Reviews of books on euchre

by Natty Bumppo, author,

The Columbus Book of Euchre


Published since 1982:

Andrews, The Complete Win at Euchre

Baiyor & Easley, The Think System

Benjamin, Euchre Strategies

Buchko, Euchre Anyone? Euchre Solitaire

Ellis, Euchre: The Grandpa Lou Way

Gallagher, Winning at Euchre

Kelchner, Discover Euchre (videotape)

Martin, Euchre: How to Play and Win

Rigal, Euchre for Dummies

Wergin, Wergin on Euchre

Published prior to 1906:

The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre “by a Professor” (1862)

Euchre: How to Play It (anonymous, 1886)

Keller, The Game of Euchre (1887)

Berkeley, Écarté and Euchre (1890)

Euchre – and How to Play It (anonymous, 1897)


Catherine Perry Hargrave’s History of Playing Cards and Bibliography (Dover, New York, 1966) lists a number of early books on euchre: John W. Keller, The Game of Euchre (1887, Frederick A. Stokes Co., New York, 82 pages); Cavendish, The Pocket Guide to Euchre (1890, Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd., London); “Berkeley,” Écarté and Euchre (1890, George Bell & Sons, London, 79 pp.); Progressive Euchre (1890, author unidentified, Joseph E. Church, Cincinnati), and R. F. Foster, Call Ace Euchre (1905, Brentano’s, New York). Hargrave’s bibliography lists also four books on 500, the deliberately invented “super” euchre game commissioned by the United States Playing Card Company, all published between 1899 and 1909.

We now know, through the sweep of Amazon.com, Abebooks.com and the rest of the internet, that there were a few 19th century books on euchre that Hargrave overlooked, including, at least, The Game of Euchre with Its Laws (1850; author and publisher unknown; we have only seen this book listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and mentioned in the next book); The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre by “a Professor” (1862, T. B. Peterson & Bros., Philadelphia, 134 pages); Euchre: How to Play It (ca. 1886, author unidentified, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, London and Canberra, 124 pp.); A. Howard Cady, Euchre: A Treatise on the Game and Its Origin: With Descriptions of Its Several Varieties etc. (1895, American Sports Pub. Co., 44 pp.), and Euchre – and How to Play It (1897, 1903, author unidentified, United States Playing Card Company, Cincinnati, 34 pp.).

Since the publication of Foster’s book in 1905, there seem to have been no books published specifically on euchre until the first edition of The Columbus Book of Euchre was published in 1982. All those earlier books are out of print and hard to find. Foster was the author also, however, of Foster’s Complete Hoyle, reprinted in 1963 and accessible (1897, 1963, J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia). It contains a long section on euchre, including a subsection headed “METHODS OF CHEATING.

The publication of The Columbus Book of Euchre in June of 1982 was followed quickly by the publication in August of the same year of Gary Martin’s Euchre: How to Play and Win (1982, Martin, Fort Wayne, 64 pp.). Both Martin’s book and the first edition of The Columbus Book of Euchre were “desktop” publications created before personal computers made “desktop publishing” a household possibility and are, therefore, both a little rough typographically. Since 1990 and the advent of personal computer “desktop publishing,” a number of other books and a videotape on euchre have appeared. And while they are understandably more attractive than Martin’s book and the first edition of The Columbus Book of Euchre, Martin’s and The Columbus Book of Euchre remained the only good books on euchre in print until the appearance of Joe Andrews’ new book. Reviews of Andrews’, Martin’s and other books in print on euchre follow, along with reviews of those out-of-print 19th century books we have managed to find.


Euchre: How to Play and Win, by Gary Martin, Martin, Fort Wayne, 1982, 64 pp., $4.95

This is an instructive and useful little book.
And it’s one of only two books in print on
euchre that get almost everything right (the
other is The Columbus Book of Euchre).
There are no glaring errors.

There are some highly helpful hints on what
to lead, and an interesting suggestion to lead a
nine to save an ace (pp. 25-27. The author
may have a point, but he does not explain it).
There’s an interesting section on bid euchre
(both “partner” and “buck”), with good in-
struction.

There are some annoying grammatical
errors, such as “lead” as the past tense of
“lead” going on for several pages beginning

at page 23 (the author finally gets it right with
“led” at page 32), and some syntactical num-
ber confusion (e.g., at p. 32, “If diamonds is
trump . . . ,” and at p. 38, “In buck euchre
each player plays for himself . . . . Each player
bids on the number of tricks each feels they
can win”).

And because the book was printed before
personal computers made “desktop publish-
ing” a household possibility, it’s not the most
attractive book out there: The only color is on
the cover, and the small type makes it a little
hard to read.

But the content of the book makes it well
worth the price.


The Complete Win at Euchre, by Joseph D. Andrews
Games by Andrews Inc., Melrose, Mass., 2004, 171 pp., $12.95

One of Joe Andrews’ criteria for a “book,”
it seems, is that it must have at least 100 pages.
In correspondence with me in 2001 over the
prospect of collaborating on a euchre book,
he referred to The Columbus Book of Eu-
chre
as a “Booklet”;* and in a list of five oth-
er euchre books in his own new book, The
Complete Win at Euchre,
he takes care to
point out that only Wergin on Euchre has
more than 100 pages.

And, I must admit, The Columbus Book of
Euchre
, listed at 90 pages, does not contain
90 full pages of euchre. Subtracting title pages,

-----------------------------------------------
* Capitalized, yet: “... your Booklet ... my Books ....”

index pages and the like, and solely decorative
illustrations taking up whole pages reduces it to
75. By similar subtractions you can get The
Complete Win at Euchre
’s 171 pages down
to 151, but that’s still more than Wergin’s 137.

So if I want a competitive euchre “book,” it
seems, I have to get those skinny 75 pages up
to 150 or more. Taking a tip from Joe’s
book, I have found some ways:

– Use big type and lots of inner headlines. If I
cut my average 38 lines a page to Joe’s 30,
I’m up to 95 pages already.

– Use lots of repetition. State the rules twice
(once in “The Basics,” once “Official”). In


describing variants of the game, such as
“British Euchre” and nine different ways
people all over North America play bid
euchre, state the complete rules for each
variant in each description instead of merely
the contrasting rules that make each variant
unique. Now I have 113 pages.

– Pad the book with pages having nothing
specifically to do with euchre, such as a
four-page history of the United States
Playing Card Company, a two-page history
of playing cards, and seven pages of “Pro-
files in Courage Euchre” (at a page apiece,
with plenty of white space if there is not a
whole page of nice things to say) about peo-
ple the readers have never heard of who
have not made much of a difference in the
history of euchre (I will grant that three of
Joe’s ten “Profiles in Courage Euchre” might

be warranted). Now I have 126 pages.

– Throw in articles by other writers, slap-
dash (Joe wrote less than three-fourths
of the text of his own book. Some out-
side contributions just barely touch on the
subject matter. The inserts include a two-
page history of jacks, by Daphne Tregear,
and five pages on “Euchre Math” written
by Richard Freedman, which, although
somewhat interesting, is of little practical
use). I’m up to 144 pages now (without
counting the history of the United States
Playing Card Company or anything else
twice) – and I’ve passed Wergin.

– Pad the book further with three full pages of
pictures of the four full suits of cards available
in each euchre hand and accounts of 23
“Classic Hands” the author has observed,


with a one-page illustration of each (that’s 47
more pages). Now I have 184 pages. Re-
store the title and index pages and the dec-
orations and I’m just a page shy of 200.
Hope you like my “book.

Although Joe’s book describes “British Eu-
chre” and nine variants of bid euchre in excru-
ciating detail, there’s not a word on two-han-
ded euchre or euchre solitaire. Let’s face it,
it’s just another thin book on euchre. That
doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It’s not. Most
of it is correct and helpful. My general criti-
cism is that it’s heavy on example and lean on
principle.

There are too many possible situations to
cover, teaching by example. The “Bidding
Skills – Twenty Questions” in Joe’s book
deal only with whether the dealer should pick

up or turn down in the given scenarios; there
are no specific lessons for the players in first,
second or third chairs, and none for the dealer
on second round. Eight examples are given
in the “Opening Leads” quiz, but no instructive
scenarios for leads to second and subsequent
tricks. And the four “Play of the Hand” sam-
ples given are rather meager. The “Classic
Hands” are but 23 out of thousands.

Joe does do well on his examples, although I
find debatable his conclusions on Nos. 8 and
20 of his “Bidding Skills” questions, on Nos. 1,
3 and 8 of his “Opening Leads” quiz, and on
Nos. 3 and 4 of his “Play of the Hand” ex-
amples (try them yourself). I did not review all
the “Classic Hands” – they are presented as
much as profiles in courage excitement as right
or wrong – but I noticed that Joe overlooked a
good potential opening lead on the first one.


I said most of the book is correct. Some
things aren’t. For example:

– Joe speaks of euchre played in the 18th cen-
tury. There is no evidence that euchre was
played before the 19th century. (Écarté and
Jucker, each believed by various scholars to
be the root of euchre, also date only to the
early 19th century.)

