How Does Beer Pong Work?

Although baseball has been known as “America’s Pastime” for hundreds of years, a strong case can be made that it has been overtaken by Beer Pong. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, which is played all throughout the country, you could feel a little overwhelmed. You might be wondering, how exactly does a game of beer pong work?

To put it simply, the goal of beer pong is to throw ping pong balls into your opponents’ cups. Each cup you make gets removed from the table. If you knock out all of your opponents’ cups before they do yours, you win! Of course, there are many other rules and requirements, so read on to make sure you come away as the beer pong champion.

What is Beer Pong?

Beer Pong is a drinking game where players throw ping pong balls into their opponents’ cups located across a table. When you make a shot, the opposing team is required to drink the beer out of that cup, and remove it from play. Often played during parties or tailgating before a sporting event, the game has become a staple across the United States.

Although Beer Pong is said to have originated at Dartmouth University in the late 1950s, the proof is unsubstantial. In this case, unsubstantial means non-existent, which is totally fine. The history of the game is not as important as the mechanics and the gameplay. Although played at parties and amongst friends, the game is taken seriously. So be sure to brush up on all the rules and regulations to make sure you are the King of the Party.

What Equipment is Required?

No matter where you play beer pong, the essential equipment remains the same. Whether at a friend’s house or in a football stadium parking lot, no beer pong game is complete without the following items.


The table is a requirement for an official game of beer pong. You may not hold the cups. You cannot place them on the ground. You need a solid table, ideally a rectangle, in order to play. The most common tables used are grey folding tables. You can find these in retail stores, office stores, online, or many other places. They are cheap, sturdy, and get the job done.


Cups have a few jobs in the game. First and foremost, cups hold the beer that each team must drink during the game. Second, the cups are where the shooters intend to land the ping pong balls. The most commonly used cups are red plastic cups. Be it name brand or generic, these cups are a must when preparing for a game of Beer Pong.

Ping Pong Balls

No game can be complete without ping pong balls. These are the only acceptable balls to use with the game. Golf balls? Nope. Tennis balls? Definitely not. Grab a pack of ping pong balls wherever you can find them (the larger the pack the better). The brand doesn’t matter, the color doesn’t matter. As long as there are no dents or holes you’re all set!


Beer. It’s why we play the game. Any beer will do, however, the recommendation will be to lean towards the lighter American Lagers. This is because you’ll be drinking fairly large amounts during a relatively short time. If you want to play with an IPA, go for it! It may not be the best strategy, but feel free to customize the beer however you see fit.

Setting Up the Game

The equipment has been acquired. Now we need to choose teams and get the table ready. Setup is simple, so you’ll be ready to play in no time.


Beer Pong is most commonly played with 2 teams of 2 players each. Although if not enough players are available, 2 teams of individuals can play as well.


Fill the cups up about a quarter of the way with beer. Then, using either 6 cups or 10, place them in a pyramid shape with the base on the side closest to you. Make sure that all of the cups are touching each other.

What are the Basic Rules?

Basic Rules - How Does Beer Pong Work?

Now that everything has been set up, let’s dive right into the rules of the game. We’ll go over the more advanced and rare rules in the next section, but if you follow everything listed below you’ll be sure to have a great base knowledge of the game.

Starting the game can take a few forms. The most common way is for one player from each team to shoot a ball while maintaining eye contact with the other team. If no one makes it, the other partners do the same. Whichever team makes a cup first gets to start the game.


When your team is up, each player shoots a ping pong ball with the intent of making it into a cup on the opponents’ side. If the cup is made, the opposing team must drink the beer from that cup and take the cup out of play. If both players make a shot during their turn, they get the balls back and are allowed to shoot again.

  • Shooting can also take the form of a bounce. If a player bounces the ball off the table and then into a cup, the opposing team must remove that cup as well as a second cup of their choice.
  • If the ball bounces off a cup after it’s shot and rolls back to the shooting team, they shoot again. However, they must shoot it behind the back which immensely increases the difficulty.

Ending the Game

Once a team has made a ball into all cups on the opponents’ side, they win.

  • The losing team has an opportunity to get back into the game, often called “redemption” or “rebuttal”. Each player on the losing team will shoot a ball until they miss. Once both players have missed the game is officially over. If the losing team makes all remaining balls, the game goes into overtime.
  • In Overtime, the table is set up with just 3 cups on each side in a triangle. The winning team goes first and the playing rules remain the same.

Advanced Beer Pong Rules

Advanced Beer Pong Rules - How Does Beer Pong Work?

Although the above rules will allow for a successful game, there are a few other rules that may come up. Knowing these additional tips will turn you into a beer pong master and allow you to win any arguments should they come up.

First and foremost, an often unspoken rule is that of Elbows. The name explains the rule fairly well. When shooting the ball, your elbow is not allowed to cross the edge of the table. If you make the ball but your elbow was over the table, the shot does not count. This rule is the cause of many arguments due to the judgment call nature of it, so play it safe and stand far enough back that it won’t be an issue.


In Beer Pong, a “re-rack” is when a team adjusts the cups into a different layout than before. An example would be if 3 cups are remaining in a random layout, you can ask the opposing team to create a triangle with the cups.

Different people play with different rules in regards to re-racks. Some allow 1 per team, some allow more, whereas some people may ban it completely. Be sure to have an agreement amongst players before playing.

Additional Shooting Rules

  • In the gameplay section above, we went over bouncing. If you make a bounce, it counts as 2 cups. However, once the ball bounces off the table, the opposing team is allowed to swat the ball off the table. This is equal to missing the shot. The goal is to bounce when the other team isn’t paying attention in order to sneak it past them.
  • Some players include a rule known as “island”. This occurs when you have an outlier cup that isn’t touching any others. If you say “island” and make the individual cup, the other team must remove both that cup as well as a second of their choice. This can only be used once per game.

The final and perhaps most important thing to note is that the winning team gets to play again. They are kings of the table until they can be defeated. This can work out in your favor because nothing feels better than winning. But be careful because after a few games you may not be shooting as well as you think.

What Other Beer Games Can I Play?

Guess what? Now that you have cups, pong balls, a table, and beer, you can play a plethora of different drinking games. Perhaps Beer Pong gets boring, or maybe you just want to extend your reign of dominance to another game. Each game has its own set of rules so be sure to do your research before playing!

  1. Chandeliers – Another staple of house parties and tailgates, this classic game includes elements of beer pong and flip cup and is much more fast-paced.
  2. Flip Cup – Ping Pong balls are not necessary for this classic game. Teams go down a line drinking their beer and then flipping their cup. Once the cup has been properly flipped, the next player is up. Whichever team drinks and flips their cups first is the winner.
  3. Baseball – A game that would need an entire article to explain, baseball involves elements of beer pong as well as, you guessed it, baseball.

Now that the rules have been laid out, grab some friends and some beer and have some fun. Responsibly of course.