Learn how to Play Euchre - Lesson 5
The proper card to lead
"One must know when to lead, follow or get out of the way "
One of the first questions many new players ask is, 'Having the first play, what card should I lead?' The answer depends largely on what team bid. If you are the non-bidding team and you have a singleton Ace (an Ace with no other cards in that suit), that Ace is usually the best lead. An Ace with one other card in that suit should be your second choice. But avoid leading the Ace of next, as the next suit only has five cards, while the trump suit has seven cards and the green suits have six. Thus, if you hold the Ace of next, leading this Ace will often be an invitation for your opponents to trump in. Save it until a round of trump is gone, when it has a much better chance of surviving.
This the same for any turned down suit, as there is one less card here also. Plus, the most likely reason it was turned down is because the dealer didn't have any other cards in that suit. Suits in which you have three cards (including the Ace) also fall into this category. You may be able to make these Aces good later, once a round of trump has been played. In a hand with no power, but holding a King - x, one strategy that may work is leading the low card from the King - x combination. Your hope is that the Ace will fall, making your King good later in the hand. If you hold a King-Queen combination, then lead the King first instead, not the Queen. This way if your partner holds Ace - x, they have the option of either taking the trick or letting you have it. They won't use their Ace unnecessarily.
If you don't have any of the above, then the best lead seems to be the smallest non-trump that you have the least of. This is based on my experience and is worth a try. No matter what you end up leading, try to keep in mind you want to lead a suit that your opponents won't able to trump in. Never lead a King from an Ace - King set. This just confuses your partner, who may trump your trick unnecessarily.
Leading trump on Defense
When the opposition has bid and you hold only the right, do not make that your first lead. If some someone bids without holding the right, they most likely have three or more trump. Leading the right first will only help their hand, and may pull the left or any trump your partner may have. A better play is to lead a small off suit. Let them lead back into your hand. Your right will stop the opponents from scoring two points no matter when it is played. Most times it is not a good idea to lead any trump when your opponents call. (There are a couple of situations where a trump lead is appropriate, but for those that are just starting out, it is best not to elaborate at present. We will discuss this more in the advanced section).
Once trump has been named
Once trump has been named, the remaining suits fall into two categories: next and green. The next suit is the same color as the trump suit, and has one less card. This gives a lead of next a 15% higher chance of being trumped. The suits of the opposite color are called the green suits. As we talk more about what to lead and what to bid, these will come into play often, so keep these two categories in mind.
Once you get to lead
If your partner called trump, and you hold the right or left, you should lead it at your first opportunity. This will let your partner know where it is, and helps them decide how to play the rest of their hand. If you hold both bowers, only play the right. Do not play both, as this may clear out all the trump, possibly leaving the boss Aces in the oppositions' hands.
If you do not hold a bower, lead a small trump. If you hold a couple of trump, it's usually best to lead your second highest trump. Remember, there are a total of 7 trump cards. A trump lead could remove 4 of them from play. That increases the chance of your teams' Aces going through. Because your partner bid, it is very likely that they hold at least one bower. A low trump lead should bring the lead to your partner. This takes out a round of trump, and also gives him a chance to play his Aces. You will get a chance to play your Aces later in the hand when they have a much better chance of not being trumped.
I've been euchred many times because of a partner that didn't lead trump on the opening lead. On a call from 3rd seat, a trump lead is mandatory. Not leading trump will very likely get your team euchred. If you don't have any trump, then lead your aces as described in the first paragraph. Leading an ace tells your partner you don't have any trump. Now he knows the other trump could be in the oppositions' hands, and plays his hand accordingly.
Guidelines on what to lead
You're in 1st seat and hold the following cards: the right bower, along with one or more off suit Aces. Your best lead is normally the boss bower. If, after playing the right, you see that your partner doesn't have any trump, a second trump lead may clear out any remaining trump the opposition may have. By removing trump from their hands, you will increase the chance of an Ace being good. Pay close attention to what card you partner throws off; they may be telling you how to lead back to them.
After playing the right, and if partner followed, then lead any Aces you may have. Do not lead trump a second time as this will most likely drain your partner's trump unnecessary. Again, pay attention to what your partner plays anytime they cannot follow suit.
Within the above rule, Aces of the opposite color as trump (green) should be played first. Remember, the next suit has one less card, and has a 15% higher chance of being trumped. The suit was turned down has the same chance of being trumped as next (it, too, has one less card).
When bidding next and you hold Right - x, and an off suit Ace, leading the small trump first is the best play. Odds are strong that your partner has the other bower. This will give them a chance to make their bower good. Keep in mind that this may be the only trump they have. This will give them the lead and also allow them to play any Aces that they may hold.
Say you pick up and only have one trump plus the right in your hand. You trump in to take the first trick. Unless you have a bunch of Aces, don't lead your Right. Instead, play a small off suit. You're already sure of your two tricks. Give your partner a chance to get a trick. I've seen players that will take the first trick with a small trump then strip their partner of the only trump they hold. Now they have no way to get back into the hand, and have removed their partner's ability to take a trick.
Declaring next and holding two trump, but no power, about the only way to make a point is leading a small off suit and hoping your partner can take it. Use you two trump to cut other suits. If you hold two trump and have a green Ace, lead a small trump. The idea behind a next call is that your partner has a bower. Give them a chance to play it (keep in mind that a next call works best against aggressive players).
As your skill level advances, you may want to try out different strategies. Plan out your hand; try and make it work for you. Only experience can teach you the best lead in a given hand. Remember there are four things to take into consideration to determine your lead: What is trump? Who made trump? What is your position at the table? What cards do you hold in your hand? Position and who made trump are the most important.
When playing with the same group or against the same teams, it may be a good idea, once in a while, to change the way you lead. You don't want the opponents to be able to predict what your next lead will most likely be.
Forth Trick leads
As the bidding team, under most circumstances it is not advisable to lead trump on the forth trick. Let's say that you have called trump. Trump has been lead once and your partner also played a trump. Now let's say you play two off suit Aces and you take the next two tricks. This leaves you holding one trump and a small loser. This loser is in a suit that has not been already led. A trump lead here will likely pull your partners last trump. Now when you play your loser, your partner one only has a one in three chance of holding the high card in that suit. What you are trying to do is get two points instead of one. A much better play is leading the loser, therefore giving your partner a chance to take it, either with the boss card or by trumping it.
An exception to the 4th trick rule
Your partner bids and has lost the first two tricks. If you take the third trick then, as the forth lead, play a small trump to get back to your partner. They most likely hold the right. If the opponents hold the right, you're euchred no matter what you do