elements of lawn bowls, pool. and air hockey. It is played on a long and narrow carpet ball table – a high-walled table that measures 12 feet long and 24 inches wide.

At both ends of the table is a ball-receiving tray that is 6” wide and slightly deeper than rest of the table. For outdoor and ultimate carpetbag, a 15 foot table is often used.

carpet ball table size illustration for both indoor and outdoor

The goal of the game is simple – to knock all of your opponents colored pool balls into the ball-receiving tray at the opposite end of the table using a white pool ball. However, there are a few rules (explained below) which make the game more interesting and addictive to play.

It is believed that carpet ball was first developed in the 1970’s and popularized in youth camps throughout the United States. The game is based on a combination of billiards and the old Scottish game called “carpet ball” or “carpet bowls” – which is itself based on lawn bowls. This interesting hybrid of a few game types comes together to form a totally new fun and addictive game.

How Do You Play Carpet Ball?

Instructions on how to play carpet ball.

Rules for carpet ball

  1. Players stand at either end of the table.
  2. Each player has five (or fewer) colored pool balls which they place on the table within an arms length of where they are standing. The balls can be placed any configuration. Some tables will have a line on the table, which forms a square that limits the area where balls can be placed.
  3. The challenger gets to throw first. If it is the first game of the day, a coin can be flipped to determine who goes first.
  4. The thrower will throw, slide or roll a cue ball in an attempt to knock their opponents colored balls into the ball-receiving tray. The game then continues, with each player taking turns throwing the cue ball at their opponent’s balls.
  5. The game continues until one player has all of their balls knocked into the ball-receiving tray. At this point, that player with no balls gets one more throw, which is called the “mercy shot”.

    – If the player manages to knock in all of the opponent’s remaining balls with the mercy shot, it is a tie, which has special rules (see below).
    – If they hit no balls in with the mercy shot, they lose the round and another challenger gets to play the winner. The winner stays on their end of the table.
    – If they hit one ball in with the mercy shot, they get to have another throw. They can continue getting additional throws as long as they keep hitting balls in. Once they miss a shot, they lose.

When You Tie in Carpet Ball

There are special rules for dealing with ties in carpet ball. When a tie occurs:

  • Both players get to pick up two balls from the receiving tray and place them on the table again. The person who has the cue ball in their tray gets first throw. Play continues as normal.
  • If another tie occurs, players will pick up one ball from the receiving tray and place it on the table again.
  • If yet another tie happens (which is pretty rare), all five balls are placed on the table and the game begins again. 

Additional Rules

Additional carpet ball rules
  • Players can never move colored balls with their hands during play. If a colored ball is hit by another ball, it must remain in this new location. The only exception is if they are penalized (more on that below).
  • Once a ball is hit into the pit, it must remain there for the rest of the game, unless a tie is called, where the rules listed above come into play.
  • If a player causes a ball to fly out of the table or pit by throwing it too hard, they will suffer a “One Ball Penalty”. They must choose one of their own colored balls and place it in their pit. 
  • If a player throws a ball too gently and it does not hit anything, they are not allowed a re-throw.
  • (Optional) In some versions of the game, players consider the rectangular marker line to also define the location where colored balls are allowed to go during the game. So, if a colored ball is somehow knocked forward out of this area (usually caused by spin or balls randomly bouncing off one another), that ball is out and must be placed in the ball-receiving tray.

Building a Carpet Ball Table

If you discover that you love playing carpet ball, you can build a carpet ball table for own home, a local community group or a local school. It is a surprisingly easy process thanks to fellow carpet ball fans uploading instructions online.

This video shows a method for building an indoor and outdoor carpet ball table.

The website Instructables has a great tutorial for a building an outdoor carpet ball table.

Why Play Carpet Ball?

Here are just a few reasons why carpet ball is the perfect game to play at your next party, family get-together, camp, or school event.

Can be played outdoor and indoorGreat easy icebreaker game
Simple rulesCompetitive
Very safe gameFor kids and adults

Carpet ball can be played indoors and outdoors

One of the greatest advantages of carpet ball is that it can be played indoors and outdoors. Whenever the weather conditions are bad outside, you can bring your family and friends indoors and find out who the carpet ball champion is! When the sun is shining, you can enjoy fresh air while playing.

The rules are simple

As you have seen, the rules of carpet ball are very simple. This makes carpet ball suitable for players of all ages, from young kids through to seniors.

Kids can beat adults!

Kids love games where they have a chance of beating their parents, older siblings and other adults. Any child who can hold a cue ball in their hand has a chance of winning.

It’s a very safe game

Outdoor activities like soccer or tag always carry some risk of injury. Kids might collide with one another or fall over and hurt themselves. There is no way a child can hurt themselves while playing carpet ball. This is useful if you are looking after someone else’s children at a camp or running a school event. 

A fantastic icebreaker 

Playing carpet ball is a great way to introduce people to one another and help a group learn more about one another. This aspect makes it useful for Summer camps where not all of the children know each other.

It can be competitive or friendly

If you have a group of experienced carpet ball players who are quite competitive with one another, you can have carpet ball tournaments. Players can battle it out to be the king of carpet ball! On the other hand, if you have player who just want to have a little fun, they can play whenever they feel like it.

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Learn how to play the game carpet ball. Get detailed game rules and instructions for this fun game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Instructions on how to play the game carpet ball. This is <a href=