Beer Pong Rules: How to Play, Strategy, Tips and More
Author: Kevin James, 16/08/2019
Beer pong is a drinking game that has been a staple in American colleges for decades. Fortunately, it’s a very simple game to devise, making it a great source of entertainment for those partaking in it.
Just be sure to not go overboard. You know, for the sake of your health!
Brief History of Beer Pong
Although the origins of beer pong are a bit hazy, popular consensus agrees that the earliest version of beer pong originated in Dartmouth College during the late 1950s. According to the popular tale, beer pong is (unsurprisingly) the brainchild of Dartmouth frat boys who were quick to realize, while playing ping-pong, that they could aim their ping pong balls into nearby drinking cups. Thus, beer pong was born. The crucial difference between this version of beer pong and its modern descendant is that the former uses ping pong paddles to score balls into booze-filled cups (Infante, 2014).
Beer pong in its modern form had its genesis in the 1980s, this time at Pennsylvanian universities Lehigh and Bucknell, where players ditched paddles in favor of using one’s own hands (Bhabha, 2013). It was around this time that beer pong also received another name, “Beirut” (after the capital of Lebanon), which supposedly originated when students drew comparisons between the game’s back and forth mechanics to the warfare they believed should’ve been employed by American forces against Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (Berner).
And the rest is history...
Beer Pong has since become the quintessential party activity in frat and house parties. The organization, BPONG, founded by Billy Gaines in 2001, has since become the official nationwide authority on the game, having transformed its reputation from a debaucherous drinking game into a legitimate sport. The World Series of Beer Pong, which was first held in 2006, has since become a competition that has attracted participants and spectators from all over the globe (BPONG).
While there are no hard rules to the game of beer pong (especially if you’re playing it just for kicks), BPONG has created their own set of regulations that are excellent for novices:
- Official beer pong tables are 8 ft in length. While any hard-surfaced table will suffice for gameplay, serious players invest in a legitimate beer pong table. Most official tables are made with aluminum or wood and are available for purchase in-store or online (BPONG).
- Cups are ideally between 16-18 oz in size. Arrange ten cups in a pyramid-like formation on each side of the beer pong table.
- While 12 oz beers are traditionally used to fill the cups, players can use any type of desired alcohol (or even water) to fill the cups. The amount of fluid in each cup is up to the players’ discretion.
- The ball used is a table tennis ball, aka a ping-pong ball. Balls are typically made with polymer and have a diameter of 40 mm.
Rules & Basics
Beer pong is a game played between four players divided into two teams. Each player tries to score a ball in one of their opposing team’s cups (This is known as “sinking” a cup).
When a ball lands in a cup, the cup is removed from the formation and its contents are then consumed by the opponent. If both teammates hit cups without scoring, the balls are returned to them, allowing them to redo their turn. Whichever team scores their balls into all of their opponents’ cups is the victor.
The rules followed in tournaments held during the World Series of Beer Pong are more nuanced than they are in average gameplay, however, they generally follow the same principles.
1) Elbows/Wrist Rule
One of the most contested rules in the game due to its subjective nature. When shooting, players must keep their elbows behind the table. Breaking this rule could invalidate the shot. In this case, the player would take a step back and redo their shot.
Also known as racking or reforming, this rule ensures that teams are given two opportunities throughout the game to have the cups rearranged. Racking typically takes place when there are remaining cups in the amounts of six, four, three, and two. If players manage to score twice in a row, it is still considered their turn and they cannot rack. The last cup may always be put in the center.
If a ball hits the table and then goes into a cup, the targeted cup, along with a cup of the defending player’s choice, are removed from the formation. In the event that there are only two cups left, the bounce only counts for one cup.
No, this isn’t as suggestive as some may think it is. Fingering is simply the act of removing an opponent’s ball in the event that it ends up spinning inside a cup. Blowing is the same except, well, a player blows their opponent’s ball when it is spinning inside a cup. Unless mentioned before the start of the game, fingering or blowing are considered illegitimate actions.
5) Fixing Cups
This is simply the act of rearranging the cups to their original positions if they were moved for whatever reason.
