The most common form of Euchre is played by four people, with an ordinary pack of cards, minus the sixes, fives, fours, threes, and deuces. There are forms of Euchre in which the eights and sevens are also discarded, but these will be considered later. The first step in a game of Euchre is the selection of partners. This may be done either by agreement or allotment. It often occurs, among players well-known to each other, that preferences for partners exist, a consequence of former games or of personal likes or dislikes. While the latter should never be allowed to enter into any game at cards, and especially into a game of Euchre, they cannot be eliminated altogether, and therefore must be humored. In Euchre, or in any game at cards played by partners, it is better that personal antipathy, if it must exist at all, should exist between antagonists rather than between partners. The reasons for this are obvious. It is a fair assumption, however, that, in any sociable game at cards, the contestants will endeavor to avoid any display of feeling likely to cause unpleasantness. That such endeavor is not always successful, every card-player knows.
When no preference is expressed, or when preferences clash, the partners are allotted by cutting the cards, the higher two of the four cards cut designating one firm of partners, and, of course, the lower two the other.
When the momentous question of partners has been settled, and the players have taken their places at the table, partners always being seated opposite each other, the next step to be considered is the deal. This is determined by cutting; and here, as in the case of cutting for partners, the ace ranks lowest and the king highest. Some people hold that in cutting for deal in Euchre, the knave should out-rank the king. This supposition is born of the fact that in Euchre the knave in trumps out-ranks the ace. The knave out of trumps, however, ranks not only below the king, but below the ace (except in cutting) and queen as well. Therefore, as there can be no trump before a deal, the knave in cutting must be considered lower than the queen and higher than the ten.
The only other thing necessary for a player to learn before beginning the deal is the rank of the cards in Euchre. This, in suits not trumps, is the same as in Whist, viz., ace highest, and then king, queen, and so on in order to the deuce, which is the lowest. Suits in trumps have this difference in rank, however: the knave of the trump suit ranks highest, and is the best card in the game. It is called the right bower. The knave of the other suit in the same color as the trump ranks next, and is the second best card in the game. It is called the left bower. For example: Clubs are trumps. The knave of clubs, therefore, is the right bower, and the knave of spades is the left bower. If spades are trumps, the knave of spades is the right bower, and the knave of clubs the left bower. And so it is with the other suits, the knave of diamonds being left bower to the knave of hearts when hearts are trumps, and vice versa when diamonds are trumps.
But when his color is not in trumps, the knave loses his powers, is no longer a bower, and is soundly trounced by the smallest trump, or the ace, king, or queen of his suit. The rank of cards in Euchre is therefore illustrated by this example: Assuming that clubs are trumps, the knave of clubs or right bower is the best card. Then come in order the knave of spades or left bower, the ace, king, queen, ten, nine, eight and seven of clubs. The cards of red suits, hearts and diamonds, under this assumption, rank in order from ace, highest, to deuce, lowest. This condition applies to black suits when the trump is red.
Before dealing, the cards must be well shuffled by the dealer, and cut by the player at the dealer's right. This player is always one of the dealer's opponents, and in cutting must remove at least four cards from the top of the pack, and leave at least four cards at the bottom.
Before the deal any player has the right to cut or shuffle the cards, but the dealer always has the right to shuffle them last.
In Euchre five cards constitute a hand, and these must be dealt, two at a time, to each player in turn, beginning with the player at the left of the dealer, until all are helped, including the dealer, and then three at a time to each player as before, thus giving to each contestant the requisite five cards. Or, if it be more agreeable to the dealer, he may help in turn each player with three cards and then with two; but he must not help one player to two cards and the next to three or vice versa. He must complete his deal as he begins it.
When the dealer has helped each player with five cards, as described, he must turn up the next card for trumps, and leave it face upwards on the top of the pack.
After the trump is turned, the play begins. The player at the left of the dealer examines his cards to see what he will do. He must either "order up" the trump or "pass." If he "orders up," the dealer must discard one card from his own hand, placing it face downwards beneath the pack. The trump card then becomes the property of the dealer instead of his discard.
If the player at the left of the dealer considers that his hand is not strong enough to "order up" the trump, and declines to do so, he must "pass;" that is, he must give the next player on his left an opportunity to say what he will do.
This next player is the dealer's partner; and if, after examining his cards, he believes that they, assisted by the trump turned, are strong enough to win three tricks, he may "assist." "Assisting" is in effect the same as "ordering up" so far as the result affects the dealer's physical action. In each case he must discard one card and take the turned trump as a part of his hand. But there is an important difference between "assisting" and "ordering up." In the former, the trump is turned into the hand of a partner; in the latter, it is turned into the hand of an opponent. From this it will be seen that it requires a stronger hand to "order up" than to "assist." The player doing either, however, should feel reasonably certain of taking three tricks, except under certain conditions hereafter discussed.
If the partner of the dealer refuses to "assist," he must "pass," and give the next player to the left an opportunity to say what he will do. This player must either "order up" or "pass." If he "orders up," the dealer must act exactly as has been described in the case of the first player or "eldest" hand.
If the third player "pass," the say comes to the dealer, who may either "take up" the trump or "turn it down." If he takes it up, he must discard one card from his hand, placing it face downwards beneath the pack, and then regard the turned trump as a part of his hand.
If the dealer's hand should not warrant his taking up the trump, and he refuses to "take it up," he must "turn it down," placing the trump card face upwards beneath the pack. * Should the dealer "turn down" the trump, the eldest hand then has the right to name the trump, which shall govern the game. In doing this he may name any suit but that originally turned up. Should his hand not warrant his making the trump, he must so declare. The usual form of this declaration is, "I pass the making." Should the eldest hand pass the making, the second player or dealer's partner may make the trump; but should he "pass the making," it becomes the third player's turn to make the trump or pass the making, and so on to the dealer, who must likewise make the trump or pass the making. If the dealer passes the making, he must turn the trump card face downwards on the top of the pack. Then a new deal must be inaugurated with the player at the immediate left of the dealer as the new dealer. In other words, the deal passes to the opposing side under the circumstances described.
But if the trump be ordered up, if the dealer's partner assists, if the dealer takes up the trump, or if, the trump being turned down, any player makes the trump, the play begins.
The player at the left of the dealer has the lead, that is, he must play the first card. All the other players must play in turn to this card, and each must follow suit (play a card of the same denomination as that led by the eldest hand) if he holds such a card. If he does not hold a card of the suit led, he may play any card he chooses.
When each player has played to the lead, the four cards thus deposited on the table constitute a trick.
A trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, if trumps are not played in the trick. Trumps beat all other suits.
The winner of each trick must lead for the next trick until the hands are played out.
A lone hand is one with which a player undertakes to beat his two opponents without the assistance of his partner. This is an important feature of Euchre, and one entering prominently into every four-handed game. The object in playing a "lone hand" is to make all five of the tricks, an achievement that is always rewarded with the highest score possible at Euchre. Lone hands may occur as follows: -
If the eldest hand order up or make the trump, he or his partner may play alone.
If the dealer's partner assists or makes the trump, he or the dealer may play alone.
If the player to the right of the dealer orders up or makes the trump, he may play alone, but his partner cannot.
If the dealer takes up or makes the trump, he may play alone, but his partner cannot.
No player can play alone after having passed the trump, or the making of the trump.
No player can play alone without having announced his intention to do so before the lead is made.
When any player has announced his intention of playing alone, no other player can play alone. (Usage in some quarters permits one of the opposing side to play alone if he chooses; but this is not good Euchre, and is probably due to the influence of "Railroad Euchre," which will be considered at length later.)
When either side has adopted or made the trump, neither player of the opposing side can play alone.
When any player has expressed his determination to play alone, his partner must place his cards face downwards on the table, and remain silent throughout the playing of the hands.
The only thing remaining to thoroughly describe the game of Euchre is an explanation of the counting or scoring.
The game is five points.
If the side which adopts or makes the trump, takes three or four tricks, it scores one. In Euchre as much is scored for three tricks as for four.
If the side which adopts or makes the trump, takes all five tricks, it scores two. This is called a "march."
If the side which adopts or makes the trump, fails to take three tricks, it is "euchred," and the opposing side scores two.
If any player plays alone, and takes all five tricks, he scores four; if he takes three or four tricks only, he scores one; if he fails to take three tricks, he is euchred, and the opposing side scores two.
The mechanical means for scoring are always at hand in a pack of cards. In the five-point game (for sometimes ten points are played), the two and three of diamonds are often used by one side as counters, and the two and three of hearts by the other. There is no reason why the black suits should not be used if the players so elect. These "counters" are laid on the table face downwards at the beginning of the game. As the game progresses, the "counters" are turned so as to expose a pip for each point made. This is probably the simplest method of scoring, aside from that of the devices especially manufactured for this purpose.
A more complicated method of scoring is as follows: Each side takes a four and three of any denomination. The face of the three turned up, with the face of the four turned down on it, counts one regardless of the number of pips exposed. The face of the four turned up with the face of the three turned down on it, counts two regardless of the number of pips exposed. The face of three uppermost counts three, and the face of the four uppermost counts four. The advantage of this method is found in the fact that the exposure of pips has no bearing on the score. The position of the cards used in scoring marks the game. When the exposure of pips is depended upon to mark the game, the accidental shifting of the cards used in scoring sometimes causes errors, and more frequently disputes and misunderstandings. For this reason I would recommend the four and three for scoring.