Dropping Bombs: A History of Beer Pong

Beer Pong – the god of drinking games. Played across the world by those who love to compete, those who love to drink, and especially those who love to mix the two together! It all had to start somewhere. Here we are to share with you our history of beer pong.

We’ve all heard our own version of the origins of beer pong, but let’s really explore where it comes from. Bodega Hostels prides itself on its beer pong tournaments, so we really put in an effort to research this very important topic. It’s easily our favorite drinking game, after all. There are stories dating back as long as people have been throwing ping pong balls into cups (so forever, right?) about where and how beer pong started. What follows is what is believed to be the best account of the origins of the greatest game with two balls.

The history of beer pong dates back to medieval times.

Dartmouth College and the 1950’s

That’s right, this game has been going for over 60 years. The poorly written (this is a drinking game after all…) history makes out that some frat brothers at Dartmouth College were playing ping pong and drinking beer in their basement. One player put their cup down onto the table between shots and before long a ball perfectly sank into it. Just like that the game was born.

More and more people began purposefully placing their cups onto the table during ping pong games to entice opponents and before long people began setting up variations of the game. Some played Shrub and Tree, with cups set up as the aforementioned foliage. Others played a battleship-esque spread out set up. Some went for straight up lines. How they played is irrelevant, what matters is the game had been born.

It’s important to note that up until this stage the game was still played with the paddles, although some smashed off the handles to allow for better arcs on their shots.

The Game Spreads*

Like all good games, it wasn’t long before it spread across the country like a well-meaning, intoxicating virus. Other states began to see a rise of beer pong thanks to road tripping students and visiting players. By the time the 1980s arrived, change was beginning to arrive too. Reports began to emerge of people radically throwing the ball without using a paddle. By the late 1980s so-called “throw pong” was the lead version of the game and paddles were slowly left behind.

*I just lost the game

Mr. President

Don’t get excited. There are no recorded mentions of any beer pong games taking place in the White House. That said, there’s no way that Obama and Biden didn’t have a cheeky game or two. During the 1980s, politics and foreign affairs was in turmoil. A series of suicide bombers had targeted American soldiers in Lebanon and Libya. American responded in kind through a series of high intensity bombing raids.

The USA targeted Tripoli, the Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s stronghold, and support grew in some states for further bombing of Lebanon. The specific target in Lebanon? The capital city, Beirut. We like to imagine that after much political discussion and a heated debate, a group of friends decided to play a game of beer pong to relax. It was during these games that people made a link between flying balls towards an opponent’s side and the literal bombs being hurled at cities. Beirut was the name that stuck when players threw the balls.

The Game We All Know and Love

The simplicity of the throwing version of Beirut meant that the game exploded in popularity. Iterations were springing up across the whole of the US in no time at all. By the late 90s and early 2000s the game was countrywide and beginning to spread itself across the oceans. With this spread the initial lore behind the game got lost. People hadn’t ever heard of the paddle version of the game nor the reasoning behind calling it Beirut.

Before long people looked at the game and named what they saw. There was beer on the table and people were playing with ping pong balls. The moniker Beer Pong was born and players have never looked back. In terms of the official naming of Beer Pong, well we think its enough that the international championships, The World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP), uses beer pong in the title.

Beer Pong is a Local Sport

In terms of the rules? Well every house has its own rules. Some play with 6 cups, others 10. Some have multiple re-racks, others have limited or none. Elbows? Fiercely debated on every table and contentious wherever you are. Wherever you are, make sure to brush up on the local rules because while the history of beer pong is universal, everyone plays a bit different.

Bodega Hostels Beer Pong Rules