AskDefine | Define euchre

Dictionary Definition

euchre n : a card game similar to ecarte; each player is dealt 5 cards and the player making trump must take 3 tricks to win a hand [syn: five hundred]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A game played with a reduced deck of 24 cards.


  1. To deceive.

Extensive Definition

distinguish Uecker Euchre () is a trick-taking card game most commonly played with four people in two partnerships with a deck of 24 standard playing cards. It is closely related to the French game Écarté and it may be sometimes referred as "Knock Euchre" to distinguish it from Bid Euchre.
The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have large followings of the game. Euchre has declined in popularity in the United States since the 19th century, when it was widely regarded as the national card game, but it retains a strong following in some regions. Today, the game is most predominant in the Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and upstate New York areas as well as some other areas of the Midwest (especially areas with significant populations of German-Americans who settled in these areas during the 19th century.)
Euchre is played differently from region to region and even within regions. This article describes typical Euchre rules, noting some of the variations that may be encountered.


Conventional Euchre is a four-player trump game, wherein the players are paired to form two partnerships. Partners face each other from across the table so that the play of the cards in conventional clockwise order alternates between the two partnerships.
Conventional Euchre uses a deck of 24 standard playing cards consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9 of each of the four suits. In some countries, the 7s and 8s are also used to give a 32 card deck. A poker deck can be used, omitting the cards from 2 to 8, and a pinochle deck may be divided in half to form two Euchre decks.
To determine the first deal, many players use a first Jack deals or first black Jack deals rule. Using the Euchre deck, one player will distribute the cards, one at a time, face up in front of each player. The player dealt the first (black) jack becomes the dealer for the first hand. In subsequent hands, the deal is rotated clockwise. Out of courtesy, the dealer should offer a cut to the player on his right after shuffling and immediately before dealing.
Each player is dealt five cards in clockwise order, usually in groups of two or three cards each. The dealer may alternate, first giving two cards to the player to his left, three cards to his partner, two cards to the player on his right and three cards to himself. The dealer then repeats, this time giving three cards to the player on his left, two cards to his partner and so on, to give each player the requisite five cards. Some dealers prefer to deal in groups of one and four, however dealing in groups of five and zero or one by one is not allowed. In other circles it is required that the dealer deal in batches of 3-2 or 2-3 and keep to the plan he selected.
The remaining four cards are referred to as the kitty, the kit, the widow, the blind, the dead hand, the grave, or buried and are placed face down in front of the dealer toward the center on the table. The top card of the blind, sometimes referred to as the deck head, or the "up card" is then turned face up, and bidding begins. The dealer asks each of the other players in turn if they would like the suit of the top card to be trump, which they indicate saying "pick it up" and the top card becomes part of the dealer's hand, who then discards to return his hand to five cards. If no one "orders up" the top card, each player is given the opportunity in turn to call a different suit as trump. If no trump is selected, it is a misdeal, and the deal is passed counterclockwise. A variant of this rule involves forcing the dealer to choose a trump (see the Bidding section in Euchre variations).
When a suit is named trump, any card of that suit outranks any card of a non-trump suit. The highest ranking card in Euchre is the jack of the trump suit and is referred to as the right bower, or simply the right. Next highest is the jack of the same color, the left bower. The right and left may also be known as the "jack" and the "jick", the "right bar" and "left bar," or "jack" and "off jack" respectively. Remaining cards of the trump suit rank from high to low as A, K, Q, 10, and 9.
In non-trump suits (except for the next suit), the jacks are not special, and the cards of those suits rank from high to low as A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9.


Assume a hand is dealt and that spades are named as trump. In this event, the trump cards are as follows, from highest ranking to lowest:
  1. Jack of spades (right bower)
  2. Jack of clubs (left bower)
  3. Ace of spades
  4. King of spades
  5. Queen of spades
  6. 10 of spades
  7. 9 of spades
For the purpose of play, the jack of clubs becomes a spade during the playing of this hand. This expands the trump suit to the seven cards named above and reduces the suit of the same color (sometimes referred to as the next suit) by one card (the jack is "loaned" to the trump suit). The same principles are observed for whatever suit is named trump. Remembering this temporary transfer of the next suit's jack is one of the principal difficulties newcomers have with the game of Euchre (See Cheating: Renege, below).
Once the above hand is finished, the jack of clubs ceases to be a spade and becomes a club again unless spades are again named as trump during the playing of the subsequent hand.


