Loo is a gambling trick-taking game that dates back to at least the seventeenth century. It is also known as Lanterloo (of which “Loo” is an abbreviation), which is a meaningless phrase used to fill time in lullabies of the period. The game is a member of the Rams group of trick-taking games, the central mechanic of them being the ability to drop out of the game without risking any money if the player feels that they have a poor hand.
There are two versions of the game, a three-card variant and one played with five cards (the latter is described here). Loo can be played with five to ten players, but is best for six.
Object of Loo
The object of Loo is to win at least one trick, or to determine that your hand isn’t strong enough to win one trick.
Loo is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, we do, of course, highly appreciate it. You will also need something to bet with: poker chips, change, matchsticks, or whatever else is handy. Players should agree as to the monetary value, if any, each of these units represents.
Determine the first dealer by shuffling and dealing one card to each player: the player receiving the highest card deals. The dealer antes five chips to the pot. Deal five cards to each player. Turn the top card of the deck stub face-up; the suit of this card is the trump suit for the next hand. The rest of the stub is placed in the center of the table and forms the stock.
Cards rank in their usual order, with ace high. The J♣, known as Pam, is the highest-ranking card in the game, outranking even the ace of trumps. Pam is always considered part of the trump suit (and therefore may not be played to a club trick unless clubs are trump, or the player has no other clubs).
Before game play proper begins, each player, beginning with the player to the left the dealer and proceeding clockwise, declares whether they will pass (drop out of the hand) or play. All remaining players may then, in turn, discard as many cards as they desire and draw back up to five.
Either before the discard or immediately after, a player holding a flush may reveal it. A flush is any five cards of the same suit, or four cards of the same suit plus Pam (called a mouche). A player holding a flush is considered to “loo the board”, automatically winning all five tricks and taking the entire pot. If there are multiple flushes, the highest one according to the following ranking (from highest to lowest) loos the board:
- A mouche.
- A flush in the trump suit.
- A flush in a non-trump suit.
If there are multiple flushes of the same type, the one with the highest top card wins the tie; if there ties on the highest card, the second highest is used to break the tie, and so on. If a flush loos the board, its holder takes the pot and all other players who did not also hold a flush or Pam must pay five chips into the pot for the next hand.
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Play then proceeds to the left, with all players following suit if possible, playing a trump if they are unable to follow suit, and only playing any other card if both unable to follow suit or trump. Players must also head the trick if possible, i.e. play to win the trick by playing a higher card of the suit led than any played so far, if possible. When playing a trump card, you must overtrump if possible (play a higher trump than any previously played to the trick).
After everyone has played a card to the trick, it is won by the player who contributed the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led, if nobody has trumped. Tricks are not added to the hand, but kept in a won-trick pile in front of the player. It may be helpful to put each trick at right angles to the previous one to allow for easy identification of how many tricks were taken. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.
If a player wishes to lead the ace of trump to a trick, they may call out “Pam be civil”. The player holding Pam may not then play it to that trick unless there are no other trumps in their hand.
After all five tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks they have taken. Each player receives one-fifth of the pot for each trick taken. If a player who stayed in takes no tricks, they are said to have been looed and must pay five chips to the next pot. After the pot has been settled, the deal passes to the left, with the incoming dealer contributing five chips to the pot.