Bar Games

The Life-Size Hungry Hungry Hippo Game at Irish Cowboy Means Your Thursday Night Is Planned

Strap on a bungee cord and win $300 for your friends.

By Mellanie Perez September 12, 2016

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"Ball of Thrones" is just like this, but life-sized. And with bungee cords. And beer.

On the back of my car I keep a yoga mat, a blanket made of old t-shirts, a volleyball, a bike rack and a pair of flip flops. When my friends ask, I basically shrug them off and say I like to be prepared for the next athletic adventure. When my day-to-day life in Houston can begin at The Dunlavy with a networking session and end doing circus arts at Discovery Green, I pack it all in my car. Some days I wear yoga shorts under my skirt because—hell, you never know. This past Thursday evening at Irish Cowboy, all of that planning finally paid off.

Last week, the Midtown bar that formerly housed Celtic Gardens held its first-ever “Ball of Thrones” competition, a new backyard patio game that involves a Hungry Hungry Hippo-style inflatable, people strapped to bungee cords on each colored “throne” and a race for red balls in the center pit. I walked in, chin-high, recording device in one hand, wearing a mini-skirt and tank top, but by the end of the night I had slipped off my pretense—err, skirt—and was begging everyone for a round at the game.

The rules are simple: There are four teams of three to five members. One member of each team has a chance at winning two out of three attempts in each round. "Attempts" mean collecting the most red balls from the center pit, one at a time, while strapped to a bungee cord. The balls must make it to their team's basket or they don’t count. A new member of the team plays every hour. 

“We were looking to do something different, something no other bar was offering—an activity where you can gather up your friends and have your teammates cheer you on,” says Daut Elshani, director or marketing at Salt ‘N Pepper Group, which also runs popular spots Beer Market Co., The Moonshiners and Crisp. ‘This is more than the average bar in Houston is offering.”

The winning team gets $300 cash, the second place team gets a bar tab of up to $100, and the third and fourth place teams get free appetizers and/or drinks. The only thing you lose is a little sweat and most of your chill. Toward the beginning of the night customers shot disdainful looks toward the massive inflatable, but by the end of the night, most had gathered around wondering what vicissitude had befallen the Irish Cowboy. 

“I’m winning that money next time!” someone yelled. “I just may join the fun next week,” said customer Brandon Erbin. “I just wanted to see the amount of embarrassment it took.”

The most exciting part—besides chasing red balls for money, of course—is the crowd involvement. The hosts get bystanders to root for their favorite team by giving them slips of paper with the color of their team. Whichever team wins gets their supporting crowd complimentary beverages. Sounds like a win-win.

Anybody can participate, but Elshani hopes to organize teams from different gyms, local breweries and even corporate offices as a team-building event that can help foster involvement with organizations. Because teams are organized beforehand, whomever wants to participate needs to organize their team and then call the bar directly (or email them at mynextevent @

“The biggest thing we encourage with this is that we hope every team gets other friends or members to cheer them on—that’s what really makes the game,” says Elshani.

The best part? After the game is done and in-between rounds, nosy bystanders like you and I can try it out. Now you know what you’re doing next Thursday night.

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