Tag Archives: kings cup

King’s Cup: Drinking Game

Background: DL is a childhood friend of mine who grew up in Long Beach, California before moving up north to attend college in Washington. He a transgender man in his early twenties and lives in an eight-person household with roommates that all identify as LGBTQ+.

Context: King’s Cup is one of DL’s favorite drinking games. This particular instance of King’s Cup was celebrated on DL’s birthday with about ten schoolmates/friends/roommates of DL, shortly before the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders were put in place. A little while afterwards, he celebrated someone else’s birthday over Zoom due to the COVID-19 stay at home orders. DL expressed sadness over not being able to play King’s Cup at the Zoom Party.

Main text:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as DL and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

DL: It’s like…you put a big cup in the middle of the table and, um, spread a deck of cards around it and you take turns picking a card from the ring of cards around the cup and each number on the card signifies something that you have to do.

JS: Okay

DL: Um…most of them involve drinking or [laughs] something of that context.

JS: Does it change each time or is there a specific ruleset that you used?

DL: There’s like a pretty specific ruleset that people generally use. Although we altered it because it’s pretty gender-specific sometimes

[At this point, DL tried to remember some of the rules but couldn’t recall them off the top of his head. He promised to follow up later with a few examples.]

JS: So, you pull the cards out, you go around the table, and they each have a different related thing on them.

DL: Yeah, um, it’s just like a deck of standard cards. And some of them it’s like you have to pour some of your drink into the big cup in the middle and then at the end, like, the loser has to drink the “King’s Cup.”

JS: [laughs] God, that’s so gross!

DL: [laughs] Yeah, we didn’t actually get that far we all kinda shared it and it was disgusting. Whatever you’re drinking, so that’s, like, the disgusting part. I had like some fancy sambuca from my mom so there was some of that in there, and some beer, and some cider, and some…wine I think. [laughs]

Examples of rules include:

Number two cards are titled “you”: Choose someone to drink

Number three cards are called “me”: The person who drew the card must drink.

The biggest modification A and his friends made to the rules set was for cards five and six—instead of sticking to the gender-exclusive rules of “guys and chicks” where either men or women drink, they changed it to “fags and dykes,” and it was up to the players to choose whether they would drink on the card that was pulled.

Thoughts: King’s Cup is a pretty standard drinking game, like much Beer Pong. Drinking games are a unique way to transform relatively standard American college practices (drinking to excess) into “events,” typically by way of making them game-ified or competitive. As DL explains at the end of the interview, the pretense of rules usually begins to fade as a drinking game goes on—there’s no need to keep on playing once the objective of the game (getting drunk) has been completed. What’s particularly interesting is how DL has customized the game to have certain “house rules”—particularly those for five and six. Some of the people DL lives with are nonbinary, making the guys and chicks rule obsolete. Instead, by customizing it with queer terminology, DL and his friends were easily able to tailor the game to their particular environment. I think it’s also important to note that the words “fag” and “dyke,” though often considered insulting and homophobic slurs, are fairly natural in this context for this group of friends—instead, they function as an insider/in-group joke. 

King’s Cup

“You have like a big, giant cup or pitcher, typically in the middle of a circle at a party and everybody who sits around has their own drink, and you take a deck of cards that are mixed up in the center of the table around the pitcher and you go around the circle, one by one, and you pick up a card and depending on what card you choose will depend on what you have to do with your drink. So if you draw an ace, like that means that you drink, just you. If you draw a two, that means you get to choose someone to drink with you. If you draw a three, then you choose someone to drink. If you draw like a four, like you can come up with like the different rules, but the way I’ve played it like a four . . . all the women drink. If it’s a five, all the men drink. If it’s a six, you do categories, so somebody, like the person who pulls the card would say, ‘Animals’ and then you have to go around in a circle and at like a really quick speed name an animal off the top of your head and when someone pauses or can’t come up with one, they have to drink. Um, and after they drink they pour a little bit in the middle. And then if you pull . . . it goes on, till the end, but if you pull a king, you just have to pour in the middle pitcher.”


