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King’s Cup Rules, Variations and How to Play

Learn how to play one of the best drinking games all-time and learn the Kings Cup Rules and you will never lose again!

KING'S CUP RULES drinking game

King’s Cup is one of my favorite games to play with a new group of friends. It’s the perfect icebreaker, and you get to learn a lot about each other in a short time.

If you aren’t familiar with the King’s Cup rules (also known as “Circle of Death” or “Ring of Fire”), today I’m going to share with you this popular drinking game played on the student campuses, at home with friends, and in most party hostels around the world.

During my travels in the past years I’ve always stayed in party hostels and King’s Cup, along with beer pong, is the two most famous drinking games for tourists. Usually, we were playing it before going to a pub crawl or in the midweek when we were staying indoors.

Of course, like any game, there are many variations on the rules of the King’s Cup. To get you ready for your next party, I’ll share with you the most traditional way to play, which always results in a fun time!

What Do You Need to Play King’s Cup?

Kings Cup Cards
Kings Cup Cards. Source:

To play, you will simply need the King’s Cup, which is a large cup placed in the center of the table, and two drinks for each player (alcoholic drinks are most common but water is ok if you don’t want to get drunk), and a deck of cards.

Before getting started, pull all the cards from the deck and simply spread the playing cards face down around the cup. All of the cards need to touch another card on each side, and the more players you can gather, the better!

The basic King’s Cup card rules are for the players to take turns picking a card and moving in a clockwise direction. Each card matches an action, which I’ll go through in a minute.

If a player breaks the chain of the cards, that person drinks whatever is in the large cup in the center. The game only ends once all the cards are finished!

King’s Cup Rules

kings cup card rules

Now the most fun part of the game! The various tasks and challenges each card represents. Of course, this is where you will see the most variation between sets of rules.

What makes King’s Cup even more fascinating is the variations of the game. Basically, you can add every rule to this, from dancing, slapping someone’s face, or anything that could you imagine.

The Kings Cup card game allows for a lot of personalization which is always fun! However, here are the most common and basic rules for playing King’s Cup:


When the Ace is drawn, every player begins drinking at the same time, but the player who drew this card is responsible for when everyone else can stop drinking. All players drink until the person next to them has stopped drinking.

The player who drew the Ace has full control over when the waterfall stops and people stop drinking, so when they stop, the next player either clockwise or counter-clockwise can stop. This continues until the final player has decided to stop drinking.


When a two-card is drawn, the player who drew the card can choose any other player to take a drink with them by pointing at them and saying “You!”. Typically, this card is great for revenge-style drinking.


This is a pretty simple card. The player who draws the three card must chug their own beverage.


If a four card is drawn, all the ladies playing the game must take a drink. Now, usually, all the girls object to being referred to as whores, which is why sometimes the word is replaced entirely.

In other cases, you may not have any women playing the game at all, so the guys will have to come up with their own unique rule for this card in those instances.

FiveBust a Jive or Thumb Master.

Traditionally, there are one of two ways that the game can proceed when a five-card has been drawn.

With Bust a Jive, the player who draws a five-card must do a dance. The next player must then repeat the same dance, but add in a dance move of their own.

This continues until you get to the last person in line or someone can’t remember the dances and messes up. In the case of the latter, the player who messes up the dances must drink.

With Thumb Master, the player who draws a five-card is the master. The thumb master must then challenge somebody to see who can place their thumb down on the table the fastest.

The player who loses has to drink. Also, the current thumb master will hold that title until they lose or another five-card is drawn.

Six Dicks

This card works in the exact same way as the four-card, but instead of only the ladies drinking, all the guys drink. Similarly, if there’s a situation where there are no men, the women must come up with their own rule for this card.

SevenHeaven or Hell

When this card is drawn, all players must raise their arms into the air. The last person to raise their arms loses and must drink. Alternatively, if players decide to follow the Hell ruleset, all players must point down to the floor instead.


The player who draws this card must choose a drinking partner (mate). Just as the name suggests, every time one of you drinks, the other player (your mate) must drink as well.

NineBust a Rhyme

The player who draws a nine card must choose one word. The next player in line has to say a word that rhymes with it, and the chain continues until a player hesitates for too long or chooses a word that doesn’t rhyme. The player who breaks the rhyme will lose and must drink.


The player who draws a card must choose a category. It could be anything from food, movies, names, games, and other topics like that. The players must go around counter-clockwise or clockwise and say something that relates to that category.

For example, if the player draws a five and says “Horror,” then everyone must list a horror movie. The player who breaks the chain loses and will have to drink.

JackNever Have I Ever

When playing the “never have I ever” rules for the jack, all players put up five fingers. The player who drew the Jack must then state something they haven’t done. If you’ve done it, you must put a finger down.

The next player will continue this trend until someone loses all their fingers. The first person to do so drinks (have five fingers down).

QueenQuestion Master

When playing using the question master rules for the queens, when the Queen card is drawn, the player who drew the queen must ask someone next to them a question.

Without answering the question, that player must ask their own question to the person next to them, and it continues until the last person is reached or one of the other players slips up and answers a question.


There are different ways to play the king cards. One of the most common rules is called “make a rule”. Whoever draws a king gets to make a rule for the game. This rule can be anything you want it to be such as “all players must drink with their left hand”.

Naturally, whoever breaks your rule will have to drink.

Over the years, the King’s Cup rules might have changed in some places because people are making their own ‘house’ rules, so you might find slight variations of the original game.

King’s Cup Variations

When the first king is drawn, that player pours some of their own drink into the king’s cup in the center of the table. The person who draws the second king will also pour some of their drink into the King’s Cup, and so will the person who draws the third king.

Finally, the player who draws the fourth and final king has to drink everything in the king’s cup. Whatever you do, you want to stay away from that last king card.

King’s Cup Cards

You don’t need a specific deck of cards to play King’s Cup. You can use any normal deck of cards, but sometimes you meet a lot of people who don’t know the King’s Cup rules and you need to explain every time.

That’s why it’s better to have a waterproof deck of cards to avoid damaging the cards from alcohol where all the rules are written on each card, this way you don’t have to explain every time for each player.

Of course, over time, you will find out which rules you think are the best Kings Cup rules. I promise you, this will lead to one of the most fun nights of your trip.

It’s the perfect way to get warmed up before heading out for the night. You’ll learn more than you ever expected about your dorm mates the next time you play!

Other Fun Drinking Games

In any party hostel you’ll stay at or any student campus you will visit, the following 4 games are the most known and fun drinking games:

  • Never Have I Ever
  • Beer Pong
  • Ride The Bus
  • Flip Cup.

Remember that these drinking games are a lot of fun but only when people drink responsibly.


Last update on 2024-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Catalin Geangos
Catalin Geangos is the founder and previous owner of TravelTrained. He has been to more than 35 countries and lived in a few more before. He was a digital nomad travelling and backpacking extensively in Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and others parts of South East Asia from 2020 to 2023. He wrote about many articles about his first hand backpacking and partying experiences in these countries. He stayed in many hostels and hotels, met many other backpackers, travelers and locals whom he partied and shared his story with. His articles have inspired travelers, mostly single backpackers, around to world to take the leap to explore South East Asian countries from grassroots and not just the tourist attractions but also the real and happening life on the streets after the sun sets down! He now writes about outdoor gear and hiking.