Euchre is typically played with 4 people, two on each team. Teammates sit across from each other and the deal is passed around in a clockwise motion. The dealer gives each player a total of 5 cards and usually does two rounds around the table. Typically they deal cards out in form of “2-3-2-3, 3-2-3-2”, or something similar. Cards are not dealt one at a time like a standard poker game. The person sitting directly to the left of the dealer is the first person to lay down a single card and the rest of the players follow in order, finishing with the dealer. The person with the winning hand wins the “trick” and leads off the next round.
Also unlike other card games, Euchre only uses 24 cards for playing (9 through Ace) and 4 for keeping score (two 2’s and two 3’s). Like many other card games, the strength of the cards going from highest to lowest goes “Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10-9”. Unlike other card games, you do not pair your cards together or match suits for a flush. Since you only play 1 card at a time, the person with the best card wins the hand, but it is slightly more complicated than just the person with the highest card.
The person who leads gets to determine what suit must be played for that hand, so if you are the first person to lay down a card, it is usually a good idea to lead with a high card. For example, if you lead the King of Spades, everyone else must play a Spade if they have it. Since you have the King, the only Spade that can beat you is the Ace. If someone throws out an Ace of another suit because they do not have any Spades, then your King will still beat them because they did not follow suit. The only time you can lose a hand when you lead with the Ace is if someone plays a Trump card.
After the dealer finishes giving each player their 5 cards, he or she flips over one card and puts it in the middle of the table. Each player goes around the table deciding whether or not they want the dealer to pick up the card or not. If it is your turn, you simply say pass, or pick it up. This is always an advantage to the team who is dealing because the dealer’s partner can say “pick it up” if he has a good hand, and is ensuring that his partner will have at least one Trump card. Trump is determined by the suit of the card. If all 4 players go around and nobody feels strong on their hand, then the card is flipped over and players (in order) will have a chance to pick what suit they want to be Trump. If nobody chooses, then the cards are thrown in and the deal goes to the next person.
Like any other trick, Trump cards must be laid down if the first person throws down a Trump card. This must be done to follow suit. If you do not have Trump, then it is best to throw down your weakest remaining card. If you go back to the first scenario, the only thing that can beat the King of Spades is the Ace… That is unless you have a Trump card. If the King of Spades is lead and you have a Spade, then you must play it, but if you do not have a Spade, and you have a Trump card, you can beat any non-Trump card.
If you have cards that are not Trump, the strength goes from Ace down to 9 for the 3 non-Trump suits. If you have Trump however, the strength is in the Jacks, and you can use a Jack of another suit but with the same color for Trump. The Jacks are referred to as the Right and Left Bowers. For example, if Diamonds is Trump, your strongest to weakest cards would be Jack-Diamonds, Jack Hearts, Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9. The Jack of Diamonds would be the Right Bower and the Jack of Hearts would be the Left Bower. If Trump were Clubs, Jack Clubs and Jack Spades would be your two highest cards.
You might be asking, what happens if I don’t follow suit and get caught later in the game? Sometimes people will purposely not follow suit, hoping that their opponents do not catch them, especially if they have a weak hand. When you Play Euchre Online, usually the program will not let you play off suit if you have it in your hand. But the term for this is Reneging. If you renege, the other team is automatically awarded two points for the hand. The best scenario for reneging is when the other team has already won 3 tricks and it appears they will win all 5. We will go over this in the score keeping section more, but if you win 5 tricks, you get 2 points, and if you can block them from getting all 5, they will only get 1 point instead. Reneging and losing all 5 tricks will give your opponent 2 points either way, so this is the only scenario where intentional reneging is really worth the risk. Accidental reneging is also a 2 point penalty.
Each player is dealt 5 cards before the cards start getting laid down. Each player lays only one card down per turn around the table. After each player throws one card, the person with the highest card wins the “trick”. To earn points, you must win at least 3 tricks. If you win 3 or 4 tricks out of 5, your team is awarded 1 point. If you get all 5, then your team gets 2 points. There are two exceptions to this rule though. The first depends one who called Trump, and the second will be discussed below which is “Going Alone”.
The team who tells the dealer to pick up the Trump card, or the team who called the suit after everyone passed on the flip card is at a point scoring disadvantage if they lose the hand. If team A calls Trump, then the point scoring is the same for them in a win. If they win 3 or 4 tricks, they earn 1 point. If they win 5 tricks, they earn 2. However, since they called suit, team B only needs to win 3 tricks to earn 2 points. When a team calls suit, loses the hand, and their opponent picks up 2 points, this is called a Euchre.
Scoring position with the cards may seem a little funny for beginners, but after you play for a little while it all begins to make sense.
0 – Both cards are face down, on top of each other.
1 – The 3 is face down, on top of the 2, and half of the two is revealed.
2 – The 2 card is face up, on top of the 3.
3 – The 3 card is face up, on top of the 2.
4 – Cards are positions just like scoring 1 point, except the 3 card is face up, on top of the 2.
5 – Both cards are face down, but on top of each other perpendicular.
6 – Just like scoring 1 point, but perpendicular.
7 – Just like scoring 2 points, but perpendicular.
8 – Just like scoring 3 points, but perpendicular.
9 – Just like scoring 4 points, but perpendicular.
10 – Game! Flip over and play again.
Going Alone is for the brave, and the lucky. For example, if you are the first guy to the right of the dealer, and the 9 of Hearts is flipped over, and you have both Bowers, Ace of Hearts, another Ace, and another Heart, you have a very strong hand. First, you have the 3 highest cards. You can tell the dealer to pick up the card, and as the first to lay down, you can lead with your 3 highest Trump cards. These 3 cards guarantees you a point, since you will win 3 tricks, but it will also pull Trump out of all your opponents hands. Since they cannot Trump your Ace, you will win the 4th, and probably the 5th as well. The big advantage of Going Alone is that you are awarded 4 points if you win all 5 tricks, instead of 2.
To Go Alone, you must announce “I’m Going Alone”, before any cards are laid down, and your partner has to sit out all 5 tricks. Since you have half the cards to beat your opponents with, you are given twice the points for winning them all. Anyone can call going alone, but if your partner is the dealer, you cannot tell him to pick up the card and say “I’m Going Alone”. If you are the dealer’s partner, you must wait until it is your turn to choose Trump after the middle card is turned over. If this card is flipped over, you are not allowed to call that suit as Trump.