Interviewer: “What are the other cards?”
“I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but I know you can, like, there’s one that’s like . . . a rhyme and so like you can say, ‘fish’ and the person next to you has to rhyme with it and say like, ‘dish’ and then it goes around in a circle and if you can’t come up with a word, or can’t come up with a word that rhymes, you have to drink and then pour some in. And so at the end, the point is basically whoever draws the last king of the whole game has to drink the pitcher in the middle and it’s really disgusting because there’s usually like different alcohols involved so it’ll be like a mixture of like whiskey, and like tequila, and beer, and something that’s not tasty . . . There’s [a card] where like if you start to drink the person next to you has to start to drink and when you stop, they can stop, but it goes around like consecutively in the circle, um, so the last person can’t stop until everyone else has stopped in the circle, if that makes sense . . . I wanna say like ten, like the card ten, you drink for ten seconds. Um, I think seven rhymes with ‘heaven’ and I think we all drink. And then one card you have to do, like, ‘Never Have I Ever.” So like you put up five fingers and you say, ‘Never have I ever . . . kissed a girl’ and then anyone who’s kissed a girl, despite your gender, um, has to drink. And you do it, you have, um, you do it until your five fingers are down. And that’s King’s Cup.”


The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her where she learned “King’s Cup,” she said, “I couldn’t tell you who specifically, like a name, but, um, at my first party that I went to in high school, um, it was a game that was very often played and it’s typically more fun with the more people who play it, and so I was kind of like forced into playing it. And so I was forced into like learning the rules and for like my 21st birthday was when I played it with my closest friends and like my mom and we were all playing it. And we kind of just like took the rules that I knew and like would put a twist on it. So like we would change the card numbers, so instead of, I think the typical is like an ace being you drink, we would say like that would be the rhyme one. Like we’d confuse which ones were which, but we would write it down so we knew which card we drew.”


When asked why she practices it, she said, “It’s fun and it’s like a social atmosphere and it’s supposed to be funny to like . . . ‘Cause you could be the one who pours in a ton of alcohol and be like, ‘Somebody’s getting fucked up tonight! . . . I mean, screwed up tonight,’ and then, um, you end up screwing yourself over because you’re the one who ends up drawing the last king so then you have to drink the pitcher which is you pouring your whole entire drink basically in there trying to screw someone else over. So it’s supposed to be like funny and it’s like a game of fate, you kind of just, you don’t want to pick the wrong card, but there’s no one to blame but yourself if you do. I don’t know, I feel like people aren’t super serious about drinking the pitcher at the end because everyone kind of knows that if we’re all drinking different drinks it’s probably not gonna actually happen. But also like, people get sketched out, like they don’t want to pour all their drink in knowing the last king’s still out there, you know?”

I asked her what she thinks it means, and she said, “We’re all alcoholics! No, uh, I think it’s uh, I think it means . . . instead of standing around and drinking and talking or like forcing conversation, it’s like an excuse to be in a group and drink whether you know the person across from you or not, it’s just  like a group game and you don’t have to know everyone in the game to play it.”


Looking at King’s Cup in particular is really interesting to me because it is an extremely popular drinking game within parts of my generation, yet I have never met two people who play it the same way. Despite the fact that the informant is sure there are some official rules somewhere that would be the “correct” way to play, she does not know what these are and it does not seem to matter. What matters is that there are specific rules and actions associated with every card that someone pulls, and that these are strictly followed once the game begins. In addition to this game being entertaining and a reason for a group of people to get drunk together, it also acts as a way of dividing up the group and defining the people playing it. Many of the cards pulled mean only a part of the group drinks, e.g. the men or the women present, and this draws a subtle, but perceptible line between the people playing. The frequent involvement of other games such as “Never Have I Ever” occurs to reveal embarrassing or “secret” information about the participants to the rest of the group, thereby bonding them to one another or singling out someone at whom everyone else can laugh.