Objective and scoring

In Euchre, naming trump is sometimes referred to as "making," "calling," or "declaring trump". When naming a suit, a player asserts that his or her partnership intends to win at least three of the five tricks in the hand. A single point is scored when the bid succeeds, and two points are scored if the team that declared trump takes all five tricks. A failure of the calling partnership to win three tricks is referred to as being euchred (also called "getting set" or "getting bumped," again depending on geographical location) and is penalized by giving the opposing partnership two points. A caller with exceptionally good cards can go alone, or take a loner hand, in which case he or she seeks to win all five tricks without a partner. The partner of a caller in a 'go alone' hand does not play, if all five tricks are won by the caller, the winning team scores four points. If only three or four of the tricks are taken while going alone, then only one point is scored. If euchred while playing alone, the opposing team still only receives two points. (In some places, a euchred lone player is worth 3 points.)
The primary rule to remember when playing Euchre is that one is never required to trump, but one is required to follow suit if possible to do so: if diamonds are led, a player with diamonds is required to play a diamond. This differs from games such as Pinochle.

Calling (naming trump)

Once the cards are dealt and the top card in the kitty is turned over, the upturned card's suit is offered as trump to the players in clockwise order, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. If a player decides to "call" the up-turned card as trump (which indicates that the calling team claims they will win at least three tricks), the dealer picks up the top card in the kitty. This is termed picking up or ordering up the top card. In this event, the dealer picks up the top card from the kitty and then selects a card from the hand to discard, face down, so that the dealer only has five cards. There are several regional variations on this, see below. Once a call has been made, play begins.
If a player does not want the upturned card's suit to become trump, he or she says "pass" or signifies the desire to pass by knocking on the table. The next player to the left may then order up the card or may likewise pass.
If the upturned card comes around the table to the dealer without being ordered up by any of the players, the dealer may make a bid by picking up the top card and then discarding as described above. Generally, a player may not call a trump suit if that player does not have a natural card of that suit, although some regions will allow this. For example, if the top card in the kitty is a Jack of Spades, a player cannot call Spades if the only Spade they are holding is the Jack of Clubs, the left bower.
The dealer may also decline the upturned card's suit by turning it face down on the kitty. Once this suit has been passed by all four players, it may no longer be chosen as trump.
If the upturned card's suit is not chosen by any of the four players, the players are offered the opportunity to name any of the other three suits as trump, beginning with the player to the dealer's left, and proceeding clockwise. In this case, play begins as soon as a suit is named; no cards enter or leave the dealer's hand. A player may pass as previously described, and if the calling comes around the table to the dealer without the naming of a suit, the dealer may name a suit. If he or she also declines to name a suit, the cards are collected, no points are scored, and the deal is passed to the left. A variation to this rule exists, see below.
The team that selects trump is sometimes known as the "makers" for the remainder of the hand. The opposing team is known as the "defenders" for the remainder of the hand.

Winning tricks

The player to the dealer's left begins play by leading a card. (In some variations, if any player is going alone, the player to that person's left will lead.)
Play continues in clockwise order; each player must follow suit if they have a card of the suit led. The left bower is considered a member of the trump suit and not a member of its native suit.
The player who played the highest trump wins the trick. If no trump were played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player that won the trick collects the played cards from the table and then leads the next trick.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. The player to the left of the previous dealer then deals the next hand, and the deal moves clockwise around the table until one partnership scores 10 points and wins the game.

