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Beer Pong Rules 101 – Everything You Need To Know

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Ahhh, beer pong, the ultimate beer drinking game! Is there a more perfect marriage of beer and intense competition?

Sure, there are other activities that go well with drinking, such as darts and shooting pool, but there is no better pastime that involves beer, a table, cups, and ping pong balls.

We already know that a form of beer pong has been around for thousands of years, and will likely be around as long as there is beer, balls, and plastic cups.

beer pong rubber stamp

Everyone has their own versions and special beer pong rules.  But here are the most common ways to play. Feel free to adapt to your own personal tastes and environment. And have fun!

Table of Contents

Object of the Game

Beer Pong, which is sometimes called “Beirut,” is played on a table with cups of beer at each end. When a player tosses a table tennis ball into an opponent’s cup, the opponent must chug the beer and then the cup is removed from the table.

The object of the beer pong game is to be the first team to have all of your opponent’s cups removed from the table. And to get them to drink a lot. And to enjoy a few drinks yourself, of course.

Players/Teams

One of the great aspects of beer pong is that while it can be played with only two people (one on each side) it can also very easily be played as doubles, triples, or even more. Teams can take turns tossing a ping pong ball and tossing back beers at the same time.

The more on a side, the more raucous the game.

Of course, with more people on a team that gives each player fewer opportunities for tossing or drinking. We find it best to just have two on each team, but you can certainly hold a beer pong tournament.

Equipment

There really isn’t much needed when playing a game of beer pong.  The necessary equipment is minimal and easy to find.

  • Beer Pong Table
  • Beer Ping Pong Cups
  • Ping Pong Balls
  • Beer

Beer Pong Table

You probably have a table in your home that will work. Eight feet by two feet is the standard size of a beer pong playing field. A dining room table or kitchen table will work, but probably not recommend, unless you want to ruin your furniture.

You can purchase some really cool beer pong tables which will, no doubt, prove your dedication to the sport to your fellow teammates and opponents.

Beer Ping Pong Cups

You will need about 20 plastic cups, or ten per team. Either 16 ounce or 18-ounce cups will work the best. Some prefer the classic red Solo cups, while most avid players prefer clear cups to make sure that opponents aren’t skimping on the pour or pouring too much.

Generally, 1/3 of the cup filled is the best way to keep the game going without too much drinking.

For those of you concerned about the environment, you can get reusable plastic cups that you can wash in the dishwasher and use on your table for decades of beer pong fun. We do not recommend glass, as once one breaks, it’s game over.

Ping Pong Balls

Table tennis, a.k.a. ping pong balls are all you need. Buy the ping pong balls in bulk as they get damaged quickly and inexpensive

Beer

Beer is best, of course! That is why it’s called beer pong.

But not everyone enjoys beer; those who don’t, can wait outside or in the car until the game is over. Kidding!

All are welcome in beer pong. Other beverages can certainly be used, even water. But you might want to avoid hard liquor as this is a chugging game, not a sipping game. And of course, always drink responsibly.

If you are real confident in your playing ability, you could make your opponents drink the cheap and nasty beer, and save the good stuff for you.

Scoring

Scoring in the game is shockingly simple.

All you have to do is toss your ping pall ball into one of your opponent team’s cups. The cup is considered sunk if the ball lands in it (it won’t literally sink). Then your opponent must remove the cup from the table and drink the contents.

The shooter keeps playing until a miss, and then it’s the other side’s turn. If playing with multiple players simultaneously shooting, then both players must sink balls for their turn to continue. If only one scores, or neither, then it is the opponents turn to shoot.

When all your opponent’s cups are gone (and your opponent is now a bit tipsy) you win!

The winners generally keep the beer pong table to play the next team of challengers. Then repeat until the beer is gone or the players lose interest (in my experience, the beer finishes before the interest wanes).

There are a variety of rules which can make the game more difficult and more fair, depending on the rules.

Deciding Who Goes First

A member of each team shoots while maintaining eye contact. If one makes the shot, their team goes first. If neither or both make it, other players on each team take the same shot with eye contact. Or, you know, you could flip a coin. Or the defending winning team goes first.

Setup, Beer Pong Formations, and Rules

There are several beer pong formations and ways the cups can be placed on the table:

  • 10 cup triangle, which is a pyramid of 4-3-2-1 – This 10 cup triangle is the most common formation used.
  • 6 cup marching, which is 2 rows of 3 cups
  • 6 cup triangle, which is a pyramid of 3-2-1
  • 4 cup diamond
  • 4 cup square
  • 3 cup triangle, which is a pyramid of 2-1
  • 3 cup traffic light, which is a single row of 3 cups
  • 2 cup double, which is a single row of 2 cups

Wrist/Elbow Rule

Players must keep their elbows and wrists behind the table and cannot pass the plane of the back edge of the table. If this rule is broken the shot does not count, and the player must take a do-over, similar to faulting in tennis.

