How to Play Beer Pong

How to Play Beer Pong

Beer pong has to be one of the most addictive and fun drinking games we’ve ever tried. Playing it is like finding out that beer die has a cooler, older brother. Similarly, it’s usually played in groups of four at a time, but because there are more cups involved, it moves at a swifter pace. It can also be far messier, which in our opinion adds to the fun.

We’ve spent enough afternoons gathered around the beer pong table to consider ourselves semi-pro players. That’s why we’ve decided to put together this step-by-step handbook on the game, complete with plenty of coach’s tips gleaned from our many hours of experience. We’ve even included advice on keeping the party under control and cleaning up afterward, helping to ensure a successful run from start to finish.

What You’ll Need

Setting Up

Technically, you can play beer pong in any room that’s large enough to comfortably fit both the table and the players, but it’s more fun when played outside. If you do choose to take your game alfresco, make sure it’s not too windy as this can cause the balls to shift their flight path.
The table should be positioned at the appropriate height from the ground. Twenty-seven and a half inches is standard, but it’s okay to be off by an inch or two when playing for fun. If necessary, place heavy books or sturdy boxes beneath the legs to increase the height.

Next, half-fill the cups with beer. Although beer pong is definitely a drinking game, you don’t have to get loaded to join in the fun. Filling them a third or even a quarter of the way will lessen the overall alcohol consumption and keep the party going longer.

Fill a bucket with clean, warm water for cleaning balls between throws. Also, keep a rag nearby to wipe up any serious spillage.

How to Play

1. Arrange the cups into two, 10-cup pyramids at both ends of the table. Four cups should be positioned closest to the edge, moving toward the center of the table with rows of three, two, and one. Make sure the cups aren’t tilted, or they’ll be more likely to tip over during play.
Note: You can play with six cups instead of ten, simply by eliminating the row of four. However, the game will last longer the more cups you have. Think about the dynamics of the party before deciding how many cups to use. If there are a lot of people waiting to play, we usually go for the six-cup configuration.

2. It’s customary to engage in the “eyes” challenge to determine which team goes first. To start, choose a player from each team to launch the ball across the table while staring into their opponent’s eyes throughout the shot. If both of them make their shot or if both miss, their partners take over until one of them misses. The team who doesn’t miss gets to go first. Alternatively, you can flip a coin or play rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets the honor.

3. The first player will then throw their first ball across the table trying to land it in one of the opposing team’s cups. Their partner then repeats the process.

Note: The balls can be tossed either overhand or underhand, depending on what’s more comfortable for the player. See Beer Pong Rules below, for advice on what should happen if the ball bounces on the table before entering the cup.

4. If the ball lands in one of the cups, the defending team must drink the beer and set the cup aside. Partners can switch back and forth—if you drank the first cup, your partner should drink the second, and so on.

5. Continue in this fashion until only four cups remain on the table.

6. Reconfigure the remaining cups into a diamond pattern. This is known as “re-racking,” and it can be done earlier in the game if you prefer. Each team has the right to request a re-rack up to two different times during play.

7. When there are only two cups remaining, stack them in a vertical line (one cup close to the edge and the other just behind it).

8. Continue play until one team has no cups left. The team who still has cups on the table wins the game.

9. The winners can then challenge a new set of players or step aside and allow two different groups to take over. We’ve learned that it’s a good idea to pace ourselves especially if we’re playing with half-full cups of beer. Of course, if the other team failed to plunk any balls in our cups, then we’re still thirsty. Game on!

Beer Pong Rules

  • Players need to keep their elbows behind the edge of the table at all times when the game is in motion.
  • If the ball goes into a cup after hitting the table (known as “bouncing” or “swatting”), the cup is removed along with one other cup of the defending team’s choosing. This rule applies even if the ball bounced into the cup accidentally.
  • “Fingering” refers to the act of pulling a spinning ball out of a cup with one’s finger, while “blowing” occurs when the spinning ball is blown out by the defending team. Unless you’ve agreed to make these tactics fair play before beginning the game, they shouldn’t be used—especially since they can make the game go on far longer than necessary.
  • Any player may request to “fix” the cups at any time during play. This is different from re-racking—it’s just meant to return their cups to their standard positions when they’ve shifted or been jolted out of position.
  • If both partners have sunk their ball into the same cup during a turn, all cups that have touched the “sunk” cup must be removed and their contents consumed.

Coach’s Tips

  • First rule of beer pong: choose the right partner who complements your style. For example, if you’re good at nailing the cups when they’re grouped together but not so hot at taking the final shot, pair up with someone who’s likelier to get the job done.
  • When throwing, try to aim for the center of the triangle. You’re more likely to land a hit that way.
  • Practice tossing the ball in an arc, as opposed to straight across the table.
  • Aim for the back of the cup that you’d like to hit.
  • Don’t be shy about cleaning your ball in between shots. In addition to keeping the game more sanitary, the water will give the ball some extra weight that might make it easier for you to land your shot.
  • Practice often when you’re first learning. You can fill the cups with water for this exercise—or maybe not. We’ve found that the beer often improves our performance up to a certain point.

Cleaning Up

The worst thing about drinking games is cleaning the aftermath, especially if you wait until the next morning. To make the task easier, clean the table right away using warm water and a clean cloth. Afterward, spray the surface down with a multi-purpose cleaner. Make sure to give the balls a similar treatment, or they’ll be a sticky mess the next time you want to play. If you’ve been playing indoors, give the surrounding floor a quick mop or swipe with a Swiffer Wet Jet.

Tip: There is a recent invention called SlipCup that fits into the Solo cups and catches the ball before it can contaminate the beer. While this would no doubt make the game much neater, we think it takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Last Call

In our opinion, beer pong is one of the best backyard games ever invented. It requires a degree of skill, sure, but it’s not so complicated that the average person can’t get the hang of it (even when drunk!). Even better, it doesn’t require any special equipment—you don’t even need a regulation beer

pong table in order to play, although we think they come in handy. The only significant investment you’ll make will be in the beer itself, and this is certainly one game that doesn’t call for the good stuff. In fact, we’ve found that the game is more fun when we play using cheap beer.

In short, beer pong would make an excellent addition to any list of backyard drinking games. Try it during the heat of summer, when the ice-cold beer will taste especially good going down.