Setup: Players should choose or be randomly assigned partners. Use 1 standard playing card deck, but you may choose to use 2 decks with 8+ players. Be sure that you are using a table or other play area where all players can reach the center.

Objective: In each round, 1 partner should obtain 4 of a kind, and the OTHER partner should declare “Kemps!” The losing teams in each round receive a penalty letter from the word KEMPS. After one of the teams spells the entire word “KEMPS,” the team with the fewest letters wins.

Signals: After selecting partners, each team should privately choose their signal for how to NONVERBALLY tell their partner that they have 4 of a kind. You may also use meaningless signals to confuse other players, but you may not choose extra signals with meaning–this would be considered “table talk” and cheating. After each round, everyone should get up for a social break and a chance to choose new signals. Refresh drinks/snacks, take a restroom break and/or optionally choose a new signal with your partner.

Round of Play: Everyone plays all at once, so it’s important to respect the timing of the deals.

  1. Every player should receive 4 cards for their hand, and everyone should look at their cards right away.
  2. After everyone gets their hand, 4 more cards are dealt face-up to the center of the table. If you have a felt-top table or pad available, you may want to deal them “flop” style (
  3. As soon as the fourth card is placed face-up, players may reach to swap cards between the table and their own hand. Players do not take turns with this. First touch, first take! Also watch your partner!
  4. Continue swapping until no one wants the 4 cards remaining face up on the table. Add those cards to a “discard” pile.
  5. Deal 4 more cards and repeat steps 3-4. The round is over when one of these conditions is met:
    • A player declares “KEMPS” because they believe their partner has 4 of a kind. If their partner does indeed have 4 of a kind, then all other teams receive a letter. If their partner does NOT have 4 of a kind, then they are penalized with the letter.
    • A player declares “STOP KEMPS” because they believe another team has 4 of a kind. If the other team does indeed have 4 of a kind, then that team is penalized with a letter for being too slow with their own “KEMPS” declaration. If the other team does NOT have 4 of a kind, the player who declared “STOP KEMPS” is penalized with the letter for their team.
    • A “real deal” occurs when the draw pile is exhausted with no one declaring “KEMPS” or “STOP KEMPS” before the dealer runs out of sets of 4 cards to play to the center. No one is penalized with a letter for that round, and the same dealer deals again.
  6. When the round is over according to the possible conditions in step five, write down or use tokens to track the letter penalties. Check whether a team has completed the word “KEMPS” to end the game. If not, choose a new dealer to start a new round.

Hints: Choose simple signals (e.g. head nod, setting down cards, footsie under the table, turn your ring down, or a wink), and be sure to check for those signals at least every time the center cards are swept to the “discard” pile. Observe the other teams carefully to determine if they are looking for the same value cards that you are, and also to see if you can figure out their signals. You can confuse the other teams by using fake signals and/or swapping cards that you don’t actually need to complete your 4 of a kind.

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