Introduction: Euchre 101
In this tutorial, I will be describing how to play the card game of euchre. Euchre is a great game to play at family functions, on bus trips, or any time you are looking for a fun card game to play. I have been playing euchre for about ten years and highly suggest it if you are looking to learn a new card game.
The purpose of my instructions is for someone that has no background in euchre to understand how to play euchre. I will do this by explaining several key facets of the game that will be beneficial to a new player. First, I will explain some preliminary information (Step 1) like how many players can play, which cards are used, and how to sit at the playing table. Next, I will explain how to deal (Step 2) and then give detailed instructions on what trump is (Step 3), how to declare trump (Step 4), how to play a hand (Steps 5-9), and how to keep score (Step 10). Finally, key tips and strategies (Step 11) will be discussed to help a new player to the game catch on quickly. Enjoy and good luck!
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Step 1: Preliminaries
Before we get started, here are some preliminaries to figure out before you can play.
Players: Euchre is a card game meant to be played with four people. Euchre is played in teams, so before sitting down pick a partner and sit across from them.
Materials needed: Deck of cards, table, and chairs.
The Deck: Sort out a standard deck of cards. Euchre is played with 9's, 10's, J's, Q's, K's, and A's (J=Jack, Q=Queen, K=King, and A=Ace). Also, all of the 5's should be sorted out to use for scoring only. In summary, you should have 24 playing cards and four scoring cards.
Step 2: Dealing
First, choose a dealer. The dealer then shuffles and deals clockwise starting with the person directly to their left (see picture below). Five cards are dealt to each person, in groups of two then three or three then two. For example, deal two at a time to everyone then three at a time to everyone or vice versa. Put the rest of the cards face down on the table and flip the last one over (see picture below).
Step 3: Understanding Trump
Here's how the trump system works. The Jack of the trump suit, called the right bower, is the highest card in the deck. The Jack of the same color suit is called the left bower and is the second highest card in the deck. After the right and left bower, the next highest ranking cards are the remaining cards of the trump suit (A, K, Q, 10, 9). For example, if spades are selected as trump, the Jack of spades (right bower) is the highest card followed by the Jack of clubs (left bower). The next highest are all of the remaining spades (A, K, Q, 10, 9). I will explain how to declare trump in the next step.
If no trump cards are played, the highest card for the hand is the highest card of the suit led, and the rest of the cards are ranked in order. For example, if spades are selected as trump, no one lays spades, and diamonds are led, the Ace of diamonds is the highest card followed by the K, Q, J, 10, and 9 of diamonds.
NOTE: The left bower is considered to be the same suit as the trump suit. For example, if hearts are trump and Player 1 leads with the Jack of diamonds (the left bower), this is considered a heart and anyone that has a heart must follow suit and play it.
Please take the time to look at the four pictures below to better understand the ranking of trump cards. Do not worry if this seems somewhat confusing at first-- you will catch on!
Step 4: Declaring Trump
After dealing, the next step is to declare trump. Start with the person to the left of the dealer. They can either declare the suit of the face-up card trump by telling the dealer to "pick it up" or they may pass by saying "pass". If they tell the dealer to pick it up, that suit is now trump. The dealer must pick up that card and discard one from his current hand. This procedure of telling the dealer to "pick it up" or "pass" continues around the table until trump is declared.
If the option to declare trump goes around to the dealer and they do not want the suit of the face-up card to be trump, they turn the card over (see picture below) and a new procedure begins. Starting again with the player to the left of the dealer, each player has an option to declare a trump of their choice (the suit that was just turned down can not be declared). If no one declares a trump suit, the cards are thrown in and shuffled for a new deal.
After declaring trump, the player to the left of the dealer always lays his card first, or leads.
Step 5: Playing
Playing: When playing your hand, you must follow suit if you have the suit that was led. For example, if player 1 lays a heart, everyone must lay a heart if they have one. If they don't have a heart, they can either lay a trump card or any other card they have. If no trump is played, the best card is the highest card of the suit led. For example, if diamonds are trump and a club is led, the highest club wins the trick (a nine of clubs would beat an ace of hearts).
Tricks: There are five tricks in each deal of euchre. A trick is won by playing the best card for that hand. For example, if hearts are trump and player 1 lays the jack of hearts (the right bower), they win that trick for their team.
Leading: If you win a trick, you collect the cards and lay them face down in a discard pile. You then lead with a card for the next round.
Playing Fair: A player can not give hints to his partner, verbally or non-verbally, that suggest what cards they have. This can influence what their partner might lay or declare as trump. This is called table talkand is not allowed.
Step 6: Winning a Hand With the Right Bower
NOTE: In this step and the following three steps, real game situations will be described in detail. In all of the following examples, the dealer is the bottom card in the picture and players 1, 2, and 3 go clockwise from the dealer. Player 1 always leads and the dealer is always the last to play a card. Therefore, when looking at the examples, start with player 1 and go clockwise so you can get a feel for the flow of the play. Also, note that I have labeled the dealer and players 1, 2, and 3 in each picture to avoid any confusion.
