Brow Beat

Here Are Some Rules for Playing That Well-Known Drinking Game, the Devil’s Triangle

An image from one of Harry Keller's posters, in which two demons hold a book for Kellar to read.
We found them in this very real book. Library of Congress

Of all the depressing and enraging things to come from Brett Kavanaugh’s depressing and enraging confirmation hearing, the Supreme Court nominee’s shady, dissembling explanations of the slang in his high school yearbook stand alone. Let’s take a trip back to slimetown:


In Kavanaugh’s defense, once he made the decision to pretend that “Beach Week Ralph Club” referred to his problems with spicy food, the rest of the disgraceful performance became as mathematically inevitable as the parabolic arc a gout of vomit traces through the air on its way toward a dorm room floor. Here’s the splash:

Sheldon Whitehouse: Devil’s Triangle?

Brett Kavanaugh: Drinking game.

SW: How’s it played?

BK: Three glasses. In a triangle.

SW: And?

BK: You ever played quarters?

SW: No.

BK: Ok. It’s a quarters game.

It’s not hard to find examples of people using the phrase “Devil’s Triangle” to refer to relatively innocuous things, if you have a reason to lie about what it means. Perhaps Kavanaugh and his social circle were obsessed with musical history, and Squi built a replica of the Devil’s Triangle , as described in the Interior Journal of Stanford, Kentucky on Feb. 3, 1882:


John Buford, a gentleman of color, has invented a musical instrument he calls the devil’s triangle, and which gets away with anything we have seen. It is in the shape of an Indian bow, with a wire string. He puts one end of the bow, or triangle as he calls it, in his mouth and hits on the string with a goose quill, and can play any tune. It sounds something like a Jew’s harp, but much louder.

Or maybe PJ was a big Ralph Bellamy fan who dragged the whole gang to see Almost Married, an adaptation of Andrew Soutar’s 1925 novel The Devil’s Triangle:

An ad for Almost Married.
Richmond Palladium-Item

Or Kavanaugh could have gone with the obvious choice: the independently-produced 1970 TV special The Devil’s Triangle, which made its way across the country in the early 1970s before eventually being released as a (52 minute long!) theatrical feature. The trailer is a blast, because the distributor clearly couldn’t get narrator Vincent Price to record any new audio:


The only area of human endeavor where you can’t find anyone using the phrase “Devil’s Triangle” (until a few days ago) seems to be drinking games. It is not listed in any edition of the definitive reference book on the subject, The Complete Book of Drinking Games, published in 1984 by “Chugger Downs” and “E.Z. Buz,” both of whom presumably make appearances in Kavanaugh’s calendar. Narrowing the scope won’t help: you won’t find it in any version of The Complete Book of Beer Drinking Games (And Other Important Stuff) by Andy Griscom and Scott Johnston either. All record of the well-known and universally beloved drinking game “Devil’s Triangle” has vanished into thin air, as cleanly as if it had sailed into the diabolic geographical area enclosed by a three-sided shape with vertices at Miami, San Juan, and Bermuda, or disappeared in a puff of gay panic after accidentally making eye contact with another man during a threesome. So how the hell do you play it? Here’s our theory.

The Well-Known Game of Devil’s Triangle

1.    The game requires three players: the Dealer, the Kavanaugh, and the Public.


2.     The players are seated at the vertices of an equilateral triangle that has been drawn on a circular table using masking tape.

3.     The Dealer and the Kavanaugh are each given a 14-oz. crystal Pilsner glass in Waterford’s Lismore pattern.

4.     The Public is issued a red solo cup.

5.     All three glasses are placed just inside the triangle, within easy reach of the players.

6.    The Butler, who is not a player but is probably around given the players, fills the crystal glasses with Sapporo Space Beer, made from barley that was grown on the International Space Center. (1980s editions of the game substituted Westmalle Trippel.)

7.    The Public gets Natural Light in a can. Under no circumstances is it to be chilled.


8.     Play proceeds clockwise, beginning with the Public.

9.     On the Public’s turn, the player takes a quarter from his or her pocket and hands it to the Dealer.

10. Play then passes to the Dealer, who takes the quarter, puts it in his pocket, drinks his beer, and is served another.

11.  When play passes to the Kavanaugh, he also drinks his beer and is served another.

12.  The Public is not allowed to touch his or her beer under any circumstances.


13.  Play proceeds in this fashion until the Public runs out of money.

14.  The Kavanaugh is summarily awarded a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

15.  The Dealer throws a single quarter into the Public’s red solo cup filled with Natural Light and instructs him or her to “Slurp it up, poor-o!”


16. The Public fishes the quarter out of the cup of warm beer, goes to the nearest pay phone, randomly dials a local number, and fruitlessly attempts to find anyone else on the planet who is dumb enough to believe that “Devil’s Triangle” is a drinking game, in hopes of beginning another game as the Dealer.

17.  The Kavanaugh overturns Roe v. Wade.

Maybe there are other rules for playing The Devil’s Triangle that don’t end in utter disaster for the nation. Maybe Brett Kavanaugh will share them with us. But until he does, the healthiest response to being asked to keep a straight face for this bullshit is an obliteratingly stiff drink. Anything but beer.