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Carpetball is a simple recreational game that is played with billiard balls, also called pool balls, and a specialized table. Similar to billiards, it is played by sliding the balls across the table and knocking the opponent’s balls off the other end of the table. Popular among families and youth groups, this game can be played by people of any age. It is a game with no official guidelines, so it can be played with many different rules. Carpetball is believed to have begun during the 1970s in the Midwestern United States.
A carpetball table is often 12 feet (3.7 m) long, 2.5 feet (0.76 m) wide and 3 feet (0.9 m) tall, though there is no official size. The table features short edges surrounding the table, just a little taller than the pool balls, to keep the balls in play. The rest of the surface of the table is carpeted, such as with felt, and has pits at each end of the table that are large enough to catch the balls. A carpetball table can be homemade or can be converted from a pool table.
The game is started with five pool balls set up on each side of the table. It typically is played one-on-one or two-on-two, with each team standing on opposite sides of the table. The teams take turns sliding one ball down the table at a time, in an attempt to knock the other team’s balls off the table and into the pit. Balls that are knocked off the table but not into the pits are placed back in play.
When all of one team’s balls have been knocked into the pit, that team gets one “mercy shot” to try to tie the game. If the mercy shot fails, the other team wins. When the mercy shot succeeds and the game is tied, a tiebreaker — or overtime — is held, with one ball played per side until the game is decided without a tie. After the game, the teams can be scrambled, or other people can be allowed to play. Some groups allow the winning players or teams to continue playing against new challengers.
There is some strategy involved in carpetball. The first strategic decisions involve choosing where the balls are placed during setup. All of a team's balls must be placed within arm's length from that team's side of the table. Choosing which of the opponent's balls to target with each shot also is part of the strategy.
Many people consider carpetball games, which typically last only a few minutes, to be good for family parties. They can teach hand-eye coordination and motor skills to young players, and they can provide fun ways for older or disabled people to compete. Size, strength and athleticism do not determine carpetball skill, which allows people of all ages, sizes and physical abilities to compete against each other. Most carpetball players instead emphasize fun and friendly, good-natured competition.