Natty Bumppo’s euchre columns

from the publisher of

The Columbus Book of Euchre

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Presented here are archives of euchre columns by Natty Bumppo, author of The Columbus Book of Euchre, published on line.

Three trump, two-suited – Two trump, two green aces:

    My friend Ron has a principle he calls “three trump, two-suited”:  If he is dealing and will have three trump and only two suits (including trump), he’ll usually pick up the turned card, regardless of the pip values of the cards in his hand.  Chances are he’ll take the first trick (unless the age leads the one outside suit he has); he’ll then lead low trump to draw (hoping his partner has a bower, but that’s not essential), and the other suit he doesn’t have eventually will come back to him for another trump trick.  Count on your partner for one trick, and you score.

    In the hand above, on the right, you have picked up the nine of hearts to go with your ace and king.  You have two chances at the first trick:  A small heart lead or, more likely, a ruff of clubs or diamonds (which your partner maight take with the ace or king, if you’ve been living right).
February 16, 2016

Three trump, two-suited

Two trump, two green aces

   There’s a corollary to Ron’s principle:  Two trump, two green aces.   See the lower hand above:  A “green” ace is one of the color different from the color of the trump suit.  Your chances of cashing a “green” ace are better than those of cashing a “next” ace (one of the same color as the trump suit) because there is one more card in each of the “green” suits than in the “next” suit, and your opponents are less likely to have voids.

    You take the first trick with an ace if the lead is “green,” with a little trump if it’s “next.”  In either case you lead a trump to “clear” (counting on your partner for help), and the other green suit should come back to you.

    Try it – you might like it!

    For an earlier and fuller discussion of Ron’s principle, with intensive mathematical analysis, see Double suited,” Part 1 and Part 2, in which the argument is not all that strong for the first hand shown above except in situations calling for the “Bloomington corollary” or the “Bubinski,” but showing a surprising success rate when the off suit has a little strength – e.g., a king-nine instead of a nine-ten.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

  270-597-2187 [copyright 2016] [next]

When to say ‘alone’ – March 24, 2015

    Scott turned up the ten of spades and had in his hand the nine of spades, the king and queen of diamonds and the king and nine of hearts.  Prissy, on his left, ordered the spade; and Scott discarded the nine of hearts.

Ten of spades ordered up by the age

   Then Prissy said she was going alone as she led to the first trick.

    Scott exploded.  He picked the nine of hearts back up and discarded the nine of spades.

    “You can’t do that!” Prissy yelled.

    “You can’t do that!” Scott replied.

    His thinking was, going alone, she'd surely lead two trump off the top; and his two little spades would be useless.  He’d have a better chance of stopping the loner keeping his king of hearts guarded.  He initially kept two spades in the hope a club would be led to his void before all the trump was drawn.  (And he did stop the loner, with his king of hearts, as Prissy’s last two cards were the ace and queen of hearts.  Scott kept his hearts and tossed his diamonds
when he saw his partner sluff a diamond earlier; he correctly credited his partner with the ace of diamonds.)

    So, who’s right?  What’s the rule?

    It depends on which book you're reading.  Of 20 books on euchre I surveyed, eight – including the United States Playing Card Company’s Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games, R. F. Foster’s 19th century encyclopedia, and the “Professor’s” 19th century treatise Euchre and Its Laws – indicate that a lone hand must be declared at the time trump is made.  Score it for Scott.

    Five of the 20 books, however – including an older edition of the United States Playing Card Company manual (1908), two other 19th century treatises (Keller’s and Griffith’s), The Columbus Book of Euchre and another 20th century publication, the National Euchre Association’s Official Laws of Euchre – say merely that the intention must be stated before the first card is played.  Score it for Prissy.

   And the seven other books just don’t say.  These include Street & Smith’s Modern Hoyle (1891), Morehead and Mott-Smith's Hoyles Rules of Games (1983), and Wergin’s and Benjamin’s books.

    Five of the books in the eight favoring “Scott’s rule” do not state it squarely, however.  For example, Galt’s All Time Favorite Card Games says, “When accepting or naming a trump suit, you may also declare at that time to ‘play alone’ ” (emphasis added);  Joe Andrews says, “Any player on their turn to bid may declare a ‘Loner’,” and Thomas Gallagher says, “Whenever a player accepts either the turned-up card as trump or declares a different suit as trump, that player must decide if . . . to ‘play it alone’.”  One of the five, Leeds and Dwight’s The Laws of Euchre, says a player naming trump must declare alone before naming the trump – but it doesn’t say at all when he must declare alone if he is ordering or picking up.

   Obviously Scott and Prissy have shown us that declaring before the discard, if not exactly at the time of making trump, is the better rule (and Scott has shown us how to deal with the situation if that’s not the rule at  your table).  It’s a rare situation, and it’s even rarer that what you discard will make any difference.  For example, let’s say Scott held the nine and ten of hearts instead of the nine and king of hearts.  Yes, he’ll probably lose his nine and ten of spades on the first two leads; but he’s not going to improve his chance of stopping the loner by saving either one of those two loser hearts.

   I’ll often discard the card ordered up by the age whether he's going alone or not, if the ordered card is low and would be the only trump in my hand and if I cannot create a void except by discarding an ace.  It’s illegal to discard the card ordered up according to some, but the surprise value of not following suit on a trump lead makes it worth the discard.  It might so rattle the maker she’ll forget how to play!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

  270-597-2187 [copyright 2015] [next]

Six-handed euchre – August 3, 2012

    A reader called me from northern Illinois the other day to ask if I had ever heard of six-handed euchre.  Well, no.  Now I’ve heard everything (I mentioned in my book some people in Alabama who played four-handed euchre with calls of “no trump,” “low no trump” and “low trump” allowed).  When my friends and I have had six people all wanting to play euchre, we have divided up into three partnerships to let one team sit out a game or set, and sit back in to replace the next losing team.

    Or you could play 500.  Or you could play buck euchre.  A friend I play with frequently on line, whom I have never met in person, said a few Sundays ago that people were coming over to his place that afternoon to play buck euchre.

    “What’s the matter?” I asked.  “You have only two friends?”

    “No,” he laughed.  “There’ll be four of us.  But none of us gets along with the others well enough to be partners.

    Oh!  OK.  Back to six-handed euchre.  First you’d have to put the sevens and eights back in the deck to make it big enough to feed five cards to each player (there’d be two cards left over – just enough for a turn and a burn).  You could play in three two-player partnerships or two three-player partnerships.  It’s that simple.

    But simpler to play in two three-player partnerships.  If you played in three two-player partnerships, there would be lots of euchres (name of the game).  Not very often would one team be strong enough to take three tricks.  You’d just about have to play “stick the dealer” just to keep the game going.

    Then, how to score the euchres?  You could give the euchring teams two points each; but maybe a more sensible way to score it would be to give two points to a defending team only if it took a trick – or, if you wanted to get tough about it, make it a two-trick requirement to score on a euchre.

    Another game that can be played with six players simultaneously is “call ace” euchre.  That’s an ancient game, described in my book.  Each player bids individually; but the winning bidder gets to choose his partner – by calling a favored off-suit in addition to trump.  The player with the highest card in the called suit becomes the maker’s partner (and is not known as such until that card is played.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

  270-597-2187 [copyright 2012] [next]

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