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Beer Pong Tour contest fueled on H2O; State law keeps city players cool.

Byline: Danielle M. Horn

WORCESTER - The scene at Jillian's Saturday afternoon was, hours later, likely playing out in dorm rooms and frat houses and at parties across the region.

Pairs of 20-somethings faced each other across an 8-foot table, beers in one hand, a pingpong ball in the other. With determination, they took turns throwing the balls into plastic cups. At Jillian's, the cups were filled with water. At Saturday night parties, they were likely filled with other liquids.

"We're trying to make this a sport, not a drinking game," said Sam Pines, 26, founder and CEO of the World Beer Pong Tour, which stopped in Worcester Saturday and featured about 25 teams of two. The teams were vying for a three-night stay in Atlantic City, N.J., and a chance to qualify for a tournament there in June, which features a $50,000 grand prize.

"People don't realize that there are a lot of serious players of beer pong," said Mr. Pines, whose quest to get the game recognized as a sport started in 2005, when he formed a weekly league with roommates at Marist College. "People are more about the sport; as you can see, we don't even have beer in the cups."

The fact that the teams were playing with water wasn't entirely by choice. Mr. Pines acknowledged that laws governing drinking establishments in Massachusetts prohibit the game from being played with alcohol.

The game rules are relatively simple and can vary slightly, depending on the organization running tournaments. Two teams of two players stand on either side of an 8-foot table and line up 10 fluid-filled cups in a triangle formation. Players take turns "shooting" a pingpong ball at the other side's cups. When a ball lands in a cup, that cup is removed from the table. Traditionally, the opposing player would remove the ball and drink the beer in the cup. The team that removes all of the other side's cups first wins.

Some players Saturday could be heard grumbling after learning that World Beer Pong Tour rules don't require a shooter's elbow to stay behind the table. Eliminating this common rule can give an advantage to taller players.

David Erickson, a 23-year-old plumber from Grafton, played in the tournament with his pong partner, Nate Smith of Millbury.

The pair had just won their first round, and Mr. Erickson casually sipped on a beer while waiting for his next game.

The team plays every Thursday night at Jillian's in a local beer pong league, Snatch Alley. Their biggest prize has been $800 in an Atlantic City competition.

"Some teams will drink a lot, but we just kind of sip on our beers and don't let it affect us," he said.

Even at private parties, he said, he has seen a gradual switch from beer to water in the cups, mainly because of hygiene and a revulsion for drinking beer that a dirty pingpong ball has landed in.

Mattieu Jendrewski, 24, drove from Danielson, Conn., to participate in the tournament; in the past, he has driven as long as four hours for a competition.

"To me, it's a competitive sport. We don't come out to get drunk," he said. "Past a certain extent, the drinking can mess people up. But a few beers can help. With three or four in me, I' m pretty calm and my shots are rolling off smoothly."


CUTLINE: (1) The World Pong Tournament takes place at Jillian's on Saturday, with tables lined up during the competition. Teams compete across the tables. (2) Nate Smith of Millbury watches his pingpong ball head for a cup at the opposite end of the table.(3) Anthony Karpowich of Spencer, left, and Christopher Buckley of Worcester watch a ball drop.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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