Euchre is a seriously fast paced trump card game that can be learned in very little time. Like other trump games (Oh Hell, Whist, etc) Euchre normally involves four people divided into two teams, with partners sitting directly across from one another.
Card game enthusiasts tell me that “Euchre” (pronounced YOO-kerr) is the reason why modern decks of cards contain Jokers, even though the traditional American version of the game doesn’t involve Jokers, preferring instead to use certain suited Jacks as wild cards.
The Object of Euchre
The object of the game of Euchre is to be the first team to score 10 points. How do you score? We’ll get to that.
Euchre Decks – Euchre Cards
The most common deck for playing Euchre contains 24 cards — all four nines, tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces. This means that six “ranks” of cards across four “suits” are used to play. If you’re keeping up, that means you use a standard poker deck without the twos through eights.
Dealing and Playing Euchre
After shuffling the cards, the dealer hands them out two or three at a time (dealer’s choice) to all of the players including himself, starting at his left, until all four players have five cards. If you do the math, you’ll see that this means there will be four cards that aren’t dealt.
After five cards are dealt to each player, the dealer turns up the top card of the remaining four cards (this is called the “up card”) face up so that the players can see this “proposed trump”. Why proposed? Well, when everyone bids, the players get to decide what is trump. It is important that the three cards remaining in the unused pile below the upcard are unseen by any of the players during the hand as it would give them an unfair advantage.
After the cards are dealt, the player sitting just left of the dealer is the first player to decide if the suit of the “up card” will be the trump suit. If this first bidder wants the “up card” suit to be trump, he says “Pick it up” to the dealer, in which case the dealer must pick up the “up card” and discard a card from his hand. If the first bidder doesn’t like the “up card” suit, he says “pass” and the trump decision goes on to the next player to his left. At any time a suit is declared trump, the bidding is over and the play begins.
Important — if the first three players all pass on the “upcard trump”, the dealer then has the option of either picking up the upcard and declaring it the trump suit, or turning over the “upcard” and starting a new round of bidding.
Euchre Bidding & Trumps
The rules are different for any subsequent rounds of bidding. For instance, during the second bid round, the players can declare any of the three remaining suits trump.
The team who declares the trump suit must win at least the majority (that would be three) of the tricks to “score”.
The declarer of trump and his partner are called the “makers”. If they are not successful in taking the majority of tricks, they lose (this is called being “set” or “euchred”) and the other team scores instead.
If nobody calls a suit trump during the second round, the next player left of the original dealer becomes the new dealer and shuffles and the whole process repeats. An easier version of the game declares that the dealer must decalre a trump suit during the first bidding round if no one else does so.
When playing Euchre, remember that the non-trump suits are ranked basically normal — Aces high then King, Queen, Jack, on down to nine which is the lowest rank. On the other hand, the strongest card of the trump suit is the Jack (trump Jacks are known as the “Right Bower”). The second highest trump card is the Jack of the same color but a different suit — he’s called the “Left bower”.
When a team decides that a suit will be trump, they must win three or four tricks in order to score one point. If they’re lucky and the makers of the trump win all five tricks (this feat is called a “march”) they score two points.
If the team that called trump does not win at least 3 tricks, they are “euchred”, and the other team scores two points. It is a bit easier to score two points by “setting” the makers than it is to “march” through all tricks as the maker, making Euchre a defensive rather than offensive game.
A special version of play exists for players who think they’ve been dealt a hand strong enough to win all five tricks on their own. When this happens, the player bids “alone” and play the hand without their partner. If they successfully win all five tricks, their team scores four points. An “alone” attempt that wins a majority of tricks (but not five) scores a single point, and an alone bid that fails to take a majority of tricks (at least three) is “set” or “euchred” and the other team scores two points. The first team to score ten points wins the game.
The player to the left of the dealer always “leads” a game of Euchre by pitching a card out into the center of the table. The play then moves clockwise.
Whatever suit is “led” must be “followed” by every player who has the ability to follow, just like in Whist, Bridge, or most bidding games. A player who does not have a card of the suit that is led may play a trump card in an attempt to win the trick, or can get rid of the off suit garbage in his hand. This latter move is called “sloughing”.
The trick is collected by the winning team and left face up (for strategy purposes) or face down (for a tougher game) and the player who won the last trick leads the next.
If a player fails to follow the lead suit and it turns out later that he had a card of that suit to play, he is guilty of “reneging”, and earns his team a penalty, or in some cases two points are awarded to the opposing team.
Euchre is an easy bidding game to learn in just one sitting. Euchre is a game of strategy, though luck comes heavily into play, making it a good light hearted card game.