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Acquainting Yourself with Euchre

Euchre is an excellent card game, simple in concept but with a high degree of subtlety in the play. The game also offers myriad variations, because it can be played with any number of players and as a long or short game.

To play Euchre, you need the following:

  • Four players
  • A standard deck of 52 cards: You don't need all the cards, however. Remove the 2 through the 8 in each suit, leaving a playing deck of 24 cards (9 through A), for the game.
  • Paper and pencil for scoring: You can also keep score by using some of the remaining playing cards, if you prefer that method.
    To save a little time, you can play with two separate decks. The partner of the dealer shuffles the second pack while his partner deals, and then he puts the shuffled deck on the dealer's right, ready for the next hand.

Euchre is a trick-taking game. A trick results when each player plays a card; the player who plays the highest card in the suit of the first card played or the highest trump card collects all the cards together and stacks them in front of him — he takes the trick.

In Euchre, you win a hand and score points for taking the majority of the tricks in a hand, which means winning three or more of the five tricks available. You get a special bonus if you manage to take all five tricks.

You play the game with partners, but under special circumstances, a member of a partnership can elect to go solo — if she thinks that going alone is worthwhile.

Picking partners

You play Euchre with four players, either with prearranged partnerships or with partners selected by cutting the deck. If you cut the deck for partners, the two highest cards take on the two lowest cards.

After you determine partners, the partners sit opposite each other. In partnership games, partners almost always sit across from each other, probably to keep the players from one another's throats.

Getting a fair deal

You can select the dealer at random. Or you can deal out the cards until a jack appears. Whoever gets the jack is the dealer.

The dealer shuffles the cards and offers them to the player on his left to cut. That player can cut the deck or tap (bump) the cards to indicate that no cut is necessary.

The dealer deals clockwise. Just to make things interesting, the dealer deals out five cards, face-down, in packets of two to each player and then three to each player. Go figure. After dealing the cards, the dealer turns over one card and places it in the middle of the table. The rest of the deck plays no further part in the hand.

At the end of each hand, the deal rotates clockwise.

A misdeal can occur in any of several ways, but, for the most part, no serious consequences arise from a misdeal. If the deal is flawed for whatever reason — because a card is turned over on the table, the deck has a face-up card in it, or the deck contains the wrong number of cards — the deal is simply canceled, and the hand is redealt.

If a player deals out of turn, and someone notices this fact before the top card is turned over, the deal is simply canceled. But if the top card is turned up before anyone notices, the deal stands, and whoever missed her deal simply loses out.

If a player is dealt the wrong number of cards and discovers this fact before the first trick is started, then a redeal takes place with no penalties. If the error isn't corrected in time, play continues, and whichever team has a player with the wrong number of cards can't score on that hand. The moral of the story is — count your cards!

Determining the trump suit

After each player has received five cards, the dealer places the remaining four cards in the center of the table with the top card turned face-up. This upcard determines what the trump suit is for the current hand. The remaining three cards play no part in the current hand.

The trump suit represents the boss suit, meaning that a card in the trump suit beats any card in any other suit. In Euchre, you have to follow to the suit that has been led (play a card in the same suit), but if you can't follow suit, then you may play a trump card and win the trick (unless someone plays a higher trump card than you).

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