Ultimate Guide to Beer Pong Rules & Game Etiquette


Let’s be honest, if you wanted to play basketball for the first time, you wouldn’t know where to start without some instruction or information about the rules. In fact, we can say this with certainty for just about any game and this is certainly true about beer pong!

You should also know that beer pong is not as simple as it looks and many rules accompany this incredibly fun game. There is also a specific setup that you will need to follow and a certain etiquette that ensures the proper rules of the game are followed.

But before you feel overwhelmed and run away, it’s worth remembering that beer pong is the most fun drinking game out there. What’s more, once you learn the rules and etiquette involved, the only thing left to do is improve your skills and enjoy the game!

Anyway, in this article, we take a look at the most common rules for beer pong and everything you should know about the setup, scoring, and beer pong etiquette.


What is Beer Pong and Where Did it Come From?

Beer pong was invented in a fraternity sometime in the 1950s. It was initially more similar to a normal game of ping pong and players used paddles and a net which no longer happens. During the 1980s, the name “Beer Pong” emerged and both the paddles and net were removed for the purpose of playing this style of game.

Now, you might know the general idea behind beer pong but let’s just assume that most readers will want to know everything including the actual aim or purpose of the game.

Beer pong is played by two teams that will take turns throwing a ping pong ball into cups belonging to the opponents at the other end of the table. When a ball manages to land inside a cup, the opponent must drink the contents and remove this cup from the table. If two teammates land their ball inside a cup, they get to shoot one more time and when one team lands a ball in each of the opponents cups, the game is over and the winner can stay on to face a new challenger.

However, there are different variations of beer pong and some players like to use certain rules that other players might not know about. For this reason, we will focus on some of the consistencies that exist between games but first, let’s consider the setup:

Getting Setup Properly to Play Beer Pong

Beer Pong

You will need a ping pong table to play beer pong but no paddles or net is necessary. Ideally, you’ll also have several ping pong balls, twenty cups, beer and two bowls and if you don’t already own one, feel free to check out this list of the best beer pong tables.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to proceed with the setup:

Picking Teams Beer pong requires that you create two teams with two people on each team. That being said, you can have more players on each team if you take turns.

Arranging Cups You will need to create a pyramid-like shape on each end of the table using the ten cups. Each of these cups should be filled with beer and most players seem to prefer that cups are half-full as opposed to overflowing – but that’s up to you.

Deciding Who Starts – One player from each team will throw a ball while maintaining eye contact with the opposing player. If one player lands a ball in the cup, they get to choose who gets to go first. But if both players land or miss, you repeat the process.

Cleaning the BallsYou will also need to place a cleansing bowl at each end of the table and this is purely for reasons of hygiene. After all, you don’t want to contaminate the beer and so it’s important to clean every ball before and after they are thrown.

And that’s just part of the story…

The Basic Rules of How to Play Beer Pong

Beer pong is a pretty simple game when you know the rules and the following steps are really all you need to know in order to get started with your first game:

 1. Throwing the Ball Each team will take turns throwing a ball into cups on the other side of the table. One ball per team is thrown and the rules on technique are flexible. For instance, you can try throwing a ball directly into one of the cups or try bouncing the ball off the table beforehand.

2. Who Drinks When When a ball lands in one of your cups, either you or your teammate must drink the contents of the cup. If you drink the first time, it’s perfectly fine to drink the next time but most players will take turns and drink one after the other.

3. Restacking the Cups – When just four cups remain on one side of the table, the cups need to be re-stacked in the shape of a diamond. When just two cups remain, they must be placed in a single file line. Just so you know, this rule makes it easier for the other team to land a ball inside one of the cups.

4. Keep Playing Until the Cups are Gone – The game continues in this way until no cups are remaining on one side of the table. The team with no cups loses and the other team can decide to take on a new challenger or start all over again with the losing team.

But different rules exist and you might want to change up the rules as follows…

Alternative Rules for Playing Beer Pong

Two-Ball Rounds – For some players, they prefer throwing two balls for every round. In other words, the same team will continue throwing two balls in each round until they miss. When this turn is over, the other team will also throw two balls until they miss.

Calling Cups – Another interesting variation of beer pong involves calling out the actual cup into which you will try to land your next shot. If you manage to hit this cup, the opponent must drink the contents but if you miss the cup, it remains on the table – even if you land in another cup.

One Last Time – When a team has lost in beer pong, the winning team can sometimes offer a “rebuttal” which allows the losing team to take one last shot. If the players manage to land the ball inside a cup, they can continue taking shots and this only stops when they have missed the cup. Interestingly, sudden death will follow if they manage to land a ball in every cup without missing.

Double Points for Bounce Shot – Some game rules state that a bounce shot counts as two cups and the player that lands this shot gets to choose which cup they drink and remove from the table.

About Scoring and Re-Racking in Beer Pong

 Scoring in Beer Pong

Different variations of beer pong will have slightly different scoring but most games deploy the very same rules. When a ball lands inside a cup, this accounts for just one drink. If a ball is deflected or bounced into a cup, this counts for two cups. And if two players land two balls in the same cup, the opposing team must drink no less than three drinks.

This same process continues until someone misses and the drinks must be taken before another ball is thrown. It’s also possible for a team to “re-rack” on two occasions during a game and this simply means they can rearrange the cups into a position that makes them easier to land shots.

In the end, the team that lands a ball in every cup on the opponent’s side of the table wins.

Advanced Rules for Playing Beer Pong

We went through the basic rules of beer pong earlier but there are many more rules that dictate what you can and cannot do during a game. You will likely learn even more rules when you play with different players but most of the following apply to other variations of the game.

Wrists Cannot Go Past the Edge of the Table

It’s a common rule that catches many players off-guard. During a game, all players must ensure their wrists do not go past the edge of the table. If they break this rule, a shot will not count but this decision is often argued because it’s hard to prove or disprove it even happened. Either way, the wrist rule always applies – so take note!

Re-Racking is Permitted Twice Per Game

Each team can request to “re-rack” as many as two times during a game. As already mentioned, this means they can rearrange the cups in their favor but this can only happen when six, four, three or two cups remain on the table.

Fixing Cups (Not to Be Confused with Re-Racking)

Players can also ask for cups to be fixed during a game which is a rule that is often mistaken for re-racking. For this rule, the cups are simply put back to where they would have been if they had not been accidentally moved from their position.

Landing After Bouncing/Hitting the Table

If a ball goes into a cup after hitting the table, this cup along with a second cup is removed from the table by the defending player. When only two cups remain, this shot will only count as one which means that bouncing is not worthwhile in such instances.

Fingering/Blowing is Sometimes Allowed When the Ball is Spinning

Fingering is when a ball is still spinning inside a cup and the defending team can try to remove the ball quickly with their fingers. Blowing is when a defending team tries to blow a spinning ball back out of the cup under the very same circumstances. But you must discuss and agree upon this particular rule prior to starting a game of beer pong. It’s also quite a distasteful or complicated rule for some which means it’s not always allowed.

Rollbacks Catching the Ball Mid Air

If you take a shot and the ball rolls back toward you without hitting the floor, you can take the shot again behind the back. This shot still counts as one and just so you know, it’s also okay to catch a ball mid air – and then take the shot again.

Announcing to Everyone that You are “On Fire”

When a player manages to land a ball inside a cup three times in a row, they can announce to everyone that he/she is on fire. However, they must have announced that they were “heating up” when the second of these cups were landed. Otherwise, they are not permitted to call “on fire”.

Island / Solo / Iso / Lonely Cup

This rule has many different aliases, but the concept is the same. Each player once per game can call a specific cup if it is not touching any other cup (singled out due to surrounding cups being hit, not from the cup sliding away from the other cups on a wet table). If the called cup is hit, the defending team pulls the hit cup along with an additional cup of their choosing. If the shooter calls a specific cup and hits another, the ball is pulled out and the unintentionally hit cup remains on the table.

Playing for Overtime

Overtime is when three cups are returned to a triangle pattern and the winners shoot first. While there are no racks, it’s okay to pull the last remaining cup back to the center.

