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When To Play Alone, page 1

What is the minimum hand needed?

Last update on: Feb 04, 2019

But first, a little story

I was playing against a new team recently and was euchred on a lone call. One of the other team members stated that they had never been euchred on a loner, and that I should not have called alone as I did not have the cards needed to guarantee all five tricks. I had to smile as I thought back to a game where I had been set on a lone call with three trumps and off-suit ace-king combination. Sure, my call in this current instance was thin (left, king, nine of trump + king-nine off-suit), but I was reasonably sure of a point. Moreover, it's worth taking a risk, as a successful lone is 40 percent of the game (4 of the 10 necessary points).

They went on to say that, the only time you should play alone is if you have three guaranteed tricks in your hand with a serious chance of taking all five. However, these hands are far and few between: the odds of getting a near perfect hand (five trumps with both bars) are about 1 in 1,700. In addition, even if you get this great hand dealt to you, you still have to be able to play it (another player may declare trump before you get a chance). After all, it's not a lone hand if you don't call it as such.

How many times have you heard a player say, after taking all five tricks, "It didn't look like a lone." In truth, most players don't call lones when they should, costing their team valuable points. It may even cost them the game.

Which hands qualify as possible lones?

You first need to ask yourself these questions: What is my table position? What is the score? Do I need my partner's help to make a point?

The first thing to consider is your position at the table. Let's look at each of them:

Third Seat (right of the dealer):

This is the hardest place to make a lone call. You should have a very strong hand to even try. Very few lones are made from the third seat.

Second Seat (dealer is your partner):

In second seat, with the first seat passing, it's a fair guess that first seat is not very strong in the turned up suit. If you hold strong cards (say three trump and a strong off-suit) then try it alone. On a lone call there are nine cards that are out of play: the five your partner holds plus the four in the kitty. With this many cards unused, the chance of success is increased.

First Seat (left of the dealer):

This is the best position to call a lone. As you have the first lead, you have the opportunity to pull trump from your opponents' hands and that significantly reduces the chance of your off-suits being trumped. Keep in mind that in first-round bidding you're putting a trump into the dealer's hand.

The dealer

The next best position for a lone call is the dealer's seat. While you will not be able to lead trump, as the dealer, you will pick up an extra trump. You are also able to discard and create a void in your hand. Because there are no other players after you, you avoid the risk of being over-trumped. Do consider that you will likely have to use a trump to take the first trick.

What is the Score

In some situations taking along your partner will decrease your chances of being euchred. In a few cases, it may even increase your chance of getting two points. Still, it's often worth trying a lone as the rewards far outweigh the risks.

With a large lead, there is less incentive to go alone. However, on the other hand, when you are down by a large number of points, it is often worth the risk to try a lone call. The additional points could be crucial to salvaging the game.

Even if your team has 8 points, consider playing it alone. There are some circumstances where taking your partner along will hurt you. Consider whether you truly need your partner's help. Say you hold both bars and the ace of trump, along with a king-queen combination. Your partner cannot help, even if they did hold the ace.

Keep in mind that there are seven possible trump in any hand. When you play alone, nine cards are out of play, so likely one or more trump are buried. In addition, when the dealer turns down an ace, the king becomes highest in that suit (you should always try to remember what the turn card was, whether it was picked up or not).

The final thing to consider is the 'luck factor'. Are the cards running hot on your side? Although no one talks much about it, there are those days when you just can't seem to do anything wrong. On these days I will try almost anything for a lone. I've made lones with just the bare right and a couple of off aces.

At times, playing a lot of lones will drive the opponents crazy, and set them on tilt (in poker parlance). They start bidding wild, making it easier to euchre them.

Hands to consider when trying a lone

Some hands, such as both bars plus two additional trump and off-suit ace, are promptly recognized as lones. But there are many other hands that should be considered potential lones. Below is a general list of playable lone hands. Try some of them, you may be pleasantly surprised.
*  Holding any five trump.
*  Holding any four trump (with an ace off suit works best).
*  Holding any three trump (one being a bower) and being two-suited.
*  Holding any three trump and two off-suit aces.
*  Holding any three trump with a ace, king combination off suit.
*  Holding both bowers, + matching trump card, and being two suited with any combination of cards.
*  Holding both bowers, two suited, along with ace, king, X off suit (works best from first seat).
*  Holding ace, king, queen two suited with ace, king combination off suit.
*  When Your partner turned up the right and you hold left and two other trump with strong off suit cards.

Sure, on some of the above hands you will only get one point (or you may even get euchred). And yes, there will be times when your partner would have covered your losing tricks. But the risk is worth the gain. After all, euchre is a game of chance.

Reprint of a comment from a reader

This was posted by Julie L. (I think this sums up the whole article. Thanks Julie for you comment )

"The main reason to call a lone should be that be your partner is unlikely to be able to assist you. The decision to go alone should never be based on the strength of your hand, but should be based on whether or not your partner can help. If he can not help, there is no point in taking him along. This is the criterion to be used to decide. Can your partner help get 5 tricks? Can he stop you from being euchred? If he cannot do anything worthwhile to affect the score, then why take him along? Play the hand alone."

Suggested Further Reading:

When To Play Alone, page 1
What is the minimum hand needed?

When To Play Alone, Page 2
Do you try all possible lone calls?

When To Play Alone, Page 3
Ace High Lones: Are you will to try one?

When To Play Alone, Page 4
Minimize the risk of being euchred

When To Play Alone, Page 5
Should you go alone on 8 points?

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