How to play euchre

A short guide to the card game "euchre"

Players and Object

Euchre is a plain-trick game for four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite

Just 5 cards are dealt to each player and the object is to win at least three of the five tricks - with an extra bonus for winning all five

Rank of Cards

A pack of 25 cards is used consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10 and 9 in each of the four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, plus a wild-card (which may be either the two of spades or the joker) known as the “Benny”

The trump suit has 8 cards ranking from highest to lowest as follows:

Benny, or rarely "Best Bower"(the joker or two of spades
Right Bower †, or commonly just: "Right" (the jack of the trump suit)
Left Bower †, or commonly just: "Left" (the other jack of the same colour as the trump suit)
Ace
King
Queen
Ten
Nine

The other suits have 6 or 5 cards ranking as normal: A K Q (J) 10 9

Note that Benny and Left count for all purposes as belonging to the trump suit. For example if hearts are trumps, the jack of diamonds is a heart not a diamond. It can be played to a heart lead and if it is led, hearts must be followed

Note also that whilst the trump suit has 8 cards, the suits of the opposite colour have 6 cards and that of the same colour only 5 cards

[†  The word Bower comes from the German Bauer, which means farmer or peasant and is also a word for Jack.]

The Deal

The first dealer is selected at random. Customarily, this is by the person nearest the pack dealing cards from it to each player face up until a jack is turned up: that player becomes dealer

The turn to deal then rotates clockwise throughout the game. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left must cut the cards. The Kingsbridge league rules state that a minimum of three cards must be cut

Five cards are dealt to each player in two rounds. The dealer deals clockwise, giving each player a packet of two or three cards in any order – any player who was dealt two in the first round gets three in the second and vice versa

The dealer then checks that there are five cards left and turns the next card in the pack face up. This up-card is used as a basis for selecting the trump suit. The remaining four cards are left face-down and are not used for this hand

In the special case that the card which was turned up is the Benny, the dealer must call a suit before looking at his or her own cards

Players should not touch their cards until the dealer has established that the deal has been completed correctly. If the dealer finds an error: he or she calls "misdeal" and deals again with no penalty. If the opposition finds an error they call misdeal and (may) take two points before passing the deal to the next player

Making trump

This process determines the trump suit and which team are the makers – that is the team which undertakes to win three tricks. First each player in turn, beginning with the player to the dealer's left, has the option of accepting up-card’s suit (or the suit called by the dealer if Benny was turned up) as the trump suit or passing

Specifically (see later re: "going alone"):

The player to dealer’s left may either pass or say "I order it up" (or "order" or, locally, "to be fair")

If the first player passes, the dealer's partner may either pass or say "turn it down" (or "turn it over", "turn it" or "alone" - see later)

If the first two players pass, the player to dealer’s right may either pass or say "I order it up" (or "order")

If all three other players pass, the dealer may either take up the up-card, saying "I take it up" or, locally, "it lives" or pass by saying "over" and turning the up-card face-down (in some areas the dealer just turns the card and says nothing)

If either of the dealer's opponents order it up or if dealer decides to take it up, the suit of the up-card becomes trump; the dealer adds the up-card to their hand and discards a card face-down

The dealer's partner can only make the turned up suit trumps by playing alone. In Britain this is done by saying "I turn it down" (or "turn it" or "alone"), in which case the dealer's cards are placed face-down on the table and dealer’s partner plays alone, with the turned suit as trump. In the Kingsbridge league, once the dealer has been "turned down" they can no longer bid – specifically they cannot then call "Alone"

If all four players pass, the up-card is turned face-down by the dealer. There is then a second round in which players have the option to make any suit trump, other than the suit of the up-card. Again the player to dealer's left speaks first and may either pass again or name a suit. If the first player passes the second may name a suit or pass, and so on. If all four players pass a second time the cards are thrown in and the next player deals. There is no penalty for both sides passing twice

Note that the trump making process ends as soon as someone accepts or makes trump (rather than passing). That player's side are the makers and the other side are the defenders

Going Alone

Normally more points may be scored by a player who chooses to play without using the cards held by their partner. In the Kingsbridge league, a player who wishes to play without a partner must call "Alone" before any other call (in other words an order, but without a partner should be called as "Alone Order" (or just "Lone Order") – a suit call should be, for example, "Lone Club" not "Club, Alone"). Points may be deducted for calling incorrectly. However, locally, a player may also call "dip" to signify they are not playing with a partner

Normally, the partner of a lone player puts their cards face-down and takes no part in the play; however, there are some exceptions: because each player has a "last shout" in the bidding process (with the exception of a "turned over" dealer in the Kingsbridge league)

