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Steve Chiotakis: Mark this on your calendar: beer pong season starts tomorrow. Unless you’re just out of college, you may not even know what that is. Beer pong is a drinking game turned quasi-sport with big prize money up for grabs. And it’s inspired nearly a hundred different leagues across the country. We sent Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler to do a little “research” at a local bar. He filed this report.
Mark: I need three in a row.
Jeff Tyler: The rules are simple: Two players square off across a table. In front of each one are 10 plastic cups about a third full of beer. Players take turns tossing ping-pong balls at their rival’s cups. When the ball goes in, the opposing player drinks the beer and removes the cup. The last player with cups on the table wins.
At El Guapo Cantina in Los Angeles, 22-year-old Harley Conner paid $10 to enter a beer pong tournament.
Harley Conner: It’s not too much, because that includes the beer that we get to play with.
For serious players, beer pong is about sport, not drinking. Losers do more of that, consuming about one beer per game. A tournament in Southern California this weekend has a $10,000 prize.
Organizer Peter Rusch says the money gives beer pong legitimacy. People:
Peter Rusch: Take the game seriously. And not just an issue of getting intoxicated.
Tyler: Not just.
Rusch: Not just.
Other tournaments offer even bigger prizes:
Rusch: The World Series is for $50,000. There’s definitely people out there that sit at home and throw ping-pong balls hoping to get better, hoping to win that money.
Dan DiSorbo co-authored “The Book of Beer Pong.” He also has a Web site that sells merchandise, like his “ultimate kit.”
Dan DiSorbo: It has the cups, the balls, a rack to hold the cups so it avoids spillage. That goes for $15.
This year, he’s sold almost two million beer-pong balls and another two million cups.
The owner of the El Guapo Cantina, who goes by the single name Butler, says his Sunday tournaments bring in a lot of extra business.
Butler: They drink on the side, aAnd then when other customers come into the bar, it looks like a crowded, happening place.
Plus, Butler picks-up money playing competitively.
Butler: I won 10 grand in a tournament last week. And overall, you win about a thousand bucks every week just playing pick-up cash games.
Pick-up games aren’t enough for the faithful. Fans are circulating a petition to make beer pong an Olympic sport.
In Los Angeles, I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.