Beer Pong Rules! 8 Variations for the Classic Drinking Game

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By Jacob Kleinman | February 18, 2012 10:07 AM EST

The launch of a new brew called Pong Beer may be proof that Beer Pong, also known as Beirut, may just be American's favorite drinking game. Invented at Dartmouth college in the 1960s, the competitive drinking game was originally played with paddles, but has changed and developed in the past fifty years as it swept the nation. Played across the country, the specifics of the game differ from state to state and campus to campus, but there are some rules that everyone can agree on.

To play you need at least one ping pong ball (although at least two is preferable), 20 plastic cups (solid red Solo cups are the classic), plenty of cheap beer and a large table about the size of a ping pong table. Preparation is simple: arrange ten cups at each end of the table in a tight triangle (4-3-2-1) pointing towards the table's center. Two players stand on each end of the table and take turns attempting to throw a ping pong ball into one the opposing team's cups. If you successfully throw the ball into one of your opponents' cups they have to drink the beer from that cup. The first team to have to drink all ten cups of beer loses.

Sounds simple, but in the five decades since Beer Pong was introduced new rules have been invented and adopted. Everyone has their own take on the classic rules and before starting a game its worth going over some of the most popular house rules so that all the players are on the same page.

Death Cup: This is a popular rule and definitely one to watch out for. Essentially, once you've picked up a cup of beer and begun to drink it the cup becomes a death cup, meaning that if your opponent uses their throw to get the ball into the cup in your hand before you've emptied it of beer you lose, game over. The best defense against a death cup loss is to either drain each cup as soon as you pick it up, or remember to cover the top of your cup at all times.

Bouncing: A popular rule that most people play with, a player who bounces the ball off the table instead of aiming it straight at the cups takes a risk but also has a chance for a higher reward. If the bounce is successful your opponent must pick up two cups of beer, but once the ball has hit the table your opponent is allowed to defend their cups by grabbing the ball or swatting it away.

Balls Back: Pretty much a universal rule in Beer Pong, if you and your teammate both make successful throws you get the ball(s) back immediately, skipping your opponents next turn.

Island: Also called the skill shot, this is a rule which allows a player to aim at a specific cup that is not touching any others. You have to state that you are aiming for the "island" before shooting for the rule to apply. if you succesfully get the ball in the right cup your opponenets must drink two cups of beer instead of just one. Some people play that you can call "island" only once per game, while others play that you can call "island" as many times as you want, but that hitting the wrong cup means you have to drink one of your own beers as a penalty.

On Fire: This rule is used by many but often forgotten at times when it would apply.  To achieve "on fire" status you first have to successfully hit two cups in a row, and then announce to the room "I'm heating up." If your third throw is also successful you are "on fire" and get the ball back immediately and shoot until you miss.

Behind the Back: Some people play that if you miss your shot, but the ball ricochets or rolls back into your hands it grants you another chance, the only catch is that you have to throw the ball from behind your back, reaching around in an uncomfortable position that makes aiming your shot extremely difficult. This rule may be well known, but it is often ignored simply because the chances of making a behind-the-back shot are so low.

Re-Racks: Most Beer Pong players agree that you can ask your opponent to reorganize the cups you are aiming at during the game. The dispute is often over how many re-racks per game, and what shapes the cups can be organized into. The most common ruling is that each team is allowed two re-racks per game, which can only be requested at the beginning of your turn. Regarding the shape of your re-rack, some people say you can request any shape you like, while others argue that only triangles, squares, and straight lines (for the final two cups) are allowed. Most players agree that you cannot request a re-rack until getting the ball in at least four cups.

Redemption and Overtime: When the tenth cup is scored the game may not be over. The unwritten Beer Pong rules state that the potential losers have a shot at redemption, in which each player shoots until his misses. If the team manages to hit all their opponents' cups the game goes into overtime, with a smaller triangle of three cups on each side. Overtime also ends in redemption, allowing the possibility for multiple overtimes per game.

Naked Lap: Beer Pong's most controversial rule, the naked lap is the ultimate punishment for the losing team and rarely occurs outside of a college campus setting. The rules regarding the naked lap vary, but always punish the losers for a particularly poor game by demanding that they take off their clothes and run around the outside of the building in shame. Some play by the rule that a naked lap occurs when the losers don't make a single successful throw, while others say that the losers must qualify for a first re-rack by hitting at least four cups to avoid the naked lap. Definitely discuss the house rules regarding the naked lap before you agree to play Beer Pong.

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