Euchre is a trick-taking card game most commonly played with four people in two partnerships with a deck of 24 standard playing cards. It is closely related to the French game Écarté and it may be sometimes referred as "Knock Euchre" to distinguish it from Bid Euchre. It has been suggested that the game and its name derive from an Alsatian card game named "Jucker".
The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have large followings of the game. Euchre has declined in popularity in the United States since the 19th century, when it was widely regarded as the national card game, but it retains a strong following in some regions, specifically the Midwestern states.
Euchre is played differently from region to region and even within regions. This article describes typical Euchre rules, noting some of the variations that may be encountered.
Conventional Euchre uses a deck of 24 standard playing cards consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9 of each of the four suits. A standard 52-card deck can be used, omitting the cards from 2 to 8, or a Pinochle deck may be divided in half to form two Euchre decks. In some countries, the common 32-card piquet or Skat deck is used, which includes the 7s and 8s.
To determine the first deal, many players use a first Jack deals or first black Jack deals rule. Using the Euchre deck, one player will distribute the cards, one at a time, face up in front of each player. The player dealt the first (black) jack becomes the dealer for the first hand. In subsequent hands, the deal is rotated clockwise. Out of courtesy, the dealer should offer a cut to the player on his right after shuffling and immediately before dealing.
Each player is dealt five cards (or seven if using the 32-card deck) in clockwise order, usually in groups of two or three cards each. The dealer may alternate, first giving two cards to the player to his left, three cards to his partner, two cards to the player on his right and three cards to himself. The dealer then repeats, this time giving three cards to the player on his left, two cards to his partner and so on, to give each player the requisite five cards. Some dealers prefer to deal in groups of one and four, however dealing in groups of five and zero or one by one is not allowed. In other circles it is required that the dealer deal in batches of 3-2 or 2-3 and keep to the plan he or she selected.
The remaining four cards are referred to as the kitty, the kit, the widow, the blind, the dead hand, the grave, or buried and are placed face down in front of the dealer toward the center on the table. The top card of the blind, sometimes referred to as the deck head, or the "up card" is then turned face up, and bidding begins. The dealer asks each of the other players in turn if they would like the suit of the top card to be trump, which they indicate saying "pick it up" and the top card becomes part of the dealer's hand, who then discards to return his hand to five cards. If no one "orders up" the top card, each player is given the opportunity in turn to call a different suit as trump. If no trump is selected, it is a misdeal, and the deal is passed counter-clockwise. A variant of this rule involves forcing the dealer to choose a trump (see the Bidding section in Euchre variations).
When a suit is named trump, any card of that suit outranks any card of a non-trump suit. The highest ranking card in Euchre is the jack of the trump suit and is referred to as the right bower, or simply the right. Next highest is the jack of the same color, the left bower. The right and left may also be known as the "jack" and the "jick", the "right bar" and "left bar," or "jack" and "off jack" respectively. Remaining cards of the trump suit rank from high to low as A, K, Q, 10, and 9.
In non-trump suits (except for the next suit), the jacks are not special, and the cards of those suits rank from high to low as A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9.
For the purpose of play, the jack of clubs becomes a spade during the playing of this hand. This expands the trump suit to the seven cards named above and reduces the suit of the same color (sometimes referred to as the next suit) by one card (the jack is "loaned" to the trump suit). The same principles are observed for whatever suit is named trump. Remembering this temporary transfer of the next suit's jack is one of the principal difficulties newcomers have with the game of Euchre (See Cheating: Renege, below).
Once the above hand is finished, the jack of clubs ceases to be a spade and becomes a club again unless spades are again named as trump during the playing of the subsequent hand.
The primary rule to remember when playing Euchre is that one is never required to trump, but one is required to follow suit if possible to do so: if diamonds are led, a player with diamonds is required to play a diamond. This differs from games such as Pinochle.
If a player does not want the upturned card's suit to become trump, he or she says "pass" or signifies the desire to pass by knocking on the table. The next player to the left may then order up the card or may likewise pass.
If the upturned card comes around the table to the dealer without being ordered up by any of the players, the dealer may make a bid by picking up the top card and then discarding as described above. Generally, a player may not call a trump suit if that player does not have a natural card of that suit, although some regions will allow this. For example, if the top card in the kitty is a Jack of Spades, a player cannot call Spades if the only Spade they are holding is the Jack of Clubs, the left bower.
The dealer may also decline the upturned card's suit by turning it face down on the kitty. Once this suit has been passed by all four players, it may no longer be chosen as trump.
If the upturned card's suit is not chosen by any of the four players, the players are offered the opportunity to name any of the other three suits as trump, beginning with the player to the dealer's left, and proceeding clockwise. In this case, play begins as soon as a suit is named; no cards enter or leave the dealer's hand. A player may pass as previously described, and if the calling comes around the table to the dealer without the naming of a suit, the dealer may name a suit. If he or she also declines to name a suit, the cards are collected, no points are scored, and the deal is passed to the left. A variation to this rule exists, see below.
The team that selects trump is sometimes known as the "makers" for the remainder of the hand. The opposing team is known as the "defenders" for the remainder of the hand.
One or both Jokers commonly available in a deck may be used to substitute the two Bowers. The advantage is that the Bowers become very distinctive; the downside is that the player or players holding the Bowers are forced to reveal this fact. The Joker card was originally designed for this role, and its name comes from a mispronunciation of the German "Juker" (the German "J" sounds like the English "y", so the German and English names nominally sound alike). An alternate way to use the Jokers as Bowers is to include them in the deal, and deal a six-card kitty. One Joker is thus always the left Bower, the other the right, and all jacks keep their ordinary rank. In this way, the trump suit gains two cards, and the suit of the same color is untouched.
Play continues in clockwise order; each player must follow suit if they have a card of the suit led. The left bower is considered a member of the trump suit and not a member of its native suit.
The player who played the highest trump wins the trick. If no trump were played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player that won the trick collects the played cards from the table and then leads the next trick.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. The player to the left of the previous dealer then deals the next hand, and the deal moves clockwise around the table until one partnership scores 10 points and wins the game.
"Going alone" or "Going Solo" is initiated at the time the bidder orders the upturned card on the kitty to the dealer (on the first round of bidding) or names a suit (during the second round of bidding). The bidder signifies his/her desire to play alone by stating "alone" or (for example) "clubs alone" or "clubs solo" after bidding. If the dealer selects the top card, she may also declare a loner hand by sliding her discard to her partner. The bidder must make this call before play begins.
During a loner, the bidder's partner discards his or her cards, and does not participate in play of the hand.
Depending on regional rules, the lead on the first trick will either remain with the player to the left of the dealer, or switch to the player to the left of the bidder.
The odds of success of a loner bid depend on the lay of the cards and the inactive cards held by the bidder's partner. Nine cards out of twenty-four do not participate in play, making the hand less predictable than otherwise. A hand consisting of the top five cards of the trump suit is mathematically unbeatable from any position; this is sometimes referred to as a lay-down, as a player with such a hand may often simply lay all five cards on the table at once.
The rules of an individual game may state that a player who "sweeps," or wins all 5 tricks while going alone/solo gets 4 points, 2 for sweeping and 2 for going alone.
One of the opponents of the lone bidder may say "I defend alone", and his partner must stay out. The lone defender will play alone. Scoring is similar in such a case to a loner hand. Any "set" or "euchre" by a single defender going alone is worth 4 points to the defending partnership, or 3 in some regions.
|Bidding partnership (makers) wins 3 or 4 tricks||1 point|
|Bidding partnership (makers) wins 5 tricks also called a "yuk"||2 points|
|Bidder goes alone and wins 5 tricks||4 points|
|Bidder goes alone and wins 4 tricks||2 points **|
|Bidder goes alone and wins 3 tricks||1 point|
|Defenders win 3 or more tricks||2 points|
|Lone defender (vs. lone bidder) wins 3 or more tricks||4 points **|
|** regional variation|
The first team to score 10 (sometimes 5, 7, or 11) points wins the game (sometimes called a round). While score can be kept by using a tally sheet, most Euchre players traditionally use the unused 6 and 4 cards, or unused pairs of 5 cards for one member of each partnership to keep score. In western New York and parts of Ohio, it is traditional to use 2 and 3 cards, crossing them to show scores higher than 5. In all cases, one card is used to cover the other so as to expose the number of pips corresponding to the team's score. A lone defender winning 3, 4, or 5 tricks (known as a march) gets 4 points.
Euchre is a game with a large number of variant versions and alternate rules. They include versions for two to six players, as well as changes in cards used, bidding, play, and scoring.
Many of these variations are specific to a particular region. In the US, one popular variation is "Stick the Dealer" (also called "Screw the Dealer"), where the dealer is forced to call trump if no suit is chosen after the second round of bidding. Another popular variation is "Farmer's Hand", or "Ace No Face", where a player with a bad hand can force a re-deal. In Australia and New Zealand, playing to 11 rather than 10 points is common. In southwestern England and Guernsey, variations with a joker as highest trump are played.
For more detail and many more variations, see Euchre variations.
*These rules are not absolute. In the first: Consider a scenario in which diamonds are trump. The player to the left of the dealer (first to bid) has the left bower, the right bower, the ace of diamonds, and the nine and ten of hearts. While she or he is guaranteed a point by bidding, passing is a much better strategy here. Chances are that no one would order up diamonds (and even if they did, the first bidder's team would win two points for setting). But when the second round of bidding begins, the first bidder can select hearts as trump and go alone, having a much better shot at four points than with diamonds. Also, leading trump to your partner can prove catastrophic, especially if your partner made a weak call. Leading an ace of non-trump color can be a safer bet.
If crossboarding is called, depending on local rules, points may be given to the team calling out the infraction, or the hand may be simply disqualified and re-dealt by the next player in order. The player accused of cheating may or may not be given a chance to refute the charge. Some variations allow (or at least accept the inevitability of) the following form of non-verbal communication: A player may gratuitously hesitate before passing to signal to his partner that his cards are helpful to the offered trump, but are not sufficient to guarantee a win. This adds an additional element of strategy in that players may bluff hesitation to discourage the opponent from calling the offered trump.
Other forms of cheating include: