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Learn how to Play Euchre

Let's start with the basics of the game euchre

Last update on: Jan 28, 2019

Euchre (pronounced 'you-ker') is a trump based card, trick-taking card game that has that has been played in the U.S. since the early 1800's. There was a time when it was considered the national card game. It is still played in many parts of the country. loading="lazy" although originally played with a deck consisting of 32 cards, today's standard euchre deck utilizes only 24 cards. This is created by removing the 2's through 8's from the standard 52 card deck. This leaves us with the ace through 9 of each suit.

Euchre is a game that is relatively easy to learn. It is an enjoyable card game either played socially or at very competitive levels. In many parts of the country, there are local and regional euchre tournaments. Most people agree that the more they play, the more they realize what a challenging and intriguing game euchre can be.

Euchre is played with four people in teams of two, sitting crosswise. There are also variations of euchre for two or three people. These variations are covered in other sections of this website. The object of the game is to be the first team to score 10 points. The game is started by selecting one player to be the dealer. This is normality determined by dealing out the cards face up, clockwise until one player receives a jack. In some circles, it is the first black jack. The dealer then shuffles the cards and offers the player on his right the opportunity to cut the cards. Next, the dealer deals out the cards in groups of 2's and 3's. This is done until each player has five cards. Once the deal is complete, there should be four cards remaining. It is always advisable to check this count, thus assuring the cards were dealt correctly. These last four cards are called 'the kitty'. The dealer places the kitty in front of him and turns up the top card. The remaining three cards are not exposed to anyone.

The most important, and possibility the most confusing aspect of learning euchre is understanding the rank of the cards. It differs from most trump based card games in that some of the cards change rank depending what suit is named trump. This may seem complicated at first. However, it doesn't take long for new players to figure it out.

Let's start by explaining how trump is ranked. First, the trump suit is the most powerful suit and it will outrank any other suit. Below we show the card ranking starting with the most powerful. For this example, we will assume that spades is trump.

Right Bower

The right bower is the jack of trump and is the highest ranked trump

Left Bower

The second highest is the left bower. It is the other jack of the same color, so with spades named trump then left bower is the jack of clubs.

Ace of Trump

The Ace is the third highest and is outranked by the two bowers

King of Trump

The King is next in rank

Queen of Trump

Next comes the Queen

10 of Trump

Then the 10

9 of trump

The nine is the lowest trump, but it still outranks any the cards in the other suits

The other suit that is the same color as trump are ranked:
A,  K,  Q,  10,  9

* It is important to note that the jack is missing from this set. That is because this jack becomes a temporarily a member of the trump suit. The fact that there are only five cards is worth remembering as the risk of this suit being trumped is significantly increased. This other suit is commonly known as the 'next' suit.

The suits of the opposite color from trump are ranked
A,  K,  Q,  J,  10,  9

How to name trump:

Once the cards have been dealt and the turn-card is shown, the naming of trump can begin. We start with the first player to the immediate left of the dealer. They will have the opportunity to name trump by ordering the dealer to pick up the turned card. They may also pass, offering the naming of trump to the next player. If a player decides to order up the card, they are naming the suit of that card as trump. When a card has been ordered up, the dealer picks the top card (turn-card) from the kitty. This card is placed in his hand. He must now discard one from his hand, leaving a total of five. If everyone passes including the dealer, then the exposed card is turned face down.

Now the second round of bidding begins. In this second round, the bidding again starts with the player to the left of the dealer. Each person, in turn, can now decide to name a trump suit based on the strength of the cards they hold. Any suit, except for the suit that was turned down, can be named as trump. If no person names trump, the hand is forfeited. The deal then goes on to the next player to the left of the original dealer. If the rules state that the game is 'stick the dealer' and everyone passes on the second round, the dealer must name one of the three remaining suits trump.

Playing Alone

During the bidding process, a player may declare that they want to play this hand without the aid of their partner. This is called 'going alone' and is done by simply stating their intentions using the words 'I'm Going Alone'. The reason for calling alone is, if they are able to take all five tricks, their team will score 4 points. In a hand where a player calls alone, their partner 'sits out' and does not play. A lone call is normally only done when the bidder thinks their hand is strong enough. If they only take 3 or 4 tricks then their teams will receive 1 point. In most circles, no one is allowed to look at the cards in the kitty or in the non-playing partner's hand until the hand is complete.

Once trump has been named:

Once a suit is named trump, the game starts. The player on the dealer's left plays any card from their hand. Everyone is required to follow suit when they are able. If they are void in that suit they may 'trump in'. However, they are not required to use a trump. Players that are void may instead, use this opportunity to rid their hand of an unwanted card. The trick is won by the highest card played in the suit that was led. If anyone does trumps-in then the trick is taken by the highest ranking trump. The winner of a trick gets to lead the next card. This process continues until all five cards have been played. To score a point, the team that named trump must take the majority of the tricks (3 or more out of the 5 possible tricks). If the bidding team takes all five tricks then they score 2 points. If a bidding team fails to take at least three tricks during any hand then they are said to be 'euchred' and the opposing team receives 2 points. This is true on lone calls as well.

If a player reneges, in other words, failed to follow the suit led when possible, the hand ends. The non-offending team gets 2 points. If the renege happens during a lone call the non-offending team gets 4 points. The first team that reaches 10 points wins the game.

These are just the basics of the game. It may be helpful to read our other articles on euchre:

Suggested Further Reading:

What Card should I Lead? page 1
Help me understand what card to lead

Our series of 10 lessons on how to play.
A Self-Study Course in Euchre

The Ten Commandments of Euchre
compiled in 2000 A.D. by Harvey Lapp

Our series of articles for the advanced player
A complete listing of our euchre articles

Why you should count trump?
For an advantage over other players

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