For example, if the player to the dealer's left orders the card: the dealer's partner, the player to the dealer's right and the dealer still have the opportunity to call "alone" if they feel that they can win the majority of the tricks in the suit that was ordered. However, if the player to the dealer’s right orders the card, only the dealer has a "last shout" to call "alone" as the other two have already passed on the opportunity

Either a member of the makers’ side or a defender may play alone. It is even possible that a maker and a defender choose to play alone, in which case there will be only two active players

The Play

If all four players are in the game, the play begins with the player to the dealer's left leading to the first trick. If that player has been "put down" (their partner is playing alone) the dealer’s partner leads. If both the player to the dealer's left and the dealer's partner have been "put down", the player to the dealer's right leads

Any card may be led, and each player in clockwise order must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led if possible. A player who cannot follow suit may play any card

Remember that, for purposes of following suit, Benny and the Left Bower are considered to belong to the trump suit and not to any other suit. If a player "reneges" (does not follow suit although having a suitable card in their hand) the opposition may take two points (or four points if either side was playing "alone")

The trick is won by whoever played the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of each trick leads to the next one.

Scoring

If all four players are playing then the scores are as follows:

If the makers win 3 or 4 tricks they score one point
If the makers win all 5 tricks they score two points ("Mark Twain")
If the makers take fewer than three tricks they are said to be euchred and the defenders score two points

Under league rules if a member of the makers' team is playing alone and wins all five tricks, the team scores four points instead of two - otherwise the scores are as above. Under "farmer's" rules, if a member of the makers team is playing alone and they win four tricks they score two points

If a member of the defenders' team is playing alone and succeeds in winning at least three tricks, thereby euchring the makers, the defenders score four points instead of two – otherwise the scores are as above

In South Devon the game is normally scored using the pegs of a cribbage board and a "leg" is played to 31 points. That is, the team who first reach 31 or more points over several deals wins the leg. League games consist of the best of three legs; pairs games: the best of five legs. It is common for quick games to be played over "half a leg" (or half way along the cribbage board) for 16 points

Rules of Thumb

(from http://www.bright.net/~double/euchre.htm#rot)

Sometimes, veteran players like to play a structured game, which consists of some rules to follow. Keep in mind that these "rules" do not always work, and require a feel for the game as well. This "feel" can only come with the actual playing of the game. These "rules" are also determined by watching how your opponents play. (If your opponents "bag" a lot, then following the "next" rule would NOT be wise!) They are however, good rules to follow as they usually prove themselves to work, and for the most part should be followed. Try 'em!

  1. Lead Trump. If your partner calls trump, and you have benny or the left or right bower, and it's your lead, lead it......they'll appreciate knowing where it is (trust me)
  2. Always lead trump. If you called trump and it's your lead, then lead it. Try to draw out the trump from the oppositions hands. This also gives you the opportunity to see what your partner has. If you lead trump and your partner doesn't throw trump out, then start to pray! Leading trump can also make your Aces good if you have some. NOTE: if you called it "light" or "on a prayer", then leading trump may not be wise. Try leading an Ace. Also, if your partner called trump and they called light, then leading an Ace if possible would be great. It may not take a trick, but it will draw out trumps, hopefully making the few trumps you do have more valuable
  3. (as a defender and not the dealer's partner). Don't lead the turn down. There are fewer cards in the turned down suit (the one turned over)and the dealer didn't like it, so there is more chance of it being trumped by the dealer if nobody else
  4. Make it Next. If the person sitting to your right is the dealer and they turn down a card that everybody has passed on, then the "rule of thumb" is to make it the next, or the same color suit. If Diamonds was the suit turned down, then call Hearts etc
  5. Make it for your Partner. If your partner is the dealer and he turns down a suit due to everybody passing and the next player doesn't make it next for his partner, then make it the opposite color suit. If you don't, then chances are that your opponent sitting to your left will call trump for his partner, so that your partner (the dealer) doesn't get the chance to call trump
  6. Never trump your partner's Ace. If your partner leads an Ace, and you trump it, then chances are your partner will do one of two things.... A) Shoot you or B) Shoot you. Actually there does come a time when trumping your partners Ace is appropriate, like when all you have in your hand is trump or if you know that the person sitting behind you does not have any of the suit that your partner has led

Further strategies can be found at http://www.geocities.com/metalheadtlh/Stratagies.html#top but they are aimed at the US version (without a Benny) so require modification – particularly the points system for calling!


Page updated 14/02/2012 17:35:00
Background Image from Alison Bradley