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Loo is a venerable old trick taking game closely related to Bourré which has been played in England since the 17th century. Although the game can be played with as few as three and as many as nine players, it is perhaps best played by five. It is fundamentally a gambling game and is played with chips or counters. Played with real money, this can become a very expensive game. In Loo, there are no formal partnerships. Each person plays for themselves.

The Cards

Standard deck of 52 cards ranking Ace high and 2 low.

Draw and Cut

To begin, any player shuffles the deck and deals out around the table one card face up to each player. The first player to receive a Jack deals first. Thereafter, the deal proceeds clockwise to the left.


The Dealer first puts up 3 chips to the pool and this is called a “single”. If the pool ever contains more chips than this left over from a previous deal, it is called a “double”.

The Deal

Deal and play are clockwise and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand. Three cards are dealt to each player one at a time and three face down to the center called the “Miss”. The next card is turned face up to establish trumps.


To win at least one of the three tricks so as to avoid being “looed”. Any player not winning a trick in the hand must contribute 3 chips to the pool.


Starting left of the dealer, each in their turn announces whether they will play or throw in their hand. Anyone who wants to play may exchange their hand for the Miss, sight unseen, but in so doing may neither then drop out of the hand or exchange it back again. The first to make this exchange prevents any subsequent player from doing so.

If everyone passes, the Dealer wins the pool. However, if one player has exchanged their hand for the Miss, and all other players pass, including the Dealer, then the exchanger wins the pool.

However, if just one player elects to play without exchanging for the Miss, the Dealer cannot pass but must play. In such a case, the Dealer has two choices – he may play on his own account, with or without exchanging his hand, or he may “Defend the Miss” in which case he takes no part in any transaction at the end of play, but rather the Player settles with the pool according to the result.

The Play

Left of the Dealer leads first, and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next. The first lead must be the Ace of Trumps, if he has it, or the King of Trumps if it was the Ace that was turned at the deal. If not, then the first lead must be a trump, if the player has more than one, and it must be his highest trump if he is only playing against one other player.

The Rules

Strict trick taking rules apply:

  • Each player must follow suit to the card led and try to head the trick, if possible. That means the he/she must play a higher card than the one previously played, if he/she can.
  • If you can’t follow suit then you must trump in.
  • If a trump has been played to the trick, then you must play a higher trump if you have one, presuming you can’t follow suit to the card led.
  • Only when you can’t follow suit, and don’t have a trump, can you then play any card.
  • The trick is won by the highest trump played to it. If no trumps are played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.


Each trick won, therefore, entitles the player to one third of the pool. Each and any player who is “looded”, that is doesn’t take a trick, must contribute 3 chips to the pool which is carried forward as a “double” to the next hand.


Loo can be played over any number of hands until you either get sick of it or run out of chips.

Variations: Five Card Loo

In this version, the Dealer puts up 5 chips to the pool, and deals out five cards to each player in batches of 2 and 3, but none to the Miss. The next card is then faced up to establish trumps. Starting left of the Dealer, each player may drop out, stand pat, i.e. play his hand as is, or exchange as many cards as he likes receiving the same number from the top of the pack. In so doing, however, cannot drop out but must then play.

In this version the Jack of Clubs, known as the “Pam”, becomes the highest card in play and ranks even above the Ace of Trumps. Each trick won entitles the player to one fifth of the pool. Any players who don’t win a trick must contribute 5 chips to the pool which is then carried forward as a “double” in the next hand.

If any player, either before or after an exchange holds a flush, that is 5 cards of the same suit or 4 cards of the same suit and the “Pam”, he is said to have won all five tricks and “loos” the entire table immediately without play, no other players being allowed to drop out. If more than one player holds a flush, precedence is given to the flush with the “Pam”, and in such a case where two or more players hold a flush, none holding the “Pam”, then precedence is given to the highest card. However, any player who is beaten in this way, holding a flush, is exempt from settling up.

Another variation in this version of the game is that the player who leads the Ace of Trumps may call, “Pam be civil”, in which case the holder of the Jack of Clubs may not play it if he/she has another trump.


Loo - as described by David Parlett
Lanterloo - Rules for Card Games Wikipedia
Rules for Loo - Card Games Website

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