Beer Pong Rules: How to Play and Dominate Your Friends
Beer pong is a super fun drinking game for house parties that most table tennis players are really good at. As we have an abundance of experience striking and throwing ping pong balls, it’s only natural we should excel at throwing them into cups. My friend and I wreak havoc at beer pong, and we never fail to have a good time!
Before playing it’s important to agree on beer pong rules, these state that a game involves two teams trying to eliminate each other’s cups. You start with 14 or 22 and each is filled with alcohol. You remove the opponent’s cups by throwing a ball into them, and if you make a cup you get a consecutive throw. Rules tend to vary wildly from person to person.
Below we’ll take you through how to play the game, the beer pong rules you might not know, and some techniques and variations to ensure you get the most out of beer pong. Let’s get started.
How to Play Beer Pong
The Objective of Beer Pong
Cup pong rules are simple. To win a game of beer pong, one team has to eliminate all of the opposing team’s cups while their cups remain. You eliminate an opponent’s cup by successfully throwing a ping pong ball into it from the other end of the table. When you have eliminated all of your opponent’s cups you win the drinking game. As for how many cups you need for beer pong, this depends on the beer pong house rules you choose to follow (6 or 10). We’ll mostly stick to the official beer pong rules here.
The Common Beer Pong Setup
How do you play beer pong? You play beer pong in teams of 2. Typically either 1v1 or 2v2, and you generally play on a ping pong table, or the longest table available. You can even buy a dedicated beer pong table if you’re taking your beer pong seriously.
The game begins by allowing the team that won the previous match to shoot first, or you play one-on-one (eye-to-eye style) to determine who shoots first. For this, a player from each team locks eyes with the opponent and attempts to make a cup, if they miss, their opponent does the same. This continues until a cup is made. It’s important to note this cup is not drunk and remains on the table.
During the normal course of play, if both team members make a cup, they get “roll-backs” i.e. they get their two balls returned and immediately get a bonus shot each. Otherwise, it’s the next team’s turn to shoot.
This continues until one team makes all the cups or until one team asks for a “re-rack”. A re-rack is useful when gaps start to form between the cups from previously successful throws. Each team can rearrange the cups in any layout of their choosing, but clearly, clustering the remaining cups together is the best strategy.
However, you can only call for a re-rack twice per game, and only when there are six remaining cups, three cups, two cups, or one cup.
There are multiple options as to what formation of re-rack you want. A triangle, line, diamond, and sailboat are all common choices. After one team has made all the cups, the opposing team has a chance for “redemption,” but only if they haven’t re-racked yet. If the losing team shooting on the redemption round succeeds in making all the cups left before missing, the game goes into overtime until it concludes.
The team who initially cleared the opponent’s cups gets to shoot first and each team starts with 3 cups rather than 6 or 12.
- Beer – this makes it fun, but you can use water if necessary. Any liquid really.
- 6 cups or 10 cups per team, 16 oz red solo cups are the standard.
- A beer pong table (but any longish table will do).
- Ping pong balls (at least 2).
Beer Pong Table Recommendations
Official beer pong tables measure 8 ft long by 24″ wide by 27.5″ tall, however, if you can find a table that is close to these measurements it will work great for beer pong. You don’t need a purpose-made beer pong table. With that being said, here are a few recommendations.
GoPong 8 Foot Beer Pong Table
This black beer pong table is made from a sturdy aluminum frame with an MDF surface. Beer easily wipes away, and thanks to its clamshell design and light weight (21lbs) you can easily carry it around.
EastPoint Sports Beer Pong Table
A very similar beer pong table to the GoPong model. It too features a clamshell design and weighs just 21 lbs. Included with the table are 8 table tennis balls and 22 cups.
The Stiga XTR is one of the cheapest outdoor table tennis tables you can get from a quality manufacturer. This means you can not only enjoy beer pong at parties but table tennis too! As it’s an outdoor model, it’s waterproof so it will handle alcohol spillages very well. If you want a better table tennis table check out our guide.
Read More: How to Play Ping Pong: A Beginner’s Guide
How to Set Up Beer Pong and Other Important Considerations
Your beer pong setup depends on whether you want to play 10–cup beer pong or 6–cup beer pong. For both versions, cluster the cups into triangular beer pong formations at the ends of each side of the table. Fill the cups 1/3 of the way full with beer, water, or another liquid of your choice.
The Full Beer Pong Rules List
Rules for beer pong tend to be a little conflicting. This is because players often adopt their own ruleset from beer pong game variations — probably unknowingly. This is why we recommend ironing out the ruleset with all members before starting. Below are the widely recognized rules of the game.
1. Death Cup: When a team makes two balls into the same cup simultaneously, it becomes the “death cup” and the other team automatically loses the game. Some people don’t play this rule.
2. Roll-Backs: When a team or person makes two shots into different cups on the same turn, the other team drinks the two cups, removes the cups from the triangle, and the shooting team receives the ball back for another shot. This is called “roll-backs.”
