Beer pong (also called beirut, lob pong, etc.) is a drinking game in which players throw a table tennis ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in one of several cups of beer on the other end. The game typically consists of two two-player teams, one on each side of a table, and a number of cups set up on each side. There are no official rules, so rules may vary widely, though usually there are six or ten plastic cups arranged in a triangle on each side. The number of players on a team can vary as well, from one to three or more.
When a ball lands in a cup, the defending team must consume all of the beer inside that cup. The cup is generally not completely filled, it can be to a certain point. A recent Time article stated that cups were 1/3 to 1/4 full. The game is won by eliminating all the other team's cups before all of one's own cups are eliminated. The losing team must then consume all the beer remaining in the winning team's cups. 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.
Today, beer pong is played at parties, North American colleges and universities and elsewhere, such as tailgating or other sporting events. The game is also played by high school students, despite the fact that furnishing alcohol to persons under the age of 21 is illegal in the United States.
Although the preceding guidelines are common, the rules may be subject to a wide variety of modifications and additions that often vary based on the area of the country, the state, or even the house in which a particular game is played.
The most common modern version of the game is played without paddles and has a murkier beginning. The Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper of Princeton University, attributed the naming of the paddle-less game where balls are thrown into cups to the early 1980s at Bucknell University or Lehigh University. 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.
The naming of "Beirut" is disputed. The Daily Princetonian suggests that the name was coined at Bucknell or Lehigh around the time of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut being the capital of Lebanon and scene of much fighting.
38 mm or 40 mm table tennis (ping pong) balls are typically used for game play.
The game may also be played with water instead of beer. This version may include a "money cup" is added to the mix filled with alcohol, or something non-alcoholic. However, this game has been banned at Dartmouth as well due to a possibility of water intoxication.
There are very few universal or "official" beer pong rules, though the organizers of the World Series of Beer Pong have attempted to codify them for their event. 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, etcetera, all may vary.
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, which is also known as rearranging or consolidation. This is when teams rearrange their remaining cups into different formations after some have been hit. The formations, number of cups, 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.
After shooting, teams may dunk the ping pong balls into cups of water in order to wash the balls off. However, research showed that the wash cups still hold bacteria, such as E. coli.
Some other house rules include swatting the ball away if it bounces and if the ball spins around the cup, male players may finger the ball out and females may blow the ball out.
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. Also, 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" 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.
A shutout 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.
Some municipalities and states have attempted to ban beer pong, either from bars or in general. In Oxford, Ohio, where Miami University is located, the city council tried to ban the game from being played outdoors, and in Arlington, Virginia, 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. Some writers have mentioned beer pong as contributing to "out of control" college drinking.
Time magazine had an article in July called "The War Against Beer Pong," noting legal restrictions and bans on the game in college and elsewhere.
In May 2008, a high school basketball coach from Mason, Ohio was charged with allowing underage students to play beer pong at his house. He was fired and given community service.
Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong is a documentary which follows some competitive players as they prepare for the WSOBP II and ultimately compete against one another for the $20,000 grand prize. This documentary, directed by Dan Lindsay, recently premiered at the CineVegas film festival on June 13, 2008.
The AP cited the game and other drinking games as a factor in deaths of college students.
The game also appears in the Wii games Game Party and Frat Party Games: Pong Toss. Pong Toss was originally called Beer Pong until angry letters from parents and the attorney general of Connecticut spurred the company to rename it.
Time magazine recently had an article on the popularity of beer pong and posted a video on their website. In both, players claimed beer pong was a sport, rather than a game - similar to billiards and darts.
The New York Times quoted a bartender at a club near Clemson University as saying she had worked at several bud pong events and had "never seen anyone playing with water. It's always beer. It's just like any other beer pong."
Some expressed incredulity at Anheuser-Busch's public statements. Henry Wechsler, director of the College Alcohol Study at the Harvard School of Public Health, said: "Why would alcohol companies promote games that involve drinking water? It's preposterous," while advertising news site Adjab opined that "someone playing bud pong with water is about as likely as a teenage kid using the rolling paper he bought at the convenience store to smoke tobacco.