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When a team makes a lone hand, it is a significant boost to their score and usually a game changer. The opposition has to make four one-point hands just to catch up. And remember, a successful lone provides 40% of the total score needed to win. This may be obvious, but winning four hands in a row is no easy task. This in itself is reason enough to try as many lones as possible. A lone call may also be the only chance you have to win if you're behind in the score.
Most euchre players do not make anywhere near enough lone attempts. Making a successful lone bid depends not just on the cards you hold but also your willingness to take a chance. Remember, on a lone attempt there are nine cards that are out of play. Add these to the five cards you hold and you soon realize that out of the 24 cards in a deck there are only ten cards that can possibly stop you. Many of these will be nines, tens or queens. This opens up many chances for a successful lone call. You just have to try them.
I'm sure that when most people were first learning to play, they were told such things as 'the only time you should play alone is if you have a guaranteed three tricks,' or 'you need a serious chance of taking five tricks to call a lone', and so-on. One may even have been considered a poor player if they were euchred on a lone attempt. Because of this many people wait for the almost perfect hand to call a loner. But these hands are few and far between. The odds of getting a near perfect hand (five trumps with both bars) are about 1 in 1700, and even if you get this great hand you still have to be able to play it. How many times have you bid, then after taking all five tricks said "it didn't look like a lone call" (this is called a two point lone, by the way).
The main thing to consider when making a lone call is whether your partner can improve your chances of taking all five tricks. An obvious example would be that you hold all the top trump except the right. Even if your partner has the right, it is not going to change the outcome of the hand. This is the same when you hold three strong trump and a King-Queen combination. The Ace in your partner's hand is not going to help. There are many other combinations that also fit in this group.
What trump cards you hold and how strong your off suit is.These two go hand-in-hand. A strong off suit, say an Ace-King combination, can compensate for any weakness in your trump suit. Many lones are made even though the caller is missing one or even both bowers. The same holds true with a strong trump suit and a less than ideal off suit. Lones are made all the time when the off cards are queens, tens or nines. It does help to have them in the same suit, but it is not necessary.
Position at the table. Lone calls can be made from any position at the table, but some seats are better than others.
In first round, perhaps the best position to call from is the dealer. The dealer has the option of tossing away an unwanted card. By having the last play, the dealer should be able to take the first trick using only a small trump. This then puts the dealer in position to lead a boss trump card, and remove a round of trump.
In the first round, perhaps the best position to call from is dealer. Not only does the dealer have the opportunity to toss an unwanted card (likely creating a void in his hand), he also has the last play. Because he does the last play, he should be able to take the first trick using only a small trump. This puts him in position to lead a boss trump card, remove a round of trump, and set up any Aces he may have.
From second seat, on first round bidding, a lone call will put one trump out of action, but you know where and what it is. Think about calling lone when you hold strong trump and a bower is turned up. Again, you will most likely have to use a trump to take the first trick.
Third seat is the hardest place to make a lone call from (or even any other call.) You should have a very strong hand to try alone.
The score.The greater your lead, the less incentive there is to try risky lones. In these situations, taking along your partner decreases your chances of getting euchred,and may increase your chance of getting two points.
Conversely, if you are down by a large number of points, it is often worth the risk to try and get the additional 2 points (4 points total).
Some hands, such as both bars plus a trump and off suit Ace, are promptly recognized as good potential lones. The following hands should also be as they have a high rate of success:
- Holding any five (5) trump in your hand;
- Holding any 4 trump (with an off suit Ace works best);
- Any 3 trump (one being a bower) and being two suited;
- Any 3 trump with an off suit Ace - King combination;
- Both bowers and an off suit Ace - King - X (works best from first seat);
- Ace, King, Queen of trump, with off suit Ace - King combination;
- Any 3 trump and two off suit Aces;
- Your partner turned up the right, you hold left and two other trump with a strong off suit;
- Dealer turns down a bower;this increases the chances of a lone in next as the left bower of next suit is now buried;
Keep in mind that there are many other hands that should be considered as potential lones. These include such hands as Right-X with an off suit Ace and an off suit Ace-King, and bare Right with three off suit Aces. Many other combinations have also resulted in successful lone calls, use your imagination and take a few chances. It's the only way to learn what will work.
If at eight points you are dealt a strong hand,think about playing it alone. Consider whether you truly need your partner's help. Say you hold both bars and the ace of trump, along with an off suit King -Queen Combination. Your partner cannot help here; the best he could do is hold the Ace to your combo. That's no help at all, and in some hands taking your partner along will cause you to only get one point instead of the needed two.
The last thing to consider is the 'luck factor': are the cards running hot on your side? Although no one talks much about it, it's a known fact that cards will sometimes run in groups where you just can't seem to do anything wrong. On these days I will try almost anything for a lone. I've made lones with just the bare right with a couple of off Aces.