Pike Duo Goes for Beer Pong Glory in Las Vegas
Ben Youngheim, of Pike, practices for the upcoming World Series of Beer Pong yesterday at Victory Lanes in Woodsville. Youngheim and his pong partner, Will Kramer, also of Pike, will join hundreds of teams in Las Vegas from Jan. 1-5 to compete for a grand prize of $50,000. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
With a pint of beer on the side, National Beer Pong League regulation balls, cups, and table are readied for practice. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Ben Youngheim, of Pike, N.H., practices for the upcoming World Series of Beer Pong at Victory Lanes in Woodsville, N.H. Youngheim got his start playing the drinking game at home while a student at Western Michigan University, and was pleasantly surprised to see the game being played in bars once he moved to New England.
(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodsville — A game of precision, teamwork, and trying not to get too intoxicated, the winning team in a game of beer pong normally receives little more than bragging rights for the effort.
Thanks to a Woodsville bowling alley, Will Kramer and Ben Youngheim will be playing for much more next month.
After qualifying with a first-place overall finish during a series of tournaments at Victory Lanes, the pair of 26-year-old Pike residents are headed to Las Vegas on New Year’s Day for the World Series of Beer Pong.
Organized by the eight-year-old National Beer Pong League (NBPL), Kramer and Youngheim are two of more than 1,000 participants vying for a $50,000 grand prize awarded to the winning team. The four-day tournament will be held at a hotel on the Vegas strip.
Also known as Beruit, beer pong is a boisterous game inviting trash talk and intentionally distracting opponents with anything that doesn’t interfere with the flight of the ball. With teams lining up on either side of eight-foot tables, players attempt to land ping-pong balls into cups partially filled with beer or water, arranged in a triangular shape on the opponent’s end.
When a ball lands in a cup, it’s removed, and the first team to wipe all of its opponents cups, wins. Traditionally, the beer in a cup where a ball lands must be consumed by the offended team, though that rule isn’t exercised by the NBPL.
“Usually, you’re playing by house rules and it’s kind of a subculture, which is part of what makes it so fun,” said Kramer, the director of residential life at Pike’s Oliverian School. “The (NBPL) has a lot of rules grandfathered in, which kind of goes against the spirit of the game, but it’s still going to be a really good time. If you watch (video footage) of the tournaments, everyone is hooting and hollering and having a blast.”
Like many 20-somethings, Kramer and Youngheim honed their beer pong skills while in college — Youngheim at Western Michigan University and Kramer at Nebraska’s Hastings College.
The two were undergraduates in the mid-2000s, when the game grew from a niche activity mainly practiced at private house parties to a phenomenon spawning organized leagues across the country. A cottage industry markets tables and other merchandise, while a video game for Nintendo Wii and a high-budget documentary profiling the game have been produced.
“I remember when the first World Series of Beer Pong happened (in 2005) and it was all over YouTube,” said Youngheim, who works as a ski instructor at Loon Mountain Resort. “The movement kind of grew out of social media and all of a sudden, everyone was playing.”
Continuing to play after college, Kramer and Youngheim were excited to learn of a league being organized last winter by Victory Lanes owner Don Bazzell, who’d attained a NBPL membership and registered his business as a site for sanctioned play. While league participation waned during the summer months, Bazzell organized tournaments to determine which team of two he’d be sending to the World Series as part of his membership.
Kramer and Youngheim won two of the three tourneys, punching their ticket to Las Vegas and a four-night, five-day stay at the Flamingo Casino & Hotel, the sight of the competition.
“They have an option where you can buy in for $1,000 off the street, but we were lucky enough to have a satellite (qualifying tournament) nearby,” Youngheim said. “We’re responsible for food and airfare, but everything else is covered.”
The invitation marks the achievement of a longtime goal for Kramer, whose good friend, Joey Irwin, has competed in the World Series of Beer Pong several times.
“It’s definitely been on the bucket list of things I wanted to do,” said Kramer, a native of Columbus, Neb. “I’ve been following it for years. (Irwin) has been twice and his team did really well the last time they went. I think they finished 17th overall. His team, didn’t qualify this year, so he’s kind of bumming but he’s living vicariously through me.”
While Kramer and Youngheim plan to make the most of the experience from a visitors’ perspective, they’re also playing to win. To do so, they may have to refrain from imbibing too many of the bubbly beverages associated with the game.
“It’s definitely part of the strategy, not to let yourself get too tipsy,” Kramer said. “(The NBPL) doesn’t make you drink when you lose a cup, but a lot of people play with a drink anyway. So we’ll have to watch that.”
The pair will also have to block out distractions. Opponents and their supporters are allowed to engage in silly dances, arm-waving — almost anything that doesn’t interfere with the flight of the oncoming shot.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, the things that people do to get an edge,” Kramer said. “We’re going to enjoy ourselves, but we’re definitely there to win.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.