The Unexpected Origins of Our Favorite Drinking Games

While everyone screams, debates, and challenges the rules of drinking games, nobody ever asks where these friendship massacres even came from in the first place. Don’t you want to know what you’re fighting for? Don’t you care what historical side you’re on? Oh, you do? Ok, good, because here are the stories of those four drinking games you always seem to be playing.

1. Beer Pong

beer pong

Main Objective: To sink ping pong balls into all 10 of your opponent’s geometrically arranged cups, forcing them to drink after each successful attempt.

Since booze isn’t a direct component of baseball—just its fans—it’s likely safe to call Beer Pong the closest “sport” Americans can claim as our national drinking pastime. Everyone understands the basics, even though every house has a different set of quirky tweaks for no reason. But nobody ever really stops to ask how the game came to be. Well, since you should know your history, I’ll tell you.

It supposedly started at Dartmouth University in the late 50s, where frat guys playing ping pong noticed their beer cups resting on the table could become targets. It was known as Beer Pong (or simply Pong) because teams used a handle-less ping-pong paddle back then. The game spread, mostly by word of mouth, from campus to campus. In 1980, though, Leigh University and Bucknell University were playing the modern-day “Beer Pong” (a.k.a. “Throw Pong” or sometimes “Beirut”). Whether they just preferred throwing the little balls or all of their paddles broke remains disputed as the origin story of this ubiquitous drinking game.

2. Flip Cup

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Photo Credit: stangls

Main Objective: Flip a cup, precariously hanging off a table, onto its lip faster than the opposing team.

Another game created by bored college students aiming to make cheap beer exciting, Flip Cup has certainly taken second or third place in drunken heart of American young adulthood. Rumored to be born out of New Jersey in the late 1980s — lookin’ at you Hoboken — the game naturally spread to everyone who loved team sports that could turn into a huge fight within five seconds of winning.

3. Quarters


Main Objective: Bounce quarters off a table and into a cup in order to make another player drink or establish additional rules.

Quarters has probably been called a million things over the centuries since it’s been played in European taverns. I mean, to play, all you need is ale and a coin. It’s not exactly the Monopoly. But if we’re really digging deep into history, we’d have to look at its predecessor. Kottabos was a game drunk lounging Greek men—often financially well off—would play. Tossing the dregs of their wine cup toward a target, either a dish or a saucer, seeing who could land the most. There’s also the assumption that there was a lot more weird sex going on in this game than its modern-day evolution.

4. King’s Cup


Photo Credit: Michael Morales

Main Objective: Play close attention to a list of rules associated with a deck of cards and avoid pulling the last King/drinking the King’s Cup (often filled with an unsavory mix of alcohol).

The best drinking game to play holed up in a cabin, where you have nothing but time and nowhere to go, has many names. To me, it’s King’s Cup. To others, it can be Kings, Ring of Fire, Circle of Death, Donut, and so on. Nobody knows for certain where this game came from, though it bears a slight resemblance to the Norse drinking ritual of Sumbel or “ale-gathering.” It’s like Jumanji. One day, it showed up in our world with the sole purpose to make an insane mess of everything.


7 Fun FLIP CUP Variations People Are Playing At Parties

If you love drinking beer in massive quantities but have poor aim, your go-to game should be Flip Cup, if it isn’t already. Not to mention, the game is pretty simple and requires very little coordination, so your performance can remain high despite your steadily increasing BAC. But with all games that are a little redundant, they can get kind of boring. Here are some variations on the traditional Flip Cup that’ll keep your party poppin’.

1. T-Rex Arms

You know the T-Rex. As King of the Dinosaurs, they were extremely powerful and widely feared. In retrospect, this seems kind of strange because they had pretty short arms compared to the proportions of their body, which contributed to extremely poor coordination. The T-Rex pretty much walked around like he owned the place, but basically just thrashed its tail awkwardly and recklessly in an assertion of power. This variation on Flip Cup requires you to embody the dinosaur.

The game is played as normal, except you must flip your cup as a Tyrannosaurus Rex would – with extremely short arms and poor motor skills. Retract your arms from your t-shirt sleeves so that only your hand is showing through the arm hole. When done properly, your elbows will be pressed against your torso, and you will only have your hand for movement, rather than your entire arm. Once you get it right, you’ll want to roar in frustration like a T-Rex while attempting to flip your cup.

2. Dance Moves

Remember when you went to birthday parties as a kid and were blindfolded, spun around in circles until you almost vomited, and were then allowed to aimlessly approach a pinata with a baseball bat? This variation of Flip Cup draws from this tradition, minus the aggression and free candy.

When it’s your turn to flip the cup, chug your beer, and then spin around in a circle as fast as you can before you flip. If you miss, you’re out of luck, because you must spin again before attempting to flip for the second time. Try not to barf.

3. Survivor

If you got stuck with a shitty flip cup team, Survivor is a great, objective way to keep playing and drinking, but in a way that everyone has an equal chance at winning. Recruit an innocent bystander to drop a cup on the table. Once the cup makes contact, chug your beer and flip your cup as fast as you can. Once you have successfully flipped, raise your hands up in the air to signify you’re done. Whoever is slowest to flip and raise their hands is ejected from the game.

