Once upon a time in the competitive beer pong community, you could count the elite players in the country on two hands. Whether you’re located on the West Coast or the East Coast, the same names would come up in every conversation. As the community grew and more and more players were exposed to the competitive levels of the game, something happened: Everyone got good.
The first World Series of Beer Pong I played in was WSOBP III. My partner at the time had made his debut the year prior and he told me we would be a cinch to make Day Three. He told me that players in our region played the best competition throughout the year and we would be so much better than everyone else. Our first opponent on the first day was a guy he had won a lot of money from off of cash games the year before. Those guys that apparently “sucked” beat us by 4 or 5 cups. It was more of the same for the rest of the tournament and we ended up NOT making Day Three, the first and last time I would miss Day Three.
It used to be that you could look at your preliminary schedule and figure out who the “easy wins” would be and what the “touch matchups” would be. You’d ask your friends if they knew any of the teams or players. Not anymore. You can’t underestimate anyone these days. Just because a player isn’t well-known or just because they don’t make a million posts a day in the National Beer Pong Facebook group doesn’t mean anything. Almost everyone who is signing up to play competitively at the WSOBP or Masters of Beer Pong can play and hang with the best.
So how do players become great players? I think there are three ways:
1. Natural Ability
As shitty as it is for the rest of us, some guys are just naturally good. The first organized tournament I ever played in also happened to be the first organized tournament that Sean Foster played in. My friend and I looked at the team Sean ^2 and, given our background in partying, figured it to be an easy win. Well, they smoked us. They finished 2-2 but went on to take second place in their very next tournament a couple of weeks later. Granted, Foster has become a much better player since then, but even from the beginning he was hanging with the best.
Practice anything and you’ll get better at it, right? In the case of Sean Foster, he took beer pong practice to the next level. He invented the “Pong Shot” ball return device. Basically, he’d shoot a ball at cups and it would roll back to him. Rumor has it he would take hundreds of shots a night. We know this because his ex-girlfriend would tell everyone how much he would play with his Pong Shot. While not everyone has a pong shot, we’ve all shot cups by ourselves from one side of the table, retrieve the balls, and shoot from the other side. Some practice with their partners, etc. While practice can’t replace real game experience, it can certainly take a player to the next level.
Neither the highest amounts of natural ability or practice can substitute for true game experience. There’s no preparation for how you’ll feel the first time you make the finals of a tournament. Almost all of us go through the “happy to be here” phase of a beer pong career. You’re in the finals, you’re guaranteed a prize of some kind, and you are just happy to be there. Once you get a taste of victory or defeat you’re left wanting more, but those first couple of times, it’s all good win or lose. But for most of us, it takes a while to get rid of the nerves you’ll experience shooting a big rebuttal shot, or coming back from a deficit with our backs against the wall. It takes a while to learn how to deal with distractions, and on the opposite end, how to get in your opponent’s head as well. In the end, you need to learn from experience how to get better.
There are no easy wins in competitive beer pong anymore. One day soon, if not already, a miss or two will cost you the win. Everyone will keep getting better.