Billy and the guys at BPong.com did a helluva job putting on the World Series of Beer Pong IV. For four days at the beginning of 2009, over 400 teams competed at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $50,000 and the distinction of being crowned beer pong champs. I was asked to cover the tournament as a publicity photographer. Below are some pictures and thoughts.
UPDATE: 2010 World Series of Beer Pong V coverage is here.
The World Series of Beer Pong mixes gaming drunks with the Las Vegas strip. While this is not necessarily a new combination, the resulting ponger/Vegas mashup provides for a highly entertaining weekend. The BPong.com guys impressively fielded nearly 500 teams, yet it takes more than just willing and able drunks/ball throwers to make a tournament happen. Here are a few ingredients you’ll need to throw your very own beer pong spectacle.
Rick Reilly was on hand to cover the event for ESPN. His sons also competed in the tournament. Don’t worry, Rick did enjoy a beverage or two while “on assignment.”
Obviously you’ll need beer. Lots and lots of beer. PBR was the official beer sponsor of the WSOBP IV. On my way to the airport in Seattle, the cab driver told me his first beer ever was a Pabst Blue Ribbon. He did not know much about alcohol, but as a kid he said he used to watch “Friday Night Fights” where PBR was a main sponsor. When he got to the Air Force, his buddies told him it was time to start drinking. “‘Whadya want?’ They asked me. I said, ‘I dunno, a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I guess?’” God only knows there is a 5 year old boy watching the WSOBP IV who will order a PBR 16 years from now.
A Television Set.
Together with several other media companies; my old friend, Alex Chu, executive produced a television series of the WSOBP IV. Alex also acted as director on the project. Teams played on a “Feature Table” off to one corner of the ballroom. The set was complete with four cameras, lights and microphones. There were even PAs to get us coffee (thanks Josh).
Crass Team Names.
My Couch Pulls Out, but I Don’t. We Bone Your Face. Two Balls One Cup. Wet Balls. Wet Ballz. Children of Champion Kingdom (COCK). Zack and Screech. HOGS (Hot Old Guys). Slippery France. The Finger Bangers. Dixie Normous. We Shit On Donkeys! Yeah, we heard your ridiculous team name. Hilarious.
About every team maintained a splash cup to dip the balls in before shooting. Even though most players told their opponent about all the foul things they planned to do to his sister/mom/dog, they always made sure to clean their ball before splashing it in his beer. I found this to be extremely thoughtful.
Our camera guys were real pros. During this match, Fat Kid, of Chauffeuring the Fat Kid, was hammered. He even wandered off the set and demanded that I give him back his hat. What? This camera operator had little choice but to console Fat Kid during the round too.
Dallas plays defense. Intimidated? Part of the game is psyching out your opponent while they shoot. If you are an attractive girl, you have a pretty obvious weapon in your arsenal: the fact that you are an attractive girl. On average, the typical beer ponger is a bro’d out dude who will not be able to resist the flirtatious defense of a young lady. That said, I’m not sure what angle Dallas is trying to play here.
God bless Canada. These guys were ooout and abooout all over the tournament. Even though they were tragically out-________ (numbered/played/gamed/country’d), Canadians never let anyone get them down. Every time there was a big USA vs Canada match, half the province of Alberta showed up and waived that flag.
Beer pongers may use only water, or a combination of water and beer. Of course, you have to have a container for the liquid of your choice. The BPong guys have developed a cup with exact specifications to meet the modern demands of the game.
Plenty of dudes play beer pong. Fortunately for them, companies like Fringles.com and After Shot sponsored teams of young ladies to play in the tournament. Within moments of the tournament starting, everyone was buzzing about the Fringles girls. I overheard this exact phrase about 20 times: “there are two girls here from some website that are completely trashy/slutty/hot/naked. Awesome.” As the publicity photographer, I felt compelled (even required) to document the struggles and triumphs of these women in the tournament. View a slideshow of all the beer pong ladies that wandered in front of my lens.
Even though “a player may not place a hand/foot/leg/penis/whatever on the table in order to gain additional reach and/or leverage,” leaning over the table is not illegal. In fact, it makes perfect scientific sense to shorten the distance between the point of release and your target. Beer pongers=physicists? Hmm.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Despite what Allen Iverson says, nailing the perfect beer pong toss and nailing your buddy in the perfect beer pong chest bump takes practice. If you plan on competing in WSOBP V, do yourself a favor next time you are at the bar. Bump your best bro’s chest in mid air a few times. I promise; it’ll help.
Leah D’Emilio, of Mahalo Daily, hosted our coverage of WSOBP IV. She’s a real a pro. She maintains perfect composure while Fat Kid drunkenly cautions his partner, Chauffeur, not to “look her in the eyes. Don’t look her in the eyes.”
This is Billy Gaines of BPong.com. Along with Skinny, Duncan, and a cadre of college buddies from Carnegie Mellon; Billy put on one hell of an event.
On the final day, the top 128 teams competed in a double elimination tournament. Teams were seeded with no, one or two byes based on their win/loss record and cup differential. Due to the limited number of competitors, only one square was used. Bleachers were brought in to line the playing area.
This guy was lights out. When he shot, the crowd chanted MVP. They only made it as far as the semi-finals, but he was easily the most skilled beer pong player in the whole field. I watched him hit clutch shot after clutch shot to force overtimes and win matches.
Hitting cups is important. Whenever you do, grab the nearest After Shot girl and hug her.
We can’t win them all. Iron Wizard Coalition knows this lesson well as they were runners up at WSOBP III.
Beer pong has a redemption rule that allows you to claw your way back into the match. If all your cups are gone (as seen above), you can force an overtime by hitting all of your opponents remaining cups without missing.
Bruce Buffer, ring announcer for Ultimate Fighting Championship, introduced Smashing Time and Getcha Popcorn Ready in the final round. Bruce brouht his A-game, including awesome hair, a fresh looking tan and a pure show business smile. In fact, everytime he noticed my camera pointed at him he looked in the lens and gave me that $100,000 grin.
With this shot, Smashing Time defeated Getcha Popcorn Ready and became WSOBP IV champions. See more pictures from the WSOBP IV Final Round here.
A kick ass crew.
The folk in orange and yellow t-shirts worked for WSOBP. The guys in black are the crew from 702 Productions, which helped us shoot the television coverage. Everyone else worked with Farmer Brown and Recess Media as producers, directors, assistants and talent.
Check out a slide show featuring 290 pictures from the WSOBP IV.
Or watch a highlight reel of my favorite 80 or so shots.
You can also read this post at Sports Pros(e) on the Chicago Sun-Times website.