3. Rim Bounces: If the ball bounces off the lid of the cups and back onto the table before hitting the floor, you can grab it and shoot again, this time left-handed (female) or behind the back (male). If the ball hits the lid and bounces up into the air, you can grab it before it goes into one of your cups or bounces back to the opposing team. If the ball hits the rim of a cup and then falls into a different cup, depending on house rules, it would be one or two cups.
4. Re-Racking: During the course of a game, it may be advantageous to reorganize your cups into a different pattern. This is “re-racking.” You’re only allowed one or two re-racks per game and re-racking prevents you from a redemption shot. There are many different patterns or shapes that you can re-rack into. The most common patterns are a triangle, line, diamond, and sailboat (triangle tilted), but you can essentially re-rack into whatever you want.
5. Bouncing: Bouncing the ball into the opposing team’s cup counts for two. However, the opposing team may swat the ball mid-bounce.
6. Finger or Blow: There are two special conditions where you can either blow or finger the ping-pong ball out mid-shot. If you’re a male and you’re playing against a female and the ball begins to toilet bowl into the cup, quickly “finger” the ball out of the cup. This is invalid as soon as the ball touches the beer in the cup. If you’re a female, the opposite is true. There must be a male on the table and you are to “blow” the ball out by literally blowing into the cup and pushing the ball out.
7. Redemption: After one team makes all of the opposing team’s cups, the others get a chance at redemption (assuming they haven’t re-racked). Redemption is when you attempt to make every one of your opponent’s cups without missing. Both you and your partner have a chance at redemption in doubles (one shot each). Should the losing team succeed in redemption (making all the cups left without missing), the game then goes into overtime. You then arrange 3 cups into a triangle and continue.
8. Elbows: If, while shooting the ball, a player’s shooting elbow goes over the edge of the table, their shot should not be counted. This is called “elbows” or “bows.”
9. Celeb Shots: A “celeb” shot or celebrity shot is when you let a friend shoot for you. You can only “celeb” once through the entire game.
10. Skunked: If at any time you knock over a cup inside the playing triangle, you remove that cup from the game. If a team wins by making all the other team’s cups before their opponents make one cup, the losing team must run naked around the house. This is called getting “skunked”.
Beer Pong Shot Techniques
There are four types of shots you can use in beer pong. The first is your standard throw. This is generally the best as it is not too fast or high which gives you the highest accuracy. However, sometimes you may want to try an arced throw. Generally speaking, these high throws are more challenging. But they may be useful if you keep hitting the rim of the cups and missing.
Another type of throw is the fastball. This involves throwing fast and downward toward the cups. While it looks cool, we don’t recommend it. They are pretty hard to make!
The final type is the bouncing shot. This involves bouncing the ball at least once on the table before it lands in the cup. Now the bouncing shot is powerful but you shouldn’t abuse it. If you make the shot, your opponent drinks the cup plus another of your choosing (potentially forcing a re-rack).
However, your opponents can swat the ball away which means you could waste your turn. This means you should use bounce shots sparingly when your opponents are unaware, and only if you are more skilled than the average player.
Beer Pong Defense Strategies
Defensive beer pong strategies are dependent on the version of beer pong you are playing so bear that in mind.
Intercepting Bounce Shots
Bounce shots are a powerful throw in beer pong as they count for two cups if made successfully. However, they are more vulnerable than regular throws because the opposing team is allowed to intercept them before they make their way to the cups.
As such, you should always be looking out for bounce shots as they are easy to defend. The only way you really concede such shots is if you are not paying attention.
Swatting the Ball
Beer pong rules also state that you are allowed to swat the ball after it has hit a cup, provided it is not already in the cup. This is clearly much more difficult than merely intercepting a bounce shot — you may even knock over your own cups attempting to do so. However, if you’re fast and precise, you can swat away balls that would otherwise bounce in.
As mentioned earlier, you can even take your defense one step further by ejecting balls that are essentially in the cup but have not hit the liquid, yet these take a lot of skill to pull off. If you’re a male up against a female opponent, you can finger the ball out of the cup as it circling the perimeter. Similarly, if you’re a female player up against a male player, you can blow the ball out of the cup before it touches the liquid.
Read More: Ping Pong Serves: A Complete Guide
Popular Beer Pong Game Varieties
Aside from the ‘standard’ beer pong game, there are several varieties that people turn to when wanting to mix things up a little. Here are some of the best we could find.
Civil war is a variation of beer pong where the table is set in a 3×3 formation. Players have 3 to 6 cups and can shoot toward any number of enemy cups rapidly. The losing team has to drink all their cups, and the winning team — well, they have had enough anyway.
Baseball is a more complex beer pong version that encompasses flip cup. Each team arranges four cups in a straight line — these represent each of the bases. When the batter makes successful throws they move to the base they secured.
