A History of Beer Pong
It’s the game you know and love. Red solo cups line each side of a small table and opposing teams stare each other down. Players loosely grip ping-pong balls and prepare to square off in an epic battle of will and skill (and beer, of course). Playing beer pong is a hallmark of a good college experience and so much more, but who invented the game and how did we come to be playing it all over the world? I mean honestly, we played last night and probably will tonight, who can I thank for this awesome game?
When you travel to different colleges and different states you notice that beer pong rules are widely varied. ‘House rules’ is a term that is applied, sometimes excessively, to determine the rules and play of the game. Typically pong is played with two teams of two standing at opposite ends of the table. One player from each team make eye contact and ‘shoot off’ to determine which team will shoot first. Both players on a team shoot once before a turn is passed, though if the player gets a rollback or the shot is interfered with the player may shoot again. Rollback shots are often called ‘trick shots’ because the player must shoot with the left hand, behind the back, or in some other manner of trickery to be considered legitimate. Dimensions of tables vary with whatever is available at the party or occasion, but the below diagram shows the dimensions for official beer pong play.
As you can see, a wash cup can be used to clean the pong ball. The cups are filled with beer, usually something light as the quantity consumed tends to be high, or water for a more sanitary approach. If a player hits two cups in a row that player is said to be ‘heating up’. If a third shot is hit that player is said to be ‘on fire’ and receives another opportunity to shoot in that same turn in a shoot till you miss style. Trick shots, or called shots can be designated as worth another cup, again depending on house rules. Cups can be rearranged in what is called a ‘re-rack’ in any number of common patterns such as the straight line, triangle, olympic rings etc. When it comes to officiating or regulating a game of beer pong it’s always best to consult house rules due to the varied nature of gameplay, though the rules listed are almost always in effect. The game is won when the opposing team has no more cups left standing.
Who was the first person to play beer pong? The answer is entirely speculation, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few possible places of origin. The game is also called ‘beirut’, though the debate over the origins of this name continues today. Originally beer pong was played with paddles which is less and less common as a game variant. Dartmouth college claims the invention of this original paddle pong in the 1950’s and some argue deserves credit for the creation of beer pong. Bucknell and Lehigh are credited by the Daily Princetonian, Princeton universities newspaper, as coining the terms beer pong sometime in the 1960’s. Lehigh is specifically credited for the term Beirut and Bucknell is credited with the original or standard rules and the change from paddle to hand shot.
There is a World Series of Beer Pong, with the winner taking home $50,000 bucks. As any player worth their weight in beer will tell you beer pong is a sport. Most commonly beer pong is organized at local parties and college or similar functions. While the debate over rules and regulations will always exist, there is no doubt that beer pong will live on in college lore for years to come.