Circle of Death, King's Cup & Ring of Fire Drinking Game

This is one of the most popular card-based drinking games that was ever created and is known for different names depending on your region. Some people refer to it as Circle of Death, King's Cup or Ring of Fire but all variations stem from the same rules where a deck of cards are circled around a drink in the center of the game. We have even seen it referred to as Donut before due to the open circle in the middle where the drink is placed. There can also be lots of variations of the rules for what the cards mean as you pull them throughout the game which we will explain in more detail below.

This card-based game inspired us here at Beer Can Fishing to use many of the common drinking instructions (i.e. social, waterfall, make a rule, etc.) as an optional mystery drinking game sticker accessory. When you fish and reel in your mystery beer out of the cooler, you will find a hidden game rule under the can lid to get the entire party engaged. This variation of the game is one you can take with you anywhere. Play outside off a deck, tailgate, pool or lake instead of playing a card game around a kitchen table.

How to play Circle of Death, King's Cup and Ring of Fire drinking game

The game starts by gathering either a deck or two decks of cards if there are more than 8 players. Next, make sure they are shuffled well and fan them out into a circle in the middle of the table. There should be enough space in the center of the cards to place a drink in the middle and each card has to be touching another card at the start of the game.

The game begins when one player draws a card out of the circle, but you must be very careful not to draw a card that will leave a gap. You must never break the circle in this game and all cards must be touching another card after your draw. If you break the circle you lose the game and you must drink whatever beverage is in the center of the ring. Each player goes around in a circle clockwise and continues to draw cards and follow the drinking instructions based on what that card calls for. The drinking instructions for each card are described in the table below.

Circle of Death, King's Cup and Ring of Fire drinking game rules

The following table outlines the various meanings for the different cards you can draw from in the deck. Please note that even though we use hearts as an example, none of the suits matter in this drinking game and all suits mean the same thing.

Be careful when drawing your card! If you break the circle of cards you must drink what is in the center and the game starts over.

Playing card
Drinking instructions


2 of Hearts Playing Card

Give: Give out a drink to another player


3 of Hearts Playing card

Take: You take a drink


4 of Hearts Playing Card

Floor: The last player to touch the floor with their hand takes a drink


Girls: All gals take a drink


Right: The player to your right takes a drink


5 of Hearts Playing Card

Boys: All guys take a drink


Left: The player to your left takes a drink


6 of Hearts Playing Card

Table: Another variation is the last player to touch the table takes a drink


Social: Other variations of the game are played where the 6 card is simply a social where everyone must take a drink


7 of Hearts Playing Card

Heaven: The last player to raise their hand must take a drink


8 of Hearts Playing Card

Mate: The player who draws the card can choose one other player to be their “mate”. This player will then have to drink any time the person who chose them does


Hate: Another variation is you pick someone you hate to drink


9 of Hearts Playing Card

Rhyme: The person who draws this card must pick a word and the rest of the group goes clockwise trying to find another word to rhyme from the original word. The game goes until the first player who doesn’t come up with a rhyme will need to drink


10 of Hearts Playing Card

Categories: The player who draws card number ten will choose a category. Players then go clockwise to name anything that falls within the chosen category. The first player who doesn’t come up with something in that category must drink. Learn more about tips for playing categories


Jack of Hearts Playing Card

Never Have I Ever: You must start a game of Never Have I Ever. The player(s) who have done the action must take a drink


Thumb Master: The player who draws this card becomes the Thumb Master and they can put their thumb on the edge of the table any time during the game. The last player at the table to also place their thumb on the table must drink


Queen of Hearts Playing Card

Question Master: The player who draws this card becomes the Question Master and they can ask any player a question at any time during the game. That player must avoid answering and instead redirect it by asking another player a question. The first player who answers a question must drink


King of Hearts Playing Card

Make a Rule: The player who draws a King can create any unique rule of their choosing. They can also reuse any of the instructions from the other cards


Suicide King: Another variation is played where all kings drawn require the player to take a drink until the last king in the deck is drawn. The last king means you must finish your drink.


Ace of Hearts Playing Card

Waterfall: The Ace is the Waterfall card which means the player that drew the card must start drinking along with everyone else playing the game. Everyone must drink until the player on their right stops. It starts with the person that drew the card and ends with the player on their right. Learn more about tips for playing waterfall


Social: Other variations of the game are played where the Ace card is simply a social where everyone must take a drink

Whatever the meaning of the cards is in your version of the game doesn't really matter. What matters is being social and having fun as you are playing.