Although much loved in the US, the Loo card game is an old-English card game involving trick-taking, minimum strategy, and skill. However, despite the lack of complexities, this is still a super fun game to play.
The game is played with between three and nine players, so it’s an excellent choice of game for your next social gathering.
While you might think that the word Loo means this game is related to some form of tasteless toilet joke, don’t worry, there’ll be nothing bathroom-related going on here; however, if you are that way inclined, then Whatever! The embarrassingly fun party card game might be more your kind of thing.
So let’s learn more about the history of the Loo card game before I take you through all the rules and how to play.
Loo Card Game – The History
The name Loo is a shortened version of the name Lanterlu, as it was called back during the 17th century, and is said to have originated in England. It was found to be one of the most popular card games in England and the US up until the 19th century, which is when it’s thought the game Nap took over in popularity.
However, being a game I grew up with, in my eyes, this is still one of the all-time best European card games out there.
In recent years a couple of game variants have emerged. Some played with a three-card hand, others with a five-card hand.
For this guide, I’ll describe the rules using the three-card adaptation, as this seems to be what has become the most popular way to play. However, back in the 18th century, the five-card version is recorded to have been the favored version.
An Overview of The Loo Card Game
Like with most trick-taking card games, your goal here is to complete using tricks from your hand in the hope of beating everyone else.
I personally think this game is best played with a larger group, preferably between five and nine players, but in all honesty, it still works well with as few as three people and is still just as enjoyable.
If I was to compare Loo to anything I’ve played before, it would probably be the card game Booray, the rules are pretty similar, and it requires the same amount of knowledge and skill level.
How to Play Loo Card Game?
The rules of the game are quite simple, and I’ll go into those very shortly, but firstly let’s take a look at what you’ll need to get started.
What You’ll Need?
Firstly, you’ll want to grab yourself a deck of 52-card. I’m sure you’ve already got one, but if you’re looking to jazz up your games with something that will impress your buddies, check out this awesome deck of waterproof cards.
Secondly, you’ll need something to bet with. Of course, we don’t advise using real money; this game could end up pretty costly if you do that. So, instead, opt for something like these gaming chips on Amazon. They’re low cost and won’t leave you owing your car to your brother-in-law.
Okay, now grab your players, and let’s go!
Getting Ready And Dealing
Firstly, pick one person to cut and shuffle the deck. Best to pick the shuffling pro in the group to ensure the cards are well mixed, especially if you’re using your lovely new deck of cards.
Once you’ve shuffled the cards, deal them out to each player, one at a time. This needs to be done so the cards are facing up for all to see.
The first player to receive a Jack goes first as the dealer.
Next, the dealer needs to place three chips into the pot; this is the ante and what’s referred to as a single. If there are more chips than this in the pool at any point throughout the game, it becomes a double.
Okay, onto the deal.
Presuming you’re the dealer, take the cards and deal them out. Three cards for each player. These should be dealt out face down.
Now place three cards face down in the middle of the table. This is called the Miss.
Finally, deal one more card to the center of the table, but this time, facing upwards. Now your trump is determined.
Now you’re ready to play.
The Rules And Objective of The Loo Card Game
Okay. No more setup. You’re good to go.
First, to give you an idea of what you’re doing here, the aim of the game is simple. Win at least one trick, and avoid being Looed. If you can’t win a trick at any point, you must surrender three chips to the pot.
I’ll also mention at this point the cards are ranked from two, being the lowest and ace, being the highest. However, Jacks of Clubs, known as Pam, and Trumps beat any card, regardless of their rank.
Before anything else happens, take a peek at the cards in your hand because the first thing you want to pay attention to is whether or not you have a flush. This consists of the following:
- Three cards of the same suit
- Two cards of the same suit and a Jack of Clubs
- Three trump Cards of the same suit
- Three high cards of the same suit
Having any of the above hands technically means you’ve won the suit before the game begins. And, all the other players not holding a flush have to stump up three chips each, paid directly to you. Bonus!
So, now you’re off to a brilliant start; you can begin the actual game. The same rules apply here even if nobody had a flush in their starting hand.
Firstly, each player can decide whether to play or fold, a bit like a game of poker. If you can and want to continue playing, you can swap some of your cards for replacements from the Miss. This decision is final; you can’t change the cards back or drop out once you’ve committed to play.
In the case that nobody wants to play a round, the dealer takes the pot, and the cards are redealt. The only exception here is if one player has opted in and the rest of the players, including the dealer, have passed. In this case, the player who wants to continue the game takes the win.
If more than one player opts in, then the game begins.
The idea is to match the Trump with cards from your hand. The first lead should be the Ace of Trumps, King of Trumps, or the next highest card of Trump you’re able to play.
A few rules come into play at this stage in the game. I’ve listed them below.
- You must follow suit, and your card must be higher than the leading card.
- If you’re unable to play a card of the same suit.
- If someone else has played a trump card, your only option is to continue playing a higher trump card.
- If you don’t have a trump or a higher card, you may play any other card from your hand.
- The trick is won by whoever played the highest trump card, or in this absence, the person with the general highest card wins.
Scoring for Loo is pretty straightforward.
The three chips from the pot are distributed between the winners depending on the number of tricks won. So, of course, there would be five chips in the five-card variation of the Loo card game. The same rules apply here, though.
On the flip side, if you’ve not had a very fruitful round and have been unable to play any tricks, you must compensate by paying three (or five if playing five-card Loo) to the pot. Bad luck!
You can play as many rounds as you like. It’s a reasonably quick game, so you can get plenty in. At the end of all the matches, the person with the most chips is the winner.
To Sum Up
I hope you’ve now grasped how to play the Loo card game and learned something new about the history behind the game.
If you’ve taken a liking to trick-taking card games and want to add more to your list of things to play. Check out my simple guide to playing The Fox in the Forest, a fun, themed game for the whole family to get involved with.