The Little Green Men

Informant Bio

My informant is a 19 year old college freshman studying theater at an academy in Hollywood, California. This student is deeply involved in the active social aspect of life as a theater student – frequently attending wrap parties, after parties, and general Friday night parties to blow off steam after a week of classes. Because the academy is not a traditional college or university, the student body contains a wide range of student ages, from teens just out of high school, to men and women in their late thirties.

My informant was observed playing the game detailed below. He was not the only underage student there.

The Game

“Two is you, three is me, four is whores, five is drive, six is dicks, seven is heaven, eight is mate, nine is rhyme, ten is thumb master…”

There are many variations of the rules of the game known as King’s Cup. It’s a party game, played by young people, often in their teens or mid-twenties. In this case the game I observed was being played by a group of four students. The game involved a can of beer placed in the center of the table with a deck of cards fanned out around the can. Each student also held a cup of their own filled with beer. The students took turns choosing cards from the circle – each card had a special action associated with it. For instance, if a player draw a “7,” they would quickly drop the card to the table and point both fingers in the air (toward heaven). The last player in the circle to follow suit and point at heaven would take a drink from their cup.

At one point my informant drew a jack. He was told to make a rule (that the other players must follow until another jack is drawn from the deck) and he decided on the “little green man” rule. To demonstrate, he pointed his fingers like a gun and “shot” at the top of cup of beer. He explained to me that this killed his “little green man.” By establishing this rule, now whenever any player needed to take a drink, they would first need to kill the little green man sitting on the rim of their cup.

My informant’s demonstration of the rule led to a dispute. Another player had heard the little green man rule played differently. In her version, the little green man should be taken carefully off the rim of the cup and set aside on the table, allowing the the player to drink, and then placed back onto the cup when the player finished drinking. My informant had never heard this variation, and claims he finds his version to be more fun because players can be very creative in deciding in what way to kill their little green man.

The rules to King’s Cup, and even the name of the game, varies wildly depending on the group one is playing with. The little green man rule is one example of how the game changes between groups. However, in both cases the little green man rule allows the player to act out the removal of an obstacle to drinking. A drinking game itself can have only one purpose – to aid in the intoxication of the players. As this is a game that is often played among groups of young adults, and in some cases including the game I witnessed, with students who are not yet legally old enough to consume alcohol, the little green man rule asserts the players ability to get drunk together and party in spite of the restrictions of parents, their academic institution, and the law. The little green man is an alien outsider who represents anyone or any institution who would put a stop to the dangerous and potentially illegal behavior, and must be removed before a drink may be taken.

Kings Cup Drinking Game

The informant is a 19 year old Filipino female. She lives with her mother in Toledo, Ohio and has one older sister. She was raised Roman Catholic. She is currently a student at a university in Southern California. The informant is the co-president of the club volleyball team at her university.

The informant first learned this game when she started going to parties in sophomore year of high school. She played it for the first time her senior year of high school. Kings Cup is a drinking game played with a deck of cards. The informant would play it at parties, usually towards the middle or end of the night. In her experience, the rules vary from place to place. The rules she learned in Ohio are generally the same everywhere she has played, but certain specifics change. In the game, each card type in the deck has a certain significance, indicating a certain action to be done by the players. The cards are laid out in a circle. Each player draws a card and reveals it to the group and then performs the action indicated by that card. The card is then placed under the tab of a beer can. Eventually the pressure from the cumulating cards causes the beer can to pop open. The person whose card does this has to drink all of the beer. Additionally, if anyone breaks the circle created by the cards, they have to perform a forfeit, designated at the beginning of the game. This is usually something embarrassing, such as streaking. The specific card designations are as follows.


Ace: Never have I ever. All players put up three fingers. Each player goes around the circle, saying something they have never done. If one of the other players has done that action they have to put down a finger. This continues until only one person has fingers still up.

2: Red to the head: If the two is red the player who drew the card has to drink two drinks. If the card is black, the player can give out two drinks to any other players to drink, either two to one person or one to two people.

3: The rules are the same as two but with three drinks.

4: Whores: All of the girls playing have to take a drink.

