10 Steps to being a UNCW beer pong champ

For UNCW graduates Jay Roberts and Brett Garner, beer pong has become more than a game to play at house parties. Earlier this month, they traveled to Las Vegas for their second World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP) tournament. They quickly learned how to balance their schoolwork and the professional beer pong sport.

But during their first trip in Jan. 2012, they didn’t really know what to expect.  So if you ever want to give it a shot- pun intended-here’s their advice:

1. Gear up. The World Series doesn’t use red Solo cups. To begin their practice, Roberts and Garner had to purchase special WSOBP edition 16-ounce cups and 40-millimeter balls.

The team also bought an official 8-foot beer pong table so they could practice before a game and between tournaments. WSOBP requires beer pong racks on the tables, a house-party rarity, to ensure that there is no unidentified or unwanted moving of the cups during a game.

2. Find your drinking buddy. Roberts and Garner have known each other since high school, after Garner moved from Wilmington to Charlotte during his sophomore year.

“Brett is a really good friend of mine. We met on our high school golf team,” Roberts said. “When we both got into UNCW, we figured let’s just be roommates.”

More than five years ago, they moved into Galloway Hall for their first year as college students. They’re still roommates to this day.

At UNCW, they made the same friends and eventually started playing beer pong together. For the duo, the beer pong partnership was natural. They call themselves team Folie Ã  Deux, a French psychology term meaning “two mad men.”

“I found it in an article I was reading online or something,” Garner said. “It just really fit.”

3. Know the game. At WSOBP, the rules are different than what most people might be used to, even the number of cups at the table- ten instead of six.

“We went from playing at our kitchen table with red Solo cups to the World Series. At first, it was kind of a slap in the face,” Roberts said.

Although the equipment and set-up for World Series-style beer pong is more organized, the rules are actually more lenient.  Players can bounce the ball on the table, swat to defend, and most importantly, lean across the table to make a shot. House-party beer pong players may misunderstand that last one, more inclined to the “elbow rule” or “wrist rule”-prohibiting elbows and wrists past the edge of the table.

“People like to hate on that rule, but you can’t be worrying about that at a tournament,” Roberts said.

The World Series’ abolishment of the rule is designed to avoid “whether or not” arguments. However, it does give tall players like 6-foot-4 Roberts and 6-foot-2 Garner an advantage.

4. Get pumped. For these ambitious UNCW graduates, the motivation was both travel and money. Roberts had recently turned 21 when they made their first World Series trip in Jan. 2012.

“I figured it was a cheap way to get to Vegas,” Roberts said.

The $500 tournament fee covered competition cost and hotel stay.

But for college students or recent graduates, a trip like that is still expensive. Regardless, they made a goal to get to Las Vegas every year, hoping to win the $50,000 grand prize. That meant more practice and more competing.

5. Get your game on. After their first Las Vegas trip, Roberts and Garner were hooked on the competition. Back in Wilmington, the duo went from bar to bar trying to find a local place to hold tournaments. No one really wanted to make it happen, they said, probably given concerns like binge drinking or bar fights. But finally, downtown’s Charley Brownz agreed to give it a try. Roberts and Garner were able to practice competitively once a week at league nights.

“We probably only lost two games in almost twenty weeks of playing,” Roberts said.

Then came the satellite tournament, where all the recorded winners compete for a free and sponsored trip to Las Vegas. Sure enough, team Folie Ã  Deux won a free ticket, without any fees, to the WSOBP’s VIII tournament earlier this month.

6. Practice makes perfect, within reason.  Part of the reason team Folie Ã Deux works so well together is because they know how to efficiently practice.

“We’re really competitive on each other, so our game really thrives,” Garner said.

Before their weekly tournament night, Roberts and Garner will practice for one or two hours. They’ll have a couple beers and play one-on-one, but make it extra interesting with some cup-to-cup gambling, a reminder of their Las Vegas goal.

“It helps us keep in mind that every cup counts,” said Roberts.

But while they were still in school, they only spent about three months practicing for the Jan. 2012 tournament.

“Of course, we always had a sense of education. We only went out on weekends,” Garner said. “We keep our priorities straight.”

7. Exercise your brain, not your belly. Roberts graduated with a psychology major, his long-time academic passion. Ironically, he uses his knowledge of psychology in his beer pong game.  

“I couldn’t see majoring in anything else,” Roberts said. “I apply what I learned every day.”

He believes that the most important element of beer pong is muscular memory and that is what makes him a good player.

Plus, it’s easy to get distracted at a competitive tournament, especially if the players are drunk or close to it.

“Distractions are encouraged. People yell, dance, pull their pants down, they’ll do anything in their power to make you miss that shot,” Roberts said. “I learned to indulge myself in complete concentration. I don’t shoot unless I know I’ll make it.”

8. Drink to win. Some people say they play better when they’re drunk, but team Folie Ã  Deux doesn’t encourage it. They suggest, like everything, you have to understand the boundaries- when is it a buzz and when is it too much?

“You have to be able to find that threshold,” Roberts said.

9. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Roberts and Garner make a point not to let beer pong take over their lives. When they practiced for WSOBP 2013, they usually practiced only once a week at Charley Brownz.

The UNCW graduates are still looking for better jobs in their field. Both the players continued to study independently to further their careers. Roberts is taking online classes to understand the insurance business, and will hopefully be part of his father’s company soon. And Garner is enrolled in scuba instructor courses, hoping to use his environmental studies degree.


10. You’re only young once. For Roberts and Garner, it’s all about having a good time. They understand the balance of work and play and that it takes both to survive.

Sadly, team Folie Ã  Duex was not the WSOBP VIII’s 2013 grand prize winner, but they did make it into the top ten of their pod. Soon, they’ll be playing back at Charley Brownz, mastering their skills in order to win another free spot to their third World Series.