Cardinal Puff

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Cardinal Puff is a quick way for one person to get a large group of people thoroughly intoxicated, so if your looking for a steadier drinking game, try Kings or Beer Pong.

Starting Out

Any number of people can play Cardinal Puff, but they all must be able to clearly see what the Cardinal is doing. One person must already be a Cardinal and have perfectly memorized the Litany. The game involves the Cardinal attempting to teach the Litany to his Novitiate(s), who, once they have also memorized it, become Cardinals in their own right and can teach and induct other Novitiates.

You'll need a glass for the Cardinal and any Novitiate(s) who wish to achieve Cardinal status. A 6- to 8-ounce glass is probably recommended. Depending on the Cardinal's level of cruelty, it will requires 10 or more attempts to become a Cardinal.

The Game

The Cardinal demonstrates the following Litany to the Novitiate. Perhaps once at moderately fast speed, then a second time at "normal" speed. The Novitiate attempts to replicate the Litany. If the Novitiate makes a mistake at any time, he must to consume the remaining contents of the glass and remains, sadly, a Novitiate.

The Cardinal can do this one-on-one, or on a group basis, going around the table and letting each person in turn make an attempt, with everybody observing the others' mistakes. (However, in a group, the Cardinal will oftentimes not point out the error when it occurs; he will simply give each person a pass/fail status and let the group figure out where the error was.) Upon request, the Cardinal can repeat the Litany: but if he's doing it for the third or fourth time, he may speed up or slow down to hide important details. NOTE: The Cardinal may at no time intentionally make a mistake in the Litany to mix up a Novitiate. The Litany must always be recited in full and error-free.

The Litany


  • With LEFT hand, using pointer finger and thumb, grasp TOP of a full glass of beer.
  • Take ONE sip.
  • Place it back on table with a knock. (Without spilling any beer!)
  • Tap the top of table in this order, with ONE finger: Left, Right
  • Tap the bottom of table in this order, with ONE finger: Right, Left
  • Stand up and sit down ONE time.


  • With LEFT hand, using TWO fingers (pointer and middle fingers) and thumb, grasp MIDDLE of glass.
  • Take TWO sips.
  • Place it back on table with TWO knocks.
  • Tap the top of table in this order TWO times, with the TWO fingers: Leftx2, Rightx2
  • Tap the bottom of table in this order, with the TWO finger: Rightx2, Leftx2
  • Stand up and sit down TWO times.


  • With LEFT hand, using THREE fingers (pointer, middle, and ring fingers) and thumb, grasp BOTTOM of glass.
  • Take THREE sips, finishing glass completely on the THIRD sip so that there is not a drop left.
  • Place it back on table with THREE knocks.
  • Tap the top of table THREE TIMES in this order, with the THREE fingers: Leftx3, Rightx3
  • Tap the bottom of table THREE TIMES in this order, with THREE fingers: Rightx3, Leftx3
  • Stand up and sit down THREE times.


  • With LEFT hand, rotate wrist so that you can grasp glass "backwards" with thumb at bottom of glass, pinky at top.
  • Pick up glass, rotate wrist back, setting glass upside down. (There can be no beer ring!)


  • With LEFT hand, rotate wrist so that you can grasp glass "backwards" with thumb at bottom of glass, pinky at top.
  • Pick up glass, rotate wrist back, setting glass rightside up.


Reciting an Error-Free Litany

Obviously, any mistake is a fail: the Novitiate has to consume the remains of the glass and repeat the whole Litany from the beginning (with another full glass) to become a Cardinal. If you are going very hard on the Novitiate (or it is early in the evening), you don't even tell them what they did wrong. Nor do you alert them when the error(s) occurs. You let them go through the whole Litany, and give them a pass or fail.

Towards the end of the evening, you can take pity on them, stop them when they make an error. But you really should correct only the first error and make them start from the beginning. It's bad form to correct all the errors at once. Periodically, you can do another run-through of the whole Litany: if you're cruel, you'll do it at a blinding pace such that the crucial details aren't apparent. If you're less cruel, you'll do the stage they failed at at a slower-than-average pace, perhaps highlighting the part where they failed.

You're always drinking with your left (presumably non-dominant) hand. This is invariably the Novitiate's first mistake: they start with their right hand and you just say "Drink."

Wording is important. They cannot say "this evening"; they have to say "tonight." Watch that they say "Puff", "Puff Puff", etc. Watch that they remember to say "and final time." Some slurring may be permitted, however any stuttering or mispronunciation of a word is a fail.

Where they touch the glass (top, middle, bottom) is significant.

When they touch the glass is significant. You can't touch the glass until you've made the appropriate speech.

If the Novitiate says anything other than the Litany, it is a fail. (E.g., the Novitiate is being goaded by a third party and tells them to "Shut up.") Also, there's no "starting over": if you've begun an error-free Litany, and for some reason forget where you are and/or want to start over, it's a fail. (Of course, just asking to start over is a fail, because you're interrupting the Litany.)

The whole glass must be consumed, to the last drop, at the end of the third "Puff" speech. The Novitiate may misjudge the amount of beer consumed and be left with a lot of beer to consume on the third sip of the third drink: it is acceptable to take multiple swallows on this last sip, but the glass must remain in contact while the glass is being emptied.

If any beer is spilled at any time (say, during the "knocking"), or if a drop or beer ring is apparent after the "Once a Cardinal" speech, it is a fail.

A cruel cardinal can often trip up a Novitiate by saying Good job! after they've mastered a section they earlier committed an error on: if they interrupt the Litany to reply (eg, "Thank you!")-- they've failed. Also, if they get through the first three sentences flawlessly, the Cardinal can say Congratulations! and perhaps attempt to shake the Novitiate's hand: if this successfully distracts the Novitiate from continuing to the "Once a Cardinal" section-- they've failed. Finally, a Cardinal who really wishes to fail a Novitiate can simply start "failing" the flawless Novitiate by saying Sorry.../Too bad.../Drink/Stop/etc.: if they do stop-- they actually have failed. Towards the end of the process, a resolute Novitiate, hardened to this tactic, will not listen to anything the Cardinal has to say until the Novitiate has completed the entire Litany: only then will he truly know if he has actually passed or failed.

Life as a Cardinal

If you have, against all odds, recited a perfect and flawless Litany, you have achieved Cardinalhood. (Make sure to add this to your resume, Facebook, and LinkedIn status.) This can never be taken away from you. You are now free to branch out and tutor your own Novitiates, provided you teach them this One True Litany, in the prescribed way, and do not add nor detract from it.

In your travels, someone may ask "Are you a Cardinal?" Your affirmative reply must be: "Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal."

There are of course dozens of versions for Cardinal and to complicate matters, many ideosyncratic rules and etiquette one must adhere. One, for example, never points with the finger. Pointing is always undertaken with right elbow. An infraction exacts payment of one drink. Sometime after mastering Cardinal, requiring a pint of beer or ale, a modified game for the series player was created: Pope Puff. The game is essentially Cardinal Puff using Pope Puff in lieu of Cardinal Puff. To gain the exhausted office of Pope requires the initiate to begin the game with a full two quart pitcher. The pitcher must be consumed in six drinks. If the initiate successfully completed the ritual, which technically can only be be supervised by another Pope. Upon successful completion, the administering Pope asks the initiate, "Are you a Pope," and the initiate responds "You bet your sweet ass I am!" I once Cardinal Puff played using pints of vodka, which merely demonstrated that rules varried usually to make the game more of a challenge. Finishing off a pint of beer in six sips was not viewed as much of a challenge among my crowd. I am interested in anyone else has heard of Pope Puff.