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When first learning the game, many new players wonder what hands they should bid on. A search of the web will likely yield different point systems for naming trump: various cards are assigned point values, and summing these will yield the point value of the hand, which if high enough means the hand is biddable. However, these don't work very well as they tend to lock you into only playing hands that add up to a set amount. Unfortunately, many hands with insufficient points are skipped over, even though they could result in a point made. Because the ability to recognize a biddable hand is what separates good players from average we will take a look at the different table positions and provide a set guidelines that will work from each.
First, let's start with some the basics. There are two rounds of naming trump. The first round is after the cards are dealt and one is turned up. Each player, starting with the person to the left of the dealer, has the opportunity to name the turned up suit as trump. If all four players pass then a second round is started. The up-card then turned face down. Each player, in turn, may name any of the other three suits as trump. Once a trump suit has been named, the game may begin.
When naming trump ( AKA calling/bidding ) there are many factors to consider. They include the following: Am I the dealer? What is my position at the table? Is this first or second round bidding, and what is the score? Also don't forget that, with an average distribution of cards, you should be able to count on your partner for one trick.
During the first round, you have to consider the possibility that you may not get to the second round. This would give you slightly larger incentive to call first round where possible. Please note that passing in hopes of euchring the opponents (sandbagging) is, over the long run, a losing proposition. The rare exception may be when playing 'stick the dealer' and you hold all four jacks. In this hand there is a high probability of a euchre thus giving you a reason to "pass dirty".
Normally the dealer that names trump does have an advantage. They are able to name the suit that matches their power cards. They are also able to discard, possibly creating avoid. Please remember that taking chances are a large part of euchre and the only way to learn what will or will not work. So, don't worry too much about being euchred; in most cases the downside is minimal anyway. Why? The chances are good that if you had passed, the opposition would have bid and made a point. They may even have played alone and made four points. Therefore, if you dare euchred, you're most likely only giving up one point and could actually be saving two. As they say in the lottery business, "You have to play to win" (although in euchre, play your cards correctly and you really do have a chance to win.)
To order from this position you will need a very strong hand, as you are putting a trump into the dealer's hand. This also gives them the opportunity to create a void. When ordering the dealer to pick-up with only two trump in your hand, there is a 47% chance one of your opponents already has two. If that happens to be the dealer, they now have three. On weak hands it may be best to wait and think about a next call, in the second round.
With that said, a bid from this position does allow you to control what's trump. Here a first lead of trump will likely take four out of play. This significantly increases the chances of your off-suit aces being good. From here, it should be relatively easy to determine how many trump are left and where they are. One thing to watch for is to see if the dealer plays the pickup. This may be an indication that it is the only trump in his hand (although experienced players may play the pickup and hold another trump in an attempt to mislead you).
A general guideline) Bid if you hold three trump with on being a bower.
A general guideline) Bid, if you hold any three trump, with an off suit ace.
A general guideline) Bid, if you hold any two trump, with two or more off suit aces.
In this position, you need to consider how aggressive a bidder your partner (the dealer) is. Do not order the right into your partner's hand unless you hold at least three of that suit. Many lone opportunities (by the dealer) are lost due to ordering the right to your partner with only two small trumps. Nevertheless, depending on what cards you hold you may want to try a lone call yourself.
When you are playing with a partner that you know will call next if at all possible and they pass, if you hold a couple of high cards in green (opposite color of the turndown), it may be worth trying a green bid. After all, your partner didn't order, didn't call next so maybe they have a match to your green suit. It's a risky call but something to keep in mind (Check the score).
A general guideline) Bid if you hold two or more of the turned-up suit along one or more off suit aces.
A general guideline) Bid if you hold three or more of the turned-up suit.
A general guideline) Bid if you hold a bower plus X and an off-suit ace.
This is the hardest place to make a successful call. Many third seat bids result in a euchre. Knowing this it is best to only name trump with a very strong hand. Calling with only the two bowers and no supporting aces will nominally not work, wait for a next call by your partner instead (see sample hand here).
A general guideline) Only call with a very strong hand.
This is the strongest position to be in when bidding. If everyone passes, you are reasonably safe in assuming no one else has strong cards in the suit that is turned up. You also have the opportunity to improve your hand by discarding an unwanted card. As the dealer, you have about a 70% chance of making your point.
A general guideline) Bid if you're the dealer, turn up a Jack and you already hold one of that suit in your hand. You will be able to create a void and should be able to trump that suit. This will let you take get your two tricks. It's up to your partner to get the third. Remember; as the dealer you have the opportunity to make your hand stronger by discarding an unwanted card.
As a side note, turning down a jack tells your partner you are very likely void in that suit.
A general guideline) Bid if you're the dealer and you already hold one of the turn suit, plus a green Ace. Again, you will be able to create a void. On this hand you will are going to need your partner's help. Be sure to give him the opportunely to take a trick. On hands where you hold three small trump without a green ace, naming trump tends to be risky and is only successful a little over half the time - be sure check the score.
A general guideline) Bid in the first round with any hand where you hold three trumps and are two-suited. Just remember that these hands are played two different ways depending on if you have an off-suit Ace or not (there is more information here).
A general guideline) Bid if you hold three trump with one being a bower.
A general guideline) Bid if you hold any three trump, with an off-suit ace.
A general guideline) Bid if you hold any two trump, with two or more off-suit aces
A successful lone is 40% of the game (four points of the ten needed). This alone makes it worth trying. Even if the lone does not succeed, you should still be able to get your point. Although there are situations where taking your partner along may result in getting two points instead of one, these are rare and do not outweigh the benefit of a possible four points. When you are behind in score, a successful lone can put you back in the game. However, the greater your lead, the less incentive you have to try a risky lone. In most situations, playing with a partner decreases your chances of being euchred, but you risk giving up two additional points.
A general guideline) Call alone on any hand where you have a sure point.
A general guideline) If ordering partner with strong hand, Think about trying a lone call
A general guideline) The best position to try is 1st seat
A general guideline) The worst position is 3rd seat.
Keep track of the score and let that be your guide. If you are euchred, you are really only giving up one point, so don't fret, besides you may have prevented a lone call. A euchre at 0-0 has little meaning. On a score of 9 - 9 and you have the first bid, just bid your strongest suit (unless you have nothing but 9's and 10's.) The game will be won on this hand and your chance of winning increases when you are able to name trump. When your opponents are at 8 points use caution.
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