Natty Bumppo’s euchre columns

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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.

Let her have it – December 31, 2011

    My friend picked up the ten of diamonds to go
alone, with jack-king-ten of diamonds and ace-king
of spades, and was pretty happy to make it when his
wife, sitting on his right, trumped the first trick – her
partner’s ace of clubs – with the ace of diamonds.

Dealer picks up ten of diamonds to go alone
My friend overtrumped with the right bower and then cashed his two spades before returning to trump, which all were out, it turned out.  He knew he was fighting for a point once he overtrumped the ace of diamonds.

    I told him that he certainly played the last four tricks correctly but that I was not so sure about the first.

    If that wife on his right hand had had the left bower with two more trump and a void in spades, my friend would have been nailed.  That’s highly unlikely, of course – not only because the holding in itself is unlikely, but moreso because if Wifey did have such a holding, she probably would have ordered the diamond herself, and quite likely alone.  If you want to play with that scenario, it’s been set up for you here in Gerry Blue's Euchre Laboratory.

    But beware of a much likelier scenario:  Give Wifey’s partner the ace of hearts (she’d better have two aces to lead one against a loner), two little diamonds and a void in spades – back up her ace of clubs with the king, say.  Give Wifey the left-ace of diamonds and fill out her hand with little hearts or spades, or a mixture of the two.  Again you’re dead if you cover the ace of trump with the right bower.  Here’s that setup in the Euchre Lab.

    Or give Wifey the ace and nine of diamonds and three hearts and her partner the ace of clubs, ace and queen of hearts, and left and queen of diamonds.  Again you’re dead if you cover the ace ruff with the right.  You can still lose your point in this scenario, no matter what you play; but covering the ace of diamonds is asking for it.  Here’s that setup in the Euchre Lab.

    But if you “let the babies have it” – duck that high first trick ruff and make your opponent lead – you’ll save the point every time but once.  That’s the safest way to play the hand for a point, in any of the scenarios.  Only if you can afford to be euchred should you cover the ace of diamonds with your right bower.

    OK, you ask, what ever became of the principle, “Play the higher of touching cards”?  That is, if Wifey had the left bower, why did she not ruff with that instead of with the ace?  To let her partner know, etc., etc.

    Well, equally as important as “letting your partner know” is “fooling the ofays.”  By ruffing with the ace instead of the left bower, she’s telling the dealer she doesn’t have the left (but she does, in two of the scenarios above).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

Yahoo whores – October 7, 2011

    One of my “nicks” fell in at a “booster” table on Yahoo! One player, rated less than 800