Euchre, pronounced yoo-ker, is an game in the trick-taking family that was most popular in the United States and Australia in the 1800s. Although Euchre’s popularity in the United States has waned over time, it is still played in the Midwest, particularly Michigan.
Euchre derives both its name and game play from a game called Juckerspiel, which was popular in Europe during the reign of Napoleon. Together with Bridge, Euchre was one of the forerunners of Five Hundred, and thus shares many similarities with that game.
While versions of Euchre for as few as two and as many as seven players exist, the canonical version is for four players in partnerships. Thus, that is what we have included here.
Object of Euchre
For the side which names the trump suit, the object of Euchre is to score three out of the five tricks played in one hand. For the other side, the object is to prevent this from happening, thus euchring those who chose the trump suit.
The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another. The turn of play will alternate between partnerships when going clockwise.
Euchre requires the use of a special 32-card deck. Starting from a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with only the 7s through aces in each of the four suits.
You will also need some way of keeping score. While pencil and paper works, some clever Euchre player at some point came up with a way to do so using some of the cards that were discarded. Each partnership retains a 3 and a 4 for scorekeeping purposes. To display a score of zero, both cards are face down. For a score of one, the 3 is turned up, with the 4 turned face-down upon it in such a way that only one of the 3’s pips are visible. To denote a score of two, the 4 is turned up with the 3 turned down and obscuring all but two of the 4’s pips. For a score of three or four, the 3 and the 4 respectively are turned face up with the other card tucked behind it.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table. Turn the top card is turned face-up and placed it top of the stub. The suit of this card, the upcard, will be the first proposed trump suit.
In the trump suit, Euchre ranks cards differently than most games. Since the ranking of cards depends on which suit is trump, some cards will have different rankings from hand to hand.
The rank of cards in the trump suit is as follows:
- Right bower. Jack of trumps.
- Left bower. The jack of the suit as the same color as trumps, despite not being of the trump suit, is considered a trump, and is ranked here. (For example, if clubs were trump, the J♣ would be the right bower, and the J♠ would be the left bower.)
- All of the remaining cards, in their usual order, with ace high. (A, K, Q, 10, 9, 8, 7.)
Cards rank in the usual order, ace high, in the non-trump suits (save for the jack serving as the left bower).
Starting from the player to the left of the dealer, the players either pass or agree to accept the suit of the upcard as the trump suit for the hand. The dealer’s partner signifies their agreement to the turned-up suit by declaring “I assist”. The players on the opposing partnership do so by declaring “I order it up.” Should the prior three players pass, the dealer, as the last player in the sequence, must either “take it up” (assent to the turned-up suit as trump) by discarding a card (see below) or “turn it down” (reject the turned-up trump) by placing the turned-up card partially under the deck stub, face up.
Should the dealer turn the turned-up trump down, a second round of trump-naming begins, with the dealer’s opponent to the left beginning again. This time, each player may either pass or name one of the other three suits as trump. (They cannot select the already-rejected suit.) Should all four players be so apathetic toward their hands that they pass, the hand is voided. The player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals a new hand.
If the upcard’s suit has been established as trumps, the dealer may discard a card, placing it face down on the bottom of the deck stub. In return, the turned-up card is considered part of the dealer’s hand, and may be played at any time just like any other card in their hand. The dealer may decline to do so, although since the turned-up card is by necessity one of only nine trump cards, it would be rare that adding the turned-up card to the dealer’s hand would not improve it.
Prior to beginning play, the player who decided the trump suit may declare “alone.” This means the player opts to play alone, without their partner, for this hand only. Doing so allows the player playing alone to score more points if they score all five tricks, which is called a march. Upon a player declaring “alone”, the player’s partner places their cards face-down on the table and takes no further part in the hand.
Play of the hand
The player to the left of the dealer leads first; if this player is sitting out, the dealer’s partner leads. Each player to the left then plays a card. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. Otherwise, they are free to play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand. Rather, they’re kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored as follows:
- Partnership making trump wins 3 or 4 tricks (called winning the odd trick)—1 point.
- Partnership making trump makes a march—2 points.
- Lone hand wins the odd trick—1 point.
- Lone hand makes a march—4 points.
- Partnership or lone hand making trump is euchred—opponents score 2 points.
After the hand is scored, the player to the left of the dealer shuffles and deals the next hand. Game play continues until one partnership reaches 5 points.