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A Beginner's Guide to Pong at Dartmouth: How to Play Pong

Beer Pong at Dartmouth: A Beginners Guide It's not called "beer pong" at Dartmouth, it's called "pong". Freshmen and visitors: the pong you are about to experience is unlike any...

Beer Pong at Dartmouth: A Beginners Guide

It's not called "beer pong" at Dartmouth, it's called "pong".

Freshmen and visitors: the pong you are about to experience is unlike any other “traditional” game of beer pong you've found yourself playing in your friends back yard at his high school graduation party.

You can officially retire any idea you had of playing that style again, at least if you don’t want to find yourself getting golden tree'd into a naked mile around a frat house.

As an outsider, Dartmouth Pong may appear confusing. But it is certain that once you have mastered the rules and had a chance to step up to the table, you will never look back. Dirtymouth has put together the Official Beginner's Guide to Dartmouth Pong so once you manage to get on a table, YOU can be the freshman that.. sinks 1 cup.

Let’s get into the basics…


  • An ample supply of pong balls (you will lose easily). Make sure you get the pong balls with 3 stars 
  • Ping pong paddles WITHOUT the Handles (break the handles off yourself)
  • Large table that is 5 feet by 10 feet (every table will vary slightly from house to house)
  • 4-6 beers per team
  • A divider placed in the center of the table
  • 4 Players Total (2 per team)
  • A Place to Play (Fraternity, Sorority or House Party)



Your best bet is to reach out to any upperclassmen you know and ask them if they can get you on a table, if they’re connected they should be able to hook you up. Your next best bet is to venture out with a group of friends and ask whatever house you’re at if you can get on table.

If you go to a fraternity, you go up to a brother playing on the table and ask them "what is line?" If they give you a number, it means there are that many games waiting in front of you. If they say you're next, you're next.

If you’re looking for a quick way on, Mondays are typically your best bet, there will be shorter lines and smaller crowds. 

Games will last longer than other beer pong games so don’t complain about waiting for long periods, your time will come…


Once you’ve stepped up to play, the first thing you’ll want to know how to set up the cups properly. The most popular formation is called ‘Tree” which is 11 total cups and is aligned from the top to bottom with cup number in each row as 1, 2, 3, 4, 1.. Of course in the shape of a, you guessed it.. a Tree. Also commonly played formation, “Shrub” has 7 total cups and is aligned from the top down as 1, 2, 3, 1. Always follow the house rules when it comes to formation type.

dartmouth pong tree

All that’s left is to fill those cheap cups up with some ice cold Keystone Lights, grab your handless paddle and get ready to experience competition in its truest form..



The only "beer pong" you’ll see is the first moments of the game where a quick back and forth decides which side will serve first. Once decided, the player on the left side of the table (strong side) will serve the ball with their paddle diagonally across to the other team's strong side player.

Once the ball has been served, you and your partner will rotate back and forth returning the opposing teams shots. You and your partner will alternate taking each shot after the serve despite where or on what side the ball comes from. It might sound confusing but once you see in action, it becomes easy to pick up on. This will continue until there is either a hit, sink, or miss. 

Let’s review those: a sink is when the ball lands perfectly inside the cup in which case the other team must drink the full cup you sunk. If you hit the cup but the ball does not go in and the team fails to save the ball, the other team will drink half of that cup. Once a cup is empty, it is removed from the table.

If your cup is hit, you are able to make a low save if you hit across after only one bounce and your team will not have to drink the half cup if the save is successful. 

That being said, the aim of course is to get rid of all of your opponents cups to win the game. There are no re-racks in Dartmouth pong.

Now, if your shot misses the table all together or you hit the ball when it is not your turn, you will then have to serve to the opposing team. It is a disadvantage to be the serving team so avoid when possible.

If you hit or sink the other teams cup when you are serving, you have to drink your own cup that your opponent chooses. So be weary when serving and don’t get too fancy if you’re not comfortable.

**House Rules Disclaimer: Keep in mind that each House may have slightly varying rules or traditions when it comes to the finer details. Always follow the House Rules if they are brought up  and try not to ask too many questions**


As mentioned earlier, your team will have the ability to perform a team save. This allows either member of a pong team to return a ball that has hit the side of your cup to the other side within one bounce.

Most houses will allow body and/or kick saves as well which adds another element. After the ball hits the cup/table, let it bounce off your chest, kick it up into the air, etc and then serve it back to the other side and it will remain in play.

Kick saves take a lot more finesse and ultimately probably doesn’t increase your likelihood of winning. But, it looks dope as hell when executed well and will definitely earn you some pong cred, so kick away. You might just get lucky.

Another often encountered house rule is a “Slam”. This occurs when the pong ball hits the ceiling on the way over to your side of the table which allows you to then “slam” it back as opposed to lofting a shot back.

Also be wary of houses calling you out on low shots and serves otherwise known as “lows”. This invisible height will certainly vary house to house likely based on how high the ceiling is wherever you’re playing. At the very least, keep your shots above shoulder height to avoid being called out on this sneaky rule. Plus when your shot has a nice arch to it, it has a better chance of dropping into the opponent's cup.


Whatever team ultimately wins has the right to stay on the table to face whatever team us up next. Don’t be a sore loser or even worse, a sour winner. This game ebbs and flows so don’t get too cocky if you happen catch an upset win over some upperclassmen. 

The important thing is to have fun and make sure you respect the house and the rules of wherever you’re playing. The rest will come natural and you’ll be running tables all the way to Masters in no time. But we’ll get to Masters another day..

In the meantime, the first step is to just get out there and learn as you go. This is merely the primer to what will eventually be a long career in Dartmouth pong. You’ll learn all kinds of detailed techniques, rules and styles along the way, so embrace them!

You only have one chance to start taking place in Dartmouth's greatest tradition, so stop reading and go do it!

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