World Series of Beer Pong IV: Unlike College Football, Beer Pong Has a Playoff
Downstairs in the sportsbook of the Flamingo, casual fans and degenerates alike are placing their bets on Thursday's BCS Championship game between Florida and Oklahoma, two teams that aren't meeting because they knocked off foes in a playoff system to reach the championship round. Upstairs on the conference room level of the Las Vegas hotel and casino, more than 400 teams from across North America are competing in tournament for a championship.
The game they are playing is beer pong.
Yes, beer pong. Even a game that started in the dorm rooms, frat houses and off-campus apartments of America has found a way to create a playoff system to decide who's the best. No computer rankings, no polls, just good ol' competing with some beer drinking mixed in at the World Series of Beer Pong IV. The NCAA may want to consider the following as a new slogan to promote the game, "College Football: Less Organized Than a Drinking Game."
But to many of the competitors at the World Series of Beer Pong, the drinking game is just as much a sport as college football.
Felipe Mendoza of North Hollywood says, "I take this really seriously. This is like a sport, it requires skill and practice." Mendoza, who is one-half of Team Kobe a team that has placed in the top 20 in their two previous World Series says, "My teammate and I shoot about 300 shots a day in the days leading up to the World Series."
His teammate Brian Newell explains, "Being competitive, having played a sport is definitely to your advantage in the game." He adds, "I played doubles tennis, so I think that that has helped us because the game definitely has similarities to doubles tennis."
Along with athleticism and a competitive nature, Newell says, "the taller guys have an advantage. Having a longer reach like Felipe (his teammate) is definitely a plus."
Butler, the owner of El Guapo Cantina on Melrose who was also competing in the World Series doesn't think it's the tall guys who have the advantage.
He says, "the older guys like me with beer guts are at an advantage." The bar owner adds, "none of these younger guys would be able to outdrink us."
The World Series, unlike games played in Butler's bar and most games played across the country, however, only uses 50% beer. The back row of cups are filled with water. This rule can be found in the 2,807 words that make up the World Series of Beer Pong's rules.
Nowhere in the official rules, which printed out comes out to about seven pages, will you find any mention of "having to drink your beer." Mendoza informs us, "It's an unwritten rule that you have to drink your beer." The unwritten rule turns into chants from the sea of spectators. When a contestant fails to oblige, he or she will be treated to taunts of "DRINK YOUR BEER! DRINK YOUR BEER! DRINK YOUR BEER!"
The reason the rule may be unwritten is the number of critics the game has picked up. The Associated Press reports, "Beer pong and other drinking games have been targeted by those trying to curb binge drinking. Some college campuses have banned the game."
El Segundo resident Peter Rusch, the founder of Southern California Beer Pong which organizes tournaments monthly, says "We play our tournaments with water. I'm not really sure what the law is in California regarding drinking games so I don't even want to mess with any of the legal issues so we just play with water." Rusch, who played in the World Series alongside his wife Kerrie as The Wet Bandits adds, "Playing with water is easier for us anyways, we can play with 100 teams and keep the game moving quickly and we don't have to worry about anyone getting hammered and starting fights."
Shockingly there were no fights to report here at the World Series either. Matching up competitive people, throwing in some alcohol and a big cash prize sounds like the perfect recipe for some one being a dick and throwing a punch or two, but no. Everyone, even the Stanford Law students who missed 12 straight shots at the final cup while being relentlessly heckled by a crowd of onlookers, ends their game with a smile and handshake for their opponents.
At the end of the tournament, the biggest smiles of everyone involved with the WSOBP might be on the faces of Michael Popielarski and Ron Hamilton, collectively known as "Smashing Time." The team from New York is $50,000 richer after taking home the crown late Sunday night.
But the guys over at Bpong.com have to be feeling pretty happy as well. The trio of Carnegie Mellon grads, Billy Gaines, Duncan Carroll and Ben "Skinny" Solnikare are the organizers of the event have seen the event grow five-fold since it's debut in 2006.
The game as a whole is experiencing massive growth as well. With more and more bars setting up tournaments, a documentary film, "Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong," which was screened at this year's WSOBP and a "Pong Toss" game on the Nintendo wii the game has certainly come a long way from its college campus roots.