A Beer Pong King was born.
"I'd seen Donald Trump say that during the worst economic times is when there's the most opportunity," said Rivera, on a recent afternoon in midtown, far from the glow of beer signs and video game screens. "I thought with my skills at promoting - I'm blessed with a mouthpiece - I can get 100 teams and they're paying $40. That's four grand! If I give them a grand, I still have three grand."
Beer pong itself has been a party staple for decades, and is thought to have originated at East Coast universities. Whatever its genesis, beer pong has become synonymous with house parties, college ragers and wherever young people congregate with small oceans of beer.
Beer pong is generally played with two teams facing each other on either side of a table. They take turns lobbing a pingpong ball into the other team's cups, which hold a few ounces of beer. If the ball lands in its sudsy target, that team must drink the beer from the cup and the empties are removed. Once a team has consumed all the beer from its cups, game over.
Tournaments can now be found around the country. Rivera organizes at least two tournaments a week, primarily in Roseville, including the Union and the Trocadero. Teams pay a $5 entry fee and compete for a prize purse, usually $100 or more.
Other beer pong tournaments crop up at the occasional local bar, but Rivera prides himself on taking his promotions to another level.
"I'm using much more than social media," he said. "I'm making videos, making fliers, doing print media, going on the news. The other (promoters) are eating off my fat."
Here's the twist: Like many beer pong tournaments held at bars, the cups at the Union actually hold water, which no one drinks. The game is treated more like darts, though there's no shortage of pint glasses in hand and pitchers of beer ordered from the bar. Beer pong in this case is more skill and gamesmanship, not just an excuse to get hammered.
Rivera isn't much of a drinker, anyway. ("My whole deal is I'm really focused," he said. "I'm really athletic, so I don't like to drink.") Even if a game used beer, he points out, it takes about three bottles of beer to fill 10 cups - or about a beer and a half per person on a two-person team.
"When we pitch the networks, I'm going to set up the tables, right in front of executives," Rivera said. "We don't even need to use beer. We're going to show them how long it takes a beer pong game to go on with two to three beers and four people, which is what we're drinking anyway at parties. It's not a binge drinking game. It's not quarters."
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Rivera gets paid by the bar for his promotional efforts and services, like a DJ. He brings the official tables used by the World Series of Beer Pong - narrower than a standard pingpong table - and the balls. If someone wants to use beer, they have to buy it from the bar.
Rivera pockets at least $200 per night. During the best runs as Beer Pong King he netted $1,600 a week.
"I'm comfortable," he said. "I don't make a ton of money right now. But I've been very blessed for the last four years. This is all I've been doing. I've worked hard to get to this point."
Here at the Union, many have benefited from beer pong. Co-owner Wes Metcalf said Rivera's beer pong tournaments generate about 75 percent of the bar's business after 10 p.m.
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