– Joe says that as dealer’s partner you should
order anytime you have two strong trump
. . . ” (p. 51; my emphasis). I don’t think so.
Good way to queer your partner’s loner.
Trust him, if you have nothing else or have
an answer to other suits. Why do you sup-
pose the Canadians have that silly rule requi-
ring the partner to go alone if he assists?

– Joe says, categorically, to “never call a loner

when the score is 8-8” (p. 59; his emphasis).
If the hand in his “Bidding Skills” question
No. 17, where he first suggests that, had
lower trump or one fewer trump, it would be
a perfect example of when you should go
alone with eight points, to keep your partner
from taking the lead on first trick and being
unable to lead trump back to you.

– Incredibly, he says that if you have 6 or 7
points to your opponents’ 9, “a loner . . . is
a virtual forced call, especially if you hold
junk!’ (emphasis his).

– There’s a questionable use of the word
“sandbagging.

– And Joe’s book contains constant reference
to “auction” and “bidding” to make trump.
Aside from the power of jacks, perhaps the


most distinctive thing about euchre – as op-
posed to other trick-taking games such as
bridge and spades – is that in euchre you do
not make trump by bidding. You order,
assist, pick up or name trump in euchre (as
in the extinct games écarté and triumph).
The only bidding that goes on in euchre –
i.e., claiming in advance the number of tricks
you will take – is in the many versions of bid
euchre, which, all taken together, do not
claim nearly as large a following as the stan-
dard game.

I would like to attribute a few things in Joe’s
book to Natty Bumppo, since Joe didn’t bother:

1. The etymology of the word “joker,” on
page 7, is taken from a hypothesis in David
Parlett’s Oxford Guide to Card Games
extended in The Columbus Book of Eu-

chre, without attribution to either (but
with “Jucker” misspelled).

2. And Joe’s special thanks to Harvey Lapp
for his “Ten Commandments of Euchre”
(pp. 43-48) overlooks Lapp’s own ac-
knowledgment, on his Commandments
page, of Natty Bumppo for his special
contributions and editing.

3. Joe heaps acknowledgment on John Mc-
Leod, proprietor of the Card Games web
site, but does not mention McLeod’s
gracious acknowledgment of Natty
Bumppo and The Columbus Book of
Euchre
(“the definitive guide to American
euchre,” McLeod calls it) on the Card
Games euchre page; and Joe ignores his
own previous credit to me, in which he
says, “ . . . [S]ome very fine books have


been written about [euchre] strategy and
psychology. You may want to try The
Columbus Book of Euchre
by Natty
Bumppo. It is very down to earth and
chock full of information!”

You will find the most amazing revelation
in Joe’s book at page 99, in a “Profile in
Courage Euchre” of “Newt’s”: “In Septem-
ber of 2003, the first store in the United
States to offer playing cards and related
merchandise held its grand opening. What
tricks the memory plays on us! I had thought
that I had been buying playing cards and po-
ker chips at drug stores and dime stores since
the 1940’s.

Joe does take care of his patrons and clients.
We have not only Newt’s, and the history of

the United States Playing Card Company,
and the oozing glorification of Beth (“Tweet-
ie Heart”) Cole and her Euchre Club on line,
but also the promotion of MSN and three
other on-line euchre playing sites – over
Pogo and Yahoo!, which get only one line
apiece, and without mention of Playsite, one
of the most venerable venues for playing eu-
chre on line. Yahoo! and Pogo are far and
away the most popular sites for playing eu-
chre on line: None of the sites exalted by
Joe comes close to Pogo, and Pogo does
not come close to Yahoo! (and there are
reasons).

One more thing: Let’s just pretend we
never heard of “progressive” tournament
scoring: That’s not euchre.
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Winning at Euchre, by Thomas A. Gallagher, 1991 (publisher & city not disclosed), 60 pp., $3.95

Gallagher’s booklet has a Gorenesque point
system for evaluating a euchre hand. And
while that is its salient feature, its best feature
(aside from the misuse of the words “bid” and
“bidder”; see review of Joe Andrews’ book,
above) is the second little paragraph in the In-
troduction: “Euchre is a bidder’s game. You
must bid at every opportunity. . . . Just to sit
back and pass or hope to euchre your oppo-
nents is a loser’s game. . . .

Another section, the three “Most Common
Errors by Euchre Players,” is right on: Passing
a makeable hand, failing to lead trump on of-
fense, leading trump on defense. (Trumping a

partner’s ace is left out, but it is enjoined – in
bold type – on the previous page.)

The point system assigns four points to a
right bower, three to a left, two to each other
trump card, and one to each ace in the off
suits, for a total of 20 “high card” points. Then
the author concludes, and attempts to demon-
strate, that you need 10 points to go alone,
and that you should order or pick up with 7
points (but need only 5 to “assist” – and that’s
a flaw, since it encourages a dealer’s partner,
who normally should keep his mouth shut).

But the math is a little fuzzy. For example,


the author states that if you have 8 points, your
opponents have 6, your partner has 3, and the
pack has 3. The actual probability is, the op-
ponents
have 6.7, the partner has 3.3, and
the pack (i.e., the three cards remaining “bur-
ied,” or unseen) has only 2. On average each
hand is 167 per cent as strong as the pack.

The author says, at page 3, that a 10-point
hand “cannot be euchred. Accompanying the
discussion of the point system is a one-page
chart of “biddable” hands from 7 to 13 points.
The chart lists four possible “10-point” hold-
ings, all of which can be euchred, but omits
two – (1) a left with three other trump and an
outside ace, which also can be euchred (by
Right-Ace-x of trumps held by an opponent),

and (2) a holding of five trumps without bow-
ers, which is the only “10-point” hand that
cannot be euchred. The error lies in ranking a
9, 10 or queen of trumps as high as an ace or
king.

And the author’s assertion that you must
have at least 10 “high card points” to go alone
seems rather timid from one who says you
must bid to win. Natty Bumppo’s Columbus
Book of Euchre
, at pp. 42-43, lists four “8-
point” holdings that are excellent candidates
for loners, and even a hand of 2 or 3 points
that will do the trick on a long shot. And Gary
Martin, at p. 20 of his Euchre: How to Play
and Win
, shows a “7-point” hand he recom-
mends going alone on.


None of which is to say the point system is
shoddy – by and large, it works. But it is
flawed. For further examples:

(1) It fails to distinguish between the value
of a “next” ace and one of the other color. An
ace off color is much more valuable.

(2) It fails to evaluate distribution. The
Goren point system in bridge gives a void the
second highest value, comparable to that of the
left bower in Gallagher’s euchre system. Also
in euchre a singleton ace is worth more than a
doubleton ace; an ace heading a three-card
suit is virtually worthless, and a two-suited
hand has a value not addressed by Gallagher.

(3) It gives no value to kings. While a king
often has no value in euchre, it has tremen-
dous
value in a two-suited hand or if its ace is
buried or in partner’s hand.

Another problem with playing by the num-
bers is that each euchre hand is situational
it’s not only the cards that matter, but also the
position (where you sit at the table, which is
so much more important in a short game like
euchre than in a long game like bridge or
spades), and the score (many things you will
do at 6 or 7, or at 8 or 9, or when your oppo-
nents are at 6 or 7 or at 8 or 9, you will not
do at other scores). You play by Gallagher,
I play by instinct, and I’ll beat you.


Finally, would it be picayune to point out that the author has the horse on the rider (p. 45)? That he thinks “next” is “Nix”? That he lacks true bravado, or humor, as on page 39, where he writes, “Dealing out of turn . . . is considered poor sportsmanship if . . . done intentionally”? Not in Columbus, where stealing the deal is part of the game!

I had heard about this book; I wanted to like this book. It’s OK; it’s interesting. But it is too formulaic: It does not capture the intuition, the essence, of euchre.

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Euchre: The Grandpa Lou Way, by John Ellis
Wednesday Morning Productions, Kleinburg, Ontario, 1996, 76 pp., $8.95

This book might be more appropriately ti-
tled Euchre for Dummies, or, even, Cards
for Dummies
, so basic and simplistic it is.
And thin: Of 76 pages, 18 are blank, title or
dedication pages; 4 are full-page illustrations,
and 9 more are nearly full-page illustrations –
all for $8.95. Of the 45 pages remaining, four
are devoted to Old Maid instructions on card
playing: Which is the higher card, a 9 or a
10? a king or an ace? What is a trick? What
is “trump”? What does it mean to “lead”? to
“follow suit”?

It may have been written by a Dummy, so

weak is the grammar. The author seems to
have particular difficulty with syntactical num-
ber – for example, on page 49 alone: “Before
either one of them pick up or order . . . , they
. . . ”; “Unless they are a novice . . . ,” and
“Learn how to assess another player’s bench
strength so that you can compare your own to
theirs. When someone else makes trump, you
may have some clues about their strength”
(emphasis added).

Inconsistency in use of terms also is dis-
tracting: On page 12, the word “round” is
used as a synonym for a “hand” of five tricks.


Then, on page 14, “hand” means “trick.
Then, in the glossary, you are instructed,
“A round and a trick get used interchange-
ably sometimes” (emphasis added). And this
glossary entry instructs you further, “Don’t
let this get confusing”! The glossary entry
adds, “The whole game is over when one
team has won . . . 10 points. You can call
all of the games leading up to that, ‘games’
as well
” (emphasis added). To add to the
(interdicted) confusion over “round,” the
author terms the trump making process “go-
ing around the table.

“Double suited,” according to this book,
does not mean having only two suits in your
hand, but having two cards in one suit.

Then, there is spelling – for renege, “re-
neig”; for bower, “Bauer” (granted, “Bauer
is the German word from which the euchre
word “bower” derives. But, Germans don’t
play euchre – hence, “bower”).

Not that the instruction on euchre is all that
clear: An essay on an advantage in being
“double-suited” (i.e., having two cards in a
suit, remember) indicates not that you should
throw one card from an Ace-high off suit to
signal partner, but that you should always
throw off a singletoneven if you have no
trump
(which would, worse than failing to sig-
nal partner correctly, give him a false signal).

And we are told that if a player on the team


that made trump reneges, his team “forfeits the game. Just what does that mean (given the glossary’s confusion over what “game” means)?

Then, there is this funny rule that the second hand cannot order without going alone (maybe they really play this way in Canada).

For all that, this book is very attractive typographically – an obvious product of desktop masturbation (yes, I can see the blurb coming: “‘Typographically very attractive’ – Natty Bumppo, author, The Columbus Book of Euchre”).

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Euchre According to Wergin, by Joseph Petrus Wergin
Huron Press, Madison, Wis., 1990, 137 pp., $9.95

Euchre According to Wergin contains
good basic instruction, and, unlike most
books of Hoyle, recognizes the way most
people play the game. But it is short on wit
and intellect, and it makes a number of errors
and omissions.

The author’s apparent certainty as to the
origins of euchre (“invented in America,” p.
vii) and the term “euchre” (pp. 1-2) is not
shared by scholars. See, e.g., Catherine Per-
ry Hargrave, R. F. Foster, Charles Goren and
the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nor is the author’s passion for “honesty“

(pp. 6-7, 74-75, and 123) shared by vast
numbers of euchre players. Overreaching
and deception such as “stealing the deal” are
as much a part of the game in many circles as
going alone. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out
there in the heartland, and the game goes to
the alert as well as the swift.

In some passages the author contradicts
himself. For example:

– At the top of page 25 he defines “the bridge”
as the dealing team’s being at 6 or 7 points and
the opposing team’s being at 8 or 9. In the
very next paragraph he defines it as a maneu-


ver by the dealer’s opponents to protect
their position. (Actually, the correct term
for the maneuver is “ordering at the bridge.
And “the bridge” is simply a score of 9 points.
If the player to the dealer’s left is “at the
bridge,” he must order the dealer when the
dealer’s team has 6 or 7 points to protect his
own team’s position. That’s “ordering at the
bridge” – similar to the “Columbus coup” in
Hoosier play.)

– At page 28, the author says, “If you take the
first trick in a suit and your partner discards,
do not lead back the suit he has shown . . . .
Later on the very same page he says, “Ob-
serve your partner’s discards . . . . In many
cases, that may be your best next lead . . . .

– And at page 51, “If partner named the trump
and you [at third hand] have a high and a low
trump, chances are that the fourth player may
not have a trump. If a high card is not played,
you may be embarrassed when the fourth hand
overtakes the play of a low trump. (Anyway,
the reasons to play high exist despite the un-
likelihood the dealer holds trump, not because
of it.)

In other passages, the author is simply
wrong:

– At page 31: “With a score of 9 to 8 in the
dealer’s favor, it is best for the dealer to at-
tempt a hand a shade lighter than normal.
The opposite is true: Better to let the oppo-


nents score a point than to go out euchred. It
is when the score is 9 to 8 against the dealer
that the risk is worthwhile, as the author points
out elsewhere.

– At page 47, the author states that a dealer’s
turning down a right bower indicates a 62½
per cent probability that the left is in the third
hand and a 37½ per cent probability that it
is in the deck. Actually, the probabilities are
38½ per cent (5/13) in the second hand, 38½
per cent (5/13) in the third, and 23 per cent
(3/13) in the deck. The probabilities are in the
eldest hand’s favor not because of a 62½ per
cent probability his partner holds the left, but
because of a 61½ per cent probability that the
dealer’s partner does not (third hand’s plus

deck’s probabilities. Given the second hand’s
failure to “assist,” the likely probability of the
third hand’s holding the left is, it is true, some-
what higher than 38½ per cent; but it is not
mathematically determinable, and certainly
nowhere near 62½ per cent).

– At page 49, the author suggests that trump-
ing a partner’s ace is “often” OK. While it is
occasionally OK (as it is in bridge and
spades, not just in euchre), this is very bad
advice to a beginner; and beginners may be
the major market for a book of instruction.
Trumping a partner’s ace is one of the two
errors most common to beginners (the other
is reneging with the left bower). The best
advice to beginners is, “Never trump your


partner’s ace,” the very phrase criticized by
the author. Later, when they know the game,
novices can learn the rare occasions to trump
a partner’s ace.

– At page 83, the author suggests that players
might wish to play to only 7 points, using 4’s
and 3’s for markers “as the euchre players did
back in the 18th century. Maybe the 19th
and early 20th centuries (most Hoyle referen-
ces set the game at 5 points, not 7 or 10), but
not the 18th. There is no evidence of the
game earlier than the 19th century.

Further, the author’s legendary super player
“Freddie Fox” would not draw applause from
real euchre players on three of the six hands

illustrated at pp. 54-62: Hands Nos. 2 and 3
are but examples of simply correct play. And
the “foxy” play in “Hand No. 6” appears so
only because “Mr. Fox” made the wrong dis-
card when picking up.

The author’s chapter on “Euchre Odds and
Percentages,” seemingly arcane, is but basic
probability theory taught in freshman math.
Although it’s interesting, anyone needing the
chart will get lost in the shuffle.

Many of the author’s suggested “Official
Rules” are likewise superfluous, for example:

– III-1-a, “Riffle the pack at least three times
and follow with several over and under shuf-


fles. Be careful not to expose the bottom
card,” is basic Hoyle, not just euchre, and is
more a matter of etiquette and good sense
than rules.

– Likewise, III-2, “Pone’s Right to Shuffle”;
IV-1, “Number of Cards to be Cut,” and IV-
3, “Cut Before Dealing,” are rules of Hoyle,
not just euchre.

– Point penalties suggested in IV-3 b and c
for refusing to offer the cut and refusing to cut
are ludicrous. Has the author not heard of the
“Columbus cut”?

– VI-6, requiring the dealer to answer truth-

fully an inquiry as to trump, and forbidding a
player’s asking what specific card was picked
up, not only is ridiculous, but toys with the First
Amendment. A better rule (of personal beha-
vior, not of the game) is, “Pay attention, and
beware of the liar!”

In sum, the proposed rules are too arcane,
too silly, and too many.

Omissions: Not included in Wergin (but
included in Natty Bumppo’s Columbus Book
of Euchre
) are rules and suggestions for eu-
chre solitaire, two-handed euchre with “wid-
ows” or “blinds” for third and fourth hands,
and three-handed buck (bid) euchre. top


Euchre Strategies, by Fred Benjamin
(publisher & city not disclosed), 2007, 90 pp., $15.07

Fred Benjamin tells us in the very first section of
his book Euchre Strategies that he wins two out
of three games, on average, on Yahoo! Any euchre
player who tells you he wins two-thirds of his games
is (a) lying, or (b) cheating, or (c) selecting his com-
petition very carefully.

I am acquainted with the author through e-mail
and other interaction on line, and I have no partic-
ular reason to suspect him of lying or cheating. He
gives us answer (c): " . . . I win so often in part
because of my partner, . . . with whom I play ap-
proximately 30 per cent of my games. Our play-
ing pattern is simple: Create a table and play with
whomever sits with us." 1

If you have an established partner, and play most
of your games against players who are not regular
partners, and if you know what you’re doing, and

play generally inferior competition, you prob-
ably can win two-thirds of your games. The
inferior competition, in this case, is indicated
by the Yahoo! ratings the author discloses for
five of six of his own “nics” – 1740, 1587, 1545,
1753, 2467 and 1710. Except for the 2467, the
ratings are mediocre, by Yahoo! standards, and
indicate avoidance of “advanced” competition. 2

I would not mention such statistical puffing,
which might seem otherwise irrelevant, except
for one thing: This book is based largely on
statistics and mathematical analysis, with the help
of a computer simulator the author has devised
for the purpose (useable also as an independent
computer game or practice table, and available
on line). So, consider the source; and remember
what Mark Twain (an avid euchre player) said:
“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies,


and statistics.3

When this book was published, a person who has
played the author on line quite a bit exclaimed to me,
“How can he write a book on euchre? He can’t even
play euchre." That does not bother me. Leo Duro-
cher, Casey Stengel and Sparky Anderson all were
better baseball managers than players. What bothers
me is that the author of this book cannot write. How
do you follow someone

* who uses redundancies like “initial opening lead,”
“first lead on next trick,” and “opening lead 2nd
thru 4th tricks”?