This step explains how to win a hand with the right bower.
Example 1: Diamonds are trump and hearts are led. Player 2 trumps with the Jack of diamonds (right bower) and player 3 and the dealer both follow suit by playing hearts. Player 2 wins the trick.
Example 2: Clubs are trump and also led. Player 2 plays the Jack of spades (left bower) to try and win the trick, but player 3 plays the Jack of clubs (right bower) to win. The dealer simply follows suit.
Step 7: Winning a Hand With the Left Bower
This step explains how to win a hand with the left bower.
Example 1: Hearts are trump and the Jack of diamonds (left bower) is lead. Since the Jack of diamonds is considered a heart in this case, players 2 and 3 follow suit and play a heart. The dealer doesn't have a heart and just throws in a spade. Player 1 wins the trick.
Example 2: Spades are trump and led. Player 2 does not have a spade and lays a heart. Player 3 lays the Jack of clubs (left bower) and wins the trick because the dealer plays a lower trump card, the King of spades.
Step 8: Winning a Hand With a Trump Card
This step explains how to win a hand with a trump card that is not the right or left bower.
Example 1: Diamonds are trump and led. Players 2 and 3 follow suit and also lay diamonds, while the dealer does not have a diamond and plays a club instead. Because player 2 laid the highest trump card, they win the trick.
Example 2: Clubs are trump and diamonds are led. Players 2 and 3 both lay diamonds to follow suit. The dealer, however, does not have a diamond and trumps with the ten of clubs to win the trick.
Step 9: Winning a Hand With a Non-Trump Card
This step explains how to win a hand with a card that has not been declared trump (a non-trump card).
Example 1: Hearts are trump and clubs are led. Players 2 and 3 do not have hearts or clubs, so they lay a diamond and a spade, respectively. The dealer follows suit and lays a club. Player 1 wins the trick because no trump cards were laid, and they have the highest card of the suit that was led (clubs).
Example 2: Spades are trump and diamonds are led. Player 2 does not have a spade or a diamond and lays a club. Player 3 follows suit by laying a diamond. The dealer plays a heart because they also do not have a spade or a diamond. Player 1 wins the trick because no trump cards were laid, and they have the highest card of the suit that was led (diamonds).
Step 10: Scoring
Scoring: The first team to ten points wins. The scoring is as follows: if you or your team member declares trump, you must win either three or four tricks to score one point. Your team can score two points if all five tricks are won (called a "march" or "sweep"). If a team declares trump and fails to win at least three tricks, the opposing team wins two points. This is called getting "euchred" or "set".
Recording the Score: Use the fives in the deck to keep score (each team needs two 5's of the same color). For the first five points turn one 5 face up and the other face down. Use the face down card to reveal the appropriate number of hearts/diamonds or spades/clubs. For 6-10 points, flip both cards over and slide them appropriately to reveal the correct number of points.
Please click on the two pictures below to see examples of how to record the score.
Step 11: Key Tips and Strategies
There are several strategies to playing euchre that come with experience and knowing the game. I will address a few of them here.
Playing Alone: When the bid goes around the table to determine trump, a player (with an extremely good hand) can say they want to play alone. After this, the player plays single handedly against the other team and their partner's cards are discarded. If a player plays alone, they score four points if they win all five tricks and one point if they win either three or four tricks. If they do not get at least three tricks, they are "set" or "euchred" and the opposing team scores two points. If you have a really good hand and decide that the risk is worth the reward, you should play alone.
Laying Off: First, pretend you are the dealer and spades are trump. A diamond is led and your partner (player 2) trumps with the Jack of clubs (left bower). Player 3 then follows suit by leading a diamond; therefore, your partner has already won the trick. Your next move depends on whether you have a diamond or not. If you have a diamond, you must lay it to follow suit. If you have more than one diamond, lay your lowest one to save your better card(s). However, if you do not have a diamond, you can throw whatever you want. In this case, you would want to lay your worst card because your partner has already won the trick. This means laying your lowest non-trump card (if you have any) or laying your lowest trump card if your only remaining cards are trump. For example, if you had the Jack of spades (right bower), you would want to save it for a later hand. In fact, your partner would probably not be too happy with you if you trumped over his winning card (remember, you are playing as a team). This concept is called "laying off" because you are not laying your best card. The picture below shows this example, with the dealer playing their lowest non-trump card (the nine of clubs).
Go Play! This concludes my tutorial on how to play euchre. Do not worry if you are somewhat confused; playing euchre can be a little challenging the first few times you play. Just look over this tutorial again if you have any questions, and the best thing to do is just start playing. Before you know it, you will be playing euchre like a pro! Have fun and good luck!