How To Play Beer Pong: Rules, Tips, & Equipment

Ah, beer pong, the beloved drinking game that everybody thinks they’re good at, but few people are. It’s a classic drinking game with more rules than you’re probably aware of. We always recommend ironing these out before you start a game to prevent disagreements.

What are beer pong rules? Standard beer pong rules specify two teams of two. Each team begins with 14 or 22 alcohol-filled cups in a triangle shape. The objective is to throw ping pong balls into each cup to remove it from play. Your opponent must drink these cups. If both players from a team make a shot, they get another throw. But there are variations of rules, such as the rim jobs, islands, and heating up. 

Yet this is just a loose outline, and there are many more rules you need to know about. Read on as I cover the main rules of ping pong, technical rules, the best equipment to use, and tips for offense and defense.

Objective of Beer Pong

Cups for game Beer Pong on the table

The goal of beer pong is to clear the opposing team’s cups by throwing or bouncing pong balls into them. Although the real objective is to drink some of those cups and have fun.

Equipment for Beer Pong

Before diving into cup pong rules, ensuring you have all the right gear is important. Here is what you need.

  • A beer pong table or a ping pong table
  • Ping pong balls (we recommend two at a minimum)
  • 14 or 22 cups
  • Your alcohol of choice, and plenty of it!
  • Water
  • Setting up Beer Pong

Beer Pong Rules

Young friends playing beer pong at youth hostel - Free time travel concept with backpackers having unplugged fun at guesthouse - Happy people on playful genuine attitude - Vivid vignetting filter

Beer pong has standard rules, even though there are many variations. Let’s cover all the variations so you can select the right rules for your party.

Picking Beer Pong Partners

First things first, it’s time to pick partners. A regular beer pong game is 2 vs 2, but honestly, you can play with as many people as you like. Just be aware the more people that play, the less alcohol there is to go around!

Setting Up Beer Pong Cups

College party sport - beer pong

  • Set up the beer pong table by making a triangle on each side of the table with the party cups. The cups should touch one another, and the pyramid’s tip should face the opposing team.
  • Set one cup aside next to either pyramid and fill it with water. This acts as a cleaning station to stop the balls from becoming sticky.
  • Fill the pyramid cups with beer until they are half full. This should be enough to ensure they do not get knocked over.

How many cups do you need for beer pong? Either 14 or 22. For a longer drinking game, make two triangles of 10 cups and place 1 cup at either end filled with water. For a shorter drinking game, instead, use two triangles of 6 cups and 1 at each end filled with water.

Read More: Beer Pong Setup and Supplies


Deciding Which Team Starts

Although you can decide this at random or through other means, traditional beer pong games start with what we call an “eye for an eye.”

  • A member of each team will try to sink a ball in at the same time while staring into the eyes of each other.
  • If neither player makes it, the other team members will attempt until a ball is made.
  • The first team that gets the ball into a cup starts the game.
  • The cup the ball lands in does not count as an actual game cup, so don’t remove it from the table.

How to Play Beer Pong

Friends enjoying beer pong game in bar

  • Winners of “eye for an eye” must choose a team member to start the game, or both may shoot simultaneously.
  • If neither player makes the ball into a cup, it is the other team’s turn.
  • If one of the team members makes a cup successfully, one of the opponents must drink the beer in that cup and move it to the side. This cup is not part of the game anymore.
  • If both team members make it into two different cups, both opponents must drink a cup each, remove the cups, and give both balls back to the shooters to shoot again.
  • If both team members make it into the same cup, It is an automatic win for them (end of the game. NEXT.)
  • If a player makes a ball into a cup and it bounces into another cup, both cups must be drunk and removed.
  • If you drop a cup on your side of the table, you must remove it.
  • If a shot causes a cup to fall, the cup counts and you have to remove it from the game. The only exception is when the ball hits the cup from the side. In this case, the shot is a miss and you replace the fallen cup with another.

Don’t forget: Wash out the ball in the water cup after every time it lands in a cup filled with beer. This will stop it from becoming sticky.

Technical Beer Pong Rules List

beer pong rules

  • Elbow rule: When shooting the ball, your elbow should not be over the table. If you find your elbow over the table, take a step back. If you break the elbow rule while making a successful shot it will not count (provided you are caught). If you break the rule but miss your shot, nothing happens.
  • Heating up: If a team member makes two or more cups in a row, he or she can call “heating up.”
  • On fire: If a player has called “heating up” and makes the third shot in a row, he or she must get the ball back and keep shooting until he or she misses. If a player has not called “heating up” in beer pong, they cannot call “on fire.”
  • Island: If there is an isolated cup next to two or more cups, a team member may shout out “island.” Each player is allowed to do this once per game. If you sink the ball into the isolated cup, the opposing team must drink a second cup.
  • Behind the back: If a shot is unsuccessful but remains on the table, that player can snatch it and take another shot. However, this follow-up shot must be performed behind the back.
  • Rim job (optional rule): If a ball circles the rim before it gets inside the cup (called a “rim job”), a male player may “finger it” and try to take the ball out of the cup before it hits the beer with one of his fingers. A female player may attempt to blow it out without using her hands. If either a male or female player inadvertently knocks the ball out of the original cup and causes it to land into another, that team must consume both cups.

Read More: History of Beer Pong

Shooting vs. Bouncing Rule

  • The shooting team may shoot or bounce the ball when it’s their turn.
  • Opponents can try to distract the shooter by making faces or by being annoying, but they can’t touch the ball. If the opponents touch the ball before it hits the table or the floor, they must allow the shooter to shoot again.
  • If the shooter attempts a bounce shot, the opponents are then able to use their hands to slap the ball away only AFTER it touches the table.
  • If a ball is bounced and lands in a cup, two cups must be drunk and removed.

How To Re-Rack in Beer Pong

beer pong rules

  • In a game of 6 cups, you may rerack (change the position of the cups) once.
  • In a game of 10 cups, you may rerack twice.
  • Reracks must be performed before BOTH players shoot.
  • Teams may call for a “gentlemen’s rerack” even if they have already reracked twice

You may request a “gentlemen’s rerack” if there is 1 cup left and it is not in the center of the opponent’s side of the table This is asking the opponent to put the last cup in the middle of their side of the table. The opponents decide whether or not to honor this request.

Ending The Beer Pong Game

The end of a game of beer pong is called redemption or rebuttal. How it comes into effect depends on how many remaining cups the losing team has left.

If there are two or more cups left over, 1-ball redemption ensues. This sees unlimited rollbacks until somebody misses. Each player from the losing team must take turns to take a shot. If they miss, they must finish off all of the remaining alcohol in the cups.

If only one cup is left in play, you get either one or two balls to make a comeback.

  1. If the opponents won on their second shot, you get two balls
  2. If the opponents won on their first shot, you get one ball
  3. If the opponents sank your remaining two cups consecutively, you get two balls

In either scenario, if redemption is successful overtime follows.


Overtime proceeds in the same format as a regular game of beer pong. The only difference is that the team who would have won had the redemption not been successful, begin by throwing first. Also, each team has 3 cups rather than 6 or 12.

Important to note: There is no limit to how often overtime can occur.

Read More: Beer Pong Tables for Different Kinds of Shots


Choosing Beer Pong Equipment

There’s not a lot that goes into choosing beer pong equipment. Ultimately, you just need a raised platform to place your cups on in a triangle formation. That being said, if you want to follow the official beer pong rules, you’re best off getting a beer pong table.

Beer Pong Table

beer pong rules table

Standing at a regulation size of 8 ft x 2 ft, the GoPong beer pong table is the perfect table for the job. It even has the triangle and water cup locations marked out. We like that it folds compactly for easy storage and transportation and that it features ball holders on the underside of the playing surface.

Stiga XTR

beer pong rules table

If you don’t want to purchase a beer pong table, a ping pong table is perfect for the job. As it stands 9 ft x 5 ft, it is more than big enough to serve as a table for beer pong.

The obvious benefit of picking up the Stiga XTR is that you get to enjoy playing table tennis as well as playing ping pong. It’s one of the cheapest outdoor tables on the market and is made by a top table tennis brand.

Cups and Balls

beer pong rules cups

If you’ve got your table sorted, all you need besides your alcohol and water are your cups and balls. You can, of course, use glasses from around the house, but these will cause the balls to ricochet much more than softer cups. What’s more, glass is not the best idea as it may result in accidents.

This cup and ball set are cheap and specifically made for beer pong. It features 24 cups and 24 balls.

Beer Pong Offensive Tips

While beer pong may seem like it’s more luck than skill, this simply isn’t true. And while skill is your best way to win this drinking game, strategy is your next best ally.

