That's much-needed money for a wintry Tuesday night that might otherwise be slow. "He brings in a good crowd," Metcalf said. "Those people will be here until last call."
And look here, it's members of the local hip-hop group WhoRide. After teaming up with Rivera, the crew released the anthemic track "Balls Back (Beer Pong Song)." The song features an appearance by Smoove Da General of Cali Swag District, the Southern California rappers who launched a dance craze with "Teach Me How to Dougie."
Getting that cameo was one of Rivera's coups. Dipping back to his concert-promoting days, he booked two Cali Swag District shows in exchange for a video appearance on "Balls Back," a song he also executive-produced.
"The 'Dougie' song was huge, especially with young people, and I was fortunate to have a relationship with them," Rivera said. "And that was the whole point: to get them on ('Beer Pong') and promote my business. I only paid $500 for Smoove to be on the track. It was a steal."
"Beer Pong" meanwhile resulted in a promotion deal with Vevo, the online music video company brought to you by Sony Music, Universal Music and other major labels. Nobody got a check for $60,000, but Vevo supplied $60,000 in online promotions for the song.
The video went live in July and "we're almost up to 100,000 views," said Mike Carlson of WhoRide, with pint glass in hand. "That's hella good. We wanted to be ahead of the game with beer pong and hit right before it all blows up. We're taking an idea and running with it."
But if you want to talk big beer pong money, that would be Byron Findley. He's an especially feared competitor this night at the Union, where he poses for pictures with an oversize check for $50,000. That was his grand prize at the recent World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas, a triumph with his teammate, Michael Seivert. The two compete under the name Drinkin' Smokin' Straight West Coastin,' and Rivera has co-sponsored them at previous Beer Pong World Series stints.
Findley, 28, lives in Sacramento and works as a project engineer for a construction firm when he's not lobbing pingpong balls for cash prizes. He's eying an upcoming tournament in Las Vegas with a minimum $100,000 purse. His total winnings over the years with Drinkin' Smokin' Straight West Coastin' hover around $150,000.
"Ninety-five percent of the game is all in your head," said Findley, offering a bit of beer pong wisdom.
Making $150,000 from beer pong? Now that's living large. But the Beer Pong King dreams of even bigger paydays from a reality TV show production deal. He's already signed six "submission release" forms with some top reality TV producers, which is part of the pitching process and protects producers from copyright infringement claims.
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Rivera's pitching a show, to be set in San Diego, that mixes "Jersey Shore"-like shenanigans with beer pong culture. Hearing that Season 4 of "Jersey Shore" in Italy sold for $7 million pumps up the Beer Pong King. He's hoping to reap the kind of paychecks usually reserved for dotcom moguls or Hollywood executives.
"I'm not trying to sign for no 60 grand," Rivera said. "We're trying to sign for some big money."
He has a Hollywood connection in his court for pitching the reality series: Alex Cortez, a veteran radio programmer who's also worked in promotions for Warner Bros. They're hoping to hear back soon from 25/7 Productions, the company behind "The Biggest Loser."
Rivera's also working on his "Beer Pong King" documentary, which goes behind the scenes at his tournaments and features him hanging with the likes of Heather Rene Smith, Playboy magazine's Miss February 2007. Filming the documentary is still under way but a "Beer Pong King" trailer is up on YouTube.
"I feel this is one of the most interesting documentaries in the world because it's about what's really going on with the young people today," he said. "Not only have I made a career from it, but I've got my region's musicians, athletes and actors to be a part of this. No one in the beer pong community has come close to that."
Rivera wants to continue expanding the beer pong audience from its preppy and collegiate origins, making it both more celebrity-driven and streetwise. Though the World Series of Beer Pong has its own official merchandise, Rivera wants to get in the licensing game, too. He has an end game in mind: Wal-Mart.
"They're the only company capable of doing the volume I want to do," Rivera said. "I'd like a $49.99 Beer Pong King table that's affordable for every college kid in the country, plus cups, balls, T-shirts, all that stuff, and have them license it. They're gonna go like hotcakes."
The Beer Pong King hopes that future hurries up. While wine improves with time, the same can't be said of beer.
"If I was 21 or 22 years old, this would be a dream job," Rivera said. "But I'm 30 years old. That's when you normally have a family and a 'real job.' As a promoter it's a young man's game, but I'm running circles around these kids. It's like, dude, what else do I have to do?"
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