Lórum

This page is based on information from Laco (aka Lester) Kováč.

Introduction

Slovak Lórum (not to be confused with Hungarian Lórum, which is a completely different game) is a trick-taking game in which the partnerships vary from hand to hand and the aim is usually to avoid winning certain cards in tricks. It is most commonly played by four players, and this version is described first. However, it is also common for three to play; the necessary modifications will be described at the end.

Players and Cards

The game of Lórum is played using a 32-card German suited deck (William Tell pattern). This deck is composed of 4 suits:

  • Hearts (červene = reds, srdcia)
  • Balls (gule, bells)
  • Greens (zelene = greens, leaves)
  • Acorns (žalude)

Each suit consists of 8 cards, from lowest to highest:

7, 8, 9, 10, Lower man (Jack, Under, Dolník), Upper man (Over, Horník), King (Kráľ), Ace.

In the William Tell deck the Aces show seasons of the year and the suit symbols are rotated, the Kings ride horses and have a suit symbol in each corner, the Overs have the suit symbol at the top left and the Unders have their suit symbol about half way down the card. The numeral cards are identified by Roman numbers X, IX, VIII, VII and the by number of pips at each end of the card.

Normally there are four players. The deal and play are counter-clockwise and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

There are no trumps in this game.

Card Values

Some of the cards have a value, given here in terms of chips, which can if you wish be converted to money at whatever rate you agree.

  • Each heart is worth 1 chip
  • Upper man (Horník) of acorns is worth 4 chips
  • Upper man (Horník) of greens is worth 8 chips
  • Other cards have no value.

Altogether, the value of the deck is 20 chips. The general rule here is, if you take cards with value to your trick pile, you will pay for them at the end. So the goal is to avoid taking them (at least in the regular game).

Deal

Any player may deal first. The dealer shuffles the pack, the player to dealer's left cuts, and the dealer deals out the cards in batches of 4 at a time, beginning with the player to the right and going twice around the table anticlockwise, ending with the dealer, so that each players is dealt 8 cards.

The turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

Bidding

The players look at the cards they have been dealt. Most of the time nobody bids, in which case a regular game is played. However, if anyone wishes to play a higher game, either small (malý) or big (veľký or durch), they should say so before the first lead. A big game (veľký or durch) is an undertaking to win every trick. It overcalls a small game (malý), which is an undertaking to lose every trick. If either of these games is bid, the winner of bidding will play the first card. If not, the player to dealer's right will play the first card of the regular game.

Regular Game

In a regular game the player to dealer's right leads any card to the first trick. The other players in turn must follow suit if they are able to. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. Players can put down a card of any rank when following suit (there is no obligation to play a higher or a lower card). When everyone has played a card, the player of the highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick, takes the four played cards and adds them face down to the pile of cards he/she has taken. Once the cards are put in the pile, nobody is allowed to look at them until the end of the play. The player who won the trick now leads any card to the next trick.

When all the cards have been played, each player counts the value of the cards in their pile. Generally speaking, each player has to pay to the bank the value of the cards in his/her pile and the winner is the player who has nothing to pay, having taken no cards, or none of any value.

  • If all 4 players have at least one card to pay for, nobody wins and the 20 chips are paid to the bank. There is no winner, so the chips remain in the bank. They will be given to the winner(s) of the next regular game (and only a regular game; small and big games don’t qualify for bank distribution). If the next game ends up with another contribution to the bank, the bank will grow until there is a winner of a regular game.
  • If 3 players have one or more cards to pay for, the 4th player (the person with no cards to pay for) is the winner and takes all the chips paid to the bank for this hand and any remaining in the bank from previous hands.
  • If 2 players have one or more cards to pay for, the other 2 players who have nothing to pay divide the contents of the bank, including the payments for the current hand, equally between them.
  • If one player has all the cards to pay for (i.e. all 20 chips) but he/she didn’t take all 32 cards (i.e. some other player took at least one “empty” trick), the player with all the counting cards pays 20 chips to the bank.
  • If one player took all 32 cards - i.e. won all 8 tricks - he/she wins a silent (or “unannounced”) big game and wins 10 chips from each other player (i.e. 30 chips in all). If there is any money in the bank it remains there, since this counts as a big game, not a regular game. The bank will be collected by the winner(s) of the next regular game.