* who uses malaprops like “hole card” for the card
turned up, and “kitty” for the stock or talon?

* who misspells “led” throughout the book? 4

* who needs eight lines of type to define “high card”?

The language distracts. If you can figure out
what a “finesse” is from the author’s wordy and
convoluted definition and explanation, you under-
stood the concept a lot better to begin with than
he does now.

Look at “kitbitz” [sic] and “kitty” in the defini-
tions section. “Kitbitz” may be a typographical
error instead of a misspelling of “kibitz,” since it
appears out of alphabetical order, where “kibitz”
would be; but it’s wrongly defined in any event.5
“Kitty” is defined as the three unseen cards re-
maining in the deck after the deal – “also called
the talon,” the book says. “Talon” is correct (or
you can say “stock,” or “deck,” or “pack”) – but
not “kitty. A “kitty,” in games, is something of
value (money, usually; cf. poker). It’s the oppo-


site of a talon6 – just as “hole card” is the oppo-
site of a turned card: “Hole card,” a term unique
to poker, indicates a card hidden from the view
of other players.

Section 9.15 consists entirely of a table pur-
porting to identify “% Probability of opponents
has ‘x’ trump. I couldn’t get past the syntax:
One opponent’s probability? (“has”) Or both’s?
(“opponents”) (And, what’s the “of ” for, follow-
ed by a verb?) In either event I found suspicious
cells in the table. Just to be sure, I ran it by a ma-
thematician. The table is botched. Not that any-
one needs such a table to begin with: If you don’t
have the answer intuitively, you need to play more.

More confusion is created by diagrams that place
the deal with East in a north-south-east-west layout.
There’s no law against giving East the deal (and East

will eventually get to deal in every card game, of
course). But conventionally, in diagrams, South
has the deal and West has the lead. We might be
able to adjust to the author’s giving the deal to East
instead of South, but then he gives us a diagram with
North as the dealer (the book puts you at South, as
you would be in a computer game, and rotates the
deal).

Then there are the “Duh!” factors: The first
of seven listed occasions on which to lead trump
on defense is, “You only have trump.(Duh!) The
first of six listed ways to identify a void in another
player’s hand is, “If a player does not follow suit.
(Duh!)

There is no history, no humor. The only form
of euchre presented or discussed in the book is the
standard American four-player partnership game


– no two-person, three-person, or bid euchre. The
section on rules is equally spare – there is no mention
of irregularities, such as dealing out of turn, playing
out of turn, or reneging. 7

The book contains good advice, by and large; but
the presentation is textbookish. “Confused yet?” the
author asks in section 8.1 (of 103 numbered sections
and subsections), on page 60 (of 90). “You should
be,” he answers. Q.E.D. 8 The 17-page section 3,
“Opening Bid,” reminds me of Thomas Gallagher’s
point system in Winning at Euchre. If you need
to remember Benjamin’s percentages (not all of them
documented) or Gallagher’s “points,” you’ll be hand-
cuffed trying to play.

Benjamin gives generally good mathematical expla-
nations of how and why certain ploys and maneuvers
work, but his instruction is for the cognoscenti: It’s

not much help to a beginner or an intermediate play-
er. There are easier ways to learn: Play cards, for
instance. Euchre should be fun; and reading about it
should be, too. This book may be the best endorse-
ment yet of Euchre: The Grandpa Lou Way.

And the mathematical analysis is not quite as relia-
ble as it might appear. The botched opponent(’s)(’)(?)
trump probability table was noted above. For another
example, in section 3.6 the author attempts to demon-
strate statistically that “ordering at the bridge” is not
such a good idea. In his test of a “good” hand without
a stopper, he compares the results of 25 simulations of
“donation” against the results of 25 other simulations
of passing. That’s not only not enough simulations for
conclusive results; it’s also simply bad science not to
use the same deals to examine both ways of playing,
with such small samples. He uses the same flawed
dichotomy in a test of a “bad” hand that does not take


into account at all the devastating effect of giving up a
loner to the opposition at a score ahead 9 to 7 with the
deal coming your way.

For another example: The chart of probabilities of
who will win and who will lose, at certain scores (in
section 8.1), is presented with a stated assumption of
“players . . . equally matched and skilled. Actually,
it assumes that each player is Fred Benjamin. He’s
the one that gave each player its values. This fact
colors the results of all simulations cited in the entire
book.

And even the assumption that each player is Fred
Benjamin may be overly optimistic. Each player is,
after all, a robot; and others and I have found play by
Benjamin’s robots that reminds us of the tinheads on
Yahoo! and Pogo. Can you imagine basing conclu-
sions of good play on simulations of hands played by

a table full of bots from Yahoo! ?

I do think that Benjamin has built a better bot,
and that Yahoo! and Pogo (and the other internet
game sites) should beat a path to his door to seek
to license it from him. But it’s not yet a good e-
nough bot to play with the boys, and the simula-
tions you get from Benjamin’s all-bot tables are
not reliable. 9

Some good advice from the book:

* Playing aggressively is required, but playing
recklessly is taking aggression too far. s. 3.2

* Order and call aggressively when you have a
lead of five points or more, to limit your
opponents’ opportunities to call and make
loners that would get them back in the game.


s. 8.4. (The author calls this tactic “soft dona-
tion. That’s a term I had not encountered be-
fore, and it’s interesting.)

* Lead the king of hearts from jack-10 of clubs,
jack of spades and ace of diamonds when your
left-hand opponent has ordered the 10 of hearts
into his partner’s hand. s. 5.9 Most players would
lead the ace of diamonds or the jack of spades;
and I would have led the ace of diamonds until I
ran simulations (in the Euchre Laboratory, not on
Benjamin’s simulator) supporting the trump lead
on defense here, indicating that a spade lead might
be second best, and suggesting that the diamond
lead might be the worst (the author did not cite
any simulations).

Some not so good:

* Lead away from a guarded left bower when the

dealer’s partner has ordered up. s. 5.5(2,3)
That might produce an occasional euchre, but it
could deprive you of a stopper. In general the
book and the simulator lean too heavily on lead-
ing trump on defense. The book advises you in
section 5.5(1) to lead trump through the maker
(i.e., dealer’s partner) if you hold right-ace. That
would deprive you of an end play. And the author
contradicts himself on this point: In section 5.6.2
he says, “Do not lead a trump . . . when attempt-
ing a euchre.10

* Always open a defense against a loner with an ace
even if you have only one. s. 5.8 This defies an
almost universally accepted prohibition: Do not
lead an ace against a loner if you have only one;
do lead an ace if you have two. The author claims
to have run simulations to prove his point, and ar-
gues that the ace lead is necessary to keep from
getting squeezed on a doubleton. What he has


failed to recognize is the corollary that you may
treat a king-high doubleton as a second “ace” in
your hand. (The reason not to lead ace if you
have only one is to avoid squeezing your partner
if he has two. You lead an ace if you have two
to avoid getting squeezed yourself.)

This book is unlike any other book on euchre.
Although a bit disorganized (you find “what to lead”
all over the place), it is a tour de force, full of pie

charts and based on what must have been tons of
computer research. It’s a noble effort to quantify
conventional (and some unconventional) wisdom.

But some things cannot be quantified. The author
promises, in section 3.2, to quantify the difference
between aggressive and reckless but admits, in the
analysis of one hand posited for an example, “This
is difficult to estimate. He winds up advising the
reader, “You must use your own experience.



General footnote: Section numbers given above refer to a 90-page printing with the title “Euchre Strategies” on the cover. Some readers may have an earlier, 55-page printing, in smaller type, with the title “Euchre Challenge & Teacher” on the cover. There was a relocation of the original section 3 to section 8 between the printings, and thus a number of the section references above will not relate to the earlier printing (in most if not all cases, the reader can add 1.0 to section numbers that do not work except for those beginning with “8,” which must be read “3. . . . ”).

1 Another part of the pattern, not reported by the author but reported to me by one who knows him on line, is that he and his partner do not play again with anyone who beats them. So, “play with whomever sits with us” may be a bit of a stretch, too. (The author meant “whoever sits with us,” of course, not “whomever. The case of a relative pronoun is dictated by its use in a subordinate clause, if any. The clause, not the pronoun, is the object of the preposition. Lest this observation seem petty, note additional observations of unclear writing following.) [back]

2 The author has confided to a mutual acquaintance that he plays mostly, if not exclusively, in the intermediate lounges. But he is skating on thin ice. In a post to the Euchre Science discussion group on Yahoo! a few weeks after publication of his book, he said 75 per cent of Yahoo! players with 65 per cent or better winning records are cheaters. Five of his own “nic” records published in his book show winning percentages ranging from 65.9 to 76 per cent (it’s the 2467 nic with the 65.9%). [back]

3 Twain attributed this remark to Benjamin Disraeli – but a number of scholars believe Twain was lying about that. No one has found any other source for attributing the remark to Disraeli. [back]

4 The past tense of “lead” (“lead” pronounced “led” is a heavy metal). [back]

5 . . . [T]he ability of a person to view more than one hand during the play . . . . This definition suggests that even a player can kibitz. A kibitzer (it’s a Yiddish word) is a spectator who offers unsolicited advice. And he or she may be allowed to watch only one hand. (We can probably lay some of the blame here on Yahoo!, which also seems not to know what the word means; but even Yahoo! recognizes that kibitzers can see only hands that allow being seen.) [back]

6 Cards left over that can be claimed or are otherwise of use are usually called a “dummy” or a “widow,” not a “kitty. But there is not even a dummy or widow in partnership euchre. [back]

7 And the rules section has the deal passing to the right instead of to the left. Thank God for “print on demand”: This can probably be corrected soon, and at not too great a cost. [back]

8 Maybe that’s why the author moved section 3 of the book to section 8 in the second printing – so that these remarks would appear two-thirds of the way through the book, instead of on page 12. [back]

9 Here’s what a mathematician had to say (my brother, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and works in mathematics):

“Don’t trust anyone who uses simulation to get answers. Simulation is very tricky business. You’re trying to get answers by generating random numbers. It takes not only thousands of repetitions but also keen statistical insight to reduce the margin of error to a manageable amount. (Everyone thinks he can simulate things these days, even engineers.)

“It seems that he produced the table of probabilities of trump holdings in opponents’ hands via simulation and accepted the answers without question. All those numbers could have been computed in closed form using elementary probability theory. Even when you have to get numbers by simulation, you still have to do a mathematical estimation to check them with.

“It appears also that the author hasn’t published any confidence intervals on his simulation data. Any biologist would be able to give you confidence intervals on his rat lab data, but amateurs at simulation don’t seem to see that this is required in simulation as well. Most people think you just run the simulation a few hundred times and then average the results. But to get confidence intervals, so you can have some idea if your data is nonsense or not, you have to collect the runs in batches, collecting variance data from each batch. It’s a sophisticated statistical process.

“Simulation is for mathematically intractable problems to analyze the actual play of the game, as opposed to the deal (which is almost always mathematically tractable). In the play of the game, each play is statistically dependent on the previous play or plays. The number of possibilities grows exponentially with each play, so it becomes unsolvable in closed form. Simulation is then the only recourse. But simulation design then becomes of the utmost importance and is only as good as your robots.

“Exponential error might not be an insurmountable problem on the outcome of the play of a single hand in a game as simple as euchre; but in trying to simulate the probability of winning the game at a given score, with many hands yet to play, he’s being way too ambitious. [back]

10 To be fair, the author presents that as a “KISS rule” (“Keep it simple, stupid”), which may be meant for novices only – but, like so many other things in the book, that is not entirely clear. [back] top



Euchre for Dummies, by Barry Rigal
Wiley Publishing Inc., Hoboken, N.J., 2004, 22 pp., $5.95

This book is thinner than it is dumm. It actually
contains some good advice. It just doesn’t cover
the subject. The content – 18 pages of text (20 on
the “Kellerian” scale) – is not a whole lot more than
you get on euchre in a standard “Hoyle” encyclopedia.

You do get a deck of cards in the deal – and that’s
a mixed blessing. Printed on the face of each card are
instructions on what to do with it. For example, on a
jack:

Trump suit = RIGHT bower:
Lead to draw out other trumps.

Trump color = LEFT bower:
Save until right bower is played.

Non-Trump: Not much help.

That’s good advice as far as it goes, but all expe-
rienced euchre players know that there are times to
lead the left – like, when your partner has made
trump, or you hold left-ace-king.

The instructions printed on the aces, tens and nines
are OK (“Don’t get your hopes up,” to paraphrase);
but there’s a lot to quibble with on the kings and
queens:

Trump: Use to trump another player’s trick.
Use to protect higher trumps.
Don’t lead until higher trumps are gone.

Non-Trump: Lead if A[ce] . . . is gone.
Use to protect A[ce] . . . . [on the king!]
Not much help [on the queen].

But what does it mean – to a novice or “dummy”
– to “protect”?

And the hell “don’t lead,” if your partner has
made trump.

The subtitle of Euchre for Dummies is “A Card
Game for the Rest of Us!” What does that tell us?

The author is the co-author (with Omar Sharif) of


Card Games for Dummies. Why does he refer
to the card values of the “8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2”?

Why does he tell us we are playing with a 32-
card deck, when the deck included with the pur-
chase includes only 24 plus sixes and fours of
hearts and clubs for markers (that makes only 28
even if you count the markers – which, we would
like to point out, are of the wrong suits; see “the
Professor’s
” explanation).

Why does he instruct us to place the talon and
the turned card in the middle of the table, when
even dummies know to place it to their left, as in
all card games in which the deal rotates, to signify

whose deal it is next?

Why does he say the jack of trump is “often”
referred to as the “right bower” (and the jack of
the same color, other suit, “often” called the “left
bower”)? Has he never played euchre?

And what are these constant references to
“bidding” ? You don’t bid in euchre! You
order, assist, pick up, turn down, pass, or call!

Then there are the actual mistakes. Let’s put
it this way: If this book is the only instruction you
will ever receive on euchre, you will play like a
dummy. top


Euchre Anyone? Euchre Solitaire, by Richard Buchko
http://www.createspace.com, Calumet, Mich., 2009, 92 pp., $9.99

The scary thing about this book is the “Volume
One” printed on the cover and title page, in large
type (but not advertised). Messages inside the
back cover announce that Volume Two will soon
follow (for $10) and that you can sign up for con-
tinuing monthly volumes at $30 for six months (with
free shipping). I was already wondering how anyone
could write 92 pages about one game of solitaire, and
now here comes a whole series?

But the book does not really present a game of
solitaire as card players normally understand the term.
The only places you will find a game of euchre solitaire
that can be played with actual cards are still The Co-
lumbus Book of Euchre
,
where it was presented in
the first edition, published in 1982, and remains, and
on the Card Games web site, where it is used with permission.

What Buchko’s Euchre Anyone? Euchre Solitaire
is, is a workbook. It consists of black and white pho-
tographs of 41 euchre hands, with commentary (in ad-

dition to title and advertising pages, score cards, and a
one-page introduction, with a little historical inaccuracy).

Each right-hand page, in the 82 pages of photo-
graphs, presents only one of the four hands dealt to
the table in a particular deal (plus the card turned).
You are asked what to do with the hand – whether
to order, pick, pass, or call.

The next page (the overleaf) shows all four hands
in that deal, suggests what you should have done,
recites how the author thinks the hand would have
played out, and gives you or your virtual opponents
a score for what you did, which you write down in a
table (“score sheet”) in the back of the book. If you
move from page to page through the whole book,
you will have “played” enough hands this way for
several full games (the author says “up to four”).

The commentary, which appears on both presen-
tation page and overleaf, not only contains advice
but comes also with discussions of rules, definitions


of euchre terms, statements of mathematical proba-
bility, and occasional jest (and even with advertise-
ments for the author’s other work in half a dozen
instances, most of it not related to euchre).

No game score is given in any of the scenarios,
and good euchre players always want to know the
score when confronted with a hand out of the blue.
But if you follow the author’s lead in taking one hand
after another in a simulated “game,” you’ll be keeping
score and know what it is on each hand (and that may
give you an argument with the author on his strategy,
on a hand or two, since he never mentions the score).

The hands and the instruction are basic – the book
is not a collection of riddles or difficult and mysterious
hands. I did not scour the book for mistakes. Most
of the instruction is sound (e.g., “Two terms you hear
all the time in euchre, and should ignore, are ‘never’
and ‘always’”).

But I have a problem with the photographs. I

realize that color printing on every page remains
prohibitively expensive, even with the “print on
demand” technology provided by the likes of cre-
atespace.com, booksurge.com and authorhouse.-
com. But desktop color laser printing is affordable
these days, and highly presentable. You could print
your book at home or in the office; and a book this
size can be “saddle-stitched” at home, like The Co-
lumbus Book of Euchre
(you don’t have to send it
to a bindery). And it still can be sold on amazon.-
com.

And aside from the black-and-white presentation,
the photos simply are not very clear. In some of the
photos it’s even a little hard to read the suits of some
of the cards – and not only because the pictures are
blurry and not in color, but also because the cards
are not sorted in the hands depicted in the photos.
It might make sense to show an unsorted hand on
the presentation page, where you are figuring out
what to do with a hand just dealt to you; but it makes
little sense on the overleaf, where the cards are


being played out.

Even blurrier are color photographs of a lone hand in clubs, on the front cover, and of the author, on the back cover. All for $14.82 (with tax and shipping). Caveat emptor.

top



The Think System: A Light-Hearted Guide to Serious Double Deck Bid Euchre, by Bob Baiyor and Kevin Easley
Baiyor & Easley, location undisclosed, 2012, 80 pp., $11.95

 You can tell that this book was written by a cou-
ple of engineers – from such phrases as “the heuris-
tic we’ve developed for counting how many tricks a
hand can take” to “the BEAM (Baiyor-Easley Ad-
vanced Mindmeld) Convention,” and from the divi-
sion of the book into sections numbered and titled
“§ 6.1.1.1 3 Low” and such.

And who but a couple of engineers would write a
whole book about a game that is played by a total of
probably  only  27  people,  all of them in southwest
Chimbley County, Indiana?

 Anyway.  Whatever.  It’s all you ever wanted to
know about the strategies of bidding and reading
your partner in a game of euchre played with a 48-
card deck (with two right bowers, two left bowers,
two aces of hearts, and so on),  in which trump is
made  (or not,  with both “high no” and “low no”
as options) by bidding, not by ordering or calling.

The guys could have used an editor. You’ll
find “trial” used as a verb, and a reference on
page 1 to a glossary but no mention of where
to find it (not in the table of contents, for sure).

   And there’s no section on rules.  You have to
wade through to the bottom of a long sixth para-
graph,  on page 7,  of a section titled “Indiana
Double Deck Bid Euchre Overview,”  to learn
who wins a trick on which  both  right  bowers
are played, or on which two aces of the suit led
are played (turns out it’s the first one played).

 But who needs an editor?  These guys are ex-
perts.  Just ask them.  They present a section of
“Statistics” on page 65 (§9.2) claiming to have
won two-thirds of the games they have played
as partners, with an “average bid” of 7.5, only a
1.4 “average underbid,” a 30 per cent “chance
of recovering from an early set” and an average
of only 0.33 “non-desperation sets per game.”
Not to mention the book’s pretentious title.

 “With 60 years of double deck bid euchre ex-
perience between them,” they say in their book
description on Amazon.com and on their back
cover blurb (where you will learn from one Rob-

in Thompson, another engineer, that it is “The best damn
euchre book I’ve ever read!”), “the authors have a bit of
an obsession with the game. The game’s extensive use of
strategy, the synergy of partnering and the complexity of
the game have made them double deck bid euchre zeal-
ots.  Shocked and dismayed by the lack of literature on
double deck bid euchre, the authors set out to correct this
grievous wrong in the world of books on card games.”

 You should buy this book.  The photographs of the
authors with their enormous cigars are alone worth the
price of the book (the one tiny snapshot on Amazon-
.com does not do the cigars justice).  You can get it
on Amazon.com or here.

 You know what we think, though, if you’ve read The
Columbus Book of Euchre
:  The only reason to play bid
euchre in the first place – whether with two decks, a full
deck, or only half a deck – is not having four players to
make up a regular game  (or having five or more,  and
wanting to get them all in the same game).

 And if you have the time and energy to engage in part-
nership “message” bidding, and to hold 12 cards in your
hand and play 12 tricks per hand, why not just play bridge?


The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre
,
“by a Professor”
T. B. Peterson & Brothers, Philadelphia, 1862, 134 pp., out of print).

If I had known how many good books had been
written on euchre in the late 19th century, and if they
had still been in print, I might never have written The
Columbus Book of Euchre
– there would have been
no great need of it.

I have recently, with the help of a collector of an-
tique books, been privileged to see three of these
old euchre books; and they all contain excellent in-
struction, even for today’s game. The only signifi-
cant differences between the game today and the
game as it was are that they played to only five
points in the old days, with a pack of 32 cards (as
“Hoyle” manuals specify even to this day). But
the principles of good play are not significantly
different.

There were some options in the old days that we
no longer recognize – such as “lapping” (carrying
excess points from one game to the next), “jam-
bone” (a super loner laid face up on the table, al-
lowing an opponent to call the play, and scoring
eight points, not four, on a march), and “jamboree”

(a perfect two-bower ace-king-queen of trump
hand, worth 16 points) – but even then those options
were rarely played.

More striking are the parallels and the similarities.
Calling “next” in first chair was recommended even
then (that was called “Dutching” in the 19th century,
but the term “next” also was in vogue), as were “or-
dering at the bridge,” “donation” (but not so called),
“crossing” (calling a suit of the color opposite of that
turned down, in second chair), “sucking in” (but not
so called – that is, “bagging” a good hand at the deal
to induce your left hand opponent to call “next”),
promoting a face card with a lower lead from the
same suit, playing second hand low and third hand
high, leading trump on offense but not on defense,
and defending alone (for a four-point euchre). Some
of the early writers even recommended – as I do –
calling “next” in first chair with none of it in your hand
on occasion. This is a ploy only recently named the
“full Eddy” (after Edmond Hoyle).

Equally striking, in the ancient literature, is the omis-


sion of some of the colloquial rules we see today –
like that dumb Michigan rule requiring a player to
have a trump before he makes it, that not-so-dumb
Canadian rule requiring the dealer’s partner to go
alone if he orders up, and that silly and unsophisti-
cated option called “stick the dealer. There is no
ancient history of such.

The earliest euchre book I have had the privilege
of reading is The Law and Practice of the Game
of Euchre
, which says, on the title page, that it is
“by a Professor. The title on the cover is Euchre
and Its Laws
. There is a later edition (1877), with
ten additional pages, titled The Laws [sic; plural,
now] and Practice of the Game of Euchre to
Which is Added the Rules for Playing Draw
Poker
.

The “Professor,” we are almost sure, was one
Charles Henry Wharton Meehan, head of the law
library of the Library of Congresss and son of the
Librarian of Congress, John Silva Meehan, who

was an appointee and devotee of Andrew Jackson.

Charles Meehan died in 1872, five years before
publication of the second edition of the “Professor’s”
book. We are guessing that his publisher or family
or executor merely carried on.

As well they should have. The Professor’s writing
was superb. Here are some samples:

“In playing the game on the Mississippi River, if
the player who plays alone is euchred, the steamer is
stopped at the first landing and the unlucky player is
put ashore. In the State of Arkansas he is carried
out to be hung to the first adjacent tree, without
benefit of clergy.

“So if your hand . . . should happen to be as red
as the saints’ days in a Romish calendar, or as black
as the concentrated essence of midnight, when the
opposite colors are trumps, pursue the even tenor
of your play, with placid demeanor – with columbine


innocence and serpentine wisdom – and publish it
not with impatient demonstrations, or vituperative
expressions against ill luck. That is, don’t com-
plain about your cards.

“It may hap, once in while, that you will find your-
self associated with a partner who is a novice in the
philosophy and mysteries of our noble game; and
when you begin to perceive that he is one of those
unfortunate individuals of neglected erudition, whose
intense ignorance of the play is disheartening – dis-
playing the most marvelous ingenuity in preventing
you from winning, and a cruelly tantalizing facility in
helping your opponents to defeat you – smile, if you
can. We always do. Illuc Ionicus. That is, don’t
complain about your partner, either!

The “Professor” was fond of quoting from Latin
and French, and Shakespeare and Pope; and that
might throw off a number of today’s readers.

And I take it back: The Columbus Book of

Euchre did need to be written – but not for avoid-
ance of Latin, or French, or Shakespeare or Pope.
It needed to be written because it was the first book
ever written on euchre, including numerous manuals
of “Hoyle,” that recognized that real people play
euchre to ten points with a deck of 24 cards.

That is not to disparage the “Professor” one whit:
He wrote of the game as it was played in his time,
and he did it well.

The “Professor’s” research satisfied him that the
French had virtually nothing to do with the origin of
euchre, and that it was a German game (although he
was puzzled about the origin of the word “euchre” –
which was not adequately explained until 1990 and
the publication of David Parlett’s Oxford Guide to
Card Games
, in which euchre was traced to the
early 19th century game of Jucker in the Germanic
region Alsace). Some of the later euchre writers of
the 19th century, including John Keller and the anon-
ymous author of Euchre: How to Play It, were


seduced by notions of French origins; but recent
research has shown them to have been mistaken,
and the “Professor” to have been right.

Incidentally, the “Professor” explained why
diamonds and spades, not hearts and clubs, are
the suits traditionally selected for “markers” (deu-
ces and trays, in the old days, for a five-point game
– and the “Professor” called them “counters”, not
“markers”): “Because the pips of those two suits,
being more sharp, are easily discerned.

It is interesting to note also that none of the 19th
century writers of euchre texts ever referred to
Hoyle, except in speaking of whist. Hoyle never
played euchre.

An earlier book – Hoyle’s Games, published in
Philadelphia in 1845 by Henry F. Anners (the au-

thor was unidentified, unless it was the same as the
publisher) – contained four pages on euchre, which
was identified as “a German game. Five pages of
printed instructions on euchre are found also in a
book published by Isaac M. Moss in 1844, a year
earler, also in Philadelphia, A Whist Player’s Hand
Book
, by Thomas Mathews. The game described
in those books was very much like the game we
know today but for the usual archaisms, such as
playing to five points, with 32 cards.

