This Colombian three-card gambling game is said to be popular in the state of Santander. There are three pots, one for the winner of each of the three tricks. Anyone who plays and fails to take a trick incurs a debt known as a lulo, which must be added to the pots in a future deal.
Players and Cards
The game is best for 5 or more players. It is played with a Spanish 40-card pack, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low:
ace (1) - 3 - king (12) - knight (11) -jack (10) - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 2.
One suit, determined by the deal, will be trump, and as usual all trumps beat all cards of other suits.
Deal and play are counterclockwise.
There are three pots: the cabeza (head) is won by the winner of the first trick, the barriga (belly) is for the winner of the second trick, and the cola (tail) for the winner of the third and last trick. The dealer must place one chip in each pot. In addition, the player who owes the smallest lulo must pay this amount to the pots, distributing it in any way he wishes - for example a lulo of 6 could be placed all in the belly, or 2 chips in each pot, or any other combination. If several players owe equally small lulos any one of them can pay (the others will pay in subsequent deals) - normally if there are several equally small lulos, the dealer or the nearest player to dealer's right has priority in paying them off.
The Deal and Exchange
Any player may deal first. Subsequently the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. Three cards are dealt to each player, and one card is placed face up on the table to indicate the trump suit.
Starting to dealer's right and continuing anticlockwise, each player in turn announces whether they will stay in (ir or "go") or pass. Those who pass drop out and cannot win any of the pots. Those who play commit themselves to win at least one trick, otherwise they will owe a penalty (lulo).
If all players but one drop out, the lone player automatically wins all three pots without play.
The players who stay in may, if they wish, discard one, two or all three of their cards face down. This is done in the same order that they announced that they were staying in. A player who discards one or two cards receives an equal number of replacement cards from the undealt part of the deck. A player who discards all three cards receives four new cards from the deck and discards one of them. A player who is happy with his original hand need not discard any cards.
If more than one player stayed in, the nearest player to dealer's right who is playing leads to the first trick. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trump, by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.
The seven of trumps is a special card. If the card turned up to determine the trump suit is higher than the 7, then the 7 of trumps acts as though it were that card. For example if a 3 of coins is turned up, then the holder of the 7 of coins uses it exactly as though it were a 3 of coins - it loses to the ace of coins, but beats all other coins, including the king, knight and jack.
The play of the cards is subject to the following constraints.
- Players must always follow suit when possible.
- A player who has no card of the suit led must play a trump.
- When a trump is led, players must beat the highest trump so far played to the trick if they can.
- If the player leading to the first trick holds the ace of trumps, he must lead it.
- If the player leading to the first trick has the 3 and king of trumps, he must lead one of them.
- If the player leading to the second trick has any trumps, he must lead his highest trump.
The winner of each trick collects the corresponding pot. Anyone who played and fails to take a trick incurs a debt equal to the total of the three pots being played for. These debts are known as lulos and are recorded on a list. As described above, the lulos are paid off in ascending order, one for each deal, the owner of the lulo distributing the chips as he wishes between the three pots.
Any infringements of the rules, such as failing to follow suit or trump, or failing to lead a high trump when required to, are also punished by giving the player a lulo.
Because the dealer always adds to the pots, the stakes tend to escalate as the game goes on. For example, in the first deal there are just three chips in the pots. Suppose one player fails to win a trick. Then that player has a lulo of 3, which together with next dealer's 3 makes 6 chips to be paid for in the second deal. In that deal, anyone who fails to take a trick will have a lulo of 6, so in the third deal there will be 9 chips at stake, and so on.
So long as there are any unpaid lulos on the list of debts, the game should continue. When, as a result of a series of deals in which no player fails to win a trick, all the lulos are paid, the game ends.
The description at thespiel.net lists a number of variants, such as:
- In the first deal, everyone must play. This ensures that the game does not end immediately, and there are some lulos to be played for.
- When an ace is turned up for trump, everyone must play.