Required for the game are:
2 or more participants
a deck of playing cards
(cuffs, ropes, stocks, gag, blindfold - whatever you like!)
It is recommended (though not required) that the participants all wear a brief swimsuit or brief underwear under their clothes.
The game is played like strip poker (i.e., the loser has to remove an article of clothing), except that once a participant gets down to his swimsuit/underwear, he doesn't strip anymore. Instead, he gets restrained and gang-tickled by the other participants!
The participants can choose whatever form of poker they want, but the standard is considered to be 5-card draw with jokers color-wild. (In 5-card draw, each player is dealt a hand consisting of 5 cards, and is then given one chance to discard up to 3 cards and have replacements dealt. Having jokers color-wild means that a player who is dealt a joker can designate it as being any card of that color, irrespective of whether he already has that card in his hand.) It is recommended that jokers be color-wild because, in tickle poker, you are playing to find a loser rather than a winner. The wild jokers greatly increase the chances that the lowest-scoring hands will qualify for one of the poker combinations:
Royal flush (A K Q J 10 of the same suit)
Five of a kind (possible with wild jokers)
Straight flush (consecutive cards from the same suit)
Four of a kind
Full house (3 of a kind + a pair)
Flush (all cards from the same suit)
Straight (consecutive cards, suit arbitrary)
3 of a kind
(In cases where 2 people have the same combination or have nothing, scoring is based on comparing the denominations of the combinations, followed by the denominations of the unattached cards, going from highest to lowest. A A 4 3 2 beats K K Q J 10, A A Q J 10 loses to A A K 3 2, etc.)
The duration of the tickling is normally determined by having the loser (before his arms have been restrained) draw a card from the deck and (without looking at it) place it face down. (If, e.g., he is lying face up, spread-eagled, he should place the card face-down on his chest.) After he is restrained and (optionally) gagged, but before he is (optionally) blindfolded, one of the ticklers picks up the card and shows it to him and to all of the other ticklers. The standard scoring is as follows:
2-10 results in being tickled for that number of minutes
Jack 15 minutes of tickling
Queen 20 minutes of tickling
King 25 minutes of tickling
Ace 30 minutes of tickling
Red Joker 60 minutes of tickling
Black Joker 120 minutes of tickling
These numbers can, of course, be adjusted depending on how wimpy or unwimpy the group is! But keep in mind that people are more likely to go along with somewhat outlandish times for the jokers if you explain how low the odds are of drawing one. (The odds are only 1 in 27 of drawing either joker, and only 1 in 54 of drawing the black joker. Of course, if somebody DOES happen to draw the black joker, the look of horror on his face and the looks of glee on his ticklers' faces when they see the card are exquisite!)
Once a person has been tickled, he drops out of the poker game, but can still participate in the tickling of subsequent losers. Play normally continues until all players but one have been tickled or until some preset time limit is reached (e.g., if somebody draws the black joker, he is likely to be the last person tickled that night!).
Hint: In strip poker, the game normally ends when somebody loses all of his clothes. But this is NOT true in tickle poker. So the participants may want to start with their shoes already removed to save time.
This one is kind of a nasty game, and also tricky to pull off, since it requires that the person being tickled know the rules and supply a maximum time limit; the element of surprise is essential.
The best approach is to explain the game to your prospective tickle-victim when you first start to get to know him. Explain that there is this game you heard about, tell him the rules, and then ask casually what kind of time limit he would demand if he were playing it. (I'd give a limit like 4 hours, but others might feel differently about it!) If he refuses to set a time and says, "I wouldn't play it at all," you should probably forget it. But if he gives you a time limit, remember it, but say nothing more about the game until the fateful day arrives. Don't let him know you're even thinking about doing it!
The game will work best if you have more than 1 tickler. Your victim needs to have already been restrained, but shouldn't have been gagged yet. Somebody has to be near enough to put the gag in, but if another tickler is, e.g., out of the room at the time, you can engage your victim in conversation during the "delay" to distract him from what you are about to do. It actually works best if you can get your victim engrossed in telling you something (e.g., a joke) that requires his concentration, or in responding to a remark on a subject that he feels strongly about, so that when "last words" hits, he will have to tear himself away from what he was saying to respond to it.
What happens is this:
Suddenly, without any warning, one of the ticklers holds a gag about 2 inches from the victim's mouth and yells, "Last words . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . 0" (counting off 3 seconds). The victim's task is to call out an amount of time. The person holding the gag can stuff it in the victim's mouth as soon as (a) the count reaches zero, or (b) the victim calls out a time (whichever comes first). If the victim calls out a time and isn't happy with it, he can call out a new time up until the gag is stuffed in his mouth, and that new time takes precedence (so the person holding the gag should stuff it in as soon as the victim calls out a time, to prevent him from changing it).
The scoring is as follows:
If the victim can't think fast enough to say a time before the gag is stuffed in his mouth, he gets tickled for the maximum time he specified. If the time he calls out is greater than the maximum time he specified, he gets tickled for the maximum time. If the time he calls out is less than the amount of time they were planning to tickle him for, the person holding the gag calls out, "Abort!" and pulls the gag away, and they tickle him according to their original plan. (It is legal to try "last words" a second time after an abort, but it's unlikely to work, since the victim is likely to be prepared for it.) If the victim calls out an amount of time that is more than they were planning to tickle him for, but less than the maximum he specified, they tickle him for that amount of time.
The theory behind "last words" is that the victim is unlikely to be able to think out a reply in 3 seconds. So there's a decent chance that he either won't call out a time at all, or else he'll call out the first time that comes into his mind (which could turn out to be a fairly long one!).
Hint: If somebody, for some reason, mentions an amount of time shortly before you pull a "last words", that amount of time may stick in the victim's mind and may be the one he calls out. But DON'T give your victim this hint when you are explaining the game, since, if he knows it, somebody mentioning an amount of time may warn him that "last words" is coming!