Going alone/solo

If the player bidding (making trump) has an exceptionally good hand, or if his or her partnership is in danger of losing the game unless they are able to score points quickly, the player making trump has the option of playing without his or her partner. If the bidder playing alone wins all five tricks in the hand, the team scores four points.
"Going alone" or "Going Solo" is initiated at the time the bidder orders the upturned card on the kitty to the dealer (on the first round of bidding) or names a suit (during the second round of bidding). The bidder signifies his/her desire to play alone by stating "alone" or (for example) "clubs alone" or "clubs solo" after bidding. If the dealer selects the top card, she may also declare a loner hand by sliding her discard to her partner. The bidder must make this call before play begins.
During a loner, the bidder's partner discards his or her cards, and does not participate in play of the hand.
Depending on regional rules, the lead on the first trick will either remain with the player to the left of the dealer, or switch to the player to the left of the bidder.
The odds of success of a loner bid depend on the lay of the cards and the inactive cards held by the bidder's partner. Nine cards out of twenty-four do not participate in play, making the hand less predictable than otherwise. A hand consisting of the top five cards of the trump suit is mathematically unbeatable from any position; this is sometimes referred to as a lay-down, as a player with such a hand may often simply lay all five cards on the table at once.
The rules of an individual game may state that a player who "sweeps," or wins all 5 tricks while going alone/solo gets 4 points, 2 for sweeping and 2 for going alone.
One of the opponents of the lone bidder may say "I defend alone", and his partner must stay out. The lone defender will play alone. Scoring is similar in such a case to a loner hand. Any "set" or "euchre" by a single defender going alone is worth 4 points to the defending partnership, or 3 in some regions.


The first team to score 5 (sometimes 7, 10 or 11) points wins the game (sometimes called a round). While score can be kept by using a tally sheet, most Euchre players traditionally use the unused 6 and 4 cards, or unused pairs of 5 cards for one member of each partnership to keep score. In western New York and parts of Ohio, it is traditional to use 2 and 3 cards, crossing them to show scores higher than 5. In all cases, one card is used to cover the other so as to expose the number of pips corresponding to the team's score. A lone defender winning 3, 4, or 5 tricks (known as a march) gets 4 points. A lone defender winning 1 or 2 tricks gets zero points.
The scoring is normally done with two fives, with the number of pips showing indicating the number of points to each team. It is also common to use a four and a six, with the six on the bottom. Scoring can also be tracked with two 5, 6, 7 or 8 cards (depending on how long the game is intended to last) where again, the number of pips showing is the total score. Two 5 cards is the most common method of score keeping as the game ends when one team has reached ten points.


Betting in Euchre can be done on a per trick basis. An additional bet may be based on a per "bump" basis. What constitutes a bump can be determined on a house rules. In general a bump occurs when the calling team fails to attain 3 tricks but for betting purposes a bump can also be assigned by: failure to sweep a lone hand, committing table talk, or by being caught reneging. Getting Euchred on a lone hand may constitute 2 bumps. Bumps can be tracked with chits such as pennies piled next to the score cards. In a Euchre game where bets are placed the table may agree on "a buck a trick and a buck a bump" for instance. Bets are settled at the end of each game.

Variations in play

Euchre is a game with a large number of variant versions and alternate rules. They include versions for two to six players, as well as changes in cards used, bidding, play, and scoring.
Many of these variations are specific to a particular region. In the US, popular variations include "Screw the Dealer," where the dealer is forced to call trump if still uncalled at the end of the second round of bidding; and "Farmer's Hand" or "Ace No Face", where a player with a bad hand can force a re-deal. In Australia and New Zealand, playing to 11 rather than 10 points is common. In southwestern England and Guernsey, variations with a joker as highest trump are played.
For more detail and many more variations, see Euchre variations.


Many sources for Euchre strategy exist, and one popular and humorous version are the Ten Commandments of Euchre by noted Euchre master Harvey Lapp. The commandments are:
  1. Thou shalt not pass a biddable hand.
  2. Thou shalt counteth upon thy partner for one trick.
  3. Thou shalt not trumpeth thy partner's ace.
  4. Thou shalt trumpeth thy partner's king.
  5. Thou shalt leadeth trump to thy partner's order.
  6. Thou shalt not leadeth trump to thine opponent's order.
  7. When thou hath ordered trump, leadeth thy right bower to smite thy foes.
  8. Ordereth not the right bower unto thy partner's hand unless thou canst go alone.
  9. Goeth alone whenever thou canst, unless thy team hath eight or nine points.
  10. Thou shalt not complaineth about the cards that the Lord thy Euchre God hath bestowed upon ye (or "learn to play those and we'll give you some better ones").


