Three’s ideal, maybe five, six is pushing it

You can do the pub with two, sure, but even the closest of companions will find lulls in the conversation.

No, three is the ideal – keeping the chat at a constant simmer, taking it in turns to interrogate or listen, and nobody left alone while the round’s got in. And three will fit anywhere, from the tiny round table in the tiny snug, to the end of a bench, to leaning on the bar.

Four and five work too, though the balance is never quite as good as with three. It’s too easy to end up in a row, player one unable to hear player four, player five cast adrift and in everyone else’s way on a stool dragged across to the end of the table.

Six? You need a biggish pub with plenty of room to pull off six, but it can be done on special occasions: you can’t see A without telling B you’re coming out, and B will want to bring C, and if C’s there it would be rude not to invite D… But the conversation either fragments, or ends up with everyone yelling over each other. You’ve to work hard in a six.

Eight is just daft. Avoid eight. That’s a dinner party, that is, or a committee meeting. Coats in a pile, not enough chairs, “You swap with her so she can talk to him about them”, tables dragged together and bar staff rolling their eyes. Except in the biggest of booze barns your group of eight is a dominating and probably irritating presence.

Then there’s twelve… Are these people barmy? Five tables in a row down the middle of the room so nobody else can get to the bar or toilet or the smoking lean-to. High chairs and pushchairs. A camera on a tripod. Is somebody making a speech? “Let’s pile the presents on this table here to get them out of the way while we eat.”

Even better, the central London speciality: fifteen, with no booking, guidebooks in hand. Shuffle in, shuffle all the way round looking for the magic unreserved banqueting table, then shuffle out again looking sad.

No, three is the ideal size for a team in a game of pub.

Though there’s also a case to be made for one.

6 thoughts on “Three’s ideal, maybe five, six is pushing it”

  1. Lovely post. Three or four mates together is ideal. Enough people to keep the conversation flowing, small enough that it doesn’t splinter into side conversations.

    Of course, larger groups are ok as long as they sporadically split up into smaller groups.

  2. Two’s fine. Two means two pints, or three and it’s my round next time. Four pints would make sense, or five if you’re feeling reckless – five and go on then, just another half… Two’s good for that.

    Three’s good for one round, which is to say three rounds. (Pauses for happy memories of lunchtime drinking.) Do you really want to stay for six pints, though – or keep track of who owes who and who a pint for next time? Four is definitely just the one round, and anything over five is hopeless – people always start buying their own or else buying little sub-rounds, just me and my mate… Two’s fine.

    1. Most people don’t actually keep note from one week to the next though. If i buy a round for 10 people, i might expect appreciate a couple of pints in return immediately thereafter, but after that it’s forgotten about, permanently.

      People who never buy a round over the course of a year do have their card silently marked though.

      1. I was going to say the same – even when I was skint I never expected one-for-one on round buying, but over time you’d notice the acquaintances who *never* bought a round and start excluding them. (From rounds, sure, but also from your life…) And I like the idea that over the course of a long friendship it all balances out by the time you die anyway.

        1. 100% agree with this Ray, as a friendship group we used to effectively subsidise a lad who’d been long-term unemployed (for no fault of his own), but when he then got a job and didn’t start buying rounds it led to some gentle teasing in various situations, and he took the hint and now buys rounds.

          Most of my mates though, it’ll be basically even over time, so it isn’t an issue.

          1. I’ve been buying my own beer for too long!

            Actually I don’t think I’ve been in a regular round of more than two for twenty years now. My loss…!

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