6) Bitch Cup
Also known as the death cup, usually occurs fairly late in the game when tipsy players forget to remove scored cups from their side of the table. In this scenario, if the opposing team scores a ball into a scored cup, they automatically win. There are multiple variations to this rule (BPONG).
7) On Table Rollback
If a ball rolls back to the shooter without hitting the floor, they can shoot it again. This time from behind their backs. The ball can also be caught mid-air and then shot from behind the back (BPONG).
8) NBA Jams Rule
Named after the classic video game series, this rule allows players to rack up bonus points if they so choose. After two successful shots, the shooter can exclaim, “heating up” and try to shoot again. If successful, the player is “on fire” and can continue to shoot until they miss (Matt, 2015).
9) Lonely Cup
Also known as solo cup, iso cup, and skill shot (among a slew of other names), this rule comes into effect when there’s a cup in the opponent’s side that isn’t touching any other cups -- and can only be declared if there are at least two cups on the opposing team. The player must say, “island” and announce the cup they’re aiming for. Otherwise, the shot doesn’t count (Escontrela, 2017).
10) Rebuttal Shot
Also known as the redemption shot, this rule allows the losing team to make a comeback. It comes into effect after the opposing team sinks all of their opponent’s cups. But have no fear! With the rebuttal shot, the “losing” team can make a comeback, but only if they manage to sink all of the remaining cups on the table. If successful, the game goes into overtime. If the shooter sinks a bitch cup, the opponent automatically wins. There is no re-racking during the rebuttal shot (Matt, 2015).
Overtime occurs upon the successful completion of a rebuttal shot. In overtime, teams must place three cups in a triangular shape and the would’ve-been winners shoot first. The team who sinks all three balls first is the winner. Re-racking isn’t permitted during overtime (Matt, 2015).
Variations of the Game
There are a bunch of rules that are followed during a game of beer pong, making it quite a versatile game to play. How these rules are enforced is entirely up to the players’ discretion, so it’s possible for two games to be completely different depending on the rules involved.
Some well-known variations of the game include Baseball, Slam Pong, and of course, the classic version of beer pong that uses ping pong paddles.
The Rules of Beer Pong - Video Explanation
Here is an excellent video explaining various rules of Beer Pong in details.
To Wrap it Up
So this pretty much covers every Beer Pong rules you need to know to get you started. That being said, for casual or recreational play, you may skip the complicated rules and just stick with the basic ones to keep everyone on board.
References & Citations:
- About BPONG.COM and The World Series of Beer Pong. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bpong.com/about/
- Beer Pong Island Rule - Official Beer Pong Rules #5. (2018, April 29). Retrieved from https://www.chuggie.co/beer-pong-island-rule-official-beer-pong-rules-5/
- Beer Pong Rules - House/Party/College Rules. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bpong.com/beer-pong-rules/
- Beer Pong Tables - Official Table of The World Series of Beer Pong®. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bpong.com/shop/beer-pong-tables/ Bhabha, L. (2018, September 26).
- The History of Beer Pong. Retrieved from https://food52.com/blog/9413-the-history-of-beer-pong/
- Infante, D. (2014, June 08). Beer Pong: The Living History of America's Game. Retrieved from https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/beer-pong-history-why-it-s-called-beirut-fun-drinkinggames/
- NBA Jam / Heating Up / On Fire – Rules of Beer Pong #6. (2017, October 21). Retrieved from http://beerpongall-stars.com/2015/09/27/nba-jam-rules-of-beer-pong-6/
- Overtime – Rules of Beer Pong #20. (2017, October 22). Retrieved from http://beerpongall-stars.com/2015/10/22/overtime-rules-of-beer-pong-20/
- Redemption / Rebuttal – Rules of Beer Pong #19. (2017, January 07). Retrieved from http://beerpongall-stars.com/2015/10/22/redemption-rebuttal-rules-of-beer-pong-19/
- Tam, K., Shevin, Z., & Shevin, Z. (n.d.). On language, Princeton style: The history of 'Beirut'. Retrieved from http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2004/11/on-language-princeton-style-the-historyof-beirut