Unscrupulous partners are known to increase their chances of winning tricks by cooperative communication which is not allowed in play. This is commonly known as table talk (or talking across the table), crossboarding, or kibbutzing.
  1. Innocuous code words to tell what cards are in the player's own hand or to query what cards are in the partner's hand or what trump to declare. E.g. "You look so LOVELY tonight." Translation: I have a lot of hearts in my hand. Call hearts as trump.
  2. Secret gestures. Some examples: loud cough means partner should pass; scratching the right side of your face tells your partner you have the right bower (similar for left side); placing your cards face down during bidding is an invitation for your partner to go alone.
If crossboarding is called, depending on local rules, points may be given to the team calling out the infraction, or the hand may be simply disqualified and redealt by the next player in order. The player accused of cheating may or may not be given a chance to refute the charge. Some variations allow (or at least accept the inevitability of) the following form of non-verbal communication: A player may gratuitously hesitate before passing to signal to his partner that his cards are helpful to the offered trump, but are not sufficient to guarantee a win. This adds an additional element of strategy in that players may bluff hesitation to discourage the opponent from calling the offered trump.
Other forms of cheating include:

Stealing the deal

To successfully steal the deal, one player must finish dealing all the cards in the normal manner and flip the top card of the kitty without anyone else pointing out that it is not actually that player's turn to deal. Once the top card is flipped, the deal becomes legal according to some circles. There are generally no penalties for being caught attempting this theft, though penalties can be instituted depending upon how frequently the players involved attempt to steal. After a deal has been stolen, the deal rotation would normally be picked up from the dealer that stole the deal, unless otherwise stolen again.


If you do not follow suit when you are able to (usually by playing a trump card instead), it is considered a renege, and the opposing team is rewarded two points if it is caught in later tricks of the same hand. A variation on calling out a renege is if more than one card of the reneged suit is played afterwards, the infraction may only be called on the first instance, if it is not called until the second instance it does not count. A player often reneges purposely in order to win a trick if they think the opposing team will not catch the renege. However reneges can also be unintentional, where a player misreads some of his/her cards, usually by misinterpreting the left bower as being of its native suit, but are still callable by opponents as reneging.

Some Euchre Terms

  • Right bower - a Jack of the same suit as the trump suit. Comes from the German word Bauer (usually referred to as just "the right"). In some parts of the world, the German spelling "bauer" is still used.
  • Left bower - the Jack of the non-trump suit of the same color as the trump suit; the second-highest card in a given hand (usually referred to as just "the left")
  • Bare left - having the left bower and no other trump in the player's hand; the left bower might fall to a right bower lead
  • Big guy/Little guy - another name for the right/left bowers
  • Bullet - an Ace; the highest card in the suit (except for bowers)
  • Dutchman - having both bowers and the Ace of trump in the same hand; this is a guarantee of winning at least three tricks
  • Golden Paw - in Canadian euchre, a hand including both bowers, Ace, King and Queen of trump (also known as a "Once-in-a-Lifetime" or a 'Lay Down' hand)
  • In The Barn - when you and your partner are one point away from winning, you are 'in the barn'
  • Guarded or protected left - having the left bower and another trump card in the player's hand; the left bower is protected because the player can play the other trump on a right bower lead
  • Loser - a card that probably will not take a trick; the number and quality of losers in a hand often determines if the hand should be played alone or not
  • Lay-Down - a hand that will automatically win all five tricks if played in the correct order; ex. a dutchman plus two more trump cards, or one more trump card and an off-trump ace. Also called a "Loner" because a player with such a hand will typically opt to go alone.
  • No brainer - a hand that cannot be misplayed, for example: a hand with the five highest trump cards
  • Rag(s) - Term for non picture cards (10 or lower).
  • Benny - Alternative name for the joker card.


euchre in French: Eucher
euchre in Swedish: Euchre

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

beat, beguile of, bilk, bunco, burn, cheat, chisel, chouse, chouse out of, cog, cog the dice, con, cozen, crib, defraud, diddle, do in, do out of, finagle, flam, fleece, flimflam, fob, fudge, gouge, gull, gyp, have, hocus, hocus-pocus, mulct, pack the deal, pigeon, practice fraud upon, rook, scam, screw, sell gold bricks, shave, shortchange, stack the cards, stick, sting, swindle, take a dive, thimblerig, throw a fight, victimize
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