After the first round, you can dismiss your kind, cup-dropping bystander, because from then on, the loser of that round is the person who drops the cup for the next round. Play until a winner has been identified. If things get close and two people flip their cup successfully at the same time, make them do a Flip-Off to decide the winner. When doing a Flip-Off, each person drinks and flips two cups instead of one.

4. Team Survivor

Team Survivor is basically a combination Survivor and regular Flip Cup. This game requires two teams, just like the original rendition. Conduct the game as a normal flip cup game, with each person only picking up their cup when the person before them has flipped and landed. The losing team, however, must eject one player from the game.

Ideally, you want to eliminate your weakest link, so boot off that dude who took five tries to flip or the person who was to drunk to realize when it was their turn to go. But even when you kick a person off, their cup must remain. There must be the same number of cups on in play at all times. That means once a person is booted off, someone has to drink double. That also means that towards the end of the game, one person might have to drink and flip seven cups in a row. Fun, right?

5. Bob the Builder

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Grab your hard hats, folks, because this game of Bob the Builder requires drunk people to try building something. Yikes. Everything about this game is the same as regular flip cup (drink and flip), but after you flip your cup, you have to build one big pyramid along with your teammates. If you’re playing in a big group with ten people per team, this can get really challenging.

Whichever team that finishes drinking, flipping, and building their pyramid wins. On the downside, if your pyramid collapses, you have to keep going as a team until it’s rebuilt. Have your beer pitcher handy in case your team sucks and you have to go three rounds each before succeeding.

6. Flip Cup Extreme

If you’ve reached a point in your debauchery where you’re full of drunken bravado, this game is for you. Again, it’s pretty similar to normal flip cup, but instead of starting with the cup right side up and flipping it onto the brim, you do the opposite. Drink your beer, start with the cup brim side down, and then flip it so it’s right-side-up. This doesn’t sound very hard, but think about how much less surface area of landing room you have on the table.

7. No Hands

No Hands is probably the messiest and most fun way to play flip cup, mainly because it’s entertaining watching everyone struggle. Like the name suggests, using your hands is completely out of the picture. When it’s your turn to drink, grab your cup with your teeth and tilt it back slowly so the beer goes in your mouth. It’s considered cheating if you do this but just spill your entire cup down your body. Once you have graciously tipped back your beer, place the cup on the table, and either continue to use your teeth or employ a suction technique to manipulate your cup onto its other side.

May the flips be ever in your favor.


5 Reasons Drinking Games Can Actually Be Good For You, As Told By Your Conscience


Whether your preferred drinking game is beer pong or flip cup, everyone can agree that suds sports are the best. Except for maybe “scientists.” Or “health experts.” Or “other people we can subtly undermine by putting their job titles in quotation marks.” And in order to prove that we aren’t just making an arbitrary claim, here are five ironclad reasons why throwing things into booze legitimately makes you a better person.


1. Having excellent hand-eye coordination benefits every aspect of your life. Except hammock napping.


Plenty of drinking games, like quarters, beer pong, and flip cup, require a high level of hand-eye coordination. And those skills have uses outside of the party scene, as the better you get at it, the more you can increase your “reaction times, as well as enhanced agility and athleticism“. It could even improve your “typing skills”, though that could also be construed as a negative if you’re using said skills to text your ex after seven games of pong at 430a just to tell her “tht song u lik is on”.



2. Socializing Makes You Happier


According to a researcher, “everyone feels happy when they socialize” (even introverts!), and there’s nothing more social than spending hours alone on a Saturday night scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed to see what everyone else is up to drinking with friends.



3. Competition is Good For You


According to the book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, competition can benefit people greatly, as it “challenges people to strive to be better”. Hold on to your competitive spirit during flip cup on Friday night, and then unleash it in the workplace on Monday morning, and soon, you’ll be running that “only chicken fingers and Choco Tacos” restaurant chain you work at.



4. Teamwork is a Bonding Experience


Any drinking game that requires teamwork will strengthen the bonds between you and your friends, as it requires you to “mutually support” one another, which “can encourage people to achieve goals they may not have realized they could reach on their own” — like the goal of drinking a whole lot, or, you know, something super-productive.


5. It’s the Most Fun Way to Hang Out With Your Parents

Spending time with your parents can be a real downer, especially when Dad is always bringing up how dumb your tattoos are (uh, sorry Dad, but it actually IS funny if Calvin is peeing on a Calvinist document!). But playing quarters with dear old Dad can be a good thing, as bonding with the ‘rents can mean improved communication, and make it easier to lean on them in times when you need it. Like the next day, when you’re hungover, and you need them to buy you breakfast.

Lee Breslouer writes about food and drink for Thrillist, and once interviewed a flip cup champion. Follow him on Twitter @LeeBreslouer, because you can’t make a name that good up.