Introducing: Welsh beer pong

The 31st of December 2018 represented a rather important five-year anniversary for me. It wasn’t the anniversary of a relationship, or a job, or some great award or accolade. No, it was five years to the day since I created a rather special drinking game.

I beat my very good friend Matt Parry 4 cups to 3 and 28 points to 26 to win the anniversary tournament at a New Year’s Eve party in Birmingham. It was befitting of the occasion; it was probably the greatest game the sport (yes, sport) had ever seen. Welsh beer pong at its very finest.

In the hours before we celebrated the start of 2014, I was playing beer pong with six friends at a student house in Swansea. As we played, an idea struck me, which caused me to ask if there were any table tennis bats around. How about, I said, we combine table tennis and beer pong.

We set up a line of beer-filled cups in the middle of the table – to act as a modified net – and started to play. We realised we were on to something and gave the game a working title, which was some amalgamation of all of our names (for the record, Lewis Reed, Jonathan Davies, Darryl Holdcroft, Andrew Henson, Rob Billingham and myself) which I’ve long forgotten. Rules were pretty basic at first, but started to take shape as we got closer to midnight.

When I returned to university at Loughborough in January, I got to work formalising some of the finer points of law, and introducing it to anyone who would listen. Years of development and spreading the gospel later, here’s your chance to get to get to grips with my favourite predrinking activity.

The basics

First of all, you need a table (ideally not a full-sized table tennis table – this makes it a little too tricky), two table tennis bats, at least one table tennis ball, a number of plastic comes and some drink. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be beer. You will, ideally, have a spirit and a shot glass nearby too.

Set up a row of cups along the centre of the table. This should be an odd number and enough to cover most of the space with only small gaps – five or seven will usually do it. Put a bit of drink in each cup; the convention is that each player fills up half of the cups with their drink and the middle cup is mixed, but that doesn’t matter too much.

The gameplay is effectively just table tennis. You are playing for points in the same way as table tennis, but with one key addition. At any time (other than from a serve, more on that later), you can hit the ball into any cup. If you do so, your opponent has to drink the contents. The cup is then returned, upside down, to its position.

But, points still matter. That’s because whomever reaches the specified number of points (11, 15 or 21 usually) first, their opponent has to drink all of the remaining cups. This is where playing a few games of this in a row can be difficult!

Welsh beer pong is usually just used as a fun way to get drunk. But, if the winner matters – such as in the anniversary tournament – what matters is which player has drunk the fewest number of cups. This means you can lose on points, but still technically win on cups.

The details

Intrigued by Welsh beer pong, but want to make sure you’re doing it right? Let me talk you through some of the more in-depth laws of the sport:

  • A cup can only be scored by hitting the ball legitimately as part of a rally. Serving the ball straight in, hitting it in when a point is not live or throwing it in when attempting to pass it to your opponent brings the penalty of a shot of spirit.
  • Hitting the ball straight into a cup from a fair shot (see both above and below) means neither player wins the point, only the cup. The first cup goes with the ‘table tennis’ score at 1-1, the score remains 1-1, just 1-0 in cups.
  • You can also lose a point but win a cup, if you hit the ball fairly but it bounces on your side and then into a cup. You’ve lost the point because it bounced on your side, but it was a legitimate strike of the ball so your opponent still has to drink.
  • You change servers after every odd point, i.e. after the first, third, fifth etc. This is regardless of if any cups are sunk along the way.
  • You have to win (in the ‘table tennis’ score) by two clear points. For example, Matt and my 28-26 epic was meant to be first to 15 points.
  • You cannot attempt to prevent the ball going into a cup by physically touching it. If the ball is tantalisingly bouncing toward a cup, all you can do to stop it is blow.
  • If all of the cups are drunk before the specified score is reached (see below for the jargon), the game ends there.

The jargon

Ready to play but want to make sure you’re looking and sounding like a pro? There are a few terms to be aware of:

  • A grand slam is beating your opponent without having to drink any cups yourself.
  • A platinum dunk – the ultimate victory in Welsh beer pong – is making your opponent drink all of the cups before reaching the specified winning score.
  • A full house is where all cups are still in play at the end of a game, meaning the loser will have to drink all of them at once.

Long Welsh beer pong

Now, this one is just for the real pros, but…

Two years ago I added a new version of Welsh beer pong to the law book. Long Welsh beer pong involves playing with a tennis scoring system, i.e. games and sets. It requires many, many more cups. The current guidance is 11 cups per set, so 55 for a full five-setter.

Long Welsh beer pong is not a game for social occasions with more than two people. The inaugural match between Welsh beer pong great Liam Peoples and myself involved 60 cups, finished 7-5 in the final set and took around two and a half hours. Let me know if you want a game, and we can talk about it then…

Important note

I like drinking, I like games and therefore I like drinking games. However, if not undertaken responsibly, competition involving excessive drinking can be extremely dangerous. Please enjoy Welsh beer pong for the wonderful sport it is; know your limits, keep an eye on your fellow players and know when to stop.

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