Beer pong (paddle game)
Beer pong (also known as Dartmouth pong or Backgammon) is a drinking game loosely based on ping pong that involves use of paddles to hit a ping pong ball into obstacles on the opposing side. The origin of beer pong is generally credited to Dartmouth College.
The origins of the game are obscure but it has been attributed to a Dartmouth College fraternity party. An Alpha Phi Delta fraternity alumnus, David Thielscher, class of 1954, recalled in an interview for The Dartmouth newspaper that beer pong was played when he was an undergraduate. History professor Jere Daniell '55 stated that he played the game as a student, and Bob Shirley '57 stated that he began playing in 1956. (Shirley suggests that the game began when spectators rested their cups of beer on a table during a ping-pong game). One of the earliest published photographs depicting a game of pong appeared in Colorado School of Mines' 1961 yearbook The Prospector. Dartmouth's 1968 yearbook Aegis (page 304) also has a published photograph of a game of pong.
Beer pong at Dartmouth was the only college-sponsored drinking competition in the country, until 1977 when the college decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the games. Official derecognition would not reduce the level of beer pong activity at Dartmouth or elsewhere, but would lead to many new variations on the game.
According to a 1999 New York Times article, pong "has been part of fraternity life for at least 40 years, as hallowed as rush or Winter Carnival". Other Ivy League newspapers have called Dartmouth "the spiritual home of beer pong", and characterized pong as "a way for Dartmouth frat boys to get drunk [that] has become what is arguably America's favorite drinking game".
In the early 1970s, Dartmouth briefly sanctioned the game as an intramural sport, making it the only college-sponsored drinking contest in the country. In 1977, Dartmouth ended this practice.
By the mid-1980s Pong was well established at several universities, including Bowdoin College, Lehigh University, Lafayette College, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Whitman College, and Williams College. By 1976, students began publishing articles about the game.
A 2004 survey of Dartmouth students provided these statistics:
- About 60 percent of students had played pong at least once within the two weeks prior to the survey.
- About 20 percent of students have never played pong.
- Tree requires the average team to consume 7.3 drinks, Shrub 5.7 drinks, Line/Death 5.2 drinks, and Ship 7.4 drinks.
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No "official" codified version of the rules of pong exist, and many "house rules" variations exist. In general terms, players start by assembling cups of beer or other obstacles onto either side of a pong table and placing a median at the center of the table. Like table tennis, pong requires one side to serve the ball and the other side to attempt to return the ball, thus beginning a rally. Both the serve and the intra-game volleys generally must propel in an arch trajectory. Players may not return the ball until it has struck their own side, objects on their side, or the floor. Following the serve, players attempt to hit or sink in the opponents cups, whereby the opponent will lose one or more points. Once all points for a cup or obstacle have been taken away, the object is removed. The game is won when all objects have been removed from the opponents side.
Pong requires a table, paddles, a ball, cups, and liquid—preferably beer. Also, some rules require a median of some sort to be utilized.
- The table is not a regulation ping-pong table but is made from one or two sheets of plywood, usually measuring 4'x8', 5'x9', or 5'x10'. However, a regular ping-pong table may be utilized if available. The sheets are propped up on supports such as sawhorses, garbage cans, or frames specially built from lumber or steel pipes.
- The median is a divider placed across the center of the table, such as a pole, hockey stick, broom handle, or the net of a table tennis set.
- Paddles are commercial ping pong paddles, sometimes in modified form to suit the house rules. Typically, the handles are broken off.
- Cups are predominantly twelve ounce plastic cups arranged in a predetermined configuration. Sixteen ounce cups are utilized as well, however are frowned upon as they provide a much larger target which enables less skilled player to flourish.
- Beer (or water for water pong, cocktails for tails pong, champagne for champong) fills each cup approximately 5/6ths of the way full before each game.
Cups or obstacles may be assembled in a number of configurations. Often these configurations vary widely between groups, with players remaining very loyal to their original form of play.
- Two Cup: Two cups are placed next to each other a set distance from the edge of the pong table, typically one paddle length. Two cup can be played for points and/or simply until your two cups are gone.
- Four Cup: Each of the two player on one side have their own "Two Cup" set up.
