A friend recently emailed me asking me for the rules for "liar's dice", a drinking game we played while on a ski vacation up at Whistler, BC. Apparently he couldn't find the rules written out anywhere online -- all he found was a game called Perudo where everyone had their own die to roll. So I spent a few minutes writing down the rules to the version we played as clearly as I could and emailed them back to him. While I was at it I figured I'd post them on my website for the world to enjoy... So here goes:
A non-transparent cup and five (5) dice. 2+ people. Beer.
Beginning a round:
To begin a round one person rolls all five dice under the cup. That person then follows from step 5 on in the Pass: section below.
The player to your right (the "passer") just passed you one or more dice under the cup, zero or more dice outside the cup and made a claim. That claim is what the passer asserts is the minimum value of the "hand" being passed to you. You have two choices at the beginning phase of your turn: to accept the claim or to challenge the passer.
You accept the passer's claim by peeking under the cup and gaining the knowledge of the state of all five dice -OR- by simply passing the cup along to the person on your left and making a higher claim without looking under the cup. You challenge the passer's claim by saying something along the lines of "bullshit" and then lifting the cup for all to see. The round is over when someone challenges a claim.
If a claim is challenged then either the passer or the challenger wins and the other loses. The passer wins if the actual value of the five dice hand meets or exceeds the value of his claim. The challenger wins if the actual value of the five dice hand does not meet the value of the passer's claim.
The value of five dice hands is much like in poker:
Note there are no straights (major or minor). Feel free to add them to your own rules if you want.
There's an important subtlety here -- the "meets or exceeds" phrase means that if I passed you "two pair, 1's and 4's", you challenge the claim, and the real hand is three of a kind then I would win. This is because the real value (three of a kind) exceeds the value of my claim (two pair).
The loser drinks some quantity of beer (should be enough to discourage frivolous challenges). You can make the winner give out a drink too if you want. Then the winner begins the next round by rolling all five dice...
Once you have accepted a passer's claim you begin the process of becomming a passer and making a claim of your own. If you peek under the cup you must roll at least one die. If you do not peek under the cup you can accept your passer's claim by simply sliding the cup along to your left and making a higher claim. In this case you need not roll any dice.
If you peeked, though, here are the steps to follow:
One last note: if the passer claims "a pair of twos" when passing you the dice to his left then his claim implies "a pair of twos and a one". Yes, I know you could not have a pair of twos and just a single one... you'd either have more than a single one and therefore get two-pairs/full house or you'd have something higher than a one. The point here is just that if all you say is "a pair of bla" you are passing a pair of bla with an implied high card one. Of course, if you pass "a pair of ones" then you are implying "two ones and a two" not three ones.
Strategery (a.k.a. Strategy):
Remember the subtlety above -- if you roll four of a kind you need not pass four of a kind. Likewise if you roll four 5's you need not pass four fives -- depending on the claim you accepted maybe four 2's will do. If you are in the enviable position of having a killer roll and a wussy claim to beat think about who you want to set up and how far around you want to dice to pass when making your claim. Underclaiming is powerful, especially if rolling a single die will perturb the hand.
Trust fate: if you have a 50-50 chance of beating a claim (I just passed you four 5's and a two, you accepted. Pull out the 4 5's, roll the remaining dice under the cup, if you get a 3, 4, or 5 you win). Don't bother to look. Just pass the cup and say "four fives and a three". The advantage here is that you can't betray your own lie by peeking under the cup. The person to your left will be forced to think about the odds and not whether they think you lied. The disadvantage here is that you deprive yourself of the knowledge of what's under the cup. If the dice come back to you (i.e. if there are a very small number of people playing) then you are at a disadvantage.
Also note that if I was your receiver in the above example (you had a 50-50 chance to beat your claim, rolled 1 dice and didn't look) I'd be tempted to not look either and just pass it along with "four 5's and a four".
Think about the odds, not bluffs. What you ask yourself when receiving a claim is not "is that person lying" but rather "given what I know, what are the odds that I can beat that claim". A pair of whatevers is pretty easy to beat even if there's nothing at all under the cup.
The combination of pulling out some die and underclaiming has a befuddling effect on drunk opponents.
Have fun. Make sure to follow the steps in the Pass: section because you can get confused with the pulling out / pulling in if you don't -- the important part is roll the dice on the table before the ones under the cup (if you choose to roll on the table at all). What you want to avoid is the illegal process of rolling the cup, peeking, then rolling on the table. Also remember if you look under the cup then you must roll at least one die during your turn.
Well I have gotten some email from other people who play liar's dice with different rules. It seems like there are a lot of variations out here. Here's one that I really liked which I received in email from a guy named Randall Olson: