A Beginner's Guide To King's Cup

Drinking games may seem like the stuff of crusty dorm room floors and awkward house parties, but they can really be so much more. They're a great way to get the festive mood going while inviting party-goers to get a little fire in their bellies. In the grand canon of drinking games, none quite occupy the throne like King's Cup. 

According to the folks over at Dictionary.com, the game is also referred to simply as Kings or dramatically as Circle of Death. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and this drinking game can find a home in just about any party that's looking to have a little more debauchery. If you're new to the court, or if you're looking to refine your skills, there are a fair number of rules that make up this drinking game of royalty. Just be careful: As with all drinking games, you should keep in mind signs that you've had too much to drink.

How to set up

One of the biggest selling points of King's Cup is that there isn't much you'll need for the game beyond a stack of playing cards and a cup. To set up the game, splay the deck of cards in a circle around the cup. Players will take turns drawing a card from the circle. Each player also needs their own separate drink.

It's crucial in King's Cup to include a cup, of course! You may be wondering what makes this cup so regal — what's the reason behind the name of the game? Well, every time a King card is drawn, each player around the circle will pour a bit of their drink into the shared cup. A refined king this cup doesn't make! 

Of course, in this day and age, sustainability is always on the mind. So, a neat trick to turn things a little more green is to ditch the red Solo cups and opt instead for reusable party cups. Once you're set up, the real fun begins. What makes King's Cup unique is that each card pulled from the circle will dictate what you and other players need to do — from twos to Aces, it's certain that everyone around the table will drink their fill.


In King's Cup, each card has a different rule. While each card drawn involves at least one player taking a sip of their drink, the Ace simply is like no other. It's pretty easy to remember that whenever an Ace is pulled, the player who drew it needs to "waterfall" their drink, or consume as much of their drink in one go as they can (via Issuu). There's a reason why this maneuver is called waterfall instead of "chugging": It's not just the original player who needs to drink. Once the player who has drawn the Ace begins chugging their drink, each player in the circle, following a clockwise order, also needs to chug. The first player clockwise from the leader can only put their drink down once that original player has stopped. In turn, other players can then stop drinking, but only after the person directly in front of them has stopped.

While the point of drinking games is to consume alcohol, cards like the Ace highlight just how easy it is to overdo it. Just like with spending, keep in mind just how far you would like to go. While there are plenty of tips and tricks to limit your drinking, there are also various gadgets nowadays to help you keep an eye on your intoxication levels. In 2020, Best Life Online noted that special apps are being developed so that even when you're partying, you can make sure you don't cross the line between fun and pain.


When playing King's Cup, cards two, four, six, and eight all represent unique instructions for participants. According to the ever-vivacious source on all things pop culture aka Urban Dictionary, two is "for" you, to translate it into PG terms. This means whoever drew the two can pick anyone in the circle and have them take a drink. Four is for the ladies, and every femme-identifying person in the circle will begin drinking. Inversely, six is for the guys, and everyone who identifies as male will begin to drink once that card is drawn. If you need an alternative to the four and six cards that doesn't involve gender, the player who drew the card can give two drinks to another player and take two drinks themselves, or give three and take three. 

Next, we've got a card that's all about friendship. After all, eight is all about mates. Once eight is drawn, the player will pick someone to drink with them, but unlike two, any "eight-mate" will need to drink with the person who chose them for the duration of the game. The last of the even cards is a sweet card that doesn't discriminate — once a 10 is drawn, everyone gets to drink. Cheers!


Cards three, five, seven, and nine involve completely different rules. Three is all about me, so the person who drew needs to go ahead and take a drink. Five is a bit of a wild card, but according to Fuse Booze, a King's Cup card game manufacturer, once five is drawn everyone needs to slap the table. The last person to slap will need to take a drink. 

We followed the lead of the professional players over at Fuse Booze and agree that seven is the so-called "thumb master." This card is a bit more subtle than five. The player who draws seven will put their thumb on the table, and the last person to follow suit will need to drink. This movement is harder to catch than slapping the table, so you'll need to make sure that you're paying attention so that you don't have to drink! Of course, the longer the game goes on, the harder this gets. 

Nine is all about busting a rhyme, which makes this arguably one of the more creative cards that'll keep players on their feet. The drinker who drew nine will say one word that the player clockwise to them will need to rhyme with. This will continue around the circle until someone fails to come up with a rhyme. This fast-paced card is hard to do well, as evidenced by some seriously confused players trying their best to make it through the round without having to drink (via YouTube). 


It's only fitting that the royal court of King's Cup is going to have some seriously fantastic rules. The Jack, once drawn, allows the player who drew to choose any rule that will continue throughout the entire game (via Fuse Booze). With creative drinkers, this can make for some really fun gameplay, while it may be intimidating for others. Over on Reddit, some Redditors reminisced on their favorite impromptu rules. One suggested forbidding players from showing their teeth when laughing — anyone who does will need to drink. This leads to some pretty hilarious antics and expressions! Fuse Booze suggests using the Queen as a card to ask questions, while some may prefer a round of "Never Have I Ever." Opting for questions can help you get to know other players better. Anyone who breaks the chain by hesitating when asking or answering a question needs to drink. 

Finally, there is no greater card than the King — after all, it is King's Cup. In every card deck, there will be four Kings. As each King is drawn, the player will pour some of their drink into the cup which the cards circle. Whoever draws the fourth King will have no choice but to go ahead and indulge in the illustrious King's Cup, to which the game owes its name. Hopefully, by the time you make it to the cup, you'll have already had enough to drink to not mind the honor.