How to Play Kemps


Kemps is a card game played in pairs.  The goal is obtain four-of-a kind and then to use a secret signal to get your partner to call out “Kemps!”

  • Materials Required: A standard deck of 52 playing cards.
  • Recommended Number of People: 3-5 pairs (6-10 people).

How Do You Play the Kemps Game?


First, ensure that you have an even number of people.  This is required since this game involves pairs playing together.  Randomly assign partners.  Then, have each pair meet to determine a secret, subtle signal.  This signal needs to be non-verbal and nothing too obvious.  Some examples might include: puckering lips, winking one eye, scratching one’s ear, etc.

Once all pairs have decided on a good signal, have everyone sit in a circle facing each other.  Partners should be seated across each other.

Playing Kemps: A Sample Round

Shuffle the cards and deal four cards to each player.  Each player holds a maximum of four cards in his or her hand at a time.  Deal four cards to the middle of the table, face up.

Say, “Ready, set, go!” and begin the round.  Each player can discard a card from their hand and then grab any card from the center of the table.  It is an ongoing process without structured turns; players simply exchange single cards from their hand with cards that show up on the table.  Again, a player cannot have more then four cards in their hand at the same time.

The goal is for you (or your partner) to get four of the same rank (e.g., four 8’s, or four Queens, etc.).  If no players want any of the four cards that are in the center, the dealer can remove the four cards and deal out four new cards and the process continues.  Once you successfully have four-of-a-kind, use your secret signal to try to get your teammate to yell “Kemps!”  If “Kemps!” is called on a person, that person must reveal their hand to show whether or not they have four-of-a-kind.

If your partner yells “Kemps!” and you have four-of-a-kind (or vice versa), then your team gets a point and wins the round.  If your teammate yells “Kemps!” but you don’t have four of a kind (or vice versa), then your team loses a point.  You can also yell “Kemps!” and point to an opponent if you think they have four-of-a-kind.  If successful, you also win a point, but if you are wrong, you lose a point.

Winning Kemps

Victory is achieved when your team earns four points (or whatever point value you wish).


A variation of Kemps to is to have partners create their nonverbal signal while playing the game, rather than being allowed to discuss it beforehand.  This is a much more challenging version of the game, but it can be more fun.