How to Play Beer Pong

Backyard Games: What is Beer Pong?

beer pong
Friends play beer pong at a backyard party. Hero Images/Getty Images

You have a group of friends over for a backyard party or bbq, when someone suggests you play beer pong. You've heard about it, seen Jimmy Fallon play it with celebrity guests on The Tonight Show, but how do you actually play it? Do you need equipment? And what are the rules?

That's OK: maybe you didn't play it in college, rarely go to parties, or don't even drink alcohol. You can still play.

Equipment

  • A ping pong (table tennis) table, or a table
  • Plastic cups: traditionally, red Solo cups; 16-ounce size. But you can also have 12-ounce cups
  • Beer or beverage of your choice. This game can be played with children, renamed Root Beer Pong
  • Ping-pong balls

Teams

Form two teams with an even number of players. The odd-person-out can rotate and be referee, cheerleader, or bartender.

Rules of the Game

  • Organize players into two teams (you can play with just two people). 
  • Cups: Arrange six (6) cups on each side of the table (for a total of 12). Arrange cups in a triangle, allowing 4 inches from the table, and with the single cup pointing toward the middle of the table (start with three at edge of table, then two, then one). Pour approximately 3 to 4 ounces of beer into each cup. Before attempting a shot, a player can inspect the opponents' cups to determine of an adequate amount of beverage is maintained. If the liquid gets jostled and looks like it's less than 3 to 4 ounces, it must be refilled. 
  • Playing the Game: After it's determined who will start the game (often by random choice; i.e., heads or tails) the teams take turns shooting the ball. Each team takes a turn shooting on a turn-by-turn basis. 
  • Shooting: A player can throw, toss or bounce the ball to aim it into a cup. Depending on the length of the table, the shooter's elbow can't cross the end of the table while shooting. If leaning is allowed, you can lean over the table but not touch it. If the ball somehow lands in the middle of a group of cups, they are all considered sunk. 
  • Sinking the Cups: The other team's cups are "sunk" when the ball lands in or touches the beer in a cup. If a player shoots the ball and hits the opponent's cup, then the team who has the cup on its side must drink the cup's contents (the beer or other beverage). Team members alternate drinking from the "hit" cups. 
  • Object of Game: To sink all of the opponent's cups.

Hazards or Interference​

  • Plastic cups should be rearranged after one or more are hit to continue to form a triangle or diamond shape.
  • All yelling or taunting must be done behind the table. If a player interferes or intercepts the other team's shot, the heckler's team must forfeit a cup.
  • If a player knocks over one of his/her team's own cups, it is considered sunk.

What About Germs?

And for those who are germ conscious: the SlipCup could possibly be the answer to those games of really Dirty Beer Pong