Euchre strategy is a complex subject because the game itself is complex and provides a number of different challenges through just five tricks. Also, because Euchre is such a complex game, there is no one sure Euchre strategy that will always guarantee victory. Instead, you should understand your own personality and build your Euchre strategy from there. Ask yourself are you aggressive or passive? Do you go with your gut or are you are a thinker, calculating every hand? More than likely, you are somewhere in between, but it’s important that you know yourself.
With that being said, the game of Euchre breaks nicely down into phases: bidding with a card from the kitty up, bidding with the kitty card down, the first trick, and the rest of the game. Each of these phases has their own Euchre strategy challenges and how you face them will depend on your own style. However, here is some advice for challenging each phase.
Bidding From the Kitty
The bidding from the kitty phase of Euchre strategy refers to the first round of bidding when an undealt card is turned face up. (The kitty is a term for all those undealt cards, especially the ones that don’t get turned face up.) During this phase, any player can order up that revealed card and make it the trump.
On the face of things, the strategy here should be obvious. If you want that suit to be trump, order it up. If not, pass. However, there are times when it’s not so cut and dry. Sometimes that suit might help you, sometimes it might not but the minute you order it up, you are the maker. How you handle this is largely up to you, but you have a decision to weigh. Normally, the team that is the maker is in the driver’s seat, and that’s a good place to be, but the penalties for being set are steep.
Ultimately, though, you want to leave the bidding phase in control if at all possible. The best way to be in control is by determining a trump that is beneficial to you. That means selecting a suit that plays to your strengths, so if you have a good feeling, order up the card and establish the trump suit. This is especially true if you or your partner are the dealer, because you are automatically given one trump.
Bidding With the Kitty Card Down
If you just couldn’t order up the card, or if doing so would have given the other team a particularly high trump, and everyone else passes, there is a second round of bidding. During this round, bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer and goes around the table with someone choosing a trump suit.
Again, the goal is to come out of this phase in control of the game. The good news is that in this phase, you have much greater flexibility over which suit could potentially be trump. In fact, any of the three suits not revealed during the first phase are eligible.
In some cases, when it is your turn to bid, you may have an easy or a difficult choice to make. Sometimes when you get the chance to select a trump, you have a strong enough hand in one suit that there really is no decision. Other times, your hand is so weak you have to pass, but a lot of times your hand falls somewhere in the middle. Sometimes you could choose a suit or pass.
Again, you have to know yourself, but in many cases its best to pick a suit and live with your choice. If you pick the suit, then you can play to the strengths of your hand, but more importantly, you are preventing your opponents from playing to the strength of their hand. That is often worth making a risky bid.
The First Card of the First Trick
The first card of the first trick may not be the most important of the entire game, but a lot rides on what card gets played. Euchre is far too short of a game for you not to come out trying to take every trick possible, which means that you should lead with your strength.
However, what is your strength? Is it your highest trump card? Is it a trump card at all? Maybe an ace or king of a non-trump suit? A lot of it depends on what else is in your hand. If you have five trump in your hand, go ahead and lead with a powerful trump card in an attempt to draw them out. If not, keep in mind that if you lead with a trump, your partner has to play a trump, which means you’ve used up two of your team’s trumps in one trick. That’s not great.
More then not, when you are leading that first card, go with something high like the ace or king and trust your partner to support you in a way to will eventually win the trick. Then, be ready to do the same when your partner leads off next time.
After that first trick, you have the rest of the game to worry about. This is where your own personality can start to dominate. However, there are a few things to keep in mind, even if you are the type of player who likes to sit back and let the game come to him, Euchre is a fast and furious set of five tricks. If you wait too long to make your move, you may never get your chance.
With that said, your Euchre strategy should focus on getting to three tricks as quickly as possible. Getting five is nice, but you earn your points as long as you get to three so work on that as a goal. Also, the rules for leading with trump become much muddier after the first trick is taken. As the game progresses, you will start to know who has trump and who does not. The more convinced you are that you have more trump in your hand, the safer you can feel about leading with a trump and the more confident you can feel about winning the trick.