The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre (1862)
ON PLAYING ALONE - CHAPTER 3
"Solitary and alone, I set this ball in motion."
It occurs quite often during an evening passed in social intercourse at Euchre, that a player has dealt to him five cards of such superior value that he is quite confident of winning all the five tricks without playing with his partner, and in such case he announces that he will Play Alone. The proper time to declare this intention is when it is the turn of the player who holds the lone hand, as it is termed, either to order up the trump, or assist ; or, if the dealer, when he takes up the trump and before he discards ; or, when the player, or his partner, makes the trump. In each case the player makes known his intention by saying, distinctly and unequivocally, "I Play Alone." His partner then places the cards dealt to him, faces down on the table immediately before him, and is not permitted to make any remark in relation to the value of the cards which he had in his hand, during the play of the five tricks.
The eldest-hand leads. The eldest-hand is always entitled to the lead, except when his partner Plays Alone, and then the lead is transferred to the dealer's partner, for the partner of the player playing alone is always "hors de combat" during the play of that hand.
If the player who Plays Alone, wins all five of the tricks from his antagonists, he is entitled to score four points to his game But, if he only makes four or three of the tricks, he can count but one point. Should he fail to win three tricks, however, he is Euchred, which, when playing alone, counts his antagonists the same number of points that he would have gained if successful in winning all the tricks, namely, four points.
In playing the game on the Mississippi river, if the player who Plays Alone is Euchred, the steamer is stopped at the first landing and the unlucky player is put ashore. In the State of Arkansas he is carried out to be hung to the first adjacent tree, without benefit of clergy. But in a more refined and better established order of civilization, a hearty laugh against him is the only penalty he has to endure for the misplaced confidence on the cards - except those four points to the game of his opponents.
It is customary in some coteries to count but two points when the adverse party Euchred the player who Plays Alone, and as part and parcel of the same usage either of his antagonists holding high cards in the trump suit lay also Play Alone against him. In such a case, each player plays without his partner, and he who wins the odd trick, is entitled to score the four points. But this practice, and quite deservedly, receives but little favor, as the approved mode of play achieves the same result.
There is also another improper custom, adhered to by a few players only, which transfers to the player who announces a lone hand, the right to lead, without any regard whatever to the' position he holds to the dealer, or indeed, if it should be the dealer himself who Plays Alone. But this practice is too much at variance with the spirit of the game to be tolerated by experienced players.
If the dealer's partner assists, or makes a trump, the dealer has the privilege of Playing Alone, and if the eldest-hand orders up the trump, or makes a trump, his partner may, in like manner, Play Alone.
It occasionally happens that each one of two partners may hold a lone hand, and in that event the right of Playing Alone belongs to the partner whose turn to play is last. For example : A and C are partners opposed to B and D. A deals and gives each of his opponents a lone hand, B, who is the eldest-hand, orders up the trump card, and announces that he will Play Alone. D, his partner, has the Tight to take the privilege of Playing Alone from him. But in this case, the partner D is compelled to Play Alone, and the player B, who first announced a lone hand, cannot play, lot withstanding that he would have a great id vantage, being entitled to the lead. If this rule did not prevail, an unfair player, wishing to intimate the strength of his own hand to his partner, might say that he would Play Alone, after his partner had announced his intention to do so, and then decline to Play Alone, which would convey to his partner the information that he, also, had a strong hand at trumps, and, in that way, give him a great and an improper advantage. Until this rule was established, the compiler had often witnessed partners, both holding lone hands bickering with each other before they can agree as to which one should have the privilege of Playing Alone, which, of course, as developing their hands to each other, was entirely unfair.
Should the eldest-hand, holding very strong cards at the suit turned up for trumps, and being also strong at next in suit, pass - which, by the way, is always done in order to Euchre the adverse party in case they take up the trump - and his partner also holds a strong hand of the trump suit, and, in his turn, orders it up, the eldest-hand, having once passed the trump, cannot then Play Alone, but must take the chances with his partner to win a march. A player, having once passed the trump, or passed the making, cannot Play Alone, when his partner orders up, or makes a trump. We have known it asserted that when the eldest-hand - being strong in trumps and also at next in suit -passes, and his partner, when in turn, orders up, that the eldest-hand may then re-enter and be permitted to Play Alone. But this practice is clearly too unfair to be entertained, and we most unqualifiedly denounce it as entirely incompatible with the principles of play and the spirit of the game.
Four high trumps and an Ace of a lay suit constitute a good lone hand. Three high trumps, with an Ace and the seven even of the same suit, is often a winning lone hand, A sequence of the Left-Bower, Ace, and King of trumps, and commanding lay cards, is always a good lone hand, because, if the Bight-Bower is out against it, one point only could be made if both partners played together; and, if it is not out, the player, who Plays Alone, has a fair chance to win all the tricks. In Playing Alone, the eldest-hand, being entitled to the lead, may Play Alone with a less strong hand, than either of the other players ; and, he may sometimes, when cards are running favorably for him and unfavorably to his opponents, win all the five tricks when holding only the Right-Bower and a small trump, with commanding cards in one or more suits.
But although the Eight-Bower and a small trump-the seven even-supported with commanding cards in lay suits, frequently make a winning lone hand, yet it would not be recommended to the tyro to play so bold a game. Players of experience are at times indulged with a presentiment, as they call it, foretelling that so small a lone hand will win, but such prescience is more the result of observation than luck.
In Playing Alone, whether the trump is adopted or made, the lead is always a decided advantage. "Put that in your pipe, and smoke it."
The dealer, being the last player to the first trick, may also venture to Play Alone on a less strong hand than either of the other players, except the eldest-hand.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men," which is often "taken at the flood" by accomplished players, who will then hazard a lone hand with comparatively small cards. Suppose the dealer "at the flood," and he Plays Alone with the Eight-Bower, King and nine of trumps, with an Ace, and a Queen - or inferior card even - of different lay suits. In this case, after he has won the first two tricks with trumps, it is smart play to lead the Ace of the lay suit, especially if the adversaries' trumps are exhausted, for the opponents supposing he would naturally hold another card of the same suit as the Ace led for the third trick, would retain a card of that suit, if a medium one only, and throw, away a King, or an Ace even, of a different suit, when the last trump was led for the fourth trick, and the Queen, or lower card, by such play, frequently wins.
When the dealer, having only three trumps is discarding to Play Alone, it is much safer to put out even so high a card as the King of a lay suit, being the only card he has of the suit, and retain an inferior card, should it be so low as the seven, of a suit of which he holds the Ace; for, after winning three tricks in trumps, the chances that the Ace of the lay suit, when led, will exhaust the cards in that suit and enable the seven to win the last trick, are decidedly more in his favor than that the King would win on the first lead of the suit, if he had retained it. For the same reason, three commanding trumps with an Ace and seven of a lay suit, is considered a better lone hand than four trumps with a King of a lay suit But, although a player may frequently hazard to Play Alone on a moderately strong hand, when a gentle course of luck comes wooingly to him, yet he must remember that like another too well known course, it "never did run smooth." Instance a sad example : The dealer, having completed the distribution of the cards, turns up the Ace of spades for the trump. The eldest-hand, examining his cards, finds he holds the Right-Bower and seven of spades, and the seven, eight, and nine of clubs, and passes - as he should with that hand at any stage of the game. The other two players also pass, and the dealer having in hand the Left-Bower and King of spades, with the Ace and ten of hearts, and the Ace of diamonds -a captivating hand -announces that he will Play Alone, and discards the ten of hearts -his own heart brimful of hope. The eldest-hand leads either of the small clubs which his partner, holding but one, follows, and the dealer wins with the Ace of trumps, He then leads the Left-Bower, which the eldest-hand wins with the Eight-Bower, and leads another club, which forces the dealer to play the King of trumps. The seven of trumps will then win either Ace that is led, and the third club winning the remaining Ace, the very strong lone hand is absolutely Euchred.
In Playing Alone and winning, the card of lowest value should always be the last card led, because when the adversaries are throwing away on the preceding leads the chances of losing that inferior card are diminished.
When playing against a lone hand
a partner throws away high cards of one suit, it is to be presumed that he holds commanding cards in some other suit, and his partner should therefore retain his highest card in the suit his partner throws away, when he has one, in preference to any, not a commanding card, of a different suit.
When a suit is trumped by the player who Plays Alone, of course his opponents will throw away all the cards they hold of that suit to the lone player's winning cards, when their trumps are exhausted.
Should a player lose the first or the second trick, Playing Alone, he must then play cautiously, and only endeavor to win the majority of the tricks ; for, having lost the chance of winning the five tricks, he must play to prevent being Euchred. More especially must he play with caution, if, after losing the first or second trick, he holds the tenace, for then, after he has taken one trick, he is certain, if he plays right, of making the point.
There is a peculiar practice of play, that takes place at a certain state of the score, to which we solicit especial attention. This state of the game is termed a Bridge. It is introduced at the close of this Chapter, for want of a more suitable spot to locate it, and We beg the gentle reader to give it a sort of retrospective effect by placing it supra - a little higher up the creek - and let it span the space intervening between Chapters II and III.
The Bridge, in Euchre, occurs when one party are scoring four pointy and their opponents, having the deal, are scoring one or two points only. It is then always the duty of the eldest-hand to order up the trump, to prevent the dealer, or his partner, from Playing Alone -unless, the eldest-hand is sure of winning one trick, lie is sure of a trick, of course, if he holds the Eight-Bower, -or the Left-Bower with another trump, the Left-Bower guarded, as ii is termed. At this state of the game he orders up the trump -when not certain of one trick -preferring to be Euchred, and lose two points only, to giving the dealer, or his partner, the chance of making with a lone hand, and winning the game. This practice must be rigidly observed by the eldest-hand, for the advantages of the deal are so great, that the deal is deemed equivalent to a point; so, when the eldest-hand is Euchred where he has ordered up at the Bridge, his chances for winning the game are still decidedly in his favor. The poorer his hand, the stronger the reason for ordering up. Four to one, or two, is always a Bridge - four to nothing is not.
But, if the eldest hand is sure of winning one trick he may pass, if he chooses, and this is a fair signal to his partner - like the Blue Peter, at Whist - who, if strong in trumps, will know that the eldest-hand has also one or two, if not more, commanding trumps, and he will then order up for the purpose of winning the point, and game.
Three to one, and two to nothing, are sometimes considered a Bridge, especially if the dealer turns up a Bower, or other high card ; but the tyro would not be advised to take such liberties. Older players, who have acquired a tact in doing such things -by long observation and play, and attention to the run of the cards -may frequently succeed in such experiments.
If either one of the dealer's opponents calls the attention of his partner to the state of the game, at a Bridge - or gives any intimation of the fact - the dealer! or his partner, may then Play Alone, or permit the opponents to order up, at their option. Attention to the Bridge is the office of the eldest-hand alone - and as it is a free institution he cannot be tolled.