beer pong

Beer pong, also known as Beirut [bey-root], is a drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer on the other end. The game typically consists of two two-to-four-player teams and multiple cups set up, in triangle formation, on each side. There are no official rules, and rules may vary widely, though usually there are six or ten plastic cups on each side. Each side then takes turns attempting to shoot ping pong balls into the opponent’s cups. If a ball lands in a cup, then the contents of that cup are consumed, and the cup is either placed aside or reinserted into the triangle. If the cup is reinserted and the other team knocks the cup over, it is removed. If the opposing team throws the ball into an empty cup, they must consume the contents of one of their cups. The first side to eliminate all of the opponent’s cups is the winner.

The order of play varies—both players on one team shoot followed by both players on the other team, or players on opposite teams can alternate back and forth. Beer pong is played at parties, North American colleges and universities, bars, and elsewhere, such as tailgating or other sporting events.

The game evolved from the original beer pong played with paddles which is generally regarded to have had its origins within the fraternities of Dartmouth College in the 1950s and ’60s, where it has since become part of the social culture of the campus. The original version resembled an actual ping pong game with a net and one or more cups of beer on each side of the table. Eventually, a version without paddles was created, and later the names Beer Pong and Beirut were adopted in some areas of the US sometime in the 1980s. In Bucknell’s student run newspaper, ‘The Bucknellian,’ a recent article describes how Delta Upsilon members at Bucknell University created ‘Throw Pong,’ a game very similar to beer pong, in the 1970’s.

In some places Beer Pong refers to the version of the game with paddles, and Beirut to the version without. The origin of the name ‘Beirut’ is disputed. A 2004 op-ed article in the ‘Daily Princetonian,’ the student newspaper at Princeton University, suggested that the name was possibly coined at Bucknell University or Lehigh University around the time of the Lebanese Civil War; Beirut being the capital of Lebanon and scene of much fighting. Some students at Lafayette College, rivals of Lehigh, insist modern, paddle-less beer pong was invented at their school, but ‘The Lafayette,’ the college’s student newspaper, says there is no proof to back up the assertion.

Although the game is typically played on either a ping pong table or a folding banquet table, enthusiasts may create a personalized table for use by friends and visitors. In general, this will be a plywood board cut to proper size, sometimes painted with sports, school, or fraternity symbols and given a liquid-proof coating. Some companies sell tables, and there are companies making portable or inflatable tables. The game can be played on any flat surface, most typically a dining table.

The most common cups used are 16-US-fluid-ounce (470 ml) disposable plastic cups (such as red Solo cups) with ridge-lines which can be used precisely to measure the amount of beer to be poured into the cup. On each side of the table, teams assemble equilateral triangles, with a convergence point focusing on the other team. Games typically use either six, ten, or twelve cups. Each team usually has a separate cup of water as well, used to rinse off the ball. Modern day beer pong has evolved past the ping pong table and on to regulation sized Beer Pong Tables. A regulation size table is 8’x2’x27.5 and is recognized by The World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP) as being the standard in beer pong table game play.

An inexpensive pale lager or light beer of 3.2–5% ABV is sometimes preferred because of the large quantities of beer which may be consumed during the course of several games. Sometimes under house rules, there might be cups of other liquors used during the game. For non-drinkers, the game may be played without beer, as is done at Utah State University, where alcohol is not allowed on campus—root beer is used instead. In addition to beer pong, water pong has been banned in Dartmouth dorms due to a possibility of water intoxication and as a violation of dorm policies. Water is often used in place of beer, but not meant to be consumed.

Traditionally, the game of beer pong has been played by countless variations of rule sets. In recent years, organizations such as The World Series of Beer Pong have put forth ‘official’ rules. Typically, players abide by a uniform set of ‘house rules,’ which are often consistent within one university or region of the country (e.g., ‘Ivy League rules’ or ‘West Coast rules’), or may vary on a ‘house-by-house’ basis. Number of cups, bouncing, amount of alcohol, the distance shots must be taken from, et cetera, may all vary. All house rules must be either posted or verbally stated and understood by both teams before the game starts. If neither happens previous to the game, the game in progress should be ruled by official beer pong rules.

In some house rules, players must immediately drink any cup that has been hit. Failure to do so incurs a penalty, such as drinking more beer or losing the game. Some rule sets allow for ‘re-racking’ (also known as ‘consolidation,’ and other names), which is a rearrangement of a team’s remaining cups after some have been removed. The formations, number of cups, when to rearrange and so on depend on the rule set. For example, a team with three remaining cups may ask the other team to ‘re-rack’ their multiple targets into a single triangle formation.

