Beer pong skills reap $50,000 for Illinois pair

EducationColleges and UniversitiesCollege SportsCNN (tv network)Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Don't be confused, Las Vegas.

You did not wake up in a fraternity house. You are not still in college.

Those celluloid-ball-throwing, beer-chugging patrons invading the Flamingo Hotel and Casino are not trying to scare you. They are probably just members of Seek and Destroy -- Wednesday night's winners of the annual World Series of Beer Pong.

Matt White and Ross Hampton came out on top after 22 games to take home the $50,000 prize, money that the recent Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville graduates will certainly be able to use.

"It'll get me by for now," Hampton said after the win.

He said the secret to his team's success in the tournament was "staying sober to play well consistently."

Not always an easy task in a game with "beer" in it name.

Beer pong, or Beirut as it is called on many college campuses, is played with two teams standing at opposite ends of a table. At each end of the table, ten 16-ounce cups, filled with roughly 4 ounces of beer or another liquid, are placed in a bowling-pin formation.

Each team takes turns tossing beer pong balls (similar to table tennis balls) at their opponent's cup formation. If a ball goes into a cup, the cup is removed from the game, and its contents are usually imbibed by the opponent. The first team to knock out all of their opponent's cups wins.

White and Hampton learned to play beer pong the same place most people do -- in college. It wasn't until recently that the two started playing competitively and realized they were actually pretty good.

Their move from casual beer pong players to tournament competitors mimics that of National Beer Pong League co-founder Duncan Carroll's decision to establish a competitive beer pong league. But he insists he and his business partners weren't the first ones to think of organizing it.

"We're just the only people to actually carry it out," he said, laughing.

The World Series, in its seventh and largest year, has drawn more than 1,000 players (450 teams) from 48 U.S. states and 14 countries.

Organization of a sport which for many college students is nothing more than a mindless drinking game may sound a little far-fetched, but Carroll said it actually came quite easily to him and his college buddies, all members of the Carnegie Mellon swim team in the late 1990s.

"We played a ton of beer pong," he said.

Despite the popularity of the game on his campus and others, Carroll said there was never really any way to measure a player's skill level.

"There were no organized tournaments," Carroll said, "We figured a lot of people thought they were pretty good, but might wonder, 'How good am I really?'"

After graduating from college with a history degree, Carroll said, his desire to become an entrepreneur paired with the game's widespread popularity made for a perfect fit for the formation of a National Beer Pong League.

The league established rules for the game, a regulation-size beer pong table, as well as a national ranking system similar to that for chess. Competitors can move up and down in the rankings based on the ranking of those they beat.

No surprise to Carroll, his friends think his job is "pretty cool," but overcoming stereotypes about the game has proved to be one of his greatest challenges.

"People who didn't play beer pong in college don't really get it," he said. "It's tricky trying to convince them it's something that people take seriously."

Even his own parents have mixed emotions.

"My dad loves it," Carroll said. "My mom thinks it's debauchery."

Carroll said the tournament attracts a "mixed bag" of people who all "happen to be good at beer pong."

The National Beer Pong League's latest development is an app for the Android smart phone that he says will bring competitive beer pong to even larger crowds. The most casual backyard beer pong player can log on and track their wins on the league's website.

At the end of the day, Carroll said, "It's really just a sport that happens to involve alcohol."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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