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Storied Drinking Game Began with Fewer Rules; Less Beer


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Storied drinking game began with fewer rules, less beer

By Jennifer Garfinkel, The Dartmouth Staff

Published on Thursday, November 17, 2005


Courtesy of The Aegis

Dartmouth students' favorite pastime, beer pong, has evolved over the years, rendering today's game very different from earlier versions.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series looking at the evolution of beer pong as a social and cultural phenomenon at Dartmouth. This article will examine the 50-year history of pong at Dartmouth as it relates to today's game.

It is hard to untwist the history of beer pong from the history of the College itself, as the two are inextricably linked. Pong dominates the Greek social scene, which in turn, has been dominant on campus.

Students often overlook the evolution of the storied sport, assuming generations of their predecessors played by the same rules. But while its place in Dartmouth culture remains constant, the game of pong is always changing.

Although it may be hard to imagine, pong began as a game mostly devoid of rules. Many College old-timers have said that the game may have started when someone put their cup of beer on the table during a friendly game of ping pong.

Emeritus history professor Jere Daniell '55 recalls playing pong at Alpha Theta fraternity during the early 1950s. At the time, the game was not named and lacked formal procedures. For Daniell, it was little more than a way to combine activities: drinking and ping pong.

"If you were a crummy ping-pong player, you had to drink more than if you were a good one," he said.

Daniell remembered plastic or paper cups of beer on the ping-pong table and players trying to hit the cups for points.

In fact, Dartmouth's beloved alcoholic sport was more sport and less alcohol in Daniell's day. Kappa Sigma fraternity member Jim Adler '60 agreed.

"It was just a casual game -- not a way to get drunk fast," Adler said.

Even through the 1980s, Dartmouth alums concurred that the alcohol was certainly secondary to the game at hand. Getting drunk was just an added bonus to having a good time, said Chris Marriott '82, an alumnus of Gamma Delta Chi fraternity.

"It was played more to be social and competitive," Marriott said.

From its inception through the first 40 years of its existence, pong was clearly not the vehicle for the large quantities of beer that now mark the game. Until the 1990s, pong featured just one cup for singles and two cups for doubles on each side of the table -- a stark contrast to today's seven-cup minimum, with some versions ranging up to 15 cups per side for two players.

For the majority of its lifetime, pong utilized a point system to keep track of score. Players would drink from each cup on their side from three to five times and both teammates would drink a portion of the cup after it was hit. Sinking the ball or knocking over an opponent's cup resulted in an immediate win, and each loser had to chug a beer.

For decades, speed pong dominated -- a fast-paced game of table tennis with the added target of beers on the table. Eventually, slam pong came into fashion. In slam pong, one partner lobs the ball to his teammate who slams the ball toward the cup, similar to a set and spike in volleyball. This version, also known as volley pong at the time, was invented around 1979 and came into style in the early 1980s.

"Slam was for the hardcore," Marriott said. "Regular pong was for women and [fre]'shmen."

Dartmouth students still harbor a bias against other similar drinking games. Today, students find their game to be superior to Beirut, the drinking game of choice at many other colleges. Beirut, which may have grown out of Dartmouth's pong, is played by two or four players who toss a ping pong ball toward a rack of beers -- without paddles. But many Dartmouth students argue that the more common game requires less skill and is less competitive.

"I, like many other Dartmouth students I suspect, die a little on the inside every time I see a game of Beirut played," Jarred Colli '08 said.

But it is only a matter of time before another chapter in the story of Dartmouth pong provides students something to sneer about. Marriott and other fans of slam pong frowned upon its predecessor speed pong, believing their version required more skill.

And alums who watched the fast-paced style develop frowned as certain fraternities began to arc, or lob, the ball back and forth in the late 1970s. Alumni on the whole appear disheartened and sometimes disturbed by today's common shrub and tree formations. They miss their two-cup formations and have trouble grasping a game in which so many beers are consumed at one time.

"We wouldn't make people drink," said Doug Britton '73, an Alpha Theta fraternity alumnus. "We just enjoyed playing."

The plant-like formations of tree and shrub with their drastically increased alcohol requirement really only emerged in the early or mid-1990s, according to Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Rich Yeh '97, who pinpointed 1994 as the year SAE introduced tree. As Yeh remembers it, the ship and tree formations were both widely played on campus by the 1996-1997 school year, although many houses were still playing two-cup lob pong in addition.

Today's game has continued its metamorphosis, marked by deformed paddles and sheets of wood propped up by garbage cans and saw horses. Students can hardly believe that their darling pastime was once a civilized, relatively sober occasion.

The less-than-pristine acoutrements of current pong -- those aspects that will linger in the hazy memories of current Dartmouth students forever -- are relatively new to the game. Intact paddles were common through the 1990s, and tables did not proliferate among campus basements until later that decade.

As beer pong evolves, so does its relation to the community -- even to women, who arrived on campus 20 years after the game began. Lest the old traditions fail, the College's sport of choice will continue to develop as it fills its niche as a favorite social pastime.

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Beer Pong??? :whoknows: Never heard of it! :laugh:







Seriously, the rules have changed over the years. When I played in College (early 90's :doh: ) the number of cups and other rules are much different than the version we play at the tailgate. Skill is still required though!

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I dunno. I just don't like mixing drinking with games. When I drink, I drink. And oh God do I drink.
wait a second beer pong was invented at Dartmouth?


what about flip cup?

I prefer vodka pong myself though same concept fewer brain cells

I love when the 18 year old are dipensing drinking advice! :laugh:

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I asked my dad whether he played beer pong there. He was Dartmouth class of '57. This was his response:

What a lousy article. There was no such thing as beer pong at Dartmouth when I was there. Jere Daniel I knew slightly. People drank a lot of beer and some fraternities had a ping pong table. There were beer drinking games such as cardinal puff and bizz, buzz. A lot of beer was consumed. My senior year a quarter keg cost about $8.75 delivered. We did much of our drinking either in the keg rooms or by the pool table (no ping pong table - that was for the effete types like Jere).

I'm sure that one hell of a lot of beer was consumed in drinking games, but beer pong, as such, did not exist.

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China, I know Cardinal Puff. That's a great game. It's *so* hard though.

"Here's to Cardinal Puff for the first time this evening."

Tell your dad that that game is still played in a few places, including Colgate (which, coincidentally is filled with people that didn't get into Dartmouth. :))

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Cardinal Puff?


I always prefferd dice games like Threeman and Mexican.

Kilmer, did you play too? I actually learned the game down in Florida. Thankfully I learned it while watching one of my friends learn from someone who'd answered the three questions. Needless to say he'd finished over 15 beers by the time the game was over.

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China, I know Cardinal Puff. That's a great game. It's *so* hard though.

"Here's to Cardinal Puff for the first time this evening."

Tell your dad that that game is still played in a few places, including Colgate (which, coincidentally is filled with people that didn't get into Dartmouth. :))

Cardinal Puff?


I always prefferd dice games like Threeman and Mexican.

Geez...I have played all of these games:

Cardinal Puff

Bizz Buzz



Flip Cup


"F" Your Buddy


How the hell did I graduate college?? :doh:

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