With doping marring the reputations of many established sports like Major League Baseball and the Tour de France, it's reassuring to find a game that embraces the blatant use of a controlled substance. At the World Series of Beer Pong, not only is the consumption of alcohol accepted before, during and after competition, it's encouraged.
"You basically party all night gamble in the casino during the evening," says Shaun Parker of his experiences at the tournament. "You get up and depending on which circuit you're in you can start as early as 11 11:30 in the morning and it goes until about 4:30, 5."
Beer pong is exactly what it sounds like: two teams throwing ping-pong balls into each other's cups of beer then drinking them (the beer, not the balls). "No matter what, it looks like a binge drinking game even though it's really not," says Parker. You only drink one beer per game and at the tournament you only play one game an hour, he says.
Thought to have started on the Bucknell University campus in Pennsylvania in the 1950s, the popular college drinking game was given (relative) legitimacy two and a half years ago when the first World Series was held at the Oasis Resort Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. Unlike house-party versions of the game, which are generally started spontaneously, the tournament encourages teams to plan ahead and dress up. Many players use their costumes to distract opposing teams.
"The first year, they had the B-actress and her boyfriend who basically wore a gag-ball and different coloured tighty-whities every day of the tournament, and she dressed up as a dominatrix," says Parker. Last year there were girls stripping. "That was pretty difficult," he says.
Parker, 28, began his career like many young athletes, playing pick-up games with American friends while completing a tourism and hospitality management internship at Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. "The Canadians loved it," he says. "Beer is cheap so it's just a party thing that we did all the time."
After returning to Halifax, a friend discovered bpong.com, which led to their involvement in the tournament, held every January. Parker placed 56 out of 86 teams the first year and 146 of 256 last year, when the winners walked away with $20,000. This year, 500 teams are expected to participate in the tournament.
Friend and new teammate Brian Smart hopes to bring a new level of "consistency" and a competitive edge to Parker's game, where eyes are on the prize and less on the social circus that orbits the competition. "I play beer pong for the fun of the game," says the 30-year-old. "I'm not in it to get smashed. I'm there to play and try to win."
Despite his success in the game, Parker's parents have split opinions on his new side- career. "My dad is considering going and participating with his girlfriend," he says. "My mom thinks it's stupid, of course, but I think it's all good fun."
BEER PONG: THE RULES
Although there is a litany of variations, from the number of players on each team to the object being thrown (or in some cases bounced), a game of beer pong generally follows these rules: Set Up Arrange an equal number of cups in a group at each end of a table, pouring equal amounts of beer into each cup. Cheap light lagers work best.
Step 1 In turn, players throw ping-pong balls across the table, trying to land them in one of the opposing players’ cups.
Step 2When a ball lands in one of your cups, drink the beer and remove the cup from the table.
Step 3As cups disappear from the table, consolidate the remaining ones to fill gaps. Step 4The player who eliminates all the opposing players’ cups wins!
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