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Euchre Column of the Month – January 2005




By Joe Andrews




Euchre -- A Regional Phenomenon

Euchre, one of the classic card games, was introduced to America during the mid-1700's. For a brief history of this game, please refer to my book or check out John MacLeod's wonderful card game site A little more than one hundred years ago, Euchre was the #1 card game in the United States. When I visited the United States Playing Card Company (USPC) Museum ten years ago, I was astonished at the collection of custom Euchre decks from the late 1800's. USPC promoted this game extensively, and sponsored many events.

The creation of the game of Bridge at the beginning of the last century, and the later popularity of Bid Whist, Spades, and Pinochle, had a dramatic effect on the the game of Euchre. For some unknown reason, Euchre became a regional game, limited primarily to the American Midwest and eastern Canada. However, one must not be fooled by the geography! For Euchre truly thrives in its own kingdom.

The states of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois are huge Euchre bastions. Iowa, northern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania and upstate New York have lots of players as well. Let's not forget about our neighbors to the North: Ontario and the Maritimes must be included. In this "Euchreland" area, there are hundreds of live Euchre Leagues and several daily tournaments at local clubs. Bars and restaurants also host plenty of events. College students love the game. Many families get together for Euchre weekends... and on it goes.

However, when I travel to other regions of the United States or Canada, I am amazed to find very few Euchre players. A lot of people have never heard of the game. One fellow thought I was talking about Bob Uecker, the former baseball player! A few others had a hard time even spelling or pronouncing the word "Euchre." Yes, there are players who have moved from Euchre-rich locations to other areas and still play with their friends. For the most part, however, their Euchre activity is online or limited to a few of the regional tourneys.

Why the game is so geographic, I cannot understand. Euchre is the ultimate social game - a perfect blend of skill and luck. It is easy to learn, and a typical game of ten points is usually over in 15 minutes. For those who want to improve their game, there is plenty of high-level competition out there.

Analyze This -- An Interesting Hand

Here is a deal called "Safety First" from my new Euchre book. Let's check it out!

The score in this "tens" game is 8-6 in favor of the opponents. You, sitting South as dealer, pick up this collection. Oh yes, the King of hearts is turned.




 J 9





Three passes come around to you. The call of Loner is quite irresistible! Away goes the useless Queen of clubs. Here is the layout:









 K Q
 K 10



 Q 10


South (You)

 K J 9





The call of Loner is reasonable, and the prospect for four points (and game) is about the same. After all, if the Left is buried or in partner's hand, and the Ace drops on the first round of trump... if, if, if! North tables his cards, face down, and heads to the refrigerator for some liquid refreshment.

West deposits the spade King on the table, and South wins the Ace, as he licks his chops. The Right catches the Ace and the ten spot. Now South pauses for thought. How are the trump divided? Where is the Left? Decisions, decisions. He plows on with the King of hearts, and his world collapses when East wins the Left, cashes the Queen of trumps, and blows South away with the Ace of clubs. Now their side wins with the Euchre! North comes back to the table, and asks, "Did we take them all, partner"?

Upon observing three tricks in the opponent's pile, North's shoulders slump down. After some very discernable silence - the atmosphere of a funeral - it is time to move on. What a calamity! South was faced with one of the toughest decisions in Euchre. His greed did him in; a sure-fire way to save a point was to lead the Ace of diamonds on trick #3.

If West had trumped, then South's King of trump was sure to produce a third trick, as the trump would be breaking 2-2. (West probably did not hold three trump, as he surely would have ordered with the Left-Ace, and another trump.) If East had trumped with the Queen, then South's King-nine were sure of winning one trick (whether East chose to cash the Left or not).

However - and let's give this some thought, folks - would you have gone for broke (and the four points for Loner) by pushing the King at trick #3? (Raise your right hand and swear truthfulness if you say "no.") Ah, the world of Euchre.

Happy New Year, everyone!