If you were to attend any college party in East Lansing, the state of Michigan or even anywhere in the country, it’s almost guaranteed a game of beer pong would be taking place. While most see beer pong as a fun party game to help increase their intoxication throughout the night (or day), others recognize it as a sport that requires practice, training and dedication with the ultimate goal of winning, none other than, the World Series of Beer Pong. [pong1]
For those who haven’t been to a party in the last 20 years, here’s a summary of the defined rules and regulations of beer pong. Said to have originated at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, beer pong is a drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in one of several cups of beer at the other end. The game typically consists of two teams with two players on each team; one team is on each side of the table, with a varying number of cups on their respective sides. When one member of the team throws the ball into a cup at the other end, an opposing team member must drink that cup. The game continues until all of one team’s cups are made, at which point the opposing team must drink any of the cups remaining from the winning team’s side and exit the playing area.
According to the World Series of Beer Pong, a regulation sized table is 8 feet by 2 feet and stands 27.5 inches off the ground. Obviously, table size and height vary from house to house – at MSU, usually a piece of green and white plywood resting on a hand-me-down table is close enough to regulation size.
With a multitude of “house rules” mixed into the basic regulations, each game becomes unique and can be drastically different from one party to the next. This is where drunken rage-fueled verbal or physical attacks on opposing teams begin. Anything from number of cups, re-racking, shot technique, drinking speed, alcohol amount and shutouts can have a number of different guidelines. This normally depends on the region of the country you are in, but also whose house you’re in. Usually by about the 10th game of beer pong in a night, all the rules and etiquette are out the window anyway. “Rules are always different from house to house,” business senior Scott Hagadone said. “It’s just something you have to get used to. As long as everyone is playing by the same rules, no one has an advantage.”
Not only are the rules in beer pong debatable, but the name itself is constantly argued over as well. Most students in the Midwest refer to the game as “beer pong” – 89 percent, according to a recent poll done by collegehumor.com. On the East Coast, where the game is thought to have originated, nearly 40 percent of those polled refer to the game as “Beirut.” It is believed the name “Beirut” was given to the game by students from Lehigh University during the Lebanese Civil War, when Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, was the site of much violence. Those who refer to the game as “Beirut” think beer pong is the version of the game played by hitting the ball with a paddle, not by throwing it. “I have always called it beer pong,” psychology senior Ben Foster said. “I’ve heard other people refer to it as ‘Beirut’, but that’s only when I’ve been in Ann Arbor or other places on the east side of the state.”
Whatever you call it, the game isn’t just for college parties anymore. It has expanded to statewide and national tours, with the sport’s pinnacle at the 2008 World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas (WSOBP). Teams from across the country play in their state’s respective satellite tournaments for the chance to compete in the big leagues for the $50,000 grand prize. One rule outlined by the WSOBP that many teams are not used to following is that each person is allowed to consume only one beer per hour for health and safety purposes. With many of the teams used to having a bit more of a buzz while competing, purchasing additional drinks from the event site is not against the rules. [beer11]
In the series’ inaugural tournament in 2006, two then-recent alums from the University of Michigan were crowned kings of the cups in Mesquite, Nev. (the location of the first and second year WSOBP). Jason Coben and Nicholas Velissaris were one of 84 teams vying for the world championship that year. Their name, “Team France,” was supposedly given to them by competitors for their less than average height but domineering attitude. In the World Series, they managed to overcome the odds and won their last seven games for an overall series best 15-3 record and brought the gratifying $10,000 check back to Ann Arbor. They were also granted free admission into the 2007 series, but were unable to defend their title, according to the WSOBP.
In 2007, 246 teams faced off in three days of competition after being randomly seeded into 12 different divisions. Hundreds of games and thousands of beers later, 2007’s $20,000 grand prize was awarded to “We Own Your Face,” made up of Aniello Guerriero and Antonio Vassilatos from Clifton, N.J. with an impressive 17-1 record throughout the tournament, according to the WSOBP Web site.
The series continued to grow in popularity for the 2008 WSOBP, drawing in 296 teams – 600 players from 38 different states – making it the largest organized beer pong tournament in the world. Jeremy Hughes and Mike Orr, team “Chauffeuring the Fat Kid” from San Diego, won the World Series’ largest prize yet of $50,000 on a one-cup victory against “Iron Wizard Coalition” in the finals.
One way of making it to the WSOBP is to compete in statewide satellite tournaments. These tournaments generally take place at local city bars, drawing in a smaller crowd and a more laid-back atmosphere. However, these tournaments can have significant prizes other than a free trip to Las Vegas.
The Michigan beer pong tour, started in 2007 by Drew Harrison, Tim Mentink and Josh Miller, is trying to keep the popularity of the game rising, while providing big prizes for the tournament winners. “The primary reason we decided to have a Michigan beer pong tour, as well as start Clutch Pong, was to organize the Michigan beer pong community and give everyone a chance to play this most excellent of games,” Harrison said.
And as the intrastate promotion group for beer pong, Clutch Pong aims to do just that. The three men recently began an eight-week, eight-city tour, traveling across the state to Jackson, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint, Mt. Pleasant, Kalamazoo, Auburn Hills and East Lansing. At each venue, teams will compete for a first prize of $200 and a ticket to the finals, all the way to fourth place, which will also receive a ticket to the finals.
“Our primary goal for this tour is to get our name out as well as get people talking about beer pong as something other than the stereotypical fraternity house basement, drink until you’re retarded, party game,” Harrison said. “We know there is a large beer pong following in Michigan and hopefully this tour will bring them together.” [david]
The two month tour will culminate in East Lansing at Reno’s East Bar and Grill on May 10, beginning at 6 p.m. The eight top-four teams who receive tickets to the state finals will use all their offensive and defensive tactics in hopes of winning the grand prize of $3,000 – while second-, third- and fourth-place teams will receive $600, $300 and $100, respectively. With the chance to win big money playing the game, some are taking beer pong more seriously. “I’m excited about the tournament,” said Jeff Vander Boon, an accounting senior who plans to compete in the April 12 tournament at Reno’s East Bar and Grill. “With a chance to win $3,000, I’m going to be practicing and trying new strategies to give my team the best chance at winning.”
As for how far the tour and beer pong itself could go, Harrison sees no end in sight. “I feel that beer pong has real potential to become a nationally recognized sport,” he said. “The popularity is growing at an alarming rate and the game itself is becoming more socially acceptable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see professional beer pong players and ESPN coverage of large beer pong events.”
[beer12]So all those weekends – or weeknights/days – of perfecting your beer pong form could finally pay off with something more than a horrible hangover the next day. Strategy, finesse and skill could mean the difference between runners-up status or a trip to Sin City. With popularity cross-country, and big prizes and pride on the line, beer pong is becoming more than just a drinking game.
For more information on the World Series of Beer Pong, visit bpong.com, and for more information on the Michigan beer pong tour, visit clutchpong.com.