First things first, where do you aim? A game of beer pong starts with the cups arranged in a triangle formation. As such, the front is thin and becomes progressively wider to the back. This means you should aim for the front to begin with. If you miss, the ball may roll along the lip of a cup and fall into another.

You should also always aim for the same cup as your partner. This is the quickest way to end the game because you automatically win if you both make the same cup.

Types of Shots

beer pong rules
Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

There are three types of shots in beer pong. It’s important to select the right one based on your preferences and the field of play.

Arc Shot

The arc shot is a high, looping ball that travels up and forward rather than down and forward. While it is often portrayed as having a very high flight path, in reality, this is an exaggeration. Most players only introduce a slight upward trajectory, otherwise, it can be hard to predict the ball’s distance.


Fastballs are direct and travel downward to the cups. Due to their speed, they approach the ball at a harsh angle making it difficult for them to land in a cup. I don’t recommend performing fastballs, however, if you do, use them at the start of a game. Fastballs are prone to rolling along the lips of the cups, so they work better when more cups are in play.

Bounce Shot

The bounce shot is a powerful shot in beer pong as it counts for two cups when made successfully. It’s also not too difficult to perform as the impact into the table kills the pace on the ball. However, bounce shots are risky as opponents can swat them away freely. Only use them sporadically when your opponents are not expecting it.

A great strategy is to throw out a bounce shot and another shot simultaneously. This can confuse the defenders and give you a free bounce shot.

Beer Pong Defensive Tips

beer pong rules

The best defensive strategy is to be diligent with your defensive duties. If you’re not, you’ll let your opponents get away with tricks they otherwise couldn’t. Stay focused at all times, or if you want to win, fake complacency to bait out bounce shots.

Swatting Bounce Shots

Blocking bounce shots is your main means of defense, so always be ready to perform a block. Make sure you’re careful not to hit the cups over, though. If you do they are out of play, and you’ve hurt your own team!

Fingering and Blowing

You have additional means of defense if you decided to employ the rimjob rule before the game. Ladies can blow the ball away when it travels along the rim of a cup. Similarly, men can flick away the ball when it is in the same position. Again be careful not to knock over your own cups here. These defensive maneuvers are hard to pull off!

Trash Talk

It might not be gentlemanly, but it gets the job done. If I had a penny for every time I got in somebody’s head with a bit of trash talk, I’d probably have enough for a chocolate bar by now.

Trash talk is a powerful strategy but try to keep it friendly. Ultimately, beer pong is just a game and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That being said, the right kind of trash talk can make the game even more enjoyable and increase your odds of securing the win.

Now Get Out There and Have Fun!

Beer pong is one of the best drinking games around, and while there’s more to remember than you think, beer pong rules are simple enough to understand. Just remember that different people play by different rules for beer pong, so check with everyone involved to make sure you’re all on the same page.

For the longest time, I didn’t know about the blocking rule for bounce shots in beer pong. If I had, I’m sure I would have won a lot more games over the years!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Play Cup Pong?

Arrange alcohol-filled cups into two triangles and attempt to throw ping pong balls into them. The winner is the first team to clear the opponent’s cups. Each team has two players, and both get to throw on their team’s turn. Players only get a consecutive throw if both team members make a throw successfully on a turn.

What Are the Beer Pong House Rules?

Beer pong house rules vary, but most rules state that:
* The winner is the team to clear the enemy’s cups first
* The elbow cannot go past the table when shooting
* Players can throw or bounce the ball
* Bounce shots can be intercepted
* Reracks may be called twice
* If both players throw a ball into the same cup, they automatically win

How Many Cups Are in Beer Pong?

In beer pong, there are either 22 or 14 cups in total. For games with 22 cups, create two triangles consisting of 10 cups, and fill the remaining two with water to clean the balls off. For games with 14 cups, create two triangles of 10 cups and use the remaining cups as your water cups.

What Are the Beer Pong Bounce Rules?

Bounce shots are legal in beer pong. Successful throws count for 2 cups instead of 1. However, the opposing team can block the ball which significantly reduces the effectiveness of the bounce shot. Only use sparingly when your opponents are not expecting it otherwise it is a waste of a throw.

What Happens When the Ball Bounces Off Another Cup in Beer Pong?

The ball is still live when it bounces off another cup, so if the ball lands in a different cup than the one intended, it still counts. If you’re playing by rim job rules, ladies can blow such balls away, and the men can attempt to finger the ball away.

Alex Horscroft

Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.

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