This page is mainly based on a contribution from Sam Oppenheim.
There can be two or more players. The game is said to be good for four players. A standard 52 card pack is used. The cards rank K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (ace low).
The first dealer is chosen at random and the turn to deal passes clockwise after each hand. Deal seven cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the centre of table to form the stock. Flip four cards face-up from the stock, and place them North, East, South, and West from the stock pile, to start four foundation piles.
Players take turns clockwise, starting with the player to dealer's left. At your turn, you may make any number of moves of the following types in any order:
- Play a card from your hand on one of the foundation piles. The card you play must be the next lower in rank and opposite in colour - for example you can play a red ten on a black jack. The cards on the foundation piles are overlapped slightly so that all can be seen. Since aces are the lowest cards, nothing can be played on a foundation pile that has an ace on top.
- Place a king from your hand to start a new foundation pile in an empty space in one of the four diagonal corners of the tableau (NE, SE, NW, SW). It will then be possible to build on this king in the same way as on the original foundations, adding a queen of the opposite colour, then a jack of the same colour as the king, and so on.
- Move an entire foundation pile onto another foundation pile if the bottom card of the moving pile is one rank lower and opposite in colour to the top card of the pile you are moving it onto. Example: a pile consisting of red 4 - black 3 may be moved on top of a pile consisting of black 7 - red 6 - black 5.
- Play any card from your hand to any of the original (N, E, S, W) foundation piles that has become empty (because the card(s) that were originally in it have been moved to another pile).
If in the original layout, a king is dealt any of the original foundation piles (N, E, S, W), it can be moved to a corner position. The player to the left of dealer will have the benefit of making this move and playing a card from hand to replace the moved king.
It may also happen that one of the dealt foundation cards will immediately fit on another, being one rank lower and of opposite colour. In this case the player to the left of dealer will be able to move this card and replace it with a card from hand.
If the centre stock runs out, play continues without drawing.
The play ends when someone manages to get rid of all the cards from their hand, or when an impasse is reached where the stock has run out and everyone is unable or unwilling to play any further cards.
Each player receives penalty points for the cards left in their hand at the end of play. A king costs 10 points and the other cards cost 1 point each.
These points are accumulated from deal to deal until some player reaches or exceeds a target score agreed in advance (say 25 or 50). The winner is the player who has the lowest number of penalty points at this time.
- With chips and a pot
- Everyone begins by putting a chip into the pot. Anyone who does not play any cards on their turn, but just draws one from the stock, pays another chip to the pot. The first player who runs out of cards wins the pot, plus a chip from each other player for each card they have left in their hand (10 chips for a king).
- Cards score pip value
- Some people play that aces in your hand count 25 points against you at the end, pictures count 10, and pip cards count face value. In that case the target score needs to be higher - say 100 or 250. Alternatively you can play a fixed number of hands after which the player with the lowest score will be the winner.
- Cards score 50, 10, 5
- Ed Stofka of Fort Myers, Florida describes a similar version in which aces score 50, picture cards and tens score 10 and pip cards from 2 to 9 score 5 each.
Some people play that it is compulsory to play kings at your first opportunity. There is a penalty of three points (or three chips paid to the pot) for holding a king and not playing it when you could. A problem with this rule is that it seems to be unenforceable. If you have a king in your hand you might claim that you had just picked it up, and no one could contradict you unless they had been peeking at your cards, which is also illegal. It seems better to have a 10 point penalty for kings left in hand at the end of the play, as in the main description; this should be enough to encourage players to get rid of kings as soon as they can.
Some people play that a card must be drawn from the stock at the start of each turn rather than at the end. Some play that two cards must be drawn from the stock on each turn, rather than just one.
Here is Bill Whitnack's Kings in the Corner page (archive copy).
Willow Schlanger has produced a computer version of Kings Corners for Windows.