Keep in mind that it is very difficult to referee this rule, unless you have a third party officiating the game. This rule is one of the most argued-over rules in the entire game.

Re-formation/Re-racking

Sometimes things just don’t look right.  Cups getting messy and don’t like how they look? Well just like a professional billiards player, or a pro bowler, you can do something about it. You can call for a re-formation or a re-racking of the cups.

At the top of a turn (not during a streak or at the end of a turn) a team can choose to have their team’s cups rearranged. This can only take place when there are either six, four, three or two cups remaining.

Also, if there is one cup remaining, it can be requested to be pulled back or centered. Each team can only use this option no more than twice a game.

Fixing Cups

Unlike re-racking, if a cup is knocked out of position (or slides on beer) players can ask for the cup to be reset to its original position. There is no limit to the number of fixing requests in a game.

For the more serious players, beer pong racks, which is similar to a racking triangle in pool, will come in handy for fixing cups, or keeping your beer cold during game play.

Bouncing/Swatting

The object is to toss the ping pong ball in the cup without bouncing. However, if the ball does bounce and hits the table first, then goes into a cup, that cup is removed, and the defending team can also select another cup that they must remove. This is a strategic move; bouncing is harder but worth it to pull two cups off the table.

Of course, if your opponent has only one of their team’s cups remaining, this rule doesn’t count as each pull is technically considered one cup. This rule is in effect whether the bounce is on purpose or by accident.

Plus, while a tossed shot cannot be blocked, once a ball bounces on the table it can be blocked, so a bounce is much harder. Bouncing is best attempted when the opposing team is distracted, or too drunk to act quickly.

Fingering/Blowing

Strange names, but these are two methods of keeping the ball from settling in the cup. Fingering happens when the ball is still spinning on the inside of the cup and the defensive team pulls it out using a finger or two.

Blowing occurs when the ball is spinning on the inside of the cup and the defender forcefully exhales, blowing the ball out of the cup. Both of these are easy to do and both should be discussed prior to the game. We prefer to make fingering and blowing illegal, but how you choose to address this with the opposing team is up to you.

On Table Rollbacks

On table rollbacks. If after a missed shot the ball rolls or bounces back to the shooter and it is picked up before it hits the floor, then the shooter gets another shot. This also counts if the ball is grabbed in mid-air, not over the table space.

However, this additional shot must be a trick shot: behind the back, eyes closed, off the wall, using the weaker hand… this is a chance to be creative!

Explosion

When both partners shooting simultaneously sink their ball in the same cup of the opponent, you have an explosion. When this happens, all cups that are touching the cup with both balls will also be removed (and their contents imbibed).

A variation of this rule is that only three cups total can be removed, and those two additional cups will be chosen by the defending team.

Rebuttal

This is the “Hail Mary” of Beer Pool. Once a team has lost all their cups, they are given a chance to run the table, or to get all their opponents remaining cups, without a single miss.

If this happens, then both you and the opposing team will move into overtime.

3 Cup Overtime

If the game goes into overtime, three cups are returned to the table for each side. The team that would have won before rebuttal goes first. There is no racking allowed, although with one cup remaining teams can request a centering or pull back.

Special Rules

Depending on where you play, a team can make up their own beer pong house rules, of course.

Here are some of our favorite variations:

Death Cup

Death cup is when a player on the opposing team is still drinking a beer which is left over from a previous round, and that player is currently holding their cup, the shooting team can aim for that cup.

If the shot is successful, the shooter’s team automatically wins the game and the losing team must drink all the beer left on the table.

Celebrity Shot

The celebrity shot beer pong rule can be used once per game.  A shooter can elect a “celebrity” a.k.a. someone in the room who is not currently playing to take the shot for them.

Skunking

If a team is shut out, as in eliminated without sinking a single ball, then the entire team is forced to do something in unison.

Examples include group drinking, being put in the penalty box together (like a bathroom) for 10 minutes, or even running around the house naked. It’s your house, so go wild (but keep it legal).

Final Say

Beer Pong can be a lot of fun, and is a great way to bond with friends. These beer pong rules are only a guide, so feel free to adapt or make up your own house rules. If you make up some original rules, please let us know!

If you want to look at some beer pong table ideas, check out our page here.

And, of course, it is important to drink responsibly. Make sure those who are playing have safe a travel home.

Cheers!

Alex
Alex

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