King’s Cup rules for the drinking card game

Here's how to play King's Cup, a classic drinking game that only needs a pack of cards, your besties, and plenty of booze to get started.

The rules to Kings Cup- a beer glass with a crown

King’s Cup is a classic drinking game that’s played at universities the  world over. You might also know it as Ring of Fire, Circle of Death, or Waterfall – though whatever you call it, the King’s Cup rules remain the same. You just need a deck of cards, some drinks, and some mates – as well as someone willing to teach you the rules (spoilers: that’s us).

King’s Cup has a well-earned place on our list of the best drinking games, and it’s right at the top of our guide to the best drinking card games. If you fancy a drinking game with a little more meat to it to start your evening, check out our guide to the best drinking board games. Otherwise, it’s time to learn your new favorite party card game.

Before we begin, though, it should go without saying: drink within your limits, and don’t be a dick to someone who doesn’t want to drink. What’s the point of an epic night out that you can’t remember?

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How to play King’s Cup

King’s Cup is a playing card game that uses a regular deck of cards, minus the jokers – we recommend you pick a waterproof set, as this game is guaranteed to get sloppy. Everyone should bring their own drink, and you’ll need a spare cup to be the ‘King’s Cup’.

Put the King’s Cup in the middle of the table, and spread the deck of cards out around it face down to create a Ring of Fire. Make sure there aren’t any breaks between the cards – they should all be packed together.

For reference, here’s what that might look like:

King's Cup rules setup photo

Players take it in turns pulling a card from the Ring of Fire, flipping it face up. Here’s what makes the game fun: each number or face card does something totally different. Some of them are challenges for the whole table, some of them let you put someone else on the spot, some of them even let you create new rules.

Here’s the King’s Cup card meanings:

Ace – Waterfall

When an Ace is pulled, everyone must start chugging their drink. No one can stop drinking until the person before them puts their cup down. Player order starts with the person who pulled the Ace and moves clockwise.

If you run out of alcohol before the Waterfall is over, you’re allowed to stop drinking. And obviously you can stop in case of emergency (choking, spontaneous combustion, etc.).

Two – You

The player who pulled this card chooses someone else to take a swig of their drink. It’s that simple.

Three – Me

The person who picked up the three has to take a swig of their drink. Oh no! What a horrible consequence of a game about voluntary drinking.

Kings Cup drinking game rules - photograph by Nan Palmero of "Deya drinking a beer at Alamo Beer Company", via Wikimedia creative commons 2.0 attribution

Four – Whores

All the women at the table drink. What’s a drinking game without a few vulgar words?

Alternative – Floor

In some versions of the game, a four means ‘Floor’. Here, the last person to touch the ground takes a sip of their drink.

Five – Jive

The player who picked up the five gets to create a dance move. Everyone at the table must copy it, and the first person to make a mistake drinks.

Alternative – Guys

All the men at the table take a drink.

Six – Dicks

Another rude word, and another gender-based rule. Here, all the men take a drink.

Alternative – Chicks

In other versions of the game, a six means the women drink instead.

Seven – Heaven

Everyone puts their hands in the air. The last person to stick ’em up takes a swig of their drink.

Eight – Mate

The player who pulled the eight chooses a drinking buddy. Whenever one of you drinks, the other must do the same.

King's Cup Rules - photo of some playing cards

Nine – Rhyme

Choose any word you like. The player next to you (clockwise order) must say another word that rhymes. The first person to pause for too long or say a word that doesn’t fit the pattern takes a drink.

Ten – Categories

Choose a category of think, for example ‘fish’ or ‘football players’. In clockwise order, players take turns naming something that fits the category. The first player to hesitate or mess up drinks.

Jack – Never Have I Ever

It’s that other classic party game! The player with the Jack lists something they’ve never done, and anyone who has done it takes a drink. A great way to get confessions out of your friends.

Queen – Questions

Become the question master. Any time someone answers a question you ask, they have to drink. The next time a player draws a Queen, they become the question master from then on.

King – King’s Cup

Pour some of your drink into the King’s Cup. Then add a new rule to the game – for example, ‘Yes means no and no means yes’. From now on, anyone who breaks the rule drinks.

Whoever pulls the fourth King from the Ring of Death has to drink the whole of the King’s Cup, no matter how foul the mixture has become. Tequila, Bud Light, and Baileys Cream Liqueur, anyone?

If you want to make the game extra boozy, add a drinking penalty any time a player creates a break in the Ring of Fire when they pull a card.

If you’re after the best card games for when you’re sober, we can recommend the best card games for adults. And why stop there? The best board games can provide just as much fun at a party – or on the morning after.