Any number of players may participate, using a standard deck of 52 cards without jokers. The card rankings (from highest to lowest) are K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A, or alternately A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. Suits are irrelevant. The goal in each hand is to avoid ending up with a lower-valued card than any other player.
Each player starts the game with the same number of chips or counters, usually two to four. When the game is played for money, all players contribute the same amount to a central pot. Each player is dealt one card face-down, after which play begins with the player to the left of the dealer. After examining his/her card, a player may either keep it or exchange it with the player to his/her left. However, if the intended recipient is holding a card of the highest value (depending on which set of rankings is being used), he/she turns it face-up and the trade is nullified. Any player who shows a top-value card in this manner is considered to have completed his/her play for the hand. Play proceeds clockwise around the table, with the dealer playing last; instead of trading cards with someone else, though, the dealer may exchange his/her card for the top one from the deck.
After all players have taken a turn, they turn their cards face-up and the one with the lowest-valued card loses one chip. If two or more players tie for lowest card, they each lose one chip, except in variants that include "pairing up". The dealer rotates one position clockwise around the table for each new hand. Players who lose all their chips are out of the game; the last remaining player wins and collects all the money in the pot. However, if the last two players both lose their final chip in a tie, the game has no winner; the money remains in the pot, and all players make a further bet and start a new game.
- Players holding cards of the same value are considered to have "paired up," and their combined cards outrank any single card regardless of its value. For example, in a four-player game, two players holding sixes would outrank one opponent with a king and another with a queen; the queen is now the low card and must give up one chip. If two or more groups pair up in a single hand, higher pairs beat lower ones, triples beat pairs, and quartets beat triples.
- Players stuck with an ace have to pay double.
- On their exchange the dealer may cut the deck and then turn up the top card.
- The dealer is not allowed to exchange with the deck if the top card is a king.
- If the player who is forced to exchange gives an ace or deuce (2), they announce it aloud, but the player who initiated the exchange says nothing, as their card may be passed on.
- Counters are not used and the player with the lowest card at the end of each round is immediately eliminated from the game.
- An 8 is considered, in some circles, to be the hardest card in the deck to make a correct pass or no-pass decision about. When a player is dealt a 7, 8, or 9 and it becomes their turn, it is considered good etiquette to announce to the other players that "This is the hardest (or one of the hardest) decision(s) a Chase the Ace player can make."
- A player who loses all of his/her chips may be allowed to remain in the game, but is eliminated upon losing one more hand.
- Sometimes the object is to avoid having the highest card in the deck. The order, from high to low, would be A Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 K. The king is the lowest as it is the best card in the deck, regardless of value.
- If the dealer chooses to trade his/her card and receives one of the same rank from the top of the deck, he/she immediately wins the hand and all other players lose one chip. Alternatively, the dealer becomes immune for that hand and the player with the lowest remaining card loses a chip, even if it is higher than the dealer's card.
- Kings Jerk - Any player dealt a king may take a chip from the pot, if one is available at the start of the hand.
- King Stops All Play - A player dealt a king turns it face-up upon being asked to trade, or when his/her turn comes. All play immediately stops and the loser of the hand is determined based on the cards held at that moment.