Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Beer Pong and Pong are drinking games that involve propelling a table-tennis ball across a table with the goal of making the ball hit or land in one of several cups of beer. Pong involves two, four, or sometimes more players using paddles to hit the ball toward the cups of their opponents with the goal of hitting a cup or sinking the ball in a cup. Beer Pong, a later and more widespread game involving either two or four people separated into either one- or two-player teams and playing without paddles (also called Beirut) is discussed below as well. Both games are popular in the American college subculture, especially in (although not exclusive to) fraternities and sororities.
The rules of Pong are relatively close to those of table tennis and thus presumably emerged as an adaptation of table tennis into a drinking game. The game has been played in basements at Dartmouth College since the early 1950s, though it did not mature until later, when plastic cups became readily available; students have held all-school tournaments there and computed rankings. The game is typically played in either Lob or Slam form, with the former encouraging high, arcing shots into the cups and the latter requiring speedy direct shots meant to hit a cup or knock it over. Though its name may have started as "Beer Pong," the game is distinguished today by being described exclusively as "Pong."
In either Lob or Slam, two or four players face off from opposite ends of a table typically made from a finished 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood and often painted with elaborate scenes or symbols relevant to the institutional owner. A 2 x 4 or other board typically serves as the net. The game is played with wooden table-tennis paddles whose handles have been removed for durability. Two, four, eight, or more sixteen-ounce plastic cups half-full or completely full of beer are placed on each team's side, usually centered a paddle's-width from the edge but in some variants placed at the corners of the table or elsewhere. Twelve-ounce cups are not used.
The game mirrors the basic form of a friendly game of regulation table tennis. Each serve and return must complete an arc acceptable to opponents and observers, though the goal of sinking the ball in a cup tends to reward returning in the proper form. Hitting an opponent's cup scores one point, and sinking a ball in a cup scores four points (or two, if playing with half-full cups). Score is kept by drinking one-quarter of a cup per point, and the first team to drink its last point loses. Spilling one's own cup usually merits some penalty. Other beverages than beer, including water or cocktails, are permitted, but some beverage is necessary.
The ball is properly served by striking it with the paddle, ensuring it bounces only once off the serving team's half of the table, and then at least once off the opposing team's half ("paddle-table-table"). If the ball hits a cup the serving team may have a second chance to serve, but if this occurs again the serving team loses a point and the service passes to the opposing team. This penalty is known as "two-bad".
The ball must be returned after it has bounced just once off of the returning team's half of the table; this includes the table top and the cups. Blowing a spinning ball out of a cup and returning it is permitted. Ricocheting the ball off external objects such as a vertical or horizontal structural member in the basement, a ceiling, or a bystander is usually permitted.
There are a number of formal variants of Lob, including Two-Cup (one full cup per player), Four-Cup (two full cups per player), Line (the standard form of Lob, with four half cups per player), Full-Cup Line or Wall (cups in a line across the width of the table), Great Wall (cups lining all sides of the table), Table (cups covering the surface; one must foul out to clear a space on his own side for service), Battleship (or 'Ship, lines of six, four, and two cups placed strategically), Rotating Randomness (irregular groups of cups placed in irregular pie-shaped sections of the table and played by six or more people who change positions after each point, encouraging shifting ad-hoc team behavior), and Henge (stacked cups or trilithons in irregular pie-shaped zones, with each player having a separate "Tourist" cup whose strategic drinking out of turn imposes the requirement that all others drink theirs, and other ritual elements).
Slam is a lightning-fast game that is difficult for observers to understand. One player prepares to serve while his partner hovers near the net, leaning into the opponents' airspace; then the serve happens, people swing, cups are spilled, and someone has lost a point. An explanation of Slam that does it justice is required here.
Beer Pong is the game as played with hand-thrown balls. The objective of the game is to eliminate the other team's cups from the table by sinking ping pong balls in them. The rules are many-fold, but easilly grasped, which makes the game accessible to beginners yet exciting to all.
- Each team begins the game with six or ten cups of beer placed in a pyramid on their end of the table. The "base" of the pyramid is on the edge of the table, the "tip" is facing the other side.
- Each team fills each cup to a predetermined level, typically four or six ounces. This will require either four or six beers per game.
- The game is played with the same number of ping pong balls as there are players per team, either one or two.
- Each team is allowed to throw their ping pong ball(s) unimpeded directly into the other team's cups, one at a time. If the ball goes into a cup, the other team must consume that cup of beer and remove the cup.
