The king -- or queen -- of beer and pingpong balls will be crowned next week when more than 800 people face off during the World Series of Beer Pong at the Flamingo.
While it sounds like a frivolous competition, this is some serious drinking. The winning team will receive a grand prize of $50,000.
"There are people who look at it as a party game, a college game," says Billy Gaines, co-founder of the World Series of Beer Pong. "But the sheer number of people who come out and play it make it serious. And $50,000, I think that's pretty serious."
This will be the fifth year that Vegas has served as host city but beer pong has been around in some form on college campuses since the 1960s. The game is a distant relation to quarters, another college drinking game where the point is to get your opponent drunker than you.
In beer pong, two teams consisting of two people each stand at opposite ends of a table. Ten cups filled with beer are arranged in a triangle shape at each end. One team member bounces a pingpong ball toward the opponent's cups and, if the ball lands in a cup, the opponent drinks its contents and the cup is removed. The goal is to eliminate the opponents cups.
Aside from intoxication, the game is pretty much pointless. But it does have some great benefits, Gaines says, which are often overlooked by detractors of beer pong. People have met future husbands and wives and made lasting friendships over beer pong. It's also a game of skill, Gaines says.
"I think the problem is the game is misunderstood," Gaines says. "It's easy to say that's a stupid college drinking game but there's a lot more complexity to it than you think."
It's a bit like darts, says World Series co-founder Duncan Carroll. Each throw is like hitting a bull's-eye on a dartboard so there's very little margin for error.
That seems almost contradictory; alcohol often leads to error. But that's one of the misconceptions of competitive beer pong. The higher echelon of players usually don't drink beer. Some might drink liquor while others stick to water. Many don't drink the liquid in the cups at all.
The league can't require people to drink, Carroll says, so the rules allow players to set aside their liquid, if they want. Games are won or lost based on cup count.
Last year, the competition was held over a weekend and more than 500 teams, or 1,000 people, competed. This year, the World Series is during the week and organizers expect about 400 teams from around the world. The first two days of competition, Monday and Tuesday , will be the qualifying rounds. Each team will play six games per day. The top 100 teams will play in the final round at 5 p.m. Wednesday .
Spectator passes for the World Series of Beer Pong will be available outside the Sunset Ballroom on the third floor of the Flamingo each day beginning at 10:30 a.m. with play starting at 11 a.m. A one-day pass costs $20. After 2:30 p.m., admission is $10. A two-day pass costs $30 while a three-day pass costs $50. Other events take place throughout the week. For more information, visit bpong.com/wsopb.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at email@example.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.