This page is based on contributions by Eduardo Valcarcel and Juan Orgeira.
Loba is a version of Rummy played in Latin America. In fact the name Loba is used for more than one Rummy variation. This page describes the game Loba as played in Argentina. In Central America, Loba is a different game, a kind of Contract Rummy, similar to the game known in Argentina as Carioca.
There are two forms of Argentinean Loba:
- Loba de Menos (negative Loba), in which points are scored for cards remaining in plyers' hands when the play ends, and the object is to score as few points as possible, and
- Loba de Mas (positive Loba), in which points are scored for combinations laid down and lost for cards reamining in a player's hand at the end of play, and the object is to score as many points as possible.
Loba de Menos can be played by from 2 to 5 players, using two ordinary 52 card decks plus 4 jokers, making 108 cards in all.
If playing for money, each player contributes an equal stake to a pot, which will be taken by the winner.
Players draw cards to decide who deals first: highest deals. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.
The deal and play are clockwise. Each player is dealt nine cards, one at a time. The next card is placed face up to start the discard pile and the remainder of the deck is stacked face down beside it to form the stock.
The players' aim is to get rid of cards from their hands, by forming them into combinations which can be put face up on the table. The allowable combinations are:
- A pierna consists of three cards of the same rank from different suits - for example 4, 4, 4. A pierna can contain additional cards of the same rank in the same three suits, but not of the fourth suit. So for example 4-4-4-4-4 is a valid pierna, but a 4 cannot be added to it.
- An escalera consists of three or more cards of the same suit in sequence - such as 5-6-7. The ace can be counted high or low, at the player's choice - so 10-J-Q-K-A and A-2-3-4 are both valid escaleras. Ace cannot be both high and low at once, so K-A-2-3 is not valid.
The player to dealer's left begins and play continues clockwise. A player's turn consists of three parts:
- Drawing a card: to start your turn you must draw either the top card from the face up discard pile or the top card from the face down draw pile;
- Putting down cards: this is optional.
- If you hold cards that form a valid Pierna or Escalera, these can be played face up on the table.
- If you have already put down at least one pierna or escalera of your own, you can be add a card or cards to any pierna or escalera that is already on the table - your own and other players' - provided that the added cards still obey the above rules for forming valid combinations.
- To end your turn you must discard one card from your hand face up to the discard pile.
It is only possible to draw a card from the discard pile if that card is immediately played to the table as part of a pierna or escalera (either to make a new one with cards from your hand, or to add to an existing one on the table). You cannot take the discard and keep it in your hand.
Piernas and escaleras on the table cannot be broken up to reuse the cards to form new combinations - they can only be added to.
You cannot add to another player's piena or escalera until you have put down a pierna or escalera of your own.
If the stock pile is exhausted, the cards in the discard pile (apart from its top card, which is left in place), are shuffled and stacked face down to form a new stock pile.
Jokers may only be put down in escaleras, not in piernas. Not more than one Joker can be included in one escalera.
Jokers cannot normally be discarded. The only exception is when you have put down all your other cards in combinations. When it is time to discard and the only card left in your hand is a Joker, you are allowed to discard it, thus ending the game. Thus, drawing a Joker from the stock, especially towards the end of the round, may be a serious inconvenience if no escaleras have been put down or if all the escaleras on the table already contain Jokers.
When adding to an escalera, you are allowed to move a Joker from one end of the escalera to the other end. For example, if an escalera is made up of the 8-9-10-Joker, you may add the J to one end and move the Joker to represent a 7 or a Q. When the Joker is in the middle of an escalera (as in 8-Joker-10-J) its position may not be changed, so if 8-Joker-10-J is on the table, you are not allowed to add a 9 to it.
The play ends when one player gets rid of all their cards. This player normally scores nothing, and each of the other players scores penalty points for the cards remaining in their hands.
Each numeral card is worth its face value in points. The Jokers, Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces are valued at 10 points. Each player adds up the point values of the cards they have left, and then adds this total value to their previous cumulative score.
If you win a round by putting down all of your cards at the same time (forming your own piernas or escaleras or adding to those of other players), without having previously put down any cards in that round, your cumulative score is reduced by 10 points.
When the score of an individual player reaches 101 points or more, that player is out of the game, but he can be reincorporated ("reengancharse") with the score of the player with the highest number of points at that moment. For each "reenganche" he must pay a predetermined amount to the pot. Each player is allowed a maximum of two "reenganches". After that, if the player goes over 100 again, they are eliminated and the game continues with the other players.
The game ends when all players except one have been eliminated from the game. The last remaining player is the winner and collects all the players' initial stakes, plus the payments for any reenganches.
The game also ends if at the end of a round, all players except one have a cumulative score of more than 100. In that circumstance the player who has 100 or less is the winner; the other players have no opportunity for "reenganche" in this case.