- If the ball is not flying directly into a cup (it is bounced off the table, wall, etc.), the defending team is allowed to obstruct the ball from entering a cup, either by swatting it or by blowing it away.
- A bounce shot (one which did not fly directly into the cup, but landed into a cup before coming to a stop) counts as two cups - the defending team must remove the sunk cup as well as another cup.
- If both players hit during a team's turn, the defending team loses its next turn (balls back).
- A "re-rack" occurs when a team reaches certain increments of cups. Popular counts for re-racks are 6 (triangle), 4 (diamond), 3 (triangle), 2 (horizontal or vertical) and 1 (recenter), although various rules will omit some or all of these racks. Some rules do not allow a re-rack in the middle of the team's throwing turn, and sometimes the re-rack is not automatic and must be called for by an opposing team.
- The team whose cups are cleared first are allowed "rebuttal" or "redemption," - they are allowed to shoot indefinitely until they miss a cup. If either player misses a shot, the game is over and the first team which cleared the cups wins.
- If the rebuttal is successful (all the non-rebutting team's cups are cleared without a missed shot), an overtime shootout period shall begin in which one cup or three cups are played on each side. In matches between highly skilled teams, overtimes and rebuttals can extend the length of the game significantly.
- Death Cup is when a thrown or bounced ball lands in a cup from which the opposing team is drinking. If this rule is in effect, the game is over and the cup holder's team does not receive rebuttal honors.
- The game is won when one team clears their opponents cups or scores a Death Cup. The losing team must immediately drink the winning team's remaining beer, unless a "drink your own" rule is in effect.
- The winning team continues playing at the table, against the next challenging team. The defending champion team receives "honors" and throws first.
Note that there are thousands of house variations of the game, such as "Gentlemen's Beirut" in which every cup must be called by the shooting team, similar to calling a shot in billiards. Note too that Beer Pong is almost always played with ping pong balls, though beer caps are used in some forms of the game ("Beirut" proper in parts of of the Midwest, as opposed to the more common "Beer Pong"), calling for a different set of throwing skills. Rules also often vary by gender: oftentimes only women can "distract" or "blow", for example. An aspiring player would do well to observe a few games of beer pong at any given venue before participating. This is often necessary anyway due to the popularity of the game versus the number of tables usually available at any given location.
Miscellaneous gameplay factors in Beer Pong
There is often a "wash cup" on each team's side of the table, another plastic cup filled with water to cleanse ping pong balls with should they accidentally hit the floor, table, etc. It is good etiquette to wash on any throw that does not land in a cup, although the game is not known to promote good hygiene.
Over the course of several games, water and beer may accumulate on the table, drastically altering the characteristics of the cups. Cups on wet surface may shift across the table due to table movement or unlevelness of the table. Such motion is referred to as "Act of God" and the players may or may not be responsible for correcting this depending on house rules.
Technique in Beer Pong
The most common throwing technique is to grasp the ping pong ball with the tips of the thumb and forefinger of the player's good hand, and hold the arm at a right angle with the ball upwards, then throw by using gentle elbow motion, holding the upper arm parallel with the table. Wrist movement is not usually necessary, although a good player may push off with the knees as they throw to create an upward arcing motion. Since ball deflection is illegal on a non-bounce shot, the ball does not need to be thrown with a lot of force. A player should strive to perfect a good arclike motion on their throw.
Some players prefer or occasionally use a "fastball" style throw (named for its speed, it is not thrown like a baseball!) which uses more of a hard chopping motion to send the ball in a more direct line to the intended target cup. Caution must however be used if a "no elbows over the table" rule is in use, as it is much easier to violate that guideline with a less controlled throw. Fastballs are also much more likely to knock down a cup, which may have positive or negative consequences depending on house rules.
Bounce shots are much harder to accurately throw. The best time to use a bounce is when the opposing team is not paying attention to the game, as the risk of deflection is zero. The current rack must be taken into consideration as well - there is obviously a much higher chance of sinking a bounce on an unspoiled ten cup rack than on an inconsistent rack which has floated all over the table by "Act of God". Serious defenders should also always keep one player on alert for bounce shots to their cups.
- Dartmouth Pong
- Pong was established by the early 1950s according to Professor Jere Daniell '55 in John Mitchell, "Daniell '55: Frats key to College's prestige," The Dartmouth (November 17, 2004).
- Jess Jacob, "More than a game: Pong goes way back," The Dartmouth (October 16, 1997).
- Sam Lederer, "Dartmouth Students Want to See that Pong P-Pong Pong Pong," The Dartmouth (January 18, 2002).
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