How to Play Horse Race (Drinking Game)

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Horse Race (Drinking Game) Rules & Instructions

horse race game play demonstration



  • 2+


  • Deck of standard playing cards
  • Beverage(s) of choice


Much like a real race day at the track, each player bets on which suit they think will win the “horse race”. Instead of betting with cash, players test their confidence by betting with a number of drinks. “Horses” then advance as a designated “race announcer” flips cards at random, until one of the suits is called 8 times. The player that bet on the suit that is pulled 8 times and advances their horse to the finish line first, wins.


To set up the game, we need to create the “track”, place the “horses”, and select an “announcer”. 

First take the four Aces from the deck. Place them in a row, side by side, at one end of a table. This end of the table will be our “start” line. Then, shuffle the remaining cards and put seven cards face down in a column to the side and one row above of the Aces so that they form an L- like shape. These 7 cards will be the “mile markers” towards the finish line. Once the game is set up for play, one player is appointed the “race announcer” or dealer and will be in charge of drawing cards and announcing for the duration of the game. 

The game is started by the announcer asking each player to place their bets. Each player (with the exception of the announcer) picks a suit that they think will win and bets a certain number of drinks. The ace’s in the game represent each player’s “horse” and whichever suit they bet on represents which horse is theirs. If you win your bet, you get to give that number of drinks to other players; if you lose your bet, you take that number of drinks yourself. 

Once all bets have been placed, the races begin! 

The announcer begins the race by drawing a card from the top of the deck, revealing the suit of each card, and discarding the drawn card into a discard pile. Announcing which card and suit is drawn like a true horse track announcer is highly encouraged! Players will then move the horse that matches the suit drawn forward one space or “mile”.  This is repeated until a horse wins. The first horse to cross the finish line (move one space beyond the final card) wins the race! Bets are paid out as needed and all the cards, except for the Aces, can be collected to be reshuffled for the next round.


Once one of the Aces has moved 8 spaces and crossed the finish line, the race is over and that suit is the winner. Anyone who bet on that suit to win gets to give out as many drinks as they bet, while those who bet on other suits take as many drinks as they bet.

Horse Race Variations and Alternate Rules

  • Betting Rules: The simplest form of Horse Race is to only bet on which suit you think will win, but you can submit bets just like at a horse racing track. Examples include betting on a suit to “show”, i.e. to either win, place, second, or place third. You can even add perfectas and trifectas (boxed or unboxed) or also do side bets on which horse will be first out of the gate (the suit of the first card flipped from the deck). Bonuses/penalties can be set for more difficult bets.  As long as people understand what each bet entails and can keep track of whether they win or lose, feel free to add more betting options! The announcer also has the discretion to set betting limits to ensure everyone plays responsibly. 
  • Faltering: Whenever an Ace reaches a new space, the card on the side marking that space is flipped over. The Ace of the suit corresponding to the side card flipped is then moved back one space. This only happens the first time an Ace reaches that space. 
  • Stumbling: Like faltering, the side cards are flipped the first time they reach a space. If the deck contains Jokers and one is flipped, every horse except the leader moves forward one space. 
  • Bet the Odds: Before the betting begins, the seven cards on the side are flipped over to reveal which suits they belong to. The suit with the least number of cards in this column is considered the favorite to win the race since there are more cards of that suit remaining in the deck. Anyone who bets on the favorite and wins distributes double the number of drinks they bet, but those who bet on the favorite and lose take double the number of drinks. Bet smart! You can also play the opposite version where the suit with most cards in the column is the long shot, and carries a similar bonus for being the least likely to win.


Does the race have to be seven spaces long?

Not at all! Seven is a good standard number, but you can make the races shorter or longer as you please, just make sure you have enough cards. With enough space, you could even make a whole oval track for an exciting derby!


The Game Farm does not encourage or promote alcohol consumption of any kind. We do not take responsibility for any injuries, damages, or other consequences that may arise from the consumption of alcohol while playing our games.

It is the responsibility of each individual player to drink responsibly and know their limits. We recommend that players drink plenty of water and take breaks throughout the night to avoid becoming intoxicated.

If you are underage, please do not drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol underage is illegal and can have serious health consequences.

We hope you have fun playing our drinking games responsibly!

writer colin tichvon

Brian Oddo | Founder

A beer die expert and the worst foosball player you've ever seen. Brian grew up playing every sport and game under the sun and created this site to help people keep the fun going.

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