Hoyle's Games Modernized/Loo

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Loo is played in divers fashions, but there are two leading varieties, known as "three-card" and "five-card" Loo respectively. There is no limit in either case to the number of players, but six or seven make the better game.

Three-card Loo.

The full pack of fifty-two cards is used, the cards ranking as at Whist. The dealer, having been selected,[27] places an agreed number of counters (either three or some multiple of three) in the pool. Three cards are dealt, one by one, to each player, also an extra hand, known as "miss." The card next following is turned up, and fixes the trump suit. The dealer then asks each player, beginning with the elder hand, whether he will play or "take miss." The player looks at his cards. If he holds a good hand, he will elect to play; if otherwise, he has the option of either "taking miss," i.e. taking the extra hand in place of his own, or of "passing," i.e. throwing up his hand altogether for that round. If miss be declined, the same offer is made to the next in rotation; but so soon as miss is taken, the remaining players have only two alternatives—viz. either to play the cards they hold, or to pass. A player who has taken miss is bound to play. The cards he has discarded, as also those of any players who pass, are thrown face downwards in the middle of the table, and no one has a right to look at them.

Should one player take miss, and all the rest throw up their cards, he is entitled to the pool. Should only one player have declared to play, and not have taken miss, the dealer may play either his own cards or take miss on his own account, but if he does not care to do either, he is bound to take miss and play for the pool, i.e. the proceeds of any tricks he may make remain in the pool, to abide the result of the next round. In the event of all save the dealer "passing," the dealer is entitled to the pool.

The elder hand (as among those who have declared to play) now leads a card. If he has two trumps he is bound to lead one of them. If he holds the ace of trumps he is bound to lead it, or if an ace be turned up, and he holds the king of the same suit, he is bound to lead the latter. If only two persons have declared to play, and the holder holds two or more trumps, he must lead the highest, unless his highest trumps are in sequence or of equal value,[28] when he may lead either of them. (With more than three declared players the last rule does not apply.)

The other players play in rotation to the card led, subject also to certain fixed rules, viz. each player must follow suit, if possible, and he must "head the trick," i.e. play a higher card to it, if able to do so. If unable to follow suit, he is bound to trump, or if the trick be already trumped, to over-trump, if practicable.

The winner of each trick leads to the next. He is under the same obligations as the original leader, and is further bound to lead a trump, if he has one. This latter obligation is briefly stated as "trump after trick."

The hand having been played out, the pool is divided, in the proportion of one-third to each trick. Suppose, for instance, that five persons have played; that one of them has taken two, and another one trick. The first takes two-thirds, and the second one-third. The remaining three players are "looed," i.e. mulcted in the same amount as was originally placed in the pool, and these "loos," as they are called, with alike contribution from the new dealer, form the pool for the next hand. It may, however, happen that only three players declare to play, and that each of them takes one trick. In such case no one is looed, and the only fund to form the pool for the next round is the contribution of the dealer. The next hand in such case is known as a "single," and it is a usual, though not invariable, rule, to make it what is called a "must," meaning that every one, whatever his cards, is bound to play. This necessarily produces as many loos (less three) as there are players, and consequently a full pool for the next hand. In the case of a "must" there is no miss.

In circles where the interest of a game is gauged by the amount of money that changes hands, the payment for a loo is sometimes made equal to the amount which may chance to be in the pool for the time being. Playing upon this principle, the amount of a loo tends constantly to increase, until the occurrence of a single (i.e. three players only declaring to play, and each taking one trick) brings it back to its normal proportions. Loo in this shape is known as "unlimited." Under such an arrangement pence grow to pounds with startling rapidity, so much so, indeed, that no prudent player will ever sit down to the game in this form, and even among the most reckless it is customary to fix a maximum beyond which no further advance shall be permitted.

Five-card Loo.

In this case five cards are dealt to each player, the card next following being turned up by way of trump. There are, therefore, five tricks to be contended for, and the contributions to the pool are made divisible by five accordingly. There is, in this case, no miss, but each player (beginning with elder hand) may discard as many cards as he pleases, the dealer replacing them with a like number from the remainder of the pack. It is at the option of each player either to play or to pass, but having once drawn cards he is bound to play. The discarded cards are thrown face downwards in the centre of the table.