- The Unholy: One cup with a shot of Jägermeister, is placed in front of the single beer glass one paddle length ahead on the center line. If the shot glass is hit during play, the person hitting the shot glass must drink: hence the name "The Unholy".
- Line: An expansion of "Two Cup" to any number of cups lined up in a single row a set distance from the edge of the pong table, typically one paddle length.
- Wall: Cups in a line across the width of the table.
- Great Wall: Cups lining all sides of the table.
- Death: Nine cups in a line (SigEp c.1990-2010).
- Shrub: A six cup triangle centered on each end, a paddle's width from the edge of the table, with a single 'stem' cup behind them.
- Triangle: A variation of Shrub with the base along the back line of the table, and no stem.
- Tree: An eleven cup variant with a ten cup triangle.
- Double-stemmed Tree: A twelve cup variant with a ten cup triangle and two stem cups.
- Sequoia: A seventeen cup variant with a 15 cup triangle and two stem cups.
- Tower: A twenty-one cup variant. The base consists of a "Tree," a "shrub" is carefully balanced on top of the base. A miniature three-cup tree is balanced on the "shrub" and finally a single cup is balanced on the top.
- Sequoia Tower: A thirty-eight cup variant. "Tower" with a "Sequoia" base.
- Enchanted Forest: Typically played with two pong tables placed side by side. The number of players is unlimited to the extent that the tables get too crowded. Each player starts with a "Tree" and once your last cup is gone—magically another "Tree" appears in front of you. Etiquette dictates that you do not hit towards the person immediately to your left or right, but etiquette quickly dissipates as the game proceeds. The game ends when you decide to walk away.
- Social: Same as "Enchanted Forest" but each player has a "Shrub" instead of a "Tree" and 2 ping pong balls are in play at any given time.
- Ship or Battleship: A configuration modeled after the classic board game Battleship. Each team positions five "boats" aligned to a grid. The "boats" consist of one 5-cup arrangement, one 4-cup arrangement, two 3-cup arrangements, and one 2-cup arrangement, similar to the board game. Additionally, there is a "mine" or two which if hit by an opponent is drunk by the opponent. Standard formation usually requires placement of the 5 and 4 "boats" on the right and left edge of your side of the table, with the 3 "boat" at an angle on the center line between the 5 and 4 "boats." The 2 "boat" is usually placed at the closest possible point to your opponents side of the table—it is also placed at an angle. Usually the "mine" is movable and refilled upon being sunk. Further, when any of your "boats" are reduced to 2.5 cups, a sink on any of the cups in that boat results in the sinking of the entire boat, which must be removed from play. Often played with a single paddle per side.
- Harbor or Pearl Harbor: Originally called 8-Man. A variant on "Ship" where two pong tables are placed side by side. There are 4 teams each defending a corner of the pong field, instead of the normal short side of the table. A 6-cup "boat" is added to the game, as well as an additional "mine." Again, the "mine" may be movable and may be refilled.
- Battlestar: A combination of "Ship" and "Tree."
- Battlestar Gallatica: A combination of "Tower" and "Ship"
- Towerstar Gabootica: A combination of "Sequoia Tower" and "Ship"
Games of Lore
- Tic-Tac-Toe: A massive game, in which all likelihood substitutions will be required, as 81 cups are placed on each side of the table. The cups are sets up in 9 groupings of 9 cups obviously in the formation of a Tic-tac-toe board. You win by getting rid of three 9 cup groupings as per the normal rules of Tic-tac-toe.
- Table: Another massive game. Cups are set up to cover the entire surface of the table. A player must continue to serve and incur penalties until they have cleared a space on the table large enough to legally serve.
Basic Rules of Play
Start of game: There are many ways to begin a game of pong; game start usually depends upon the rules of the house in which you are playing. It may also depend upon if the game is individual or tournament play.
- Tournament Play: Standard practice is to volley for serve.
- Individual Play: In individual play a team has many options: (1) volleying for serve; (2) challenging team must serve first, (3) volunteering to serve first, & (4) tossing the ball similar to Beirut.
Serve: A player serves by striking the ball so that it makes contact with their own side once, immediately followed by contact with the opposing side.
- Ace: A serve resulting in the ball bouncing in an awkward fashion, such as off the cornered edge of the table, is called an ace. An ace is legal and generally sought after by experienced players.