Small Game (Malý)

If a player calls a small game and is not overcalled by a big game, the caller of the small game leads to the first trick. This player is playing alone against the other three players in partnership. The caller tries to win no tricks at all and the other players try to force the caller to take a trick. The values of the cards are irrelevant in this game.

In the play as usual any card can be led, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and the winner leads to the next trick. There is one additional very strict rule that applies only in a small game, not in a regular or big game. Each player who is able to follow suit must if possible play a card of higher rank than the highest card of the suit led so far played to the trick. This rule applies to all players, including the bidder and has some important consequences.

  • A player can win a small game even when holding a suit containing just one fairly high card such as a King. The caller will then lead this King to the first trick and the opponent who holds the Ace is forced to take it.
  • However, it is suicidal to call a small game holding an Ace, unless you have at least 5 and preferably more cards in that suit. You will either need to lead that suit to the first trick and hope thereby to eliminate all the opponents' cards in the suit, or you will need to be lucky enough to be able to discard your Ace on a lead of some other suit. If an opponent ever leads that suit while you hold the Ace you will be forced to win the trick.

If the caller succeeds in losing every trick, the caller is paid 10 chips by each opponent (30 chips in total). If the caller wins a trick the play immediately ends and the caller must pay 10 chips to each opponent. Any chips that are in the bank remain there.

There is no unannounced small game, and no unannounced big game when a small game is being played. So if one of the opponents of the player who called small game wins all 8 tricks, this counts as a successful small game for the caller, not an anannounced big game for the opponent.

Big Game (Veľký or Durch)

The caller of a big game leads to the first trick. This player plays against the other three players in partnership and has to win every trick in order to succeed. The values of the cards are irrelevant. As usual any card can be led, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and the winner leads to the next trick.

If the caller wins all 8 tricks, the caller is paid 20 chips by each opponent (60 chips in total). If anyone else wins a trick the play ends immediately and the caller has to pay 20 chips to each opponent. Any chips that are in the bank remain there.

As mentioned above, it is possible to win a silent (unannounced) big game by winning all 8 tricks in a regular game. The player who wins all the tricks receives 10 chips from each other player.

Variations

Announced Upper Man (Horník)

Before the first card is led in a regular game, the player who holds the upper man (Horník) of greens or acorns can place this card face up on the table. The value of this card is now doubled (i.e. the upper man of acorns costs 8 chips if announced and upper man of greens costs 16 chips if announced). The exposed card(s) remain part of the owner's hand and are subject to the normal rules of play.

Announcing an upper man can increase the value of a regular game to be more than a small game or unannounced big game. It can be also be used as a strategy to discourage opponents from taking tricks by a player who wants to try for an unannounced big game. If one player does win all the tricks, making a silent big game, an announced upper man has no effect on the payment.

An upper man cannot be announced if a small or big game has been called.

Some play if the person who announced an upper man takes that card themselves, the cost of the card is tripled rather than doubled: 12 cents for the upper man of acorns or 24 chips for the upper man of greens.

Only One Winner

Some play that there cannot be two winners in a regular game. If two players take no cards with value, the chips paid by the other two players go to the bank and remain there until there is a regular game with a single winner.

Lóra for points

Under the name Lóra, Slovak Wikipedia describes a simpler version of the game with bidding and no small or big game. Every deal is a regular game, and at the end of the play each player counts the value of the cards he or she has taken. If more than one player has taken scoring cards, each player scores the value of the cards he or she has taken as penalty points. If one player takes all the scoring cards, that player scores zero and the other three score 20 penalty points each. A player who has a cumulative score of 90 or more at the start of a deal scores only for hearts, not for upper men. A player whose score reaches exactly 100 deducts 20 points and goes back to 80. The game ends when any player has a score of more than 100 points, and the player with most points loses.

In this variant there is an extra rule of play. It is illegal to lead a heart unless at least one heart or scoring upper man has already been played, or the player leading to the trick has nothing but hearts left. This extra rule and the scoring system in this variant are similar to and possibly influenced by the American game of Hearts.

3 Player Game

The 7 and 8 of balls are removed from the deck and are not used in this game. The game is thus played with 30 cards, with 10 cards dealt to each player.

In this version, the bidder of a small game wins or loses 30 chips (15 to or from each opponent); the same amount is won by the winner of an unannounced big game. The bidder of a big game wins or loses 60 chips (30 per opponent).