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Beer Pong rules - how to play Beer Pong

Beer Pong is a fast and easy to play team drinking game that needs hardly anything to get started - here's what you need to know to play.

Beer Pong rules - an orange ball flies into a partial triangle of cups on a regulation beer pong table, photo by DSOBP hosted on Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-4.0

The basic Beer Pong rules are incredibly simple. Two teams of two players arrange sets of beer cups into triangles at opposite ends of a table, fill them with drinks, and take it in turns to throw balls at their opponents’ cups. Get your ball into a cup and your opponent has to drain it – first team to drink all their cups loses.

That’s it – you know how to play beer pong! Feel free to check out our guide to the best drinking games for more ideas, and maybe read up on the Kings Cup rules while you’re at it. However, while we can describe the basic beer pong rules in one paragraph, there’s a lot more to the game than that.

Can players defend their cups from the opponents’ balls? What happens if a ball hits one cup, bounces off, and lands in another? As cups are drunk, what happens to the ones still on the table? Beer Pong is a friendly game, but it’s friendlier when you and your opponents can agree on the rules.

Beer pong rules - a white ball flies into one of three red cups on a wooden table - photo by Michael Mata, hosted CC-BY-SA-2.0 on Wikimedia

These are all the beer pong rules you need to know:

Beer pong is played with two-player teams. Each team sets up ten cups into a triangle formation at their end of the table, with the point towards their opponents. The cups should be close enough together that the rims are touching, but not so close that they’re pushing one another.

Both teams should use the same types of cup, and the same drink. It doesn’t need to be beer: the World Series of Beer Pong uses water, so that players don’t destroy their livers in a single beer pong tournament. Since the aim of the game is to throw balls into cups by hand, it’s more hygienic to fill the cups with water to weigh them down, and have a separate supply of beer to actually drink.

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Both teams should have the same type of ball. This could be a tennis ball, a ping pong ball, or any other matching pair of balls. Teams take it in turns to throw a ball at the opponent’s cups. On the first turn, the first team only gets one throw, while in subsequent turns both players in a team get to throw.

In Beer Pong World Series rules, players must start a throw with both feet on the ground. You can lean over the table as you throw, but if you push the table from its starting position your shot is forfeit, and you’re not allowed to touch the table with your hand after you release the shot. Edging around the side of the table as you throw is also forbidden.

When one team makes a throw, the other team isn’t allowed to interfere with the ball in flight. If the ball bounces off a cup, then the defending team can attempt to intercept it while it’s in the air.  Landing a ball in an opponent’s cup means they have to remove it and drink it (or an equivalent forfeit).

Beer Pong rules - students play Beer Pong at Lappeenranta University, photo by Kallerna, hosted on Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-4.0

If a team ever knocks over one of their own cups, that cup is out just as if their opponents had landed a ball in it – the team needs to drink the cup. If ball ever bounces off a defending player into their cups, that counts as out as well. Dropping a ball you’re about to throw into your own drinks doesn’t count.

When you go down to six, three, or one cup, you should regroup the cups into a triangle again. While a team is regrouping cups, the game is effectively paused. If the regrouping team accidentally knocks over its own cups, they don’t count as out and are replaced and refilled. If the other team throws a ball, it doesn’t count and that team forfeits its turn.

Teams are allowed to distract their opponents while they’re making a throw, provided they’re not dicks about it. No hiding the cups, threatening other players, shaking the table when they shoot. If you need inspiration for ways to psyche out your opponent, try the movie Baseketball:

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Breaking any of the rules incurs a one-cup penalty and passes possession to the other team.

When one team is out of cups they lose. Game over! If you’re playing in a dorm, the winning team stays on to face the next challenger. The great thing about Beer Pong is that it’s self-correcting: the longer a team keeps winning, the drunker they’ll get, and their skill level will go down accordingly.

There are loads of variant ways to play Beer Pong. We’ve included a couple of extra rules that are used in World Series Beer Pong.

Beer Pong Rules - a game of beer pong at Beer Fest Kosova - photo by Pr Solution, hosted on Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-3.0

Beer pong bounce shots

If a player throws a ball by bouncing it off the table, the opposing team is allowed to intercept it after the first bounce – but if that bounced ball lands in a cup, the defending team has to remove and drink an extra cup. If you declare that you’ll only make bounce shots, normal interception rules and points apply.

Beer pong rollbacks

If both players on a team manage to sink their ball into cups, their team receives a “rollback”, or free shot, before their opponents’ get to throw. Only one player gets to make the shot, and the same player can’t make a rollback shot twice in a row.

If you’re keen on drinking games but don’t have the room for a regulation beer pong table, check out these drinking card games and drinking board games. And there’s nothing stopping you adding boozy forfeits to the best board games in your collection!