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The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre (1862)

Last update on: Dec 21, 2016


Oh those clever fellows, who, in social circles, or at the club, resort to the exciting combinations exhibited by - The painted tablets, dealt and dealt again - Recreation and amusement being their only aim - accredit Euchre, par excellence, the most entertaining and fascinating of all the games of cards yet invented.

The earliest knowledge which we, personally, have been able to gather of this, our favorite card-game, was its introduction in the Metropolis of the Union, in the days of General Jackson's first presidential term, by an ardent and slightly illiterate admirer of the Generals - an Honorable M. C, from the Tennessee State - who was wont emphatically to pronounce it the "hazardest game on the keards;" though the game had been played, long prior to that period, in every inhabited township plat of the northwestern territory, and on every raft and steamboat afloat upon the exulting waters of the Mississippi River.

There exists a legend ascribing its invention to two Friars, of orders gray, who had been imprisoned for some improper practice or other malversation, and who are said to have invented the game to while away the tedious hours of incarceration; but the story is rather apocryphal.

It is also narrated that the game sprang up, like Venus, from the sea, - that it is the result of a sailor man's ingenuity, Jack reversing the usual order of things on shipboard by placing his namesakes in command, and giving them the appropriate nautical appellations of Eight-Bower, and Left-Bower, in compliment to the main anchors of the ship.

The origin of the game

Is generally admitted to be German - is not satisfactorily explained, and no mention whatever is made of it in the curious and elaborate treatise by S. W. Singer, entitled [Researches into the History of Playing Cards, 4to. London, 1816; nor in any of the English editions of Hoyle's Games; nor in Captain Crawley's Handy Book of Games for Gentlemen, 12mo., London* 1860. The French are equally silent. No notice of the game is to be found in the long and learned array of articles on the various games of cards -and their name is legion - in the extended Dictionnaire des Jeux of the Encychpidie Mithodique; and M. Van-Tenac, in his Album des Jeux, 12mo. ; Paris, 1847,a recent and careful collection of modem games of cards, seems entirely ignorant of its existence.

We have just learned under date of Paris, December 8, 1861, from a distinguished French savant, now engaged in collecting materials for an elaborate and scientific treatise on card-games, which Euchre is not of French origin, and that the game is not noticed by any French writer on games.

In this country the only teaching we have of the game - except a few paragraphs in the late American editions of Hoyle's Games, and of Bonn's New Hand-Book of Games - is contained in The Game of Euchre; with its Laws, 32mo., Philadelphia, 1850, pp. 82, attributed to a late learned jurist - our illustrious predecessor - and to which little volume we hereby acknowledge ourselves greatly indebted.

The name itself even - Euchre - is a mystery. Although the game is generally supposed, in this country, to be of German invention, yet we are informed by a linguist in Germany, Professor Grimm, of the University of Berlin, that Euchre is not a German word, and has no sound of the language.

It has been facetiously suggested that it might possibly be the German for Eureka denoting that the Queen game of cards has at last been found! But, as we do not profess to especial erudition in the Teutonic linguistics, we venture no opinion of its philological deduction. Nor can we trace the least analogy or affinity, as regards the promotion of the Knaves into the rank of commanding cards, when of the suit, or color, of the trump, to any other card-game. In some few particulars, however, it bears quite a resemblance to the game of Ecarte How so animated and bright a game ever sprang from the brain of a phlegmatic German is somewhat marvelous - unless, it may have been invented by that identical Baron, portly and solid like the rest of them, who was making the most terrible racket in his solitary apartment, in Paris, one morning jumping over stools and slippers, and other "anti-altitudinous" articles, and who's noted reply to the agitated and expostulating garcon, vas, J'apprewh a etre vif. He may have succeeded in attaining the lively!

Whatever its origin

Euchre appears to have been introduced into the United States "by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, and from that State gradually to have been disseminated throughout every State of the Union, But the original game has been so much improved by the variations and additions bestowed upon it in consequence of its great popularity with all classes in this country, that it may now fairly be denominated one of our peculiar American institutions, A squatter, in the "Land of the West," would consider his education sadly neglected, nowadays, if a knowledge of this game was not one of his attainments; - it is as necessary to his enjoyment of life as a stone-jug of "Bourbon, "with a corn-cob" cork - the "democratic decanter," as they call it.

The word Bauer, the German for Jack, Knave, Americanized to Bower, is said to be the only term used in the game which has been adopted from the German.

Whist -and here let us pause with reverence - "not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Home more" -Whist, we resume, since Hoyle perfected its invention, and published his treatise on the game, about one hundred and twenty years ago, has been Universally acknowledged to be the noblest game played with cards. As twenty more cards are involved in its play than at Euchre, and every one of them delivered in each deal, the game is undoubtedly more exact and mathematical. We fancy, however, that it is this very absence of mathematical accuracy which is one of the peculiar merits of our game; for nearly one-third of the Euchre pack is not distributed in the deal, but remains in the talon; thus adding to the variety and the chances of the play, and affording exciting combinations for the exercise of the shrewd player's judgment. But we are free to confess that, in nearly a quarter of a century's addiction to Euchre - viginti annorum lucubrationes - we have never met a fine player of both games who did not much prefer our pet game.

We repeat, then, that accomplished adepts at both games - those social spirits who make of play a delassement, and not a laborious speculation - greatly prefer Euchre, because of the more sprightly character of the game, and it's less mathematical exactness - giving more scope to chance and judgment, and affording a much keener enjoyment. And then consider, that during the entire play of all the thirteen tricks at Whist, the most lugubrious silence, which is not our grand talent, must prevail - for we can only "speak by the card" -and, indeed, it has become an axiom of that game, that whoever approximates nearest to being dumb may be deemed the best player! At Euchre, on the contrary, every deal of live cards a-piece only - is played out, dashingly, in a few minutes affording opportunities to discuss the general topics of the day, for lively repartee and anecdotes -those gems of conversation - while the contrasts of chagrin and joy presented by unlooked-for defeat or success, so often recurring in the various vicissitudes of play, "serve to set the table on a roar." Such a seance will frequently glide away so delectably as to inoculate pale melancholy with the bud of mirth

In a transit of the Atlantic, or a voyage to the Indies, which "drags its slow length along" - especially when not sea-sick - Whist naturally presents peculiar advantages to those whose "only labor is to kill the time, and labor dire it is," says the poet. But, if one desires to amuse and tickle oneself - "when sailing o'er life's troubled main" - for the limited period of eight or ten hours only, in the pleasant occupation of disclosing the mysterious combinations produced by thirty-two cards -seasoned with cheerful conversation and innocent mirth the while, we commend him to Euchre.

Euchre may be likened to that refined and seductive beverage, Champagne wine - sparkling and bright - while Whist more resembles the potent, heady tipple, the Brown-stout of Its native England.

Of all sedentary amusements- except a fourth class clerkship in the Treasury Department - we most affectionate call Euchre.

But, revenons d nos moutons. The game of Euchre is played with thirty- two cards- the six, live, four, tray, and deuce of each suit having been withdrawn from a Whist or whole pack. The tray and deuce of spades and diamonds, of the refuse cards, are ordinarily used for the purpose of counting the game. Recently, however, packs are expressly manufactured for this game, (as well as for Piquet and Eearte, also played with the same number of cards,) by M. De la Rue, the eminent publisher of playing cards in London, and they may readily be obtained in all of our larger cities.

The Knave of trumps, the Eight-Bower a, it is termed, is the highest or best trump and the other Knave of the same color, termed the Left-Bower, is the next highest card. The remaining cards, including the Knaves of the black suits when a red suit is trump, and vice versa, have the same relative value as at Whist.

It is usual to play with two packs, distinguished by backs of different colors, and the pack selected by each party at the commencement of a game, should not be changed during the play of that game.

Various customs of play prevail in different coteries and clubs, but the compiler has endeavored to follow those customs which are most in vogue, and are most consistent with the spirit of the game, and the chances on the cards.

There are, also, many varieties of the game, with the denominations of Ace-Euchre, Booster, Set-Back, Cut-Throat, and the like, and Euchre may be played by any number of persons, from two to six. But, the only game worthy of the scientific player is that which is played by four persons, who cut for partners, as at Whist, and it is to them that this Treatise is most affectionately dedicated,

Axiom. - If you are invited from home to assist at a Euchre party, and the tempestuous inclemency of the weather should he terrific, if your wife docs not object too much, - go. Your failure 'to be thar' may seriously inconvenience your friends.

Chapter 1 - Preliminary

Chapter 2 - Mode of Playing

Chapter 3 - On Playing Alone

Chapter 4 - Lap, Slam, Jambone, and Jamboree

Chapter 5 - Technicalities

Chapter 6 - Laws

Chapter 7 - Hints to Tyros (Novice)

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