This page is based on information from Uishin Cho (Xavier), Glenn and Hertzog.
Hoola (or Hulla) is a Korean rummy game related to, and probably based on the Japanese game Seven Bridge.
The various descriptions of Hoola I have received disagree in several details. At this point I am unclear about some of the rules, and I am not sure which of the discrepancies represent genuine variations of the game played in Korea, or whether some of them are misunderstandings. Details are given in the variations section. I would like to hear from anyone who can clarify the rules that are unclear or confirm which of the variant rules are really known and played in Korea.
A standard international 52-card pack is used. Aces are worth 1 point, 2-10 face value, jacks 11 points, queens 12 points and kings 13 points each.
The game is normally played by from 2 to 5 people. There is a variation for 6 or 7 players. Deal and play are clockwise.
As in all rummy games the objective is to form melds. These may be sets of equal cards, or sequences of consecutive cards in a suit. Sets and sequences must consist of at least three cards unless they contain a seven.
The sevens are special cards. A single seven by itself is a valid meld. Two or more sevens form a valid set, and two or more cards of the same suit in sequence form a valid sequence.
Some examples of valid melds:
- A card cannot be used in more than one meld at the same time. If you have 3-4-5-4-4 you can form either a sequence meld 3-4-5 or a set of fours, but not both.
- Ace is always low, next to the 2, so K-Q-A is not a valid meld.
Any player may deal first. Subsequently the winner of each game deals the next.
Seven cards are dealt to each player, one at a time. One card is placed face up on the table to begin the discard piles, and the stock of undealt cards is placed face down beside it.
The dealer begins, and the turn to play normally passes clockwise.
A turn consists of
- drawing one card from the top of the stock pile or discard pile
- optionally placing one or more melds from hand face up on the table (according to some reports, melding is sometimes known in this game as "dropping a trick" or "registering")
- optionally extending melds that are already on the table by adding cards to them to make larger melds ("adding to a trick")
- discarding one card face up on the discard pile.
Steps 1 and 4 are compulsory - every turn begins by drawing a card and ends by discarding one. The following restrictions apply:
- The discard can only be taken if it is immediately used to lay down a new meld from the player's hand. It is not possible to take the discard to add it to an existing meld on the table, or to keep in hand for future use.
- Cards can only be added to melds that are already on the table if the player has already, in the same turn or a previous turn, played a complete new meld from hand.
If a card is discarded which another player can use to form a new meld, the player can claim the discard, even if it would normally be another player's turn to play. This is done by calling "Kam sa hap nida!" (Thank you!), taking the card, and putting it on the table together with cards from hand to make a valid meld, possibly putting down further melds or adding to melds, and discarding. The game then continues from the player to the left of the player who took the card out of turn.
There are five ways that the play can end.
- 1. The Blast
- If at the start of any turn you have not yet melded any cards, and the total value of the seven cards in your hand is less than 15 points or more than 83 points, you may stop the game and win. Stopping in this way with 84 or more points is called a Daepang (major blast) and stopping with 14 or fewer points is a Sopang (minor blast).
- 2. The Knock
- If at the start of your turn you have not more than 4 points in your hand, and at least one other player besides you has melded some cards, then you may stop the game. Everyone immediately shows their cards. If you have the fewest points in hand you win, but if any other player has the same number or fewer than you, you lose. (Note that unlike some other games, such as Gin Rummy, it is not possible for other players to "lay off" cards on the winner's hand.)
- 3. Going Out
- If during your turn you meld all but one of your remaining cards and discard your last card, you win.
- 4. Four sevens - the big luck
- A player who has four sevens in hand can stop the game and win. Note that the sevens all have to be in the player's hand - if any sevens have been melded this type of win is not possible.
- 5. End of Stock
- If there are no cards left in the stock, and the game has not ended in any other way, the play ends and there is no winner. [Is this correct?]
At the end of the play, the winner is paid by the other players according to the number of points remaining in their hands. When counting points, any quads (sets of four cards of the same rank) are disregarded. For example 2-4-5-9-9-9-9 counts as only 11 points, not 47. Apparently the usual method is for the loser with fewest ponts to pay 1 stake to the winner, the loser with next fewest pays 2 stakes, and so on. So if there are 5 players the player with the highest value of cards remaining will pay 4 stakes. I do not know how ties are handled.
A player who has a seven in hand must pay double. (With more than one seven, the payment would be doubled for each seven held.)