- Service Fault: Failing to contact the opposing side on a serve is considered a fault. Often a predetermined number of faults results in the serving team losing points or drinking from their own cups. Most house rules provide that a game cannot end on a serve fault, which provides a strategic advantage to a team on the verge of loss.
- Service Hit: Making contact with cups or obstacles on the opposing side when serving is considered a service hit. A service hit results in the serving team being penalized. Standard penalties involve the loss of points or drinking from one's own cups.
- Dirty Serve: Serving in a disreputable manner, such as striking a ball that is already bouncing or squeezing the ball between the thumb and paddle, is considered a dirty serve. A dirty serve is typically legal, but frowned upon.
Volley: After the serve, teams alternate striking the ball onto the opposing team's side of the table.
End of volley: A volley ends when the ball bounces twice, misses the opposite side, is double hit, or hits or sinks in the cups. A team that causes the volley to end by missing the opposing side or allowing the ball to bounce twice must then serve the ball to restart play. A hit or sink against an opponent results in the opponent serving the ball to restart play.
- A Hit: Striking the opponents cups during a volley is considered a hit. Usually the opponents will lose one point or drink. Standard penalty for drinking is typically half a cup.
- Sink: Having the ball come to rest in one of the opponents cups during a volley is considered a sink. Usually the penalty for the opponents would be doubled, costing two points or resulting in the drinking of the entire cup. When not playing points, a sunk cup must be removed from play.
- Double hit: A team striking the ball twice is considered to have double hit the ball. This generally results in the end of a volley.
End of Game: A game is ended in two ways; a designated number of points are attained through hits and sinks or all the cups on one's side have been removed.
In general, and particularly when playing "lob" pong any save type does not require the ball to travel in an arc pattern; rather the ball simply must strike your opponents side of the table. The means of getting the ball there is irrelevant.
- Save: Immediately after the ball strikes a team's cups, the team may attempt a subsequent return called a save. A save generally cancels the penalty associated with the hit.
- Cup Save: When the ping pong ball hits an opponent's cup and the ball bounces high and far enough to cross back over to a team's side, negating the hit penalty.
- Throw Save: Throwing one's paddle to save a hit penalty. Usually occurs, when a team's cup is hit on the edge or side closest to the opponent, and the ping pong ball ricochets back toward the opponent's side but not far enough to avoid hitting a team's side of the table twice, which would result in the hit penalty being accessed. Because of the ricochet of the ball and the distance from a player, the player is required to throw their paddle in an attempt to hit the ball over to the opponent's side.
- Blow Save: Where a ping pong ball hits a cup and while swirling around the cup about to "sink" into the cup, but before the ball touches the beer, a player blows air under the ball and pops it out of the cup. Obviously, this only saves a "sink," and a penalty for a hit is still accessed unless the player in the same motion is able to hit the ball onto the opponent's side. This type of save is contentious.
- Save hit: In attempting a save, if a player strikes the opponents cups, it is generally referred to as a save hit. A save hit often results in the players on whom the hit was made losing a point or drink.
- Save sink: In attempting a save, if a player strikes the ball so that it comes to rest in the opponents cups, it is generally referred to as a save sink. The consequence of a save sink is often the dual-doubling of the combined save and sink, costing in four points or drinks in the general course of play.
- Floor shot: On hitting the floor, a team may attempt one final shot to hit the opponents cups called a floor shot. Hitting or sinking from a floor shot is generally considered the same as hitting or sinking during a volley. A floor shot may similarly be saved, although the volley is still terminated once all save shots have completed. This type of save is rarely allowed; standard practice requires that the striking of the ball on the floor ends a volley.
- Ceiling Slam: In certain houses, when a lobbed ball hits the ceiling, the returning team has the option to "Slam" or return the volley without lobbing, thus increasing their chances of hitting cups and making saves more difficult.
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The game mirrors the basic form of a friendly game of regulation table tennis. Each serve and return must complete an arc acceptable to opponents and observers, though the goal of sinking the ball in a cup tends to reward returning in the proper form. Hitting an opponent's cup means one-fifth, one-half or simply a "sip" of the cup is drunk (depending on the school), and sinking a ball in a cup (aka, a "plop") means that a player or a team must drink a half or the entire cup. Spilling one's own cup usually merits drinking an entire cup of freshly poured beer. Other beverages than beer, including water or cocktails, are sometimes permitted, but some beverage is necessary.
The ball is properly served by striking it with the paddle, ensuring it bounces only once off the serving team's half of the table, and then lands on the opposing team's half. If the ball hits an opponent's cup the serving team must drink one sip from their cup and serve again. This is a "fault". If the serve lands in an opponent's cup the serving team must drink an entire beer. This is also a "fault".
Two "faults" are allowed if the ball fails to make its second bounce on the opponent's half of the table. If a server faults three times, the opponent gets one point and the server must continue serving. Note that hitting or sinking on the serve do not count as faults; in this case, the opponent collects 1 or 2 points respectively and immediately gets to serve.
Since a game cannot be lost on a service error, at match point the losing server has an unlimited number of "faults", and the server does not lose points or service if the opponent's cup is accidentally hit or sunk on the serve. As a result, the server should keep trying for the best serve possible when the opponent is at match point. Some players institute a three-fault rule, however, the violation of which requires that a full beer be drunk.
A related strategy is to foul up the ball and intentionally serve it into your opponent's cup. If you are able to sink it later, your opponent must drink a fouled beverage. This is known as "intentional gorfing".
In some places, continuing service after the ball has hit a cup is, not only commendable, but results in "one on". Roughly explained, if a cup has been hit and the opponent is able to keep the ball in play, there will be "one drink" on the table. The losing side of that service will not only lose a point, but will have the pleasure of drinking a "drink" from their cup. Obviously this rule is not limited to just one hit of a cup but can expand infinitely, depending upon the skill of the players.
The ball must be returned after it has bounced just once off the returning team's half of the table; this includes the table top and the cups. Blowing a spinning ball out of a cup and returning it is sometimes permitted and is highly frowned upon unless done by girls. Ricocheting the ball off external objects such as a vertical or horizontal structural member in the basement, a ceiling, or a bystander is usually permitted. If a ball is extremely hard to return or if it is "un-returnable", both teams can agree to call it a "DB," "Dive-bomb," or "stoner." If a "DB" or "stoner" is agreed upon, then the point is played over.
There are a number of formal variants of Lob, including the standard Two-Cup (one full cup per player), Four-Cup (two full cups per player), Shrub (a triangle of six beers with a "stem" attached to one side), Tree (much like Shrub, except the triangle includes 10 beers), Line (with four half cups per player), Full-Cup Line or Wall (cups in a line across the width of the table), Great Wall (cups lining all sides of the table), Table (cups covering the surface; one must foul out to clear a space on his own side for service), Battleship (or 'Ship, two lines of three cups and one line of five, four and two cups placed strategically, similar to the formations in the board game Battleship), Rotating Randomness (irregular groups of cups placed in irregular pie-shaped sections of the table and played by six or more people who change positions after each point, encouraging shifting ad-hoc team behavior), and Henge (stacked cups or trilithons in irregular pie-shaped zones, with each player having a separate "Tourist" cup whose strategic drinking out of turn imposes the requirement that all others drink theirs, and other ritual elements).
This version is similar to "lob pong" but with key differences. This game is always played as either a one-on-one or doubles match, with one keg cup of beer per person. The game is always played to 21 points, and victor(s) must win by at least 2. When a side reaches 20 points, or any time thereafter when its total is one point ahead of the other side, the match is at game point. The winning side must end the game with a "hoop" (see below); when at game point, merely hitting the opponent's cup does not result in an additional point for the leading team, though a sip is "on the table" (see below).
An optional (though highly recommended) variation employs the "hoop rule", in which the winning side must tally at least as many "hoops" as the other side. Under this condition, the winning hoop cannot come until the winning side has at least evened the hoop count. Any hoop that comes on game point prior to the hoop that evens the count does not result in an additional point for the leading team, but shall be treated as any other hoop in terms of drinking requirements. Between evenly matched foes, the "hoop rule" can result in quite lengthy competitions and continued debauchery long into the night. It is believed, though not confirmed, that the record for the most "hoops" in a game is 17. Of course if an opponent feels the sudden urge to "boot", a good sportsman always allows a short break, though said opponent is then expected to "rally". Anything less would be uncivilized.