Some players allow up to two jokers in each escalera. Also it is possible that some players require an escalera to contain at least four cards.
Some allow a player to buy in (reengancharse) any number of times, but the cost increases each time. For example, if the initial stake is one unit for each player, then the first reenganche for each player costs 1. If a player gets knocked out a second time, and wants to reengancharse again, that costs 2 units, the third time costs 3, and so on. The count is kept separately for each player - after one player has bought in (say) the fourth time for 4, another player who is knocked out for the first time can still buy in for 1.
Some play that when the stock runs out, the cards in the discard pile, apart from its top card, are turned face down without shuffling to make a new stock. So from that point onwards, players with good memories will know what cards to expect from the stock.
Loba de Mas can be played by from two to five players. Two standard 52-card packs plus four jokers are used - 108 cards in all.
Any player can deal first, and the turn to deal passes clockwise. 11 cards are dealt to each player. The remaine=der are stacked face down to form a stock pile.
As in Loba de Menos, players try to put down Piernas and Escaleras, but in this game you score points for the combinations you put down. The rules about what cards are needed to form valid Piernas and Escaleras are similar to those in Loba de Menos, except for the use of jokers and wild cards. In Loba de Mas the jokers are wild, and the twos can be used either as natural twos or as wild cards.
Piernas consist of from 3 to 6 cards of the same rank in three different suits. They cannot include jokers or wild twos, but it is possible to make a Pierna consisting entirely of twos of three suits.
Escaleras are sequences of from 3 to 13 cards in suit. They can contain any number of wild cards but cannot consist entirely of jokers. An escalera consisting of twos and jokers is OK, because one of the twos can be treated as natural, and the remaining wild cards form a sequence in that suit. Aces can be used as high (Q-K-A) or low (A-2-3).
The play begins with the player to the dealer's left and continues clockwise. A player's turn consists of three parts:
- Either draw the top card of the face down stock or take the whole of the discard pile. In this game, the cards of the discard pile (which is known as the "pozo") are overlapped so that all their values are visible.
- Optionally play piernas and/or escaleras from your hand to the table, and/or add cards to combinations that you have put down in previous turns.
- Discard one card face up to the discard pile (pozo).
Note that when taking the pozo, there is no requirement to put down or add to any combinations. You can simply take the pozo and discard a card. However, if the pozo consists of only one card, you cannot just take this card and discard it again. It would, however, be legal to take this card and discard the other card of the same suit and rank if you happened to hold it.
In Loba de Mas, cards cannot be added to other players' combinations, only to your own. As in Loba de Menos, when adding to an escalera, a wild card can be moved from one end to the other, but a wild card that is not at the end of an escalera cannot be moved.
The play continues until a player ends it by putting down all his cards in valid combinations, or by putting down all his cards but one and discarding his last card.
If the stock runs out, the play ends when the player who took the last stock card discards.
The scores are based on the following card values.
|Card||Positive value in combinations on the table||Negative value in hand|
|Ace||3 points in A-K-Q or A-A-A; 1 point in A-2-3||3 points each|
|K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8||2 points each||2 points each|
|7, 6, 5, 4, 3||1 point each||1 point each|
|Joker, 2||3 points used as A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8|
1 point used as 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A (low)
|3 points each|
Examples of positive scores for combinations:
- A-K-Q = 7 points
- A-2-Q = 8 points (using the 2 as a K)
- A-2-2 = 9 points
- 2-2-2 = 3 points
- 2-2-2-2-2-2-2 = 9 points (this is best scored as an escalera 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 so that the last 2 is worth 3 points)
- A-2-2-J = 11 points
- A-2-2-4 = 4 points
- K-Q-2 = 7 points
- K-2-2 = 8 points
The player who goes out, getting rid of all his cards, scores all the combinations he has on the table a bonus of 5 points. If the stock runs out and no one has gone out, no one gets this 5-point bonus. The players who did not go out score for the combinations they have on the table less the cards in their hands (which may result in a negative score). Each player's score for the hand is added to their cumulative score.
A player who goes out by putting down all his cards (or all but one, plus a discard) at the same time, without having previously put down any combinations, scores a larger bonus of 5 points per player in the game - for example 15 points in a 3-player game or 20 points in a 4-player game.
The game ends when one or more players have scored at least 150 points. If playing for money, each pair of players then settles up according to the difference between their scores.
Example with 4 players:
- Player 1 has +160 points (wins 30 + 140 + 180, so wins 350 overall)
- Player 2 has +130 points (loses 30, wins 110 + 150, so wins 230 overall)
- Player 3 has +20 points (loses 140 + 110, wins 40, so loses 210 overall)
- Player 4 has -20 points (loses 180 + 150 + 40, so loses 370 overall)
Note that wins and losses should always balance.