A Complete Guide of How to Play Beer Pong

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: December 3, 2020
A Complete Guide of How to Play Beer Pong_Sound Brewery

Beer pong: the ultimate party game. No party is complete without a few rounds of beer pong. The competition can be both intense and hilarious when you are in great company. Sipping delicious beer helps, too. No other game compares.

Don’t know what beer pong is or how to play? No worries. The game itself is rather simple, and the rules are easy to grasp. All that is left is your technique.

So, if you are looking to get a better grasp of beer pong and win your next game, keep reading. Here is everything you need to know about beer pong.

The History of Beer Pong

Beer pong is played around the world. In some places, it is also known as Beirut. Although modern-day beer pong has origins in drinking games created by fraternities in the 1950s, New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College was the first venue of beer pong as we know it. But, did you know that there was a similar game played in Ancient Greece?

You read that right. Flashback to the 6th century B.C.E., an Ancient Greek person was inspired by a Sicilian pastime and decided to call the new creation “Kottabos.” The game used wine, but the premise was the same. The players sit in a circle, take their drink, and then pull the wine lees (sediment on the surface of wine), and tossed their lees into bowls placed around the space.

Sounds fun, right?

How to Set Up a Game of Beer Pong

Itching to play? The most important part of beer pong is the setup. You do not need a lot of equipment, and if you don’t have some parts, you can improvise like the Ancient Greeks. Here is what you need:

  • 20 red plastic cups
  • 1 long rectangular table (like a ping pong table)
  • 2 ping pong balls
  • Beer

The beer can be any kind of beer, but it is best if the beer isn’t your favorite. It’s a penalty, after all!

Also, if you are worried about the environment and do not want to use plastic cups, consider getting reusable ones. However, it is best to avoid anything breakable, since you could be getting tipsy by the end of the game and may drop the glass.

Once you have your equipment, you set it up. The cups are arranged on the table in a pyramid shape, 10 on each side (rows of 4, 3, 2, and 1). Fill each cup with some beer. Do not fill it up completely. Typically, it takes about 2 cans of beer to fill up 10 cups halfway. Repeat this for the opposite side of the table.

There are other possible beer pong formations:

  • 6 cups marching—2 rows, 3 cups each
  • 6 cup triangle in 3, 2, 1 formation
  • 4 cup diamond
  • 4 cup square
  • 3 cup traffic light—single row, vertical
  • 3 cup triangle
  • 2 cup double—single row

Teams and Deciding Who Goes First

Beer pong is generally played with two teams of two people going head-to-head. However, you can have as many players as you want. The important part is that everyone has a turn to throw.

Once you have picked your partner, it is time to figure out which team gets to go first. To do this, have one player from each team shoot their ball while maintaining eye contact with their opposition. If one person makes a shot and the other person doesn’t, the person who makes the shot wins the first throw for their group. If both players miss, then the partners go next. The same is true if both players make it. When the starting team has been confirmed, the game can begin.

Optionally, you can play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” or do a coin toss to decide.

The objective of Beer Pong

A Complete Guide of How to Play Beer Pong_Sound Brewery

As you may have already guessed, the main objective of beer pong is to have your ball land in one of the cups on the opposite end of the table. When a ball lands in a cup, the team has to remove the cup, drain the beer, and then set the cup aside. The team with the remaining cups is the winner. Because of this setup, scoring is simple.

Rules of Beer Pong

Because house rules may also apply to beer pong, it is always best to review those before beginning a game. However, most games revolve around the set rules that are usually unchanging.

1. Throwing the Ball

According to most beer pong versions, players are allowed to shoot overarm or underarm. You can bounce the ball into a cup, or you can toss it indirectly. 

When throwing the ball, players should mind their elbows. Your elbow should not pass the edge of the table on your side. In other words, you cannot reach over the table to try sinking the ball. If you break this rule, the shot is not counted.

2. Reforming the Cups

During the game, a team may request reformation of their remaining cups. Each team can reform their cups twice per game at the beginning of each turn. Reordering cannot be done during redemption rounds or rollbacks. 

Unlike reforming, teams can request unlimited fixes. This means that, if a cup gets knocked out of position or slides, it can be reset to its original position without any questions asked.

3. Bounce Shots and Swats

If you bounce the ball and it goes into a cup, two cups may be removed: the one the ball landed in and another of the opposing team’s choice. Should 2 cups remain, only one cup is removed. The defending team is allowed to swat bounce shots away. Swatting can only be done during a bounce shot. If a non-bounce shot is swatted, the other team gets both balls back for another shot.

4. Blowing and Fingering

It’s not what you think it is. When a ball is thrown, it may spin around the inside of the cup before hitting the beer. The defending team is allowed to try flicking or blowing the ball out of the cup. Once the ball hits the beer, neither blowing nor fingering is allowed.

5. Rollback

When you shoot and miss and the ball come rolling back towards you, act fast! You can grab up the ping pong ball to re-try, but it MUST be something fancy. That means you need to throw with the non-dominant hand, over the shoulder, with closed eyes, or bounce the ball off the wall for the rollback to be viable.

6. Redemption Round

Once the final cup is hit, the losing team has a redemption round. Each partner is given one chance to sink the ball. If they miss, they lose. If they land a hit, the last cup on their side is back in play and the game continues. Each side gets one redemption round.

7. Death Cup

Death Cup is considered a special rule and may not be doable in some settings. If a player from the opposite side is still drinking beer from the previous round, you can attempt throwing their ball into that cup. This cup must be held by the opposing player. If you successfully sink the shot, your team automatically wins the round. The losing side has to drink all the beer from both sides left on the table.

8. 3 Cup Overtime

A beer pong game can also go into overtime. This happens after a redemption round when the losing team gets all cups on their opponent’s side knocked out. Three cups are returned to the playing field on both sides. The team that was winning before the redemption round starts. There is no reformation/re-racking allowed, but the centering is permitted.

Beer Pong Variations

A Complete Guide of How to Play Beer Pong_Sound Brewery

Once you become a Beer Pong Master, you might find yourself thinking of how the game can be improved. Turns out, there are plenty of beer pong variations out there to consider for your next get-together.

Baseball Beer Pong

Arrange the cups on the table as you would arrange a baseball team on the field. Each team gets three strikes and three outs. When one person is “up to bat,” they keep making shots until they either miss or get an out. Do this three times before switching teams.

Keep a tally of how many cups the teams get each round. The number of innings is up to you.

Hungry Hippo Pong


Line up 9 cups. Each side gets an arsenal of 50 balls. Both sides throw the balls as fast as possible. There are no turns, just 3 minutes to do one of the following: fill all the cups or throw all the balls.

When 3 minutes is up, the side with the most sunk balls wins.

Roulette Pong


This one is vicious. Arrange 6 cups in a circle on each side of the table. 5 cups have beer and 1 cup has straight vodka. Make sure the cups are not filled high enough that the other group sees. Each cup that is sunk has to be consumed. The fun part is not knowing when you have to drink vodka.

Final Thoughts


Beer pong is no doubt one of the funniest party games around. Add it to any party and change it according to the theme or whatever materials you have. The important part is knowing the rules, so you have a great time.