A player who has not melded any cards must pay double.
If the winner went out by melding all seven cards at once, without previously having melded any cards, and after each of the other players had played at least one turn, this is known as Perfect or Hoola and all the payments are doubled.
These doubles are cumulative. For example if another player goes out by melding all seven cards at once, you have not melded any cards, and your hand contains a seven, and there are two other losers with fewer points than you, you are subject to three doubles and must pay 24 stakes (8×3).
If a player stops the game and is "undercut", another player having the same number of points or fewer, the player who stopped the game must pay an agreed fixed penalty to each opponent - for example 5 stakes - and there are no other payments.
The version described above is sometimes known as "Battle Hoola". It seems to be the most usual way to play, but there is also a "non-battle" version in which the top card of the discard pile can only be taken when it is your turn to play. There is no chance to take a card discarded by anyone other then the player immediately to your right.
If several people want the same discard, some play that the person whose next turn to play is earlier gets the card. Others play it as a race: the first to claim it gets it. In this case the claim may be made by slapping the discard, so that it will be clear who was first.
Some players count all picture cards (king, queen, jack) as 10 points. In this case, either the method of stopping the game by means of a blast is not used, or the requirement for a major blast would be to have a hand consisting entirely of kings, queens and jacks.
Some play that it is not necessary to end one's turn with a discard when going out. With this rule, a player holding for example two 4's could pick up a third 4, meld the set of 4's and go out without discarding.
Some play that the ace can be used as a high card in a sequence, so that A-K-Q is a valid meld (but K-A-2 is still not allowed).
When 6 or 7 play, one or two players must drop out after the deal, leaving five players in the game. I do not yet understand how this is managed. Presumably the cards of the players who dropped out are shuffled into the stock. The dealer is not allowed to drop out, and the players who drop out must pay the dealer, but what happens if no one wants to pay to drop out? The payment is given as: 1 stake for each seven; 2 stakes for each 3-card set; 3 stakes for each sequence. Is this based on the cards held by the player who drops out? It seems somehow illogical that a player with better cards should pay more to drop out. Xavier recommends an alternative payment schedule: Sevens - 2 chips; 3-card sets - 5 chips; 4-card sets - 8 chips; Sequences - 10 chips - but this makes it even more puzzling why anyone should wish to pay this amount to drop out rather than playing the game.
Some say that the game is played anticlockwise, not clockwise.
Hertzog gives the following alternative system of payments:
- The loser who has most points in hand pays 3 stakes.
- The loser with second most points in hand pays 2 stakes
- Any other losers pay one stake each
- But: players who have not melded any cards pay nothing at all.
This seems to have the curious effect that if you never meld any cards you cannot lose. To discoursage this strategy, Hertzog recomments modifying the above system so that a player who has not melded any cards pays one half stake to the winner.
According to Hertzog, only the dealer is allowed to stop the play without going out, and only if he has reduced his hand to one card.
Glenn gives a rather different system for melding and adding to melds:
- a set or run cannot have more than four cards
- when a meld reaches a size of four cards it is "killed" and the cards are shuffled into the deck
- when adding to melds it is possible to build a set on a run or a run on a set. The cards must be laid down in a specific order. For example: John drops a trick consisting of: the 9 of diamonds on the bottom, the 9 of hearts in the middle and the 9 of spades on the top. On her turn, Sally (who has already dropped a trick) can place the 10 of spades on John's 9 of spades, beginning a 9-10 straight flush. If Sally also has the Jack of spades she can add this card as well. When sally, or another player, finally add the Q to the trick (e.g. 9-10-J-Q) those four cards are "killed" and placed in the discard pile. This opens up John's original middle card - the 9 of hearts - for people to add to.
- On a 3 card Straight Flush you can add the next (ascending) card in the series. (e.g. on a 3,4,5 of hearts, you can add the 6 of hearts.) This kills the trick and the cards are discarded.
- On a single seven you may start either an ascending straight flush or a descending straight flush. Once started, the direction of the straight cannot be changed. (e.g. on a seven of spades, you can add the 6 of spades. Once this is done it is a descending straight. To continue adding to the straight you can add a 5 and a 4, but you cannot add an 8.)
I would be interested to hear from anyone else who plays the game this way. None of my other correspondents so far has mentioned the killing of melds, or building a run on a set, or the idea that runs can only be extended in one direction, so it is possible that the above variation may be based on a misunderstanding.