The ball is properly served by striking it with the paddle, ensuring it bounces only once off the serving team's half of the table, and then lands on the opposing team's half. If the ball hits an opponent's cup the serving team must drink one sip from their cup and serve again. If the serve lands in an opponent's cup the serving team must drink an entire beer. If the ball fails to make its second bounce on the opponent's half of the table after two attempts, the serving team must take a sip and continue serving. No points are awarded to either side on the serve. Service changes sides after every combined 5 points. In doubles play, teammates must alternate serving the 5 point sets with each side change.
The ball must be returned after it has bounced just once off the returning team's half of the table; this includes the table top and the cups. Ricocheting the ball off external objects is permitted. Points may be scored anytime after the first serve.
Points are scored one at a time for either a "hoop" (the return lands in the opponent's cup) or for hitting the opponent's cup followed by the opponent's failure to make a successful return. When a hoop occurs, the side whose cup was "hooped" drinks an entire beer per team member. When a hit cup occurs (without a successful return), the side whose cup was hit drinks one sip per team member. A successful return off a hit cup negates the point, but a sip is "on the table", and the side that fails to sustain the rally must take a sip at its conclusion.
If a ball hits the edge of the table at any time and is thus impossible to return both teams can agree to call it a "stoner" and replay the point.
This variant, created by Rob Simon of Vanderbilt University, consists of a neat combination of Lob Pong and the Gentlemen's game, but retains more of a focus on gamesmanship than other versions. Within this set of rules, it is the receiving team that may deem a serve or lob "low," which often creates strife when true students of gamesmanship make questionable calls.
As the name suggests, fast pong happens at a faster pace than lob pong. While there are many variations of the game, one major difference is that the goal is often just to hit the opponents cup and sinking the ball into the cup happens much less frequently. The game can be played either with points (with each hit counting as a point) or with drinks (with each hit requiring the opponent to drink a certain amount of beer, usually half of the 12-ounce cup).
Purpose of game and winning
The purpose of Bucknell pong (referred to as "pong" to Bucknellians) is to hit the opponents' cup three times. After one hit, the team being hit has to drink half of their beverage. After the second hit the team must drink the rest. After the third hit the team loses. One can also win the game by hitting the ball into the opponents' cup once. If that happens, the game automatically ends and the losing team must chug their beverage. In this style of pong, the ball is never out of play and one side always has the option to take a shot from wherever the ball lies, whether on the floor, in the garbage, or in an empty cup.
Table and table lay-out
The Pong Table sits 33 inches off the ground and the surface area is exactly 9'x5'. Because the Pong Table is a close sibling to the ping pong table, two hinges for a net should be fastened at the middle point of the table. Additionally, a flattened ping pong net should lie between and connected to the hinges. While Pong can be played with actual ping pong paddles, the more traditional and acceptable way to play involves paddles which use sandpaper-like material as padding and have the handles broken off.
Four 12-oz cups of beer should be placed on opposing sides of the table, one for each of the four players. The placement may be six inches from both the end and the side of the table, but it is most important that it remain uniform for all four players, ensuring that no team gains an advantage. Typically, one side of the table is declared “Winners’ Side”, and the team that wins the previous match will play on that side while the challengers will use “Losers’ Side”.
Service and return
The serve must always be made to the person standing diagonally across the table and needs to hit both sides of the table. If it doesn't, the opposing team has the choice to accept the serve or to call out “One Side” or “No Sides” and give the ball back to the serving team.
If the team serving the ball hits any cup with the ball, that will be considered “A Hit” against the serving team and they will serve the ball again unless that would be the third hit against them. If the serve knocks over a cup, regardless of how much beer is in the cup (or if the cup is empty), the serving team loses the match and must chug one cup of beer as a penalty.
When the opposing team serves the ball, the receiving player can either hit it with his paddle immediately or choose to hit it off of his body for a better shot. The latter maneuver is called “A Body”. If the ball hits either of the receiving players’ hands, arms, or paddles, it is considered that player's shot.
"Bodying" the ball
Players have the choice of either hitting the ball off of the table or “Bodying” it to either side for a better shot off of the ground. Because a player's hands and arms are considered extensions of the paddle, you cannot Body the ball with either your hands or arms. If you do, this is considered a shot. You also cannot body the ball with your foot or your leg below the knee. This is a “Foot” and the player that does this should pick up the ball and serve. Additionally, you cannot Body a ball that has already hit the floor, even if done by accident.
