Loo is an old European trick-taking card game with simple rules and excellent dynamics. My Loo card game rules guide will teach you how it’s played.
If you’ve read any Jane Austen novels, you likely came across a game called Loo (a short form of Lanterloo) which is cited in the books as a favorite pastime of Austen’s era.
That’s precisely how I discovered this lovely trick-taking game from the 17th century, too, and as a long-life fan of card games, I couldn’t resist the urge to learn how it’s played.
All you need to play it is a deck of cards and a bunch of friends willing to join you. If you wish to play the gambling version of this game, you should also get some chips or other counters.
This Loo card game rules guide will cover the following:
- What is Loo?
- What you’ll need to play Loo
- Loo card game rules
- How to play Loo (video tutorial)
- Other similar games to Loo (our guides)
Read on for a detailed description of how to play Loo.
What is Loo?
Loo is, in most regards, a classic game where players compete over tricks. In each round, they may choose to play or pass, ultimately hoping to put their hands on the chips pool.
From my experience, the game is most exciting and unpredictable when played by 5 or 6 players, but as many as eight and as few as three players can play Loo officially.
Number of Players: 3 – 8 players
Length of Play: 20 – 30 minutes
Category: Trick-taking card game
Main Objective: Win tricks and collect stakes from your opponents.
Why We Love It: Loo brings us back to the very core of trick-taking card games. It’s a bit raw and straightforward but exciting and fun to play.
What You’ll Need to Play Loo
The game of Loo is traditionally played with a single French-suited 52-card deck.
Add some casino-style chips for the stakes to make the game more competitive.
Loo Card Game Rules and Gameplay
The main issue with antique card games like Loo is that people developed many, often contradicting or inconsistent, gameplay variations over the years.
The available rules guides are hence often confusing. To keep mine clear, I’ll focus on the 5-card Loo variation, which seems to be the most common and popular one anyway.
Starting the Game
First, pick one player who will act as the dealer for the first round. Later, this role will pass from player to player in a clockwise direction.
The dealer takes five chips and puts them in the center of the table as a common pot.
Next, he deals five cards to each player (traditionally in two batches: 3 + 2 or 2 + 3). On top of that, each player also gets 20 chips for the stakes (or another multiple of five).
The dealer flips over the top card of the remaining deck to reveal the trump suit for the upcoming game. The rest of the deck is placed face-down on the side.
Before playing, you should know that cards are ranked from Two (the lowest) to Ace (the highest) in this game.
Of course, trump always beats the rest regardless of the ranks, BUT with one exception: Jack of clubs, also known as “Pam” in this game, which always ranks the highest!
How to Play Loo
In Loo, each player aims to take at least one trick. Otherwise, they will be penalized by having to add five of their chips to the pool.
But before you do anything else, check your cards for what is known as “flush”: 5 cards of the same suit OR four cards and Pam. They are ranked in the following order:
- Flush with Pam
- Flush of Trumps
- Flush of High cards
A player holding the best flush “looes the board,” which means they technically win the round without even playing, thanks to their ability to take each trick.
If this happens, all their opponents not holding a flush or Pam are required to pay five chips to them directly.
When this is settled, it’s time for the announcements and card exchange:
- Each player (starting with the one sitting to the dealer’s left) decides to fold (no penalty) or continue playing.
- If the player decides to continue playing, they can exchange any number of cards from their hand for new ones (provided by the dealer from the central pile).
Now the players can finally move on to the gameplay itself.
Playing the Tricks
The player sitting to the dealer’s left leads the first round with a card of their choice.
- If they lead with the Ace of trump, they can announce “civil Pam,” which means that whoever has Pam in the game can only use it as their last (only) trump.
- If they lead with Pam, everyone must play trumps (if possible).
- The opponents always try to beat all the other cards in the trick, either following the leading suit or playing trumps when they have no cards of the leading suit.
- If a player has no trumps, they can play a random card (losing the trick).
- The player with the highest-ranking card wins the trick and leads a new one, preferably with a trump whenever possible.
After five tricks, proceed with the distribution of the chips in the pot according to the results.
Each of the five tricks in the round is worth one-fifth of the chips pot (i.e., one of five chips). Distribute the chips based on how many tricks each of the players won.
If a player fails to win any trick, he must “pay” five chips to the pot as a penalty.
There is no fixed number of rounds, but it’s common for the game to proceed until every player tries the dealer’s role (so, if five players play, the game has five rounds, etc.)
When you’re done, count your chips. The player with the largest collection of chips wins.
How to Play Loo – Video Tutorial
Loo Frequently Asked Questions
What does Loo/Lanterloo stand for?
The name of this card game is most likely derived from the French “Lanterlu,” which is the refrain of a widespread 17th-century folk song.
What is a Loo table?
The Loo card game was so popular in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that there was a unique Loo table designed for this game. It was oval, foldable, and beautifully decorated.
What is “running Pam” in Loo?
Running Pam is an alternative Loo rule which designates Jack of the trump suit to act as Pam instead of the Jack of clubs.
Other Similar Games to Loo (Our Guides)
Would you like to discover a few similar games? Check our guides to the following Loo alternatives: