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When first learning the game, many new players are not sure what hands they should bid on. A search on the web will likely yield some point systems to use for bidding: 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. But these don't work very well as they tend to lock you into only playing hands that add up to a set amount. Many hands with insufficient points are skipped even though they can result in your team getting a point. The ability to recognize a biddable hand is what separates the good players from the average. Gaining this ability comes from practice.
The following guidelines will assist you in evaluating the strength of your hand, and help you to determine when you should bid. Normally the team declaring trump has the advantage. And remember that taking chances is part of the game, and the only way to learn what will work and what won't. Don't worry too much about being euchred; in most cases the downside is minimal. 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. So if you do get euchred, you're probably 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.)
Passing in hopes of euchring the opponents (sandbagging) is a losing proposition over the long run. The rare exceptions may be when the 'stick the dealer' rule is in effect and you hold all four jacks, or when you hold strong cards in both the turned up suit as well as in next.
Yes, I know that technically you don't 'bid' in euchre, you declare, call, or name trump. But I come from the Set-Back and Pinochle world where you bid to name a trump. If you'd like, you can substitute the term 'declare trump' for any place in this text where you see the word 'bid'.
Even before you look at your cards there are three important factors to consider: Are you the dealer? What is your position at the table? What is the score?
After looking at your hand the first question to ask is, "Can my partner and I take 3 tricks with these cards?" Keep in mind that this is a partnership game, and you should be able to count on your partner to get one trick. If you hold cards that will allow you to take two sure tricks then this is the time to bid. In borderline situations you should consider other factors such as the score and your table position.
The score of the game should always be taken into account before bidding. You wouldn't want to try a very risky bid when the opponents are at eight points. But at a low score, taking the risk may mean an extra point or two for your team. When the opponents have a big lead, trying a thin lone call may be the only way to catch up.
When ordering a card into the opponent's hand, consider the value of that card. It is not wise to give your opponents a card you can't control. If ordering them to pick up the Right, for example, you need to be able to take it out of play with the first lead. This is best done by leading your second highest trump. Ordering up a nine is less worrisome.
If you are playing with a partner that you are already familiar with then you should have an idea of their bidding style. When playing with a new partner you should quickly try to judge their style and skill level. Pay close attention to what cards they hold as they bid or pass. Non-aggressive players tend to pass many biddable hands. For example, did they turn down a bower and then you see them play a small card of the same suit? Maybe even have showed an off-Ace as well? With this type of player you may have to bid for them. Consider ordering them to pick up even when holding weak cards in your hand. With very aggressive partners, you should be able to count on them to pick up if they have anything at all in their hand, so you may want a stronger hand here. (The main reason for not ordering them up with a weak hand is so you don't mess up their possible lone call)
In the second round of bidding, there are a couple more factors to consider. Is your partner an aggressive player or not? Did your partner just pass? What color did they turn down? This should give you some information as to what they hold. They turned down red? Most likely any strong cards they hold will be in black. The converse goes for turning down black: their strength could be in red. This is a fundamental fact of euchre and always needs to be kept in mind while bidding. Next calls are made from first seat and reverse next call from second seat. These should always be considered first in any second round bidding. Now, there may be times when this basic premise does not hold true. If you are toying with the idea of bidding in the opposite colors from what is suggested, remember it takes a very strong hand and you can expect little or no help from your partner.
A Quick reminder - An Ace that has been turned makes the King boss in that suit.
This is the best 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 get to choose from six cards and have the opportunity to rid your hand of one unwanted card. In any given hand the dealer has about a 70% chance of making a point. Having the last play also gives you the opportunity to play the lowest card possible to win the first trick. Many times two small trump and a singleton green ace will result in your team making a point. This is also a good position to call a lone from.
If the bid comes back around, as everyone has passed twice, try a reverse next call (if you've turned down black call red, or if red, then call black).It is possible your partner had help but didn't want to chance calling. Reverse next is normally the best call when playing 'stick the dealer'. It is doubtful that anyone has a very strong hand. When you do hold a strong hand this may be a good time to try a lone. If the games rules allow you to deal again and you hold all junk, think about passing. Chances are you will get better cards on the next deal.
To order from this position you will need a very strong hand, as you are putting a trump into the dealer's hand and giving them the opportunity to create a void. When ordering the dealer with only two trump there is a 47% chance one of your opponents already has two. If that happens to be the dealer, they now they have three.
A bid from this position does allow you to control what trump is and make the first lead. A first lead of trump will likely take four trump out of play, significantly reducing the chances that you're off suit Aces will be trumped. From here it should be relatively easy to determine how many trumps are left and who has them. Watch to see if dealer plays the pickup, an indication that this is the only trump in their hand (although experienced player may play the pickup in an attempt to mislead you). If you hold a strong hand, this is the best position for calling alone.
In the second round, this becomes the top position for bidding. Consider calling next from here; many are made with only one trump and a green ace. As you're not putting a trump in the dealer's hand and have first lead, this is the strongest position to call a lone from.
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. Depending on what cards you hold you may even want to try a lone call yourself here.
If you hold two of the turned suit, plus one or more aces, this is a fairly safe bid, and you should order your partner up. You have two fairly sure tricks in your hand, and you are sure your partner has at least one trump (and know its value).
This is where the reverse next call comes into play. Reverse next is when your partner turns down one color and you bid in the opposite color. The accepted standard for a reverse next call is a minimum holding of King - nine plus an off suit Ace. Many new players do not take advantage of this call and miss out on many possible points.
This is the hardest place to make a successful bid from, and many 3rd seat bids result in a euchre. Knowing this it is best to only bid with a strong hand. Calling with both bowers and no supporting aces will nominally get you set (this is where you instead hope for a next call by your partner). Only call a lone on a very strong hand, as few successful lones are made from third seat.
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 your incentive to try a risky lone. In most situations, playing with a partner decreases your chances of getting euchred, but you risk giving up two additional points.
There are seven potential trump in any hand. Good player always count trump. In most hands, six or seven trump will be in play; occasionally there will be two in the kitty, and rarely there may be more. Pay attention to what cards have been played. This should give you an idea if there are any trump left. Once trump are gone your off suit cards can become as good as trump. Keep in mind that in the 'next' suit there is one less card. This means a lead of next has a 15% greater chance of being trumped.
Keep track of the score and let the score be your guide. When the opponents are close to going out, you should bid borderline hands with caution. A euchre at eight will cost the game, but a euchre at 0-0 has little meaning. If you do get euchred, you are really only giving up one point, so don't fret. Also, if the score is 9-9 and it's your bid, you should bid your strongest suit(unless you have nothing but 9's and 10's.) The game is going to be won on this hand, and your chances of winning are better if you name trump.
I'm not going to talk about the obvious hands (both bowers with lots of trump and aces) but instead will focus on the lesser hands. Here are some general guidelines.
General rule #1) Bid if you're the dealer and turn up a Jack, and you already hold one of that suit. You will be able to create a void and should be able to trump the suit you're void in. This will let you take get your two tricks. It's up to your partner to do the rest. Remember, as dealer you have the opportunity to make your hand stronger by discarding an unwanted card.
General Rule #2) 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 really need your partner's help. Be sure to give them a chance to take a trick. Or maybe even two.
General Rule#3) Bid in the first round with any hand with three trumps and two suited. These hands are played two different ways depending if you have an off suit Ace or not. (Read More here))
General Rule #4) In second round bidding, many times next works with only one (and sometimes no) trump in your hand along with a green ace. From second seat, try to make a reverse next call with a minimum holding of a green King-nine, and an ace from any other suit.(Read More here)
General Rule #5) In second round bidding, as a general first seat should call next, second seat should call green (reverse next) and third should call next and the dealer should call green. If your strong suit does not follow this general rule you should expect little help from your partner. During second round bidding consider that many times next works with only one (and sometimes no) trump in your hand along with a green ace. Reverse next works with a King-Nine and any suit ace.
General Rule #6) Hands with only two suits are much stronger than hands with 3 or 4 suits.
The goal here is to order up every hand that you think you can make a point with, and to stop your opponents from doing the same. This is the only way to win the game. It bears repeating: don't worry about being euchred, most times you are only giving up one point (as the other team will likely make a point if you pass), you may even be saving two points if they hold a lone hand.