If the ball gets stuck in an article of clothing, that player may take one step before inducing the ball to drop on the floor, at which time normal play resumes. This is the same rule if the ball rolls into an empty cup.
While the opposing team takes a shot, a player has the choice of playing defense (more commonly referred to a "D") by placing either their hand or their paddle in front of their cup. Some players consider this weak, but it is a common and acceptable practice. Defense only works against a ball that has already hit the table. If the ball hits the table first and then hits the defense, the player should pick the ball up and serve. If the ball bounces off of the defense onto the other side, that team must play the ball; the hand is treated like the paddle, and so defense can be considered a shot.
If the one team hits the ball and it hits the other team's defense in the air, that will be considered a hit if it would have hit the cup were the defense not there. However, this is a difficult thing to ascertain. Ultimately, the team that shot the ball gets to make the decision of whether the shot is a Hit or not. However, the arguments of the bystanders and the other team should be listened to and respected. For this reason, playing defense can sometimes increase the risk both of the other team calling a hit and the ensuing arguments.
Knock-overs and dunks
If a team knocks over their own cup with the ball, their paddle, their body, or by hitting the table, they lose and must drink a beer. This is true regardless of how much beer was in the cup (or if it was empty). If a player hits a ball (not on the serve) and knocks over the other team's cup, his team automatically wins, regardless of how full the cup is. The Full Cup Knockover is considered the most difficult shot in the game.
If a player hits the ball and it lands into the other team's beer, that player's side wins the game and the other team must chug their beers. This is called a Dunk.
Slam pong is a fast-moving variant of beer pong that retains some of the rules of table tennis but borrows inspiration from the rules and game play of volleyball. The "slam" in slam pong refers to the action of slamming a table tennis ball with a paddle into a plastic cup of beer placed on the table, the fundamental way of scoring points in the game.
Slam pong was one of the forms of the game that evolved from the traditional beer pong of the late 1970s. Slam pong retained the use of just one beer cup per player, with two players per team, but added the twist that a legal volley required the ball to strike the paddles of both players on a team before striking the table or beer cups. One of the earliest documented record of slam pong comes from Chris Robinson, Dartmouth College class of 1986, who recalled playing slam pong when he was an undergraduate. An article in the March, 1986 issue of Playboy magazine describes slam pong being played by the brothers of Psi Upsilon at Dartmouth. By the early 1990s, slam pong was played in nearly half of all Dartmouth College Greek organizations, and had been introduced to other colleges including Bowdoin College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, Princeton University, and Williams College, but by the middle of the decade was beginning to decline in popularity. By the early 2000s, slam pong had been almost totally eclipsed by other variations of beer pong, especially Beirut, one of the first variations of beer pong to be widely played across the country. At Dartmouth, lob became the standard variation of beer pong played by undergraduates.
Points are earned through hits, sinks, and knockovers. There are two primary variations for counting scoring and declaring the winner of a game. In the five-point game, hits count for one point, sinks count for two points, and knockovers count for five points. In the five-point game, whenever a team earns points, both players of that team are expected to drink one fifth of the total volume of their cup for each point. In the four-point variation of the game, hits count for one point, sinks count for up to two points, and knockovers count for up to two points. If a cup is half-full and gets sunk or knocked-over, that counts as only one point. Players in a four-point game are expected to drink half of a single cup for each point. A team cannot lose on a serve. If a team has only one point left, they cannot have the last point scored through their own ineptitude. However, if both teams have only a single point left, a team may "serve out" if others are waiting to play a subsequent game. In a five-point game, the first team to earn five points loses. In a four-point game, the first team to earn four points loses.
Concerns over binge drinking on college campuses have increased focus on games like beer pong and slam pong. Dartmouth College Anthropology Professor Hoyt Alverson published research work on the beer pong culture at Dartmouth in the early 2000s. Although slam pong had largely been replaced at Dartmouth and elsewhere by other forms of the beer pong game at that time, Alverson noted that the variations played from 1999 through 2002 involved complex social processes. "Beer pong and similar drinking games are not played solely to achieve inebriation, Alverson finds, but instead serve as a competitive outlet for high-achieving students, and a structured atmosphere for peer interaction." Critics of beer pong contend that, regardless of their social nature, the games encourage binge drinking, and should be discouraged.
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