Loba (She-wolf) refers to various Rummy games played in Latin America. In Central America Loba is a form of Contract Rummy known in Argentina and Chile as Carioca and that game is what is described here. In Argentina there are two other games known by Loba name, but since they are not Contract Rummy games, they are described separately. See Loba de Mas and Loba de Menos.
Carioca is a relative of Contract Rummy, with a few principal differences:
- Contract Rummy is for three or more players, Carioca is for two players.
- Contract Rummy uses jokers, in Carioca use of jokers is optional.
- In Contract Rummy, players are dealt different numbers of cards depending on the contract; in Carioca, players are always dealt 12 cards.
- There are 7 contracts in Contract Rummy, 8 in Carioca
- In Carioca, sequences may go "round the corner" (K-A-2); in Contract Rummy they may not.
Players: 2 players
Cards: 2 standard decks with 52 cards each, for a total of 104 cards. If desired, two Jokers may also be used (this makes the game a bit easier), bringing the total to 106 cards. The cards are ranked (hi) K-Q-J-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (lo).
The Deal: To determine who deals first, the deck is shuffled and cut, and each player draws a card. The player drawing the lowest card deals first. Each player is dealt twelve cards. One card is turned as the upcard, and the remainder of the deck is turned face-down to form the stock.
Objective: Players must complete certain melds, called "contracts", which vary from round to round. Once the contract is met, players may lay off on the existing melds (both their own and their opponents), the objective being to get rid of all your cards. The first player to do so wins the round.
Melds in Carioca come in two forms, similar to other Rummy games.
- Trios are like Sets in other Rummy games. They consist of three or more card of the same rank (value). The three cards do not need to be of different suits, so for example 9-9-9 is a valid Trio.
- Escalas or Escaleras are like Runs in other Rummy games, a sequence of four or more cards in the same suit with consecutive values, except the minimum length of an Escalera is 4 cards instead of 3.
Starting with the dealer's opponent players do the following actions when it is their turn:
- Draw: The turn begins with the player drawing one card either from the stock pile or the discard pile.
- Meld (optional): If the player has the cards required to fulfill the contract for the current round he or she may "meld" them by laying the cards down on the table, face up. The player must then discard to complete the turn. The melds must exactly match the contract, if the player has other cards that can be used to extend those melds then it needs to wait until the next turn.
- Lay off (optional): Starting with the turn after the player has melded the required contract, they may lay down additional cards either on their own melds, or on those of the opponent. In this manner the player dwindles the number of cards in their hand. The first player to lay off all their cards, and then discard, wins the round.
- Discard: Each turn, including the last turn, must end with the player discarding one card, face up, to the discard pile.
The contracts for each round in Carioca are as follows:
|Round #||Contract Details||Cards Required|
|1||2 Trios||6 cards|
|2||1 Trio, 1 Escalera||7 cards|
|3||2 Escaleras||8 cards|
|4||3 Trios||9 cards|
|5||2 Trios, 1 Escalera||10 cards|
|6||1 Trio, 2 Escaleras||11 cards|
|7||4 Trios||12 cards|
|8||3 Escaleras||12 cards|
Jokers are wild! However, you may only use one Joker per escalera or trio when putting down your initial contract. In the turns after the contract has been fulfilled then any number of jokers may be added to existing trios or escaleras as needed.
A Joker at the end of an escalera may be changed in value. That is, if the escalera has Joker-4-5-6, you could tuck a 3 between the Joker and the 4, making the Joker take on a value of 3, or you could add a real 2, leaving the joker to represent the 3.
You may not change the value of a Joker that is in the middle of an escalera. That is, if the escalera is 3-Joker-5-6, you cannot tuck a card in; as that joker is not on the end of the escalera so you cannot change its value. Also you cannot move a joker from one end of an escalera to the other; if a player puts down 9-10-J-Joker, you cannot add a 7, counting the Joker as a 8, because the Joker was originally played at the top end of the sequence. It would, however, be legal to add a 8, a Q or a K.
End of Hand
Players continue taking turns as outlined here until one of them is able dispose of all the cards in their hand, which is called "going out".
When a player goes out the opponent adds up the value of the cards in their hand using the following values, and the player takes adds that value to their accumulating score. The player with the lowest score at the end of the last round wins the game. Cards have the following point values:
|Face cards||10 points|
Optional Rules and Variations
The following rules may be added to the standard game if all players agree to the variation before the first player takes their turn. It’s not an all or nothing deal, the game participants can pick and choose which variations they like.
- Alternate card values: Players may agree before the game begins that the jokers will be worth 50 points rather than 25. Aces can be bumped up to a value of 20.
Central American Loba: The game known as Loba in Central America is
very similar to Carioca so it is described here as a set of variations.
If desired, one or more of these variations could be selectively applied to
Carioca to form a hybrid game.
- Up to 5 players may play the game, although it is usually played by 2 to 4 players.
- All 4 jokers from the 2 decks of cards are used, for a total of 108 cards.
- There are only 6 contracts to this game, with the 7th and 8th rounds dropped.
- 11 cards are dealt to each player for all rounds instead of 12.
- The Ace can be used as either high or low, but not both.
- The value of Jacks, Queens, and Kings are 11, 12, and 13 points respectively.