Some other house rules allow swatting the ball away if it bounces. Others allow players to flick or blow the ball out of the cup if the ball spins around the inner rim, but blowing is often restricted to female players. Other rules state that if a team makes both shots in a round, each player may shoot again, sometimes called a ‘rollback.’ In World Series of Beer Pong rules only one repo/rollback is allowed and is a single ball, resulting in a 3 cup maximum that can be made per turn.

Before shooting, teams may dunk the ping pong balls into cups of water in order to wash off the balls. However, research has shown that the wash cups still hold bacteria, such as E. coli. To avoid any illness, many players now put water in the cups instead of beer, and keep a beer on the side that can remain cold. In doing so, it removes the element of getting sick or even drinking any dirt that may transfer from the ball into the cup.

There are three key ways to shoot in beer pong: the arc, the fastball (or laser, dart, snipe), and the bounce shot. The most common throwing technique is the ‘arc’ shot, where one grasps the ping pong ball with the tips of the thumb and forefinger, holds the arm at an angle with the ball upwards, then throw by using gentle elbow motion, holding the upper arm parallel with the table. Some players throw ‘fastball’ style, which uses more of a hard chopping motion to send the ball in a more direct line to the intended target cup. A fastball shot may be favorable if house rules dictate a cup that is knocked over is taken off the table, in which case a fastball can eliminate multiple cups if thrown hard enough. A ‘bounce’ shot is performed by bouncing the ball toward the cups. Since (depending on house rules) the other team may have the opportunity to swat away a bounced ball, a bounce may be worth more than one cup. In some rule sets, bouncing is not allowed; in others, it is required.

If the opposing team makes the last cup, the other loses unless they can make either all remaining cups or simply one cup, depending on ‘house rules’ —this is called a rebuttal or redemption. During redemption the miss table rule does not apply. In some rule sets, if the opposing team hits the last cup with both of their balls, no redemption is given to the losing team. If the losing team can hit the redemption shots, then the game is forced into overtime, where 3 cups are used, instead of the normal 6 or 10. Some rules state that if a team does not re-rack, then the opposing team is not allowed redemption shots, and the game is then over immediately after the winning cup is sunk. This rule encourages players to hold off on re-racking until absolutely necessary, or not at all, adding some decision making and strategy to the game.

A shutout or ‘stink bomb’ rule is a house rule usually stated before a game or during the game in the midst of a shutout. If the shutout does occur the losing team must do whatever the two teams decided on, such as going streaking or drinking a large quantity of beer.

Depending on house rules, there are also other ways to end the game. Making it into the cup in which has already been made and has beer left in it immediately ends the game. This is also known as death cup. Some players may choose to shoot at the same time in hopes of making it in the same cup and ending the game. Some houses eliminate this by changing the rule to pulling 3 cups instead of ending the game. Ring of fire or Honeycomb is when you hit middle cup, front cup, and the back corner cups leaving a ring or honeycomb shaped arrangement of cups remaining. After this occurs, the team must make and land the cup in the middle of the comb. If this is achieved the game immediately ends similar to dealth cup[28]

The game may have several associated health risks. As with any activity involving alcohol, Beer pong may cause players to become drunken or intoxicated enough to suffer alcohol poisoning. Also, the supposed cleaning effects of the water ‘dunk’ cup may be offset by bacteria in the cups. Some writers have mentioned beer pong as contributing to “out of control” college drinking. In early 2009, news sources claimed a recent study by the CDC stated that beer pong was contributing to the spread of herpes, mononucleosis, and other diseases through shared cups. The CDC quickly responded that it had not done such research, however the NIH does suggest avoiding the sharing of eating utensils to prevent the transmission of certain contagious viruses such as herpes.

Some municipalities and states have attempted to ban beer pong, either from bars or in general, due to the belief that it encourages binge drinking. In Oxford, Ohio, where Miami University is located, the city council tried to ban the game from being played outdoors, and in Arlington, Virginia and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois bar owners were told to stop allowing the game to be played in their establishments. In the fall of 2007, Georgetown University officially banned all beer pong paraphernalia, such as custom-built tables and the possession of many ping-pong balls. In many states, players have taken to placing water in cups in order to hold organized beer pong tournaments legally in bars. Some examples of this can be found in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Additionally, the practice of playing with water has become increasingly common on college campuses, due to the cost saving effects. Instead of drinking the beer from a glass each time a player sinks a shot, the player simply takes a shot of liquor or a sip from their own drink each time the opposing team scores. This is usually done when there isn’t enough beer to accommodate a large number of games during the party.

The World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP), hosted by, is the largest beer pong tournament in the world. A more common organization of beer pong games are leagues which operate on a local or regional level. Ordinarily, a group of pong enthusiasts will create teams (partnerships) and play weekly against each other. Sometimes, the leagues have websites, rankings and statistics, while others have been started by college students with the goal of intramural competition such as at University of California, Santa Barbara with the ‘sla Vista Beer Pong League,’ and at New York University.


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