Picture the crowd at a crazy college house party: Kids slamming back red plastic cups, cussing, shouting and laughing.
There's almost always a game of beer pong going, with two teams trying to toss pingpong balls in cups of beer across a table. Most kids couldn't imagine playing a drinking game like this anywhere else.
But taking beer pong out of a house party and into a bar is just as entertaining -- as long as you have the right bar. A college drinking game like beer pong needs a college drinking atmosphere. That's what makes it such a great fit Thursday nights at the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille in Fells Point.
Since the Greene Turtle's late-night crowd is almost entirely college students, 20-somethings and meatheads, a Thursday night there brings back all those hazy house-party memories. But be warned: If you're not ready for it, this bar is intense enough to melt your face, much like what happened to the German guy at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Here's how beer pong works (the Greene Turtle calls it Turtle Pong, but the same rules apply): The game is played in two teams of two. The teams stand at opposing ends of a fairly long table (6 feet or so). Each team gets six cups, which they fill about a third of the way up with beer. Then the teams position their cups in triangles at each table end so the triangles point at each other.
The object is to throw two ping-pong balls into the other team's cups. Each time you sink a ball into one of the other players' cups, one of them takes it off the table and drinks the beer inside. The same goes for when they hit your cups. Whoever lands all six cups first wins.
It's a really simple game that gets people really riled up. Last Thursday's tournament at the Greene Turtle was no exception.
A little before 9 p.m. the staff cleared a space in the middle of the bar's larger section and set up two wooden tables. The games were supposed to start at 9 p.m., but the woman with the sign-up sheet arrived late, and it was more like 9:30 p.m. before balls started flying.
The bar provided plastic cups with turtles on their sides, but you had to pay for the beer. Bottled Miller Lites cost $1.50, which was reasonable, considering there was no cover or sign-up fee. Or, if you didn't want to drink beer, you could use water, soda or something else.
"We don't want anybody leaving here unable to walk," said co-owner Jill Packo. "We want to get people down here to play and to do something fun and interactive. A total of 16 teams entered, using names like Evil Monkeys, Stone Free and a dozen more that were way too dirty to print here. My pal Evan and I picked Team Sega -- a combination of our last names.
We lost in the first round.
Our game got off to a good start: Evan landed one cup, and I had a couple near-misses. But our opponents, Derek Batton and Karen Fulton, nailed cup after cup and smoked us. At least they were good winners and shook our hands. When some other teams won, they screamed and thrust their arms into the air, letting the whole bar know it. We gracefully bowed out (Evan choked back tears) and grabbed a booth on the sidelines.
Another team, composed of John Sollon and Kevin McArthur, steadily advanced through the tournament brackets. They're Thursday night regulars and practice during the week on an 8-foot air hockey table, Sollon said.
"When I play, I pick one of six cups and shoot," he said.
The winners of regular Thursday games get a case of Red Bull and a Greene Turtle T-shirt and are signed up for a larger, bimonthly tournament. Sollon and McArthur won the grand prize a couple months ago: a weekend ski trip to Seven Springs.
The next grand prize is two Sirius satellite radio sets, but you'd never know it, because the DJ who hosted the event never mentioned it.
Sollon and McArthur made it to the semifinals but lost to Joe Ahrens and Chris Tyska, aka Team Awesome.
Team Awesome would later win the finals in an overtime round and collect their case of Red Bull and gift certificates for Greene Turtle T-shirts.
When the tournament ended about 11:45 p.m., the bar was still full, with victory rounds for the winners and consolation rounds for the losers -- just like in college.
Turtle Pong is 9 p.m. Thursdays at the Greene Turtle, 722 S. Broadway. Call 410-342-4222 or visit greeneturtle.com/fellspoint.