Dealing in twos and threes was the way even way
back then, and “ordering at the bridge” was one of
the ploys described. Going alone was called “cards
away,” as it was alternately in the “Professor’s” and
other books of the 19th century; but the principle was
the same as now.

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Euchre: How to Play It (anonymous)
Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh; London and Canberra, ca. 1886, 124 pp.,
“Price One Shilling” (but now out of print; it cost me 38 pounds in 2006)

Not only is the author of this book not identified,
but also the copyright page is undated. One of the
introductory pages bears a dedication, “To E. J. E.,
in Remembrance of ‘a Lone Hand,’ in London,
1886”; and that could be an indication of the date
of publication.

This book copies liberally from the “Professor’s”
book
, and maybe that’s why the author’s name is
not revealed. The 29-page chapter “Hints to Tyros”
is lifted virtually verbatim, without a hint of a credit
to the “Professor. Either it is blatant plagiarism, or
it is a case of the “Professor’s” executors, heirs or
publishers themselves extending their prior publica-
tion to the British Empire.

But the author takes issue with some of the “Pro-
fessor’s” pronouncements: For example, the “Pro-
fessor” had suggested that the opponents should get
four points for euchring a lone hand; and the author
of this book points out the folly of such a proposition.

And there is new material in this book: For one
thing, it introduces us to “railroad euchre,” which may
be the first euchre game played to ten points (but it
was played with a 33-card pack, including a joker
as “best bower”), and to “French euchre” (a mis-
nomer) and “Napoleon,” both played with a 24-
card pack.

And this book gives us our first glimpse of stealing
the deal, in its presentation of the rules: “If a deal is
made out of turn, it is good, provided it be not dis-
covered before the dealer has discarded, and the
eldest hand has led.

This book has a tedious eight-page description of
“progressive” (tournament) euchre; but that is offset
with a delightful little euchre story, about a priggish
parson who is seduced by a comely widow with a
card game. Other features are a 91-entry “Diction-
ary of Technical Terms” (exceeding the “Profes-
sor’s” by a dozen) and a comprehensive index.


The Game of Euchre, by John W. Keller
Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1887, 82 pp., out of print

J. Todd Martin – a reader and avid player in
London, Ohio – found on e-bay a copy of John
W. Keller's The Game of Euchre, published by
Frederick A. Stokes of New York in 1887. Todd
bought it, and he was kind enough to share it with
me. Thus began our quest for ancient euchre books.

How much Todd paid for this rare book is confi-
dential, but I think I am at liberty to say that it cost
him more than The Columbus Book of Euchre,
Joseph D. Andrews’ The Complete Win at Eu-
chre
and John Ellis’ Euchre: The Grandpa Lou
Way
combined.

Joe Andrews would not call Keller’s work a
“book,” I’m afraid: It’s only 82 pages long, with
78 pages of text. Compare that to The Columbus
Book of Euchre
with 90 pages (75 of text, also not
a “book”) and Joe’s book with 171 pages (151 of
text). And Keller’s work contains only 28 lines to
the page, compared to 30 in Joe’s and 38 in The
Columbus Book of Euchre
. By conversion to
Kellerian for common denomination, we get Kel-


ler, 78; Bumppo, 102 (now I have a book!), and
Andrews, 162.

The “Professor’s” 1862 book is less dense yet
typographically, with 24 lines to the page and nar-
rower columns; and the anonymous Euchre: How
to Play It
, even less dense, with 22 lines and yet
narrower columns. So reckoning by page numbers
is not a true comparison of relative “thickness.
Counting text pages only and adjusting for typo-
graphical density, we find the “Professor’s” book
containing only 93 pages on the “Kellerian” scale,
and the anonymous contemporary of Keller’s book,
only 88.

How is it, then, that Keller and Bumppo found
the space to lay out rules for two-handed euchre,
and Joe and others did not? (I received an e-mail
once asking what the rules are for two-handed eu-
chre. I suggested that the writer might like to pur-
chase my book. Then I felt bad. Perhaps he had
spent all his disposable earnings on Joe’s book, and
was disheartened.)


But I digress. Keller’s The Game of Euchre is
quite an interesting book, for its antiquity. The most
interesting thing about all these 19th century books is
that euchre, it seems, has not changed all that much in
the last century and a generation. Keller, like his pred-
ecessors, describes a game played to five points with
32 cards – but so do modern “Hoyle” encyclopedias.

Keller’s book is a little top-heavy in rules: Twenty-
four pages – nearly a third of the book – are devoted
to the basic rules of the game. Four pages are devo-
ted to definitions. Another 34 pages – nearly half the
book – are devoted to rules of variations of the game.
Only nine pages are devoted to strategy (compared to
the “Professor’s” 30 pages of “Hints to Tyros” (most
of them copied in the 29-page chapter of the same title
in the anonymous book).

The remaining seven pages of Keller’s are devoted
to history and sociology. And that’s pretty interesting.
Keller seems to have thought that “the French settlers

of America brought triomphe with them and trans-
formed it into euchre. Today we know better – we
know that the Pennsylvania Dutch brought Jucker
from Alsace and that some influential writers mis-
spelled it “euchre,” possbily in part because of the
influence of the French game écarté (a derivative
of triomphe) on Jucker. (The “Professor” credited
the Pennsylvania Dutch.)

Besides, we all know now – thanks to 9/11 and
George W. Bush – that there were no “French set-
tlers” of “America. We ran them all off to Canada.

Keller does not shy from his proposition, however.
His variations include games called “French euchre”
and “Napoleon,” which he calls “a French variation
of euchre” (so much for the assertion of Keller’s con-
temporary R. F. Foster that “The French know
nothing about euchre in any form” !
).

The “French euchre” described by Keller and his


anonymous contemporary (the author of Euchre:
How to Play It
) did reduce the deck to 24 cards,
the deck most people play with today. But you
played to 15 and made trump by bidding, not by
ordering, picking up or naming.

“Napoleon,” better known as “Nap,” has some
similarities to euchre; but it’s a separate game. And
it’s British, not French. David Parlett, in The Ox-
ford Guide to Card Games
, notes that Nap was
“widely recorded in European gamebooks as a sim-
plification of Euchre – though ‘an elaboration of
Rams’ would be more like it. . . . ” (rams is yet
another game, possibly of German origin).

Nap, Parlett says, “evidently commemorates Na-
poleon III, who retired to Britain after losing the
Franco-Prussian war in 1870, and has since been
described as ‘the nearest thing Europe ever pro-
duced to a river boat gambler,’ ” quoting another
author, Edmond Taylor.

“Napoleon has long enjoyed particular social
status as Britain’s national five-card game,” Parlett
adds.

The Napoleon described by Keller seems to be
more a euchristic variation of Nap than a Napoleonic
variation of euchre. I’m stickin’ with Foster: The
French, like Joe Andrews, know nothing about eu-
chre, in any form.

Have you ever run into a Frenchman playing euchre
on Yahoo? I haven’t. I’ve encountered a lot of Can-
adians, Brits, Aussies and New Zealanders, and even
Italians, Swedes and Poles, but never a Frenchman.
Never even a Quebecois.

There are some intriguing differences between the
basic euchre the 19th century authors describe and
the euchre we know today (besides the 32-card deck
and the five-point game):

For one thing, you could go alone on your partner’s


prior call. For example, if the first or second play-
er ordered or assisted or named trump, his partner
could take the ball and run with it. That sure elimi-
nated those “Damn, p, I had a loner!” cavils. (Vice
versa was not allowed: The dealer’s partner could
not go alone on the dealer’s call, nor the first player
on third’s.)

For another, they reported plays called “jambone”
and “jamboree. A “jambone” was a strong lone
hand that the holder laid down on the table face up.
His left-hand opponent could dictate the lead or the
loner’s play on the lead. Thus one did not want to
“jambone” with a marginal loner. But if you took
all five tricks with a “jambone,” you got eight points,
not just four.

What could you do with eight points in a five-point
game? Well, that’s where “lapping” came in. You
could “lap” excess points from one game to the next.
(Not everyone played these options; and, obviously,
they fell by the wayside.)

A “jamboree” was a “perfect” hand: Both bowers
and ace, king and queen of trump. It was worth 16
points.

Keller described also a game called “set-back eu-
chre” – which he called the “least popular variation”
– that is very similar to the bid euchre of today in
which everyone begins with 15 points and plays to
zero (in those days they began with 5).

One more thing: The “progressive” euchre de-
scribed by Keller and his anonymous contemporary
was not the same thing as the “8 by 8” formula pro-
moted by Grand Prix Cowboy Joe, in which 64
players play eight rounds of eight hands each, all
players moving on to other tables after eight hands
regardless of whether anyone has reached a score
of ten. In the old version (still played today) there
was a “head table” that dictated length of play by
how long it took that table to finish a game. At the
other tables, the winners were whoever were ahead
when the head table finished (ties were broken by


cutting cards). Players then moved up or down to other tables, depending on winning or losing. In some variations there was some switching of partners when the new tables were set. Ultimate winners were determined by games won, not by total points scored. (Loners were not allowed in Keller’s version.)

