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The old sink and drink
Editor's note: If you're under 21, don't play beer pong for Pete's sake. It's illegal. We suggest ginger ale. Root-beer pong seems too obvious.
Eric Welch is serious about his beer pong.
Well, as serious as you can get about a game that involves tossing ping-pong balls into plastic cups and chugging beer. A business marketing major at Fresno State, Welch, 22, is the Central Valley's beer pong ambassador. He runs the Web site, www.centralcalbeerpong.com, and organizes several local tournaments each year. The annual spring tournament is in March.
Beer pong has been popular with 20-something college types for years, Welch says.
But these days, the game is going legit.
It's moved from house parties and dorm-room keggers into the mainstream. There are beer pong leagues popping up across the county. Even bars are beginning to buy tables and host games Jimbos has games on Tuesdays, Sequoia Brewing Company has Saturday night games in the Tower District.
And it's becoming quite competitive.
A win at one of Welch's tournaments will get you $500. A bar in New Jersey has a weekly (that's every week) tournament worth $1,000. The National World Series (in its third year, no joke) has a prize purse of ... don't spit out your beer ... $50,000.
Welch and teammate Jonathan Gilbert won $3,000 in tournaments last year.
They play fiercely, traveling up and down the state to compete.
So, it makes sense to practice which Welch does on a eight-by-two-foot red-white-and-blue table in his dining room. He uses a clicker to keeps track of his shots, which he sinks easily into the plastic cups they're filled with water this early in the day.
But he's not the only one cashing in.
The game has spawned a whole movement of young entrepreneurs who are creating and selling beer pong products and accessories. The boys at Bpong.com (who run the World Series tourney) sell official tables, cups, balls, T-shirts and posters.
The Wall Street Journal even ran a front-page story on the business of the sport (yeah, we'll call it a sport).
But it's still mostly a drinking game, right?
Well, yes, Welch says, though the 10 cups are only filled with 2 1/2 ounces each. And as the game grows in popularity, as the stakes get higher and the players get better, the focus isn't so much on the beer part of the equation.
Already, some bars substitute water. At the World Series, four of the 10 cups have water, as some form of moderation.
If that doesn't work for you, you could always just buy a table and play with your friends. Welch sells official World Series tables for around $100. If you'd rather be competitive about it, Welch will start hosting World Series satellite tournaments next month. Top prize is paid entry into the series.
Either way, you've got plenty of time to practice your chug, er, toss.
How to play:
The game is pretty simple, Welch says.
The players, in teams of two, line up on either side of a eight-by-two-foot table (though you can use any table you've got) behind 10 partly filled cups arranged in a pyramid. The teams take turns tossing the ball into their opponents' cups. If you sink it, the opponent drinks it, then removes the cup. The first team to remove all of their opponent's cups win. Most places (especially parties) play by house rules, Welch says, so there are lots of variations. Some allow players to blow on the cups to keep a ball from sinking, for example.
His advice for all players: It's not as easy as you think. While trash talking is fine (in fact, it's part of the game), check your ego at the door.
For those visual learners: