If you’ve never heard of the game before, you might be surprised to learn that Euchre is one of the world’s oldest and most popular card games with roots dating back to 18th century Europe. Unlike other popular card games where individual players compete against each other to win, euchre is a team sport that focuses more on interpersonal communication and social strategies, skills which may be found lacking in a typical game of poker. This social aspect of the game, perhaps, is part of the reason why Euchre is more likely to be played in quaint, small-town bars and tournaments at pubs and taverns, local community gatherings, and small, intimate kitchen table get-togethers amongst friends.
Whether you’re not familiar with the game or are a seasoned expert, this ultimate guide to Euchre will explain everything you need to know about the game—including its history and background, how to play Euchre, important variations to the rules, and more. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about this classic card game that’s been passed down for generations by Euchre lovers all over the world, and why it’s an enjoyable pastime, perfect for playing with family and friends.
Euchre is a very social game considered to belong to the “trick-taking” genre, along with hearts and spades. The goal of the game is to win the trick by playing the high card in each round, and to win more tricks than the other team. If a team scores ten points first in a round, that team wins the game. Under normal circumstances, one round of Euchre should take approximately half an hour or less to complete.*NOTE: Rules for Euchre will vary according to region, and the house rules of the establishment where the game is being played. In this article, we’ve chosen one of the most common versions of Euchre played in the United States, though it should be noted that there are other ways of playing the game. Other variations to the game, including a common method where the Joker is also included in the modified Euchre deck, can be found in the variations section. You’ll Need:
Euchre is played with four players split evenly into two teams. Each player sits opposite his or her partner at the table. Euchre decks can be purchased in stores or through online marketplace websites like Amazon, however, Euchre decks can be easily made from a standard 52-card deck using just 24 cards (the Nine, Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace cards of each of the four suits). The rest of the cards in the deck are unused in Euchre.
Before the game begins, the players agree on the Trump suit, or the suit with the highest-value of the game, The selected Trump suit can any of the suits in the card deck: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, or Clubs. The cards of each suit are ranked in the following order, from highest to lowest:
All other suits, except for the cards of the Trump suit, or the Jack of the same color as the Trump suit), have the following ranking, from highest to lowest:
The first dealer of the game is randomly selected from the four players, and afterwards, will rotate in a clockwise direction throughout the game. Once chosen, the dealer then shuffles the cards and offers the player to the left with the choice to cut the deck, or to play it as is.
The dealer then deals out five cards to each player in two clockwise rotations around the table, which means two or three cards per round. If one player was dealt two cards in the first rotation, the dealer will then give him or her three cards in the next, or three in the first, and two in the next. The order may be different from player to player.Choosing the Trump Suit
When the dealer finishes passing out cards, he or she will turn the next card in the remaining cards (called the kitty) over and set it down, face-up. The player to the left of the dealer will then decide whether he or she accepts the up-card suit as the Trump suit, or would prefer to turn it down, or pass. This process determines the trump suit, which team are the makers (the ones that accept a trump card or offer another) and the defenders (the team that doesn’t).
First, each player in turn, beginning with the player to the dealer’s left, has the option of accepting the up-card’s suit as the trump suit, or passing. If he or she decides to pass, the dealer’s partner will then have the choice of passing or saying “I assist”. If both players pass, the player to the right of the dealer will decide to pass or say “I order it up”. If all players pass the card, the dealer will then pick up the card saying “I take it up”, or pass on the card, flipping it over face-down and remarking, “over” and the end of the turn.
If one the dealer or one of the dealer’s opponents takes up the card, the suit on the up-card becomes the Trump suit. If this happens, then the dealer will add the up-card to his or her hand while removing another card, face-down. If the dealer’s partner says “I turn it down”, that player will play alone and their partner, the dealer, must place his or her cards down on the table. If no one speaks up for the card and all players pass, the dealer will place the up-card face-down and turn a new card over from the kitty.
In this second round, the player to the left will pass, or name a suit. If that player passes, the next player will also choose to pass or name a suit, continuing on until someone names a suit or all players pass. If all players pass again, the players throw in their cards and a new player is the dealer (chosen clockwise from the last dealer). The new dealer will shuffle the cards again and give each player a new hand to start the process over again.Playing Alone
If any player from the maker or defender side feels as though he or she has a particularly strong hand, they can decide to play alone to win more points. This can be done once the trump suit is selected, but before the play begins. In some cases, one player from the maker side and one player from the defender side will both simultaneously decide to play alone.Playing the Game
The player that leads first depends on how many players are active in the game. There are three scenarios that might take place to determine who leads with the first card.
The scoring system in Euchre is complicated, where points are weighted depending on how many players play, which team wins (the makers or the defenders), and how many tricks are taken in total.
The scoring system is as follows:
The best advice any Euchre player will give to a beginner is to play often. Euchre is a fast-paced game with plenty of rules that may seem confusing at first, but once you’ve gotten the hang of the pace and structure of the game, developing an instinct for winning strategies will come naturally.
It’s often said that Euchre is a game of strategy and luck, just like poker. While players may not have much control over the cards they’re dealt, they do have control over the decisions they make—like knowing whether to bid or to pass, and when to play alone, and how to read an opponent, that affect not only their personal outcome, but that of their partner’s as well.
While practice will certainly improve your abilities at Euchre, learning some of the more popular strategies can also help you get better at the game. Here are a few very basic tips to get you started with developing your own Euchre methodology:Keep an Eye Out for Cheaters!
If a player fails to follow suit when he or she could have done so, the player must identify the renege before the round is completed and the winner takes the trick. Paying attention to the cards played on both sides will help players catch reneges before it’s too late to correct them and win the points.Learn to Memorize the Cards Played
Unlike games played with all 52 cards, Euchre decks are made up of just 24 cards, meaning that there are less cards to consider. Memorizing which cards have been played already, which cards the dealer added to his or her own hand, and other details will help you to make more strategic decisions throughout the game—like when to toss cards and when to lead with them.Be a Good Leader
If you’re putting down the first card, consider whether your partner called the trump suit or not. If so, your partner needs to know where the trump cards are, so if you hold the right or left bower, you may want to lead with them to alert your partner as to where they are.
If you are on the defender’s side, try and lead with a singleton Ace (an ace with no other cards in that suit). Your next best bet will be a doubleton Ace, as long as it’s not the same color as the trump suit. This will increase the odds that your opponents will have to play that suit (and you’ll win the trick with the highest value card).
If you do have other cards from the same off-suit, don’t risk playing that hand. Remember that there are only six cards of each suit in the deck. Chances may not be in your favor that your opponents will have the remaining cards to follow suit, and will be able to win the trick with a higher-value card. Likewise, don’t lead with the suit that was turned down. The likeliest reason that your opponents turned down the suit, after all, is because they didn’t have those cards in the first place.Know When It’s Time to Make the Trump, and When It’s Not
There are certain times in the game where ordering the trump suit or picking it up, if you’re the dealer, will benefit your team more than when passing the card. One of those times is when your team is at The Bridge, which refers to the breaking point where your score is at 9 points. If the opposing team is within reach of a win with a four-point score (through a solo player win), becoming the maker team will prevent the opposite team from being able to do so.Pay Attention to the Cards that are Turned Down
It’s safe to assume that if the dealing team turns down a card of a certain suit, neither of them have those suit cards, or the left bower card (or any side aces of that color to help, for that matter). In this case, leading with the opposite suit of the same color is mathematically probably choice for you or your partner winning the trick—a tactic referred to as “next”.
At the Bridge: When a team has nine points and is one point away from winning the game.
Bowers: The highest cards in each suit are the Jack cards, known as the bowers, where the right bower is the highest and the left bower is the second highest card in the round. The right bower and the left bower change according to the trump suit selected and are at the top of the hierarchy in the entire deck.
Right Bower: The jack of the trump suit.
Left Bower: The jack of the suit that represents the same color as the trump suit.
Makers: The partnership that orders up the trump is called the “maker” team.
Defenders: The partnership that did not order up the trump suit.
Declare Trump/Order Up: Declaring trump or ordering up refers to the act of ordering the trump.
Eldest Hand: Also known as the “first seat”, the eldest hand refers to the player to the left of the dealer.
Euchre/Euchred: When the team that orders up the trump suit fails to take three or four tricks, they are “euchred”, and the defenders score two additional points.
Hand: In euchre, a hand consists of five tricks.
Kitty: The kitty refers to the four extra cards (or five, depending on the game variation) after the cards have been dealt.
Pone (also known as the Third Seat): The pone, or the third seat, refers to the player sitting at the right of the dealer.
Round: One round signifies one rotation in which each player in the game has played one card.
Round of Bidding: One rotation where each player has the opportunity to bid or pass on the trump suit, and ends after someone has declared the trump. There can a second round of bidding after the first if the first trump suit is passed by all of the players.
Renege: When a player has refused to follow suit despite having been able to do so.
Side Ace: Any Ace card that does not belong to the trump suit.
Side Suit: A card in a suit that does not represent the trump suit.
Stick the Dealer: If the second round of bidding passes without a player ordering up (or making trump), the players can force the dealer to declare the trump suit in an action called “stick the dealer”.
Trick: When a trump suit is chosen and the first card is led, each player lays one card down. The set of four cards together are known as the “trick”.
Trump: Also known as the “boss suit”, the trump suit outranks all other suits in the deck.
Trumping: Also known in some versions of the game as “ruffing”, Trumping simply means to play a trump suit card on a trick.
Up-Card: Also known as a “turn-card”, the up-card is the top card from the kitty that the dealer turns face-up after dealing out the cards to each player. The up-card is offered to the players as the trump suit during the first round of bidding. If the up-card is chosen by a player, the dealer replaces the up-card with one of his or her cards from their hand.
There are many variations of euchre that range from simple twists to total adaptations of the game. Learning the different variations can be a fun way to change up the game and to keep it exciting—though many long-time players scoff at some of the adaptations made to the game and would prefer to stick to their original versions.
Here are just a few of some of the ways euchre is played differently in other parts of the world:25 and 32-Card Deck Variations
One of the most notable variants of the game of euchre has to do with the number of cards played in the deck. While many US and Canadian versions of Euchre primarily use 24 cards in the deck, other versions use 25—usually in British versions of Euchre. In this variation, the Joker card, referred to as the “Benny” is utilized and has the highest value in the deck—followed by the right bower and left bower, and the Ace, etc. In other versions, player use 32 card decks, where the 7 and 8 cards are included. This can make the game significantly harder as it creates more confusion as to which players hold trump cards and which do not.Cutthroat (Three-Handed Euchre)
In this popular version of euchre, there are only three players that play on their own. The first player to reach ten points wins the game.Smitty
In this version of euchre, the player to the left of the dealer makes a guess as to the suit of the trump card before the dealer deals the cards to the players or turns over the up-card. If the player guessed correctly, the suit is automatically the trump suit and the player to the left of the dealer that predicted the suit correctly gets the card (and must discard one of his or her own cards from their hand). If a player calls trump correctly, he or she can then decide to play solo—but cannot change their mind after seeing his or her hand.
If the player guesses incorrectly, then the remaining players will have the choice of making trump or passing the bid. Euchre scoring in Smitty can vary and there is the option of going alone if you’ve called the trump, which is called “calling for the game”. In this case, if a player wins all five tricks, ten points are granted to that team and they win the entire game.McEvoy
A McEvoy hand is a hand that is made up of 9s and 10s, in other words, the lowest cards in the deck. In some variants of euchre, the dealer will re-deal the cards if a McEvoy hand is declared by a player. If a player wants to declare his or her McEvoy hand, it must be done immediately after the cards are dealt and before the round of bidding begins. Players are allowed just one McEvoy call per player, per game.Chuck
In euchre, “Chuck” is a variation of “Stick the Dealer”. In this case, the dealer can decide to order up the trump, keep just one card from the hand, and trade the remaining four cards for those that remain in the kitty. This move can also include the up-card that was turned over.Dirty Clubs
Also known as “Club Euchre”, this version says that when the up-card from the kitty is clubs, the dealer must declare it as the trump suit and play with his or her partner on the makers side.Aces High, No Trump
Just as the name says, this American version of the game states that a player can bid “no trump” after the first round of bidding has passed. This would make Aces the highest cards rank in the deck.Haters
In this version, all suits may become trump suits except for hearts.
Euchre is said to be derived from a blend of three ancient European trick-taking card games: Juckerspiel, a popular German card game from the 18th century, Écarté, an old French casino game, and Triomphe, which originated in Spain in the early 15th century.
The game made its way to the United States in the 19th century, where it was introduced, most likely, by German and French settlers in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, and by sailors crisscrossing the Atlantic between the United States and England. It spread very quickly along the East Coast, the Southern states (especially in New Orleans), and across Canada, becoming one of the most popular card games in both countries, and the number one card game in the United States for a long time.
While Euchre has lost much of its popularity over the last century, the game still enjoys a strong following in hot spots located all over the world. There are tournaments and official clubs where players meet on a regular basis to play, most notably in the Midwestern “Euchre belt” of the United States (Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin), in parts of Canada (particularly Ottawa and Nova Scotia territories), large, coastal, English port cities in Great Britain like Cornwall and the Channel Islands, and in New Zealand and Australia. The rise of the internet has also sparked renewed interest in Euchre, with online tournaments and competitions connecting old and new players from around the world that share the same passion for the game.
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