(In Euchre, Jacks are promoted within the trump suit)
Card Game Rules
Euchre is a classic trick-taking card game played between two teams of two players each. Utilizing a specialized 24-card deck—comprising only the 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace—teams aim to be the first to score 10 points. In this guide, we'll break down the essential rules and strategies to excel in Euchre.
Before game play can begin, a dealer must be selected. Each player draws one card from a shuffled deck. The player with the lowest card becomes the dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck and passes out 5 cards to each player in a clockwise fashion.
The top card from the remaining deck is flipped over. The player to the left of the dealer has the option to establish the flipped over card as the trump suit. If they decline to do so, the authority of establishing trump moves to the left. If no one decides to establish the flipped over card as the trump suit, the player to the left of the dealer decides which ever trump suit they would like. If the card initially flipped up is established as trump, the dealer takes the flipped up card and replaces it with any card in their deck. If the flipped up card is passed as trump, no one replaces the card.
In Euchre, Aces are high and 9's low. The Jack of the trump suit is called the Right Bower and it is the highest ranking card. The Jack of the off suit (suit of the same color) is called the Left Bower and it becomes the Jack of the trump suit.
Teammates sit across from each other in the group circle. The team who determined the trump suit is called the attackers or makers while, the other team is called the defenders.
After trump is establish, a player may decide to go alone. If they do so, their teammate must lay their cards down and abstain from the game. Going alone has possible advantages when it comes to scoring.
How to Play
The player to the left of the dealer begins the game play by placing the lead card in the center of the circle. Going clockwise, every player must follow suit if they can. The player with the highest ranking card, factoring in the established trump suit, takes the trick. The winner of the trick takes the lead for the next round.
If the attackers take 3 or 4 tricks, they receive 1 point; If they take 5 tricks, they receive 2 points. If the defenders take 3 or 4 tricks, they receive 2 points; If they take 5 tricks, they receive 4 points.
If an attacking player decides to go alone and they take 3 or 4 tricks, they receive 2 points; If they take 5 tricks, they receive 4 points. If a defending player decides to go alone and they take 3 or 4 tricks, they receive 4 points; If they take 5 tricks, they receive 5 points.
Game play keeps going until a team earns 10 points.
Points are kept visually for each team by using two 5’s of a color, one placed over the other. The top card is initially faced down and is used to progressively reveal pips as the team earns points. Each pip shown counts as 1 point. After 5 points, the top card is flipped up and the cycle begins again.
A team is “Euchred” if they fail to get 3 tricks.
A team gets a “March” if they receive all 5 tricks.
For more information on the rules of Euchre, check out pagat.com's section on Euchre here
(The game of Euchre has a long history beginning in 18th century Europe)
As games scholar David Parlett concludes in a definitive article on Euchre: “Euchre derives from the Alsatian game of Jucker and that Jucker derives ultimately from Triomphe or French Ruff, probably via Bête. It is definitively characterised by the promotion of two Jacks to topmost position as Right and Left Bowers, a feature variously represented or paralleled in late 18th-early 19th century west German games such as Réunion, Bester Bube and Kontraspiel. The promotion of Jacks apparently developed during the 18th century, perhaps as an extension of the promotion of the Jack of Clubs in Loo and Pamphile, perhaps also influenced by the special status of black Aces (or Aces of swords and clubs) in Ombre.”
From its European origins, Euchre was likely brought to America by German immigrants. Its first official description in America was written down in the 1845 edition of Hoyle's Games. While Euchre’s popularity has declined since the 1800’s, it still has a strong following in the American Midwest. Countries around the world, however, also indulge in game, particularly the United Kingdom.
For more information on the history of Euchre, check out David Parlett's article here.
Euchre is a game with many variations on the number of players, the number of cards, specialty moves, etc. Some versions, for instance, include the 8 and 7 to form a 32 card deck.
To view a larger list of Euchre's variations, check out this Wikipedia page.
In British Euchre, 25 cards are in play with the 25th card being a Joker or the 2 of Spades. The Joker or 2 of Spades is called the “Benny” and it out ranks all cards. If the Benny is flipped up when deciding trump, the dealer’s team become the Attackers and the dealer replaces the Benny with one of their cards.
2 Player Euchre
Two players may play Euchre with the following method. First, the dealer is chosen with a coin toss. The dealer then passes out 8 cards to each player. The last 3 cards are designated as “dummy” cards. Players then make the best 5 card hand they can with the 8 cards and discard the remaining 3. Players can “go alone” if the decide not to implement the dummy cards beforehand.
In Buck Euchre, there are no teams. Everyone begins the game with 25 points and players win tricks to subtract points (1 trick equals 1 point) with the goal being to get to 0. If the attacker (player who decided trump) wins at least 3 tricks, they subtract 3 points from their score and the other players add 3 points to theirs; if the attacker fails to receive at least 3 tricks, however, they add 5 points to their own score. Every player must take at least 1 trick in the game or else 5 points is added to their score. If a player receives a march, they win the game immediately. If all players pass when deciding trump, there will be no trump in the game and no attacker. A player can also drop out of a round after receiving their cards; this saves them from the 1 trick minimum but, also prohibits from subtracting any points.
Pepper, or Big Euchre, follows the rules of regular euchre with a few exceptions. Players receive 6 cards instead of 5. A team wins when they reach 30 points. If a team bids and wins all of the tricks in a round, they receive 12 points; this is called "Big Pepper". All other rules of traditional Euchre apply.
Agram is a Euchre variant from the country of Niger. The deck for Agram consists of Aces, 10s, 9s, 8s, 7s, 6s, 5s, 4s, and 3s with Aces high and 3s low. The player left of the dealer begins with the first lead card. Going clockwise, players try and follow suit with a higher ranked card to win the trick. If they cannot follow suit, they may play any card but, a card not in the lead suit is not ranked. For example, if the lead card is a 7 of Clubs, an Ace of Diamonds does not out rank it. The winner of the last trick wins the entire game, regardless of how many tricks another player might have won. Only the last trick matters in Agram.
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About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about card games here and his LinkedIn profile here.