Flip cup on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

In advance of this year’s Austin Startup Games—which SpareFoot dominated last winter—we’re highlighting people who excel at the competition’s nine “sports.” So that we don’t lose our competitive edge, we’re featuring champs who you won’t see on the SpareFoot team (or any other team) Jan. 25 at the Austin Music Hall. Game on! 

Flip cup devotee Daniel Baynham started playing the team drinking game in college. (You may have seen the game on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”) Nearly eight years later, Baynham still plays at least twice a week—every week—and his team has brought home trophies from local tournaments. As sports coordinator for United Social Sports (USS), a Washington, DC-based organization that runs a variety of sports leagues, playing flip cup goes with the job.

“Our leagues are more about making new connections and friends in this ever-transient city than it is about hard-core sports,” Baynham said. “Win or lose, we still head to the bar afterwards.”

Flip cup involves two teams of equal numbers who stand on opposite sides of a table, facing their opponents. A disposable plastic cup containing a set amount of beer is placed in front of each player, and the game usually starts with a toast by two opposing players. They gulp down the beer and, with one hand, flip their cups onto the table, bottom up. If the cup doesn’t land bottom up, the player must reset the cup and flip it again. Only when the cup sits correctly on the table can the next player repeat the process. This continues down the line, and the first team to finish drinking and flipping all of its cups wins.

How many tournaments do you compete in yearly?

There are always tournaments at the end of any social sport season that I play in, so three or four. But every week, after whatever sport, we always play flip cup against the team we played against in the game, so that’s a lot of flip cup in a year.

Have you taken home the trophy at any flip cup tournaments? 

Last fall, at the end of the USS GLOW kickball season, we had an end-of-season flip cup tournament with 12 teams [300-plus] players. My team was the No. 8 seed. The tournament was match play, and the first team to win five games moved on. We ended up beating everyone—five straight games on the way to the championship. This past fall, we got our team back together for another season of kickball, but the playoffs were cancelled because the weather was so miserably cold. We had a flip cup tournament instead to determine a league champion. Our team came through with another championship. 

What are some of your best tips for playing flip cup like a pro?

Players shouldn’t get too anxious about flipping the cup. A lot of people panic and throw their cup in the air for about 10 flips. Just take it nice and easy, with one little flip, and be able to drink a gulp of beer or whatever beverage fast—that always helps.

What’s one of the biggest mistakes that players make?

When it comes down to the end of the game and you are neck-and-neck with the other team, players tend to look over to their opponent instead of just continuing to flip. That distraction gives the other team the advantage.

Do you have advice for others who want to host a tournament? 

We use our season flip cup games to see who is consistently good at the game, then, come tournament time, we set a lineup of our eight to 10 best players.

Are you seeing flip cup graduate from something just for college kids?

Being part of the social sports community, I can definitely say that 20- and some 30-somethings are still playing flip cup.

Is flip cup a “just for fun” game, or is there money to be made?

I think the only money to be made is by the bar hosting the event.

How do you prepare for a match or tournament?

We warm up by playing a couple of games among our team members beforehand. Obviously, this could lead to a rough night if you are drinking alcohol. You may do some warm-ups using water, but I tend to use beer.

Any funny stories to share?

This past summer during kickball season, we were playing a friendly game against a team and one of our teammates got a little too excited about flip cup. He went to flip his cup, hit the table and turned the whole thing over. Everyone’s cups, pitchers and food went all over the floor. The guy felt terrible, but everyone was laughing. However, people weren’t as forgiving the second time it happened.

Since this sport involves beer, how do you make sure the players don’t become intoxicated and, more importantly, don’t try to drive a car after they play?

A lot of people opt to play with water and maybe have a side drink of their choice. Since I mostly play in the city, people usually use public transportation or cabs to get home. Even if a player does go too far with the alcohol, the bar staff usually takes care to get them home or get them in a cab.

Photo courtesy of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”