About Proper Etiquette When Playing Beer Pong

Player etiquette is often ignored but the truth is, lack of etiquette can often spoil a game at the very least. It’s just so important for everyone to understand what does and does not constitute acceptable behavior. After all, this is exactly how arguments can start and while rules need to be followed, beer pong is supposed to be fun and nothing more.

Here’s a few things to remember about the proper etiquette in beer pong:

Never Intercept Balls – Never touch a ball until it bounces at the very least. You are not intercepting a pass like in football or basketball and you must wait for this ball to make contact with the table. The shot must be taken again if this rule is broken.

Drink Before You Shoot – You should also finish your drink before taking a shot and this is one rule that will often annoy friends. After all, what’s the point in playing beer pong if you think it’s okay to bypass or delay a drink anytime your opponent lands a shot.

Play Fair at All Times – Beer pong is not a competitive sport and something you should do for fun. Avoid playing mind games with your opponent and certainly try to refrain from engaging in an argument.

Some More Beer Pong Variations You Might Consider

If you’ve been paying attention to viral videos in recent times, you might have come across a version of “Beer Pong Golf”. It’s quite a crazy version of beer pong that requires players to use a pitching wedge to land balls in cups belonging to the opposition. But there are always more subtle ways to add to the beer pong experience…

For instance, you might consider a slip cup which is a plastic cover that catches the ball inside each cup. It’s obviously more hygienic to take this approach but it also stops the beer from splashing all over the place. You could also spice things up by playing beer pong with prosecco or investing in some fancy pink balls to go with some equally fancy champagne. Lights are also super important for during the game and aside from lights, you could even look into buying an LED scoreboard with neon lights. That being said, having a decent ping pong table is probably the best/first investment that a player should consider for beer pong.

But let’s get back to traditional beer pong and some final tips that can help you improve your game and also the playing experience for everyone else involved.

Some Last Minute Tips and Tricks to Win Every Time When Playing Beer Pong

Playing Beer Pong

Choose Your Cups Carefully

If you watch those who seem to succeed at beer pong, you should notice how they always aim for specific cups. You see, choosing certain cups will increase the probability of landing a shot, and cups at the front are usually easier to land. When you think about it, this also makes perfect sense because even after missing a cup in front, there is still the chance it might land in one further back.

Practice How You Throw the Ball

It’s usually best to try arc-ing your back when you throw as this increases the probability of a ball landing inside a cup. More specifically, this is a long and high throw that has a slow descent toward a cup. Alternatively, you might want to practice a low and fast shot or the common bounce shot to increase your skills. For many players, the latter of these can prove successful as the table will take much of the energy and speed out of the shot.

Know How to Hold the Ball

Believe it or not, there is even a proper way to hold the ball. Some players like to grasp the balls in the palm of their hand and let fly but there is no way of having any kind of accuracy with this approach. Instead, simply try placing the ball between your middle finger, forefinger and thumb. After making a small indent with your fingers, you can then push the ball with your thumb instead of using your arms for power. Throwing the ball in this way will help you get closer to mastering the art of pinpoint accuracy.

Talking With Your Opponent

While we try to emphasize that beer pong is about having fun, it cannot be denied that mind games can work extremely well. That is to say, you can certainly use mind games to put your opponent off and distract them from the task at hand. Once again, it’s important to also say that antagonizing your opponent has no place in beer pong and this kind of tactic should only be deployed in a way that your opponent can see the funny side of the matter.

Final Thoughts

Beer pong is an incredibly fun game which continues to bring joy to bars, clubs, and fraternities across the country. However, binge drinking is not part of beer pong and players should always make a point to encourage others to drink responsibility while playing. Also, the etiquette mentioned above is there to promote fair play and manners during play, while ensuring nobody feels upset or angry during the proceedings.

As with any game or sport, it’s also essential that all players know the rules of beer pong, and any gray areas or rules are discussed prior to starting a game. While you can use a standard table to play beer pong, nothing can replicate the experience of playing with a quality ping pong table and the same can be said for having the correct setup in general. Either way, beer pong is a game that everyone can enjoy, and taking the time to read through all the rules and points above should ensure everyone has a fun time!


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