Two bros are drinking beer. The first pulls a stunt. The second wants to top it. “Hold my beer.”

Before you ask someone to hold your beer, you might want to know why you’re doing it.

The “Hold My Beer” game is not unlike HORSE (the basketball game), except that the stakes are higher, with danger allowing just one round of play.

For the first player, the opening moves include:

The big brother. If the first player is stronger, his choosing a low-risk activity gives the second player a chance to prove himself and gain confidence, making him a more effective member of the larger group. (Cooperative)

The opening act. If the first player is weaker, intentionally choosing a low-risk activity gives the second player to display his fitness. (Cooperative)

The boss. The first player, believing himself stronger, performs a high-risk activity to force the weaker player to concede or fail. (Competitive)

The challenge. Rather than concede to an opponent perceived to be stronger, the first player risks a stunt beyond his expected capability. (Competitive)

The escalating dare. If the players have not yet established a clear hierarchy, that can be determined through a cycle of risk escalation until one player fails or concedes. (Cooperative)

That escalated quickly. As above, but faster. (Competitive)

YOU GO FIRST.You’re stronger.The other player is stronger.You’re not sure who’s stronger.
You choose a low-risk activity. (Cooperation)The big brother.The opening act.The escalating dare.
You choose a high-risk activity. (Competition)The boss.The challenge.That escalated quickly.
First-player moves in a “Hold My Beer” game.
Now it’s the second player’s turn.

Assuming the first player survives, do you concede or take a bigger risk?

You know what it would take to win.

If you know you can do it, go ahead: “Hold my beer.”

But if you’re not sure you’ll survive, figure out what’s happening.

  • Are you being pushed to do it by a big brother?
  • Are you following a surprisingly strong opening act?
  • Are you facing a boss?
  • Are you being challenged as boss?
  • Are you in a cycle, fast or slow, of escalating dares?

Ask yourself:

Is it cooperation or competition?

Do I need to win to survive?

What am I willing to risk?

I wonder why people play this kind of game.

Maybe it’s just what people do when they’ve been drinking.

Or perhaps the extravagant display of risk-taking behavior is a costly signal for advertising health and reproductive fitness that improves mating chances through the mechanism of sexual selection for sexually dimorphic organisms, giving the winner access to a larger selection of potential mates.

Or, if it’s towards the cooperative end, then the participants may consider it altruistic behavior that improves the overall fitness of the group.

In this sense, the “hold my beer” part is noteworthy. The second player implicitly trusts the first player with his beer — and his life.