- Deck of cards
- You don’t want a lot of cards in your hand — that means you’ll ride the bus at the end of the game!
Additional Setup Notes
Choose a player to be the designated dealer of the game. Ride the Bus can be played several times, so alternate which player deals out the cards.
Everyone has a go-to drinking game; for many, Ride the Bus is the perfect way to start the party. Players will use a deck of cards to participate in three rounds: Card Dealing, Pyramid Building, and, for the unlucky loser of the game — a third and final round of Ride the Bus. This is a game of luck and joyful drinking, so stay hydrated and prepare for a bumpy bus ride.
After the dealer has shuffled the cards, they will begin with the player to their left in four rounds of dealing. Before dealing the first card, the dealer asks the player, “Red or Black?” Once the player has answered, the dealer gives the player their card while revealing it to the group. If players guess correctly, there is no penalty, and they keep the card. If the player guesses the card’s color incorrectly, they must take a drink. The dealer will go around the circle of players until everyone has guessed the color and gathered the first card of their hand. For the second stage of dealing cards, the dealer will return to the player to their left and ask them, “Higher or Lower?” Ace is the highest. The player will then guess whether the next dealt card will be higher or lower than the first card in their hand. If players guess correctly, there is no penalty. If the player guesses incorrectly, they must drink. The dealer will go around the circle until everyone has guessed and collected their second card. In the cosmically crazy case of the card being the same number, the dealer will shuffle the card back into the deck and deal again. Similar to the prior two rounds, the dealer will now ask the players whether the next card will be “In between or Outside?” For example, if I have a 3and a 10 in front of me, will the next card be between 3 to 10 or will it be higher than 10 or lower than 3? If the player guesses incorrectly, they must drink. The dealer will go around the circle until everyone has guessed and collected their third card. If the card dealt is the same as either number, the dealer will shuffle the card back into the deck and deal again. For the final round of dealing, the dealer will ask the players to choose one of the four suits (clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds). Yes, this means everyone has a 75% chance of drinking. The dealer will go around the circle until everyone has guessed and formed their full hand in front of them. For the lucky players who guess correctly, they may issue out a drink to whomever they wish to penalize. Now that the hands have been formed, let the true games begin!
Build the Pyramid
Once players have collected their hand of four cards, it’s time to create the pyramid. The dealer will form a pyramid of face-down cards. Five cards should be at the base, four in the next row, and so on, until the fifth row has just one card at the top. For each row of the pyramid, drink values increase. Row one is simple, with each flipped card counting for one drink. The top row equals five drinks. The dealer will begin flipping cards, one at a time, starting with the bottom row. Once a card is flipped, players will check their hand to see if they have any matching cards. If players have a matching card, they will place it on top of the flipped card and distribute the number of drinks that row represents to a player of their choosing. Multiple players can add a matching card to the flipped card. Once they’ve eliminated a matching card from their hand, players can dish out the appropriate amount of drinks based on the given row. The dealer will continue flipping cards up the pyramid, row by row, as players search for matching cards in their hand. Players should aim to get rid of their cards as quickly as possible. Players can save their matching cards in hopes of finding another match in a higher-drinking row, but this runs the risk of riding the bus if that fails. The pyramid phase of the game ends once the top row’s singular card has been flipped and drinks have been divvied out. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the pyramid round must ride the bus. If two players have the same quantity of left over, the player with the highest value card must proceed to ride the bus, with Ace being the highest. If players have matching high cards, the player with the next highest card becomes the bus rider.
Endgame: Riding the Bus
Not everyone who plays Ride the Bus can get rid of all their cards. Now it’s time to hop on the bus! The dealer will begin the round by placing 10 cards face down in a line in front of the bus rider. Beginning at the start of the card sequence, the dealer will flip a card over. Numerical cards are what bus riders like to see — that means nothing happens. Face cards are where bus riders should be concerned. The dealer will continue flipping the cards until they reach a face card. Once encountered, face cards represent different levels of drinks taken. Jack requires one drink, the Queen demands two drinks, the King demands three drinks, and the Ace demands four drinks to be taken. Once the player drinks their way to the end of the 10-card sequence, they can get off the bus (and the next game can begin!).
Ride the Bus Variations and Alternate Rules
There are dozens of variations of Ride the Bus that players can adopt based on how they’d prefer to drink. For this guide, we provided the most tame version of riding the bus possible, but some games can be pretty intense for bus riders. The first two phases of Ride the Bus tend to stay the same across the board, with most variations in the details of riding the bus. Here are some other ways to ask players to ride the bus, or even shake up the formula after playing a few games!
- Four-Card Sequence: An easy way to escalate the process of riding the bus is by placing a row of 4 cards in front of the player and having the dealer lead them through a game similar to the first phase by having the player guess Red or Black (first card), Higher or Lower (second card), In between or Outside (third card), and Suits (final card). Beginning with the first card, players will guess red or black, only proceeding to the next card in the sequence once they guess correctly. Next, they can guess whether the second is higher or lower, and so on until they guess the fourth card’s suit. For each incorrect guess, the dealer will replenish the card until the player can continue to the next card.
- Four-Row Pyramid: The pyramid method of riding the bus is easily the most random and drink-intensive. The dealer will form a four-row pyramid with four cards on the bottom, three cards on the second row, and so forth until there is one card on the top of the pyramid. The bus rider will then attempt to scale the pyramid. Similar to our first variation of Ride the Bus, this version utilizes Red or Black (first row), Higher or Lower (second row), In between or Outside (third row), and Choose a Suit (top row). Players will scale the pyramid by randomly selecting a card from each row and answering the four prompts correctly.
Do I have to drink every time I guess a card incorrectly while Riding the Bus?
No! It’s incredibly important to know your limits when playing Ride the Bus. It’s common for players to take a “celebrity shot” at Riding the Bus if a player is having a rough go at guessing correctly, and it’s totally fine to finish the game early altogether. Ride the Bus demands several drinks to be taken, so it’s important to stay hydrated and cut friends off if the drinking tallies are making the game go off the rails.
What is the maximum number of people that can play Ride the Bus?
Ride the Bus doesn’t have a defined player limit, but it’s best played between groups of 3-7 people. The fewer players, the more drinking is involved. Games with more than 7 players will occasionally demand another card deck to be added to make sure the first two rounds are not too short.
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!