Since the scoring was by games, and not by points, the original “progressive euchre” actually was a lot like euchre, unlike the “8 by 8 progressive” format of today.

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Écarté and Euchre, by “Berkeley”
George Bell & Sons, London, 1890, 79 pp., one shilling, out of print

This pocket book contains, first, 32 (Kellerian)
pages on the two-handed French card game écarté
and then, in a second section, 43 (Kellerian) pages
on euchre.

The pseudonymous author makes an argument, in
the one-page preface of the section on euchre, that it
“may be fairly described as an Americanized species
of Écarté; in fact, the name is said to be a corruption
of that French word. According to some accounts it
was first played by the French settlers in Louisiana . . . .

Later scholarship has disproved such notions. We
now know that euchre in its origin was a German game
carried to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch, from
Alsace, not from the heart of France. “Berkeley’s”
book is probably largely responsible for the mistaken
notion that the French carried the game of euchre to
Pennsylvania up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers from
New Orleans rather than its flowing down the rivers
from Pennsylvania, which was much more likely the
case.

Be that as it may, the author continues, “Although
similar in many respects to Écarté, the system of the
game [of euchre] is far more elaborate” and “in its
phraseology and its method of play is peculiarly A-
merican. Boldness, self-reliance and cuteness are
some of the requisites of a good euchre player.

He’s right about that – except for the phraseology,
much of which has German roots: “bower” from
Bauer,” “march” from “Marsch,” and “euchre”
and “joker” from “Jucker.

Some of the similarities between écarté and
euchre were, indeed, striking: The 32-card deck
(omitting deuces through sixes), dealing five-card
hands in twos and threes, and making trump by
turning a card rather than by bidding. But a number
of European card games of the period used that 32-
card deck: Piquet is one that survives (hardly any-
one plays écarté any more). And écarté was strictly
a two-handed game – and one in which jacks were
not boss.


Aside from the historical error, the book contains
some solid instruction. But a drawback is that more
than half the euchre section of the book is devoted to
a description of, and instruction on, two-handed eu-
chre, which no one plays today if there are three or
more players available; and another six pages are de-
voted to a form of three-handed euchre that hardly
anyone plays any more even when four players are
not available.

Much of the two- and three-handed instruction is
valid, in principle, for the four-handed version; but the
ultimate failure of the book, insofar as it might other-
wise be valuable to a student or player of today’s
game, is that it concentrates highly on mathematical probabilities. The book even contains half a dozen
probability tables regarding the values of certain hold-
ings. There’s nothing wrong with that in concept – a
number of players crave arithmetical odds. The prob-

lem is, the probabilities stated are, in the main, obso-
lete. Probabilities applying to a five-point game are
different from those applying to a ten-point game
(today’s norm); probabilities applying to a game
played with a 32-card deck are different from those
applying with a 24-card deck (today’s norm), and
probabilities applying to a two-handed game played
to five with a 32-card deck are greatly different from
those applying to a four-handed game played to ten
with a 24-card deck.

The text is interspersed with numerous graphic ex-
amples of possible five-card holdings, and instruction
as to what to do with them if they should happen to be
dealt to you, with a certain trump turned, and at certain
scores. But almost all that instruction is couched in
those archaic probabilities. Unfortunately what may
have been a valuable book in its own day is now of
largely historical interest only. top


Euchre – and How to Play It (anonymous)
United States Playing Card Company, Cincinnati, 1897, 1903, 34 pp.

Despite the similar title to the British publication of
about 1886, and somewhat similar contents, this is not
quite the same book – although it appears to have
copied the pattern of that earlier book.

It’s tiny – “pocket-sized,” they say; and it really will
slide into a vest pocket, or even a shirt pocket if you
don’t mind the top sticking out about an inch – 5¼
inches tall by 2¾ inches wide. It contains no history
of the game.

But it’s crammed full of description and rules of
euchre – which means the print is tiny, and a little
hard to read. And scanning it, one might be amazed
how little the game has changed over the last century.
The backings displayed from a Bicycle deck are the
same we know today, and so is the trademark ace of
spades.

“The game is five points,” it is written; but also,
“Or, if agreed upon by the players, ten points. The
game is said to be played with 32 cards (33 if a jo-
ker is added): But it is mentioned also, “Another

point to which little attention has been called is that
the American players almost universally discard the
sevens, and many of them the eights, from the pack
. . . . So, the 24-card deck was on its way.

Rules are given for two-handed, three-handed and
four-handed euchre. The three-handed game is not
the “buck” or bid euchre that many of us are familiar
with, but a regular game of euchre in which the maker
always goes alone and the other two players team up
against him (and the maker gets three points for a
march, not two or four).

There is a “five-handed euchre” described, howev-
er, that is a bit like bid or “buck” euchre, with points
off for tricks taken until the winner goes out at zero;
but there is no bidding in it to name trump. Trump is
made by the turn of a card from the stock; and there
is no ordering, assisting, picking up, calling, or argu-
ment. What is turned is trump, and that’s it. This
game is about the same as the “set-back euchre” de-
scribed in the British book of similar title.


There is also a “six-handed euchre” described,
played by two teams of three partners each, to 25
points, in which trump is made by bidding – that is,
each player bids how many tricks his team will make
if allowed to call trump, and the high bider gets the
privilege of naming trump. Then there’s an “auction
euchre,” for four players, with partnerships, in which
trump is made by bidding.

There’s “blind euchre,” for three, four or five
people, which involves trading two cards of one’s
hand for a two-card blind dealt to the table. There’s
also “railroad euchre,” found also in the earlier British
book. Railroad euchre was almost always played to
ten points, it was usually played with a joker as “best
bower,” and it usually featured “lapping” – allowing a
winning team to carry excess points over to the next
game. It also allowed a player going alone to call for
his partner’s best card and discard one of his own in
exchange, and allowed an opponent to do the same
with his partner and defend alone for a 4-point
euchre.

Options of “lapping,” “jambone” and “jamboree”
are offered for application in almost all the games.
These options have been described in reviews of oth-
er old books – see, for example, my review of John
W. Keller’s The Game of Euchre. (The book under
review and the British book of nearly the same title be-
fore it speak also of a “slam,” which is nothing more
than what we would call a “skunk” today.)

The rules set out for the four-handed game in this
book are substantially those we know today (inclu-
ding the rules for going alone, and an allowance of
stealing the deal).

The rules and description of four-handed euchre
comprise 5½ pages, which is a plenty. Two-handed
and three-handed euchre take a page apiece. There's
a four-page chapter on “progressive euchre,” which is
a tournament formula for 12 or more players, and not
the same thing as the “8 by 8 progressive” format found
in some present tournaments (in which 64 players play
eight rounds of eight hands each, all players moving on


to other tables after eight hands regardless of whether anyone has reached a score of ten points, and in which the winners are determined by points scored, not by games won).

All the foregoing takes 20½ pages of this 34-page book, which finishes with 13½ pages of “Hints,” or strategy. The strategy chapter in the British book of similar title was “Hints to Tyros,” and they were nearly verbatim the same as the “Hints to Tyros” in the “Professor’s” 1862 book The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre. The “Hints” in this book are not the same thing; but they’re pretty standard stuff, including “next” and “ordering at the bridge. There is no new thing under the euchre sun.

There are no sample hands displayed or discussed in this book.

The “Hints,” although standard, are rigorously presented and excellent, and as good today as they were a hundred years ago. This is as good a compact euchre book as I have seen, and all one would ever need. Too bad it’s out of print.

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Discover Euchre, produced by Vicki Kelchner
Discover Images Inc., Fort Wayne, 1996, 30-minute videotape, $19.95

Discover Euchre is a very well produced
videotape of very basic instruction on how to
play euchre. It is very colorful, and very clean
(even the players’ fingernails are very clean.
And the players themselves – two young men
and two young women – are pretty, and
clean. There are no crumpled paper cups or
beer stains on the carpet – not even any drinks
or ashtrays on the table). Other than that, not
much to say: A little humor, no esoterica.

There are a couple of mistakes: Jeff should
have gone alone at 18:00 (but Pam should
have picked up so he couldn’t have). And
Mike explains, at 23:00, that the lead is to
the lone hand instead of from the lone hand
(which otherwise would have had the lead)

because allowing the loner to lead would give
her “an unfair advantage. That is Hoyle (in
some versions), but it’s not the reason (and
it’s not the way they play in Southern Indiana).
Being led to is, arguably, as big an advantage
as leading. If you want to cripple the loner,
put him in the middle so that he is led through.
The way they play in Columbus, the lead falls
with the position: It’s simply easier to make a
loner from some positions than from others.

And Mike tells us that the penalty for re-
neging is a 2-point subtraction from your
score. That’s not even Hoyle; almost every-
where they add the penalty to the other team’s
score. Ah, those northern Hoosiers! Maybe
they’re just too close to Michigan!



The Columbus Book of Euchre, by Natty Bumppo
Borf Books, Brownsville, Ky., 1982, 1999, Second Edition 90 pp., $12.98

Still the best – and the only one that tells you how to play euchre solitaire.


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