5: To the skies: The last person to put both of their hands in the air has to take a drink.

6: Dicks: All of the guys playing have to take a drink.

7: Social: Every person playing has to take a drink.

8: Abc: The players go around in a circle, each naming something that begins with their letter of the alphabet. The player who drew the card starts with A, the next with B, and one around the circle. The first to mess up has to drink.

9: Rhyme: The person who drew the card says a word or phrase. Each subsequent person in the circle has to say a word that rhymes. The first to mess up has to take a drink.

10: Categories: The person who drew the card picks a category and names something within that category. Each person has to name something in that category, going around the circle. The first to mess up has to take a drink.

Jack: Rule: The person who drew the card makes up a rule, which is in effect for the rest of the game. If anyone breaks this rule they have to take a drink. Examples of rules include no swearing or using names.

Queen: Questions: The person who draws the card looks at someone in the circle and asks them a question. This person should then turn to someone else and ask them a question. It goes around, until someone either answers a question or does not ask a question themselves. That person has to take a drink.

King: Waterfall: Everyone starts drinking at the same time. The person who draws the card chooses when to stop drinking. When they do, the person sitting next to them stops, then the person next to that person, and so on around the circle. In order to determine which direction the waterfall goes, the card drawer asks the two people sitting next to them a generic question. The first one to answer gets to be the second person in the waterfall instead of the last.

Analysis: This game is an excellent example the defining characteristics of folklore: repetition and variation. In the informant’s own experience, she has seen variation in the details of game depending on where and with whom she plays it. Almost every person who plays this game has come into contact with different rules. Perhaps the proximity to alcohol increases the possibility for variation. It is also interesting that this game is an imposition of rules upon an ostensibly disorderly and unruly activity. Perhaps it is the inherent unpredictability of drinking that stimulates the development of a set of rules for action, in the form of a game. While some drink to step outside the bounds of society, the fear that alcohol can push people too far may contribute to the popularity of a game that adds structure to the activity.

Annotation: iPhone Application: King’s Cup. By Bobby Cronkhite Software. 2/25/2011.

Drinking Game – Seattle, Washington

Drinking game

King’s Cup/ King’s– Seattle

You spread out and mix up a deck of cards, face-down, on a table surrounding a big cup or bowl. Everyone playing the game (usually a group of five or more) needs a few drinks, like a beer. Going around the circle, a person will pick up a card and, depending on what card it is, complete an action. Each card is assigned a rule:

Ace –  Social: everyone drinks

2 – Fuck You: the player picks another person to drink

3 – Fuck Me: the player must drink

4 – Hit the Floor: everyone must touch the floor with his or her hand

5 – Guys: all guys must drink

6 – Chicks: al girls must drink

7 – Heaven: everyone must point upward

8 – Mate: the player picks another person to drink with him or her

9 – Rhyme: the player must say a word and everyone in the circle must rhyme with it

10 – Waterfall: when the player takes a drink, everyone else must start drinking and can only

stop when the person to their left stops drinking

Jack – Make a Rule: the player gets to make up a new rule

Queen – Question: everyone around the circle must ask any question

King- King’s cup: whoever draws this must pour some of their drink into the cup or bowl. Whoever chooses the last king must drink the King’s cup. Then the game ends.

Abby said that every time she played, the rules were different, and that the goal of the game is to get people drunk. She said it’s fun because you have to remember all the rules and try not to mess up (because then you have to drink). Also, she mentioned, if people have all different kinds of drinks, the King’s Cup can get pretty disgusting.

From my observations, this game is popular among underage drinkers, probably because it is quick and fun.  This may be because it is quick and fun. Also, the rules vary from person to person and region to region. The rules Abby told me, for example, were different from the rules I heard of living in California.

Perhaps why this game is so fun is because everyone is constantly messing up. The more complicated the rules, and the more everybody drinks, the more mess-ups. It just gets funnier and funnier because everyone becomes more forgetful and slow. In the end, this game is highly successful at achieving its intended purpose.