One Swill Game

The long and tipsy road to the World Series of Beer Pong

Though he couldn't attend the World Series of Beer Pong because of work obligations, Yawitz took time to read the event's lengthy list of rules and was particularly critical of one provision that mandates "reformation," or bundling cups together after others have been removed from the table.

"If you don't reform, it's more of a skill game," posits Yawitz. "You can have the 'seven-ten' split, or single cups just sitting by themselves." Yawitz uses baseball comparisons to estimate one's beer-pong proficiency. "If you can throw .400, then you would be very skilled, whereas .200 is mediocre," he says.

Jennifer Garfinkel, a twenty-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth, calls pong the "Texas Hold-'Em of drinking games." She recently penned a three-part series for her school paper on the history of beer pong at the Hanover, New Hampshire, campus, describing in part the sociological protocol of making a beer-pong date.

St. Louis beer-pong champion David "Frack" Frackleton competes at the World Series of Beer Pong in Mesquite, Nevada. At left is his Chicago-based teammate, Edward Rhee.
Vince Kaminski
St. Louis beer-pong champion David "Frack" Frackleton competes at the World Series of Beer Pong in Mesquite, Nevada. At left is his Chicago-based teammate, Edward Rhee.
Nicholas Velissaris (left) and Jason Coben (right) are the 2006 World Series of Beer Pong champs.
Vince Kaminski
Nicholas Velissaris (left) and Jason Coben (right) are the 2006 World Series of Beer Pong champs.

"It's not usually an official thing, but if you meet somebody and you want to get to know them, you'll often suggest, 'Let's grab a game of pong sometime,'" she says, adding that she's grabbed a few herself.

Dartmouth players use paddles, and they insist that those who don't commit blasphemy. Joe Stange, however, offers a more nuanced view.

"Beer pong is like our Constitution," says the 28-year-old Mizzou grad. "It is organic. It lives and breathes, and is interpreted differently by different people in different situations, at different levels of drunkenness."

Champaign, Illinois, Police Sergeant Scott Friedlein says beer pong has taken the University of Illinois by storm. "Last year, at the beginning of the school year, I was driving down the street and literally every yard was littered with pieces of plywood on sawhorses and kids playing beer pong."

And Friedlein is none too happy about it.

"This is a way for people to get excessively drunk," the police sergeant says. "In order to advance, you have to consume more. 'Would adults engage in this behavior?' is a question I would ask. Or is it more designed for the college-age person? How many 45-year-olds are out competing in beer pong? Drinking is a social activity, not a competition. Any time we say, 'Drink more and win,' it is probably going to be, ultimately, a loss."

Illinois law prohibits bars from hosting drinking games. (Happy hours are banned in the state as well.) In 2003 Champaign police ran a sting operation to break up a clandestine game of "flippy cup." "We used cameras and shot as an enforcement sweep was occurring," Friedlein recalls. "People kept drinking for five minutes before they realized we were filming."

Recent Illini graduate Atish Doshi believes the crackdown is much ado about nothing, saying, "I've never heard about anyone getting hospitalized related to beer pong."

Whatever the case, beer pong is also making serious inroads on St. Louis campuses. Recent Washington University graduate Nicole Buskus says students often play the game with hard liquor instead of beer.

Frack says his former fraternity, Theta Xi, is well-known at Wash. U. for hosting games on the handcrafted wooden table that sits on their front porch. But according to Rob Wild, the college's associate director of residential life, drinking games are not permitted on campus.

"The goal of drinking games is usually so that the individual can consume a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time, which is inherently dangerous," Wild explains.

Yawitz says beer pong is more about the game than the drinking.

"In college, when someone used to play for the first time, we would ask: 'What is the point of Beirut? Getting drunk, getting the other team drunk, or winning?' Most people say getting the other team drunk — but the answer is winning."

Virgin is the name of Mesquite's craggy mountain range, its meandering river, and the southern Nevada valley where it's located. Settled as a Mormon outpost, it is today an eternally sunny burg of 17,000, offering little of the titillating entertainment that lures the lusting hordes to Las Vegas some 80 miles away. But heck, there's plenty of skeet-shooting, golf courses and two-dollar craps tables. And this year: the first World Series of Beer Pong.

Series organizers liked the cheap rooms (some as low as $25 a night) and spacious grounds of the town's Oasis Resort. With few distractions, they figured, participants would confine their rummy shenanigans to the premises.

"There's nothing out here but mountains and sausage," complains one beer-pong contestant, who's arrived from Yuma, Arizona.

The World Series begins on a balmy early January morning, with a grand total of three female participants in attendance. The vibe is decidedly homoerotic. There's a duo from Long Beach, California, called You Kiddin Me? They sport what they call "gay Olympian" costumes — bare chests and tight warm-up pants. Their pre-game routine calls for push-ups, aerobics and a lot of flexing.

A team named Dominance features Mike Filanowski wearing nothing but pink undies, a ball gag and a chain around his neck. His partner, Natalie Ramsey, a Hollywood actress who starred in Cruel Intentions 3, is clad in a dominatrix suit. She holds her whip in one hand and tosses the Ping-Pong ball with the other. Other characters include Playboy's Cara Zavaleta, Miss November 2004, and a cavalcade of local and national media.

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