This page is based on information from Yishin 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. I will first describe what appear to be the most usual rules, followed by a collection of variations.
Players and Cards
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. Some players add one or two jokers - see variations.
The game is normally played by from 2 to 5 people. There is a variation for 6 or 7 players. Deal and play are anticlockwise.
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 counts as high, low or both, so that A-2-3, Q-K-A and K-A-2 are all valid sequences.
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. If two or more players want the same discard it goes to the player who claimed it first. Players normally slap the discard to claim it, so that when more than one player does this it is clear from the position of the hands who was first.
End of the Play
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 82 points, you may stop the game and win. Stopping in this way with 83 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 10 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 players show their cards, make any melds they can, and count the value of their unmelded cards. The player with the lowest value of unmelded cards wins.
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.
The loser with the fewest points pays 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 and the winner will collect 10 stakes in total if there are no ties.
In case of a tie, both or all tieing players pay the higher amount. For example in a 5-player game if the final point scores are A: 11, B: 3, C: 34, D: 34, E: 11, both C and D pay 4 stakes and both A and E pay 2 stakes, so that the winner B collects 12 stakes in this case.
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 had a turn but has not melded any cards must pay double. (Players who did not get a turn to play do not have to 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. If a player wins with a 'Perfect' by taking another player's discard, the player who discarded that card has to pay the losses of all the losers: the winner collect the money and the other players pay nothing.
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 the player who knocks is undercut - that is, some other player has an equal or lower number of points - the payments are doubled and the player who knocked has to pay all players' losses to the winner while the other players pay nothing.
The version described above is sometimes known as "Battle Hoola". It seems to be the most usual way to play, but if you dislike the race to claim the discard, an alternative rule is that if more than one person wants the discard, the person whose next turn to play is earlier gets the card. There is also a "non-battle" version of Hoola 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 left.
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 or low card card in a sequence but not both, so that A-2-3 and A-K-Q are valid melds but K-A-2 is not allowed. Some play that the ace is always low, so that A-2-3 is valid but A-K-Q and 2-A-K are not.
When 6 or 7 play, one or two players must drop out after the deal, leaving exactly five players in the game. The dealer is not allowed to drop out, so the player to dealer's right (assuming clockwise play) is the first to decide whether to play or drop out, followed by the others in turn. If four players in addition to the dealer have chosen to play, any remaining players must drop out. On the other hand, once one player has dropped out of a 6-player game or two players have dropped out of a 7-player game, the remaining players must play. Players who are forced to drop out (because there are already five players in the game) can claim compensation for any sevens, sets of three cards or suited sequences they have in their hands. Payments can vary according to prior agreement: Yishin Cho suggests a payment of ¼ stake for each seven, set or sequence, from each of the four players (other than the dealer) who chose to play, so that a player forced to drop out receives a total of 1 unit for each seven, set or sequence. Players who choose to drop out when they could have played cannot claim compensation. After the compensation payments if any have been made, the hands of the players who dropped out are given to the dealer and shuffled into the stock.
The maximum number of points with which you can knock varies from place to place and with the number of players. Some options are:
- 7 points for 2 people, 10 points for 3 people, 15 points for 4 people
- 5points for 2 people, 15 points for 3 people, 21 points for 4 people
- 5 points for 2 people, 10 points for 3 people, 15 points for 4 people, 21 points for 5 people
- 5 points regardless the number of players
- 4 points regardless of the number of players
Some play that if a player goes out with a Perfect (or Hoola) the next deal is played for double stakes. If that is also won with a Perfect hand, the stakes for the following hand are doubled again (four times the original stake) and so on.
Hoola is sometimes played with one or two jokers, which are used as wild cards - in other words they can be used as a substitute for any needed card when putting down a meld. There are various alternative ways to count jokers remaining in a player's hand when the play ends:
- A joker counts 0 points, but doubles the points for the remainder of the hand. Two jokers multipl the points by 4. (recommended)
- A joker counts 0 points, but quintples penalty points for the rest of the hand (as in 7-Bridge)
- A joker counts 0 points, and has no effect on other points.
- A joker counts 14 points, and triples points in the rest of the hand. Two jokers would count 28 points total and multiply the rest of the hand by 9
- A joker counts 20 points, and has no effect on other points.
- A joker counts 30 points, and has no effect on other points.
Occasionally the game is played clockwise, rather than clockwise.
Some play that 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 following variants have problematic or unusual rules, and it is possible that they may be based on misunderstandings. I would be interested to know if any of the versions of the game described below are commonly played in Korea.
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.