As with pretty much any Michigander, euchre is a long-standing tradition of mine. I learned the card game from some college students I worked with at a restaurant, and I spent years continuing to learn – many with a beer in hand (once I was of legal age, of course). Most camping nights were spent near the fire at a picnic table counting tricks and asking, “What’s trump again?”
Years later euchre literally changed my life. After a divorce, I was invited to a euchre night at a friend’s house. I didn’t have a partner to bring with me and didn’t really feel like going, but my friend told me there would be other singles there and that we’d be moving from table to table. That is where I met the woman who is now my wife. So to me this card game, seemingly only known by Michiganders, laid the foundation for a future I’d likely not have known without it. You could say I’m a huge fan of euchre.
Now, if you’re looking for tips on how to win every hand, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Below you’ll find some random tips I’ve learned over the years playing with some great players, some average players and some I’d rather not admit to being partners with… all in good fun of course.
1. You actually shouldn’t “always count on your partner for at least one trick.”
This one’s a myth you’ll hear from all levels of players. The thought is that regardless of what you call for trump, your partner should have at least a high enough card to take a trick. Let’s face it though, the euchre fairy is a fickle little thing. Even when you have a couple of aces in your hand, depending on where the lead comes from (anywhere but immediately to your left), you just don’t know what the next player has. With the exception of the highest trump, someone could have your kryptonite. Counting on a partner for at least one trick has burned more great euchre players than I can recall. Calling trump on this myth could lead to you getting euchred.
2. ‘Stick the dealer’ is a good rule.
If the card turned up for trump has been passed, and no one calls trump, making the dealer call it (rather than re-dealing) is called ‘sticking the dealer.’ Not only does this make the game move a little quicker – re-dealing takes time away from actually playing – but it also leads to some interesting hands. Sometimes it really can bite you, but sometimes it can be quite a rush to pull off a winning hand with almost nothing of value.
3. Include the youth.
At our somewhat-monthly euchre parties, we all bring our kids. Sometimes the older kids – the teenagers – end up stepping in for a few hands or for the night. We’re passing along our traditions to the youth much like our ancestors passed along oral traditions like songs and folklore. Well, maybe not that noble, but it definitely crosses the generational lines.
4. When possible, lead big.
Lead with a singleton off-suit ace, if you have one. If no other cards of that suit are in your hand, there is a higher probability that they are in your opponents’ hands, preventing them from trumping your ace. Your best chance for an ace to make it around the table and win a trick is on the opening lead.
However, do not lead with an ace if you have more than one other card of the same suit. With only six cards in a suit, if three of them are in your hand, chances are good that one of your opponents will be void in that suit and can trump your ace. Pay special attention to the “next” suit, the same-color suit as trump. Since the left bower switches suits, this suit only has five cards, and thus even if you hold only an ace and one other card in that suit, leading the ace will often be an invitation for your opponents to trump you. In this case, save your ace for later and hope it can win a trick once trump is all drawn out.
5. If you’re holding 3 trump and an outside ace, call it.
Here is an example: If you have 9-10-and-Queen of spades, the ace of hearts and the 9 of spades, bid spades. Though the spade cards seem weak, you have a battle plan. You are going to lead clubs at the first opportunity. It’s very likely you’ll lose that first club lead, but this will lessen the possibility that the opponents will trump your ace later and you are hoping to trump at least one trick later. While tip 1 does say you shouldn’t necessarily count on your partner for a trick, it is likely that in this scenario you could *hope* for them to get a trick. Sometimes, hope wins.
6. With power comes responsibility – going alone can backfire.
Yes, you may have most of the trump cards, but that doesn’t mean you have all of them. Plus, depending on the lead, you may lose the first trick, which can spiral downward into getting euchred. Going alone can definitely help with the score, but doing it often can backfire. Another downside – annoying your partner by going alone and not letting them actually play. Use this power sparingly, and have some fun with it.
7. Watch what’s laid down.
A lot of the time people – especially new players – just lay down slough cards without thinking about how it will affect the outcome of the game. Noobs might lay down a trump card on their partners trick when their partner was winning the trick. If your partner is winning, then throw an off suit card that is of no use! This way you can save your high card for another trick and hopefully get two points instead of one.
Bonus tip: Host euchre parties! Hosting parties not only helps you practice and get better but it also gets to the heart of euchre… spending time with people. Friends, family and strangers can get together, play cards and spend quality time in beautiful Michigan settings. Heck, you might even be able to play in other states, introducing others to our little secret.
~Dan Moyle, Contributing Writer