The attacking players get eliminated if:
- They miss their 3 shots (3 strikes and you’re out!)
- The defending team catches missed balls before they land
- The defending team steals a base — a defender must chug their drink and flip their cup before the attacker
The difference between chandeliers and classic beer ping pong is that plastic cups are all set up in the middle of the table. Each player has their own cup and they surround a center cup.
Each player then attempts to bounce their ball into the center cup. If they do, every person has to drink their own cup, and then try to flip their cup over. The last person to do this drinks the center cup.
If your throw lands in a cup other than the center cup, be it yours or someone else’s. You drink the cup and refill it. It should be no surprise this game will get you drunk in no time!
Russian roulette adds an extra level of anticipation to the game. Each team gets to spike one of the enemy team’s cups with a shot of vodka. The defending team doesn’t know which cup is spiked making the game very entertaining.
A sure-fire way to get tipsy! Any cup that has been sunk and has yet to be finished is known as a “death cup.” If any team is able to make a shot into one of the enemy death cups they automatically win the game. This heavily encourages players to remain vigilant and drink their cups as soon as possible. Some players include this in the core rules while others do not!
Is Beer Harmful to My Table?
Yes, in theory. But it depends on the table itself — its support, finish, and the like.
Spilling some beer and wiping it off within a reasonable amount of time (say, 15 minutes) would most probably not result in any damage to your beer pong table.
However, letting spilled beer sit for hours or days may result in discoloration of your table as alcohol degrades paints and finishes. The plywood may also bend if not attached, glued, or somehow affixed to a stronger supportive structure i.e. a metal frame or another, sturdier wooden board below. Finally, the smell of alcohol tends to linger and it can be very difficult to remove entirely.
Therefore, try to keep the table clean as possible, especially after playing beer pong. The process is as simple as going over spills with a throwaway cloth.
Short History of Beer Pong
Beer pong (also called ‘Beirut’) is believed to originate from the beer games that Dartmouth College students used to play in the 50s and 60s. Back then and there, beer pong was typically played with paddles and a net, just like table tennis.
During the 70s, the paddles and the net were cast away for ‘throw pong’ where you toss the ball by hand. This was the beginning of the modern version of this very fun, attractive, and social drinking game commonly played in fraternities around the nation’s universities.
Around the 90s, players started keeping the actual beer beside the table and replaced the beer cups with water cups. This did this for hygienic purposes, as the ball carries with itself plenty of microbes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Balls Do You Need for Beer Pong?
At a minimum, you can get by with one ball, but you should aim to use at least two beer pong balls. This way you can shoot simultaneously and make it harder for the other team to defend.
Does the Ball Have to Bounce in Beer Pong?
There is no requirement for the ball to bounce in beer pong. However, you can still use bounce shots. Just remember the opposing team can swat them away.
What Happens if You Knock a Cup Over in Beer Pong?
If the ball crosses the top plane of the cup it is sunk. However, if it did not, you must refill the cup and reset it. As a side note, you should fill cups high enough so that they are hard to knock over. If on the other hand, you accidentally knock over a cup as the defending team, the cup is counted as sunk.
What Happens if You Get the Ball in Your Own Cup in Beer Pong?
If you follow the official rules, the cup does not count unless you intercept a thrown ball and knock it into your cup. However, if you are playing house rules, you will more than likely have to forfeit your own cup.
What Happens if You Make 2 Balls in One Cup in Beer Pong?
Some beer pong rules consider 2 balls in the same cup to be the “death cup”, signifying an automatic win. But many people don’t like this rule because it’s too easy to win the game. Other rules state that two balls in one cup are worth an additional cup, so you get to remove the cup you made plus two others.
What Is Heating Up in Beer Pong?
This beer pong rule originates from the NBA jams on fire variation of the game. It states that a player can call that they are “heating up” after making two successful consecutive shots. If they make the third they can call that they are “on fire” and keep shooting until they miss.
However, if they fail to declare they are heating up they cannot call that they are on fire.
What Happens in Beer Pong if the Ball Lands on Top of the Cups?
The throw is a miss, but it rarely happens!
Can You Throw Underhand in Beer Pong?
Both underhand and overhand throws are permitted in the rules of beer pong. Throw however you like!
How Does Beer Pong Work During Overtime?
Each team sets up three more cups in a triangle shape and the game continues as normal. The team who would have won the game had rebuttal not been called take the first throw. Overtime may occur once again when one team sinks all of the opponent’s cups.
How to Play Cup Pong Without a Beer Pong Table?
While it’s easiest to play beer pong on a beer pong table, you don’t need one. Table tennis tables are a great substitute. Alternatively, you can use a dining room table.
Can You Bounce From Anywhere in Beer Pong?
Beer pong rules state that you can bounce anywhere on the table as all objects situated on the table are part of the game. Just remember slow or long bounces are not a good idea as they give your opponents more time to swat the ball away.