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 as Carioca. In Argentina there are two games in the Loba family:
- Loba de Menos (negative Loba): In this game, covered on this page, points are scored for cards remaining in the player's hand when the play ends. The object is to score as few points as possible.
- Loba de Mas (positive Loba): In this game, covered here points are scored for combinations laid down and lost for points remaining in a player's hand at the end of play. The object is to score as many points as possible.
Players: 2 to 5 players
Cards: Two regular 52 card decks, plus 4 jokers, making 108 cards total.
The Deal: 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.
Money or chips should be used for scoring multi-round games. At the beginning of each round players contributes an equal stake to the pot, which is taken by the winner.
Objective: The goal is to get rid of all cards in the player's hand by forming them in valid combinations which are put face up on the table. Like most Rummy games these combinations take the form of Sets and Runs, although in this game there are new names, and the rules for forming sets are a little different.
Valid melds in Loba de Menos come in two forms:
- Pierna ("leg"): A pierna consists of three cards of the same rank from exactly 3 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.
- Escalera ("ladder"): 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.
Play commences with the player to the left of the dealer taking a turn and continues clockwise until the hand ends.
Players do the following actions when it is their turn:
- Draw: The player starts by drawing a single card either from the stock pile or from 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.
- Meld (optional): If the player holds a valid Pierna or Escalera they may be laid face up on the table in front of the player.
- Lay off (optional): If the player has already put down at least one pierna or escalera of their own, they can add a card or cards to any pierna or escalera that is already on the table - their own or other players' - provided that the added cards still obey the above rules for forming valid melds. Piernas and escaleras on the table cannot be broken up to reuse the cards to form new combinations - they can only be added to.
- Discard: The player ends their turn by discarding one card from their hand to the discard pile.
Jokers are wild but may only be put down in escaleras, not in piernas. No 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.
Jokers on the table can not be exchanged with the card they represent. Once a card is on the table it must stay there.
When adding new cards 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 place it after the J to represent 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.
If the stock pile is used up then 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.
End of Hand
The play ends when one of the players gets rid of all their cards. The game stops immediately and other players are stuck with any piernas or escaleras they may still have in their hand.
With one exception the player who goes out will score zero points for the round. The other players add up the value of the cards they have remaining in their hands and those values are added to their own score. Cards have the following point values:
If the player wins the round by laying down all of their cards at once (except for their discard card) forming valid piernas or escaleras, or laying off cards on existing melds without having previously put down any cards in that round, their 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 re-enlist ("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.
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.
- Two jokers: Some players allow up to two jokers per escalera.
- 4 card minimum: Some require at least 4 cards to form an escalera.
- Unlimited Re-enlistments: 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.