There is in this case a variation, in the fact that the knave of clubs, known as Pam, is made a sort of paramount trump, taking precedence even of the ace of the trump suit. The rules as to leading, following suit, and heading the trick, are the same as at the three-card game. If, however, the ace of trumps be led, and the holder pronounces the formula "Pam, be civil," the holder of the latter card is bound to pass the trick, if he can do so without a revoke.

Special value is in this game given to a flush, i.e. five cards of the same suit, or (which are regarded as equivalent) four cards of the same suit and Pam. The holder of such hand at once turns up his cards, and "looes the board," i.e., wins every trick as of right, without playing his hand, even though stronger individual cards were in the hands of other players. No one is in this case allowed to throw up his cards, and all save the holder of the flush are looed. Should more than one player hold a flush, a flush in trumps has priority over one in a plain suit. As between two flushes in trumps, or two in plain suits, that consisting of the better cards wins.[29] The holder of the losing flush, or of Pam, if in the hand of one of the losers, is exempt from payment. In other respects the game resembles three-card loo.

Some players at either game maintain what is termed "club law," meaning that whenever a club is turned up by way of trump, every one is bound to play. In such case there is no miss or drawing of cards.


These may be briefly stated as follows:

1.—Each player has a right to shuffle at the commencement of a deal, the dealer shuffling last. The cards shall then be cut by the player to the right of the dealer. To constitute a valid cut, there shall be at least four cards in each portion of the pack.

2.—The cards shall be dealt one at a time to each player [with one card extra in each round for miss].[30] This having been done, the card next following on the pack shall be turned up as trump. If a card be found faced in the dealt portions of the pack, the cards shall be reshuffled and recut, and there shall be a fresh deal by the same dealer.

3.—If the dealer—

(1) Deals without having the pack cut; or again shuffles after the pack has been duly cut;
(2) Exposes a card in dealing; deals too many or too few cards to any player;
(3) Misses a hand or deals a hand or part of a hand additional;
(4) Or otherwise commits any irregularity in dealing, it is a misdeal, and the dealer forfeits a single to the pool. The cards are again shuffled and cut, and there is a fresh deal by the same dealer.

4.—Players shall declare whether they play or pass in strict rotation, beginning with the elder hand.

5.—Any player declaring before his turn, or looking at his cards before it is his turn to declare, forfeits a single to the pool.

6.—Any player looking at miss before he has declared to take it, or exposing a card or cards of another player, forfeits a single to the pool, and must retire from the game for that round.

7.—The dealer, taking miss against one player only, must declare before doing so, whether he play for himself or the pool. In the latter case he cannot be looed; but the proceeds of any trick he may make are left in the pool, to abide the result of the next hand.

8.—If no one declares to play, the dealer is entitled to the pool.

9.—A player having the lead, and holding the ace of trumps (or king, ace being turned up), is bound to lead it.

10.—A player having the lead, and holding two trumps, is bound to lead one of them.

11.—A player having the lead, and holding two trumps, other than in sequence or of equal value, is bound (when there are two players only), to lead the highest.

12.—Every player is bound to follow suit if able to do so.

13.—Every player is bound to head the trick if able to do so.

14.—Every player winning a trick, and still holding one or more trumps, is bound to lead a trump.

Any player committing any infractions of Laws 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, or 14, must leave in the pool any tricks he may make, and forfeit to the pool four times the amount of a single.

15.—If a player, having declared to play—

(1) Exposes a card before it is his turn to play, or
(2) Plays a card out of turn, or
(3) Plays a card before all have declared, or
(4) Exposes a card while playing, so as to be named by any other declared player,

He shall be compelled to throw up his cards, and to forfeit a single to the pool.

16.—In the case of a revoke, it is in the option of any player, other than the offender, to require that the cards be taken up and the hand played again.

17.—All penalties of a single shall be deemed to belong to the existing pool; all higher penalties and proceeds of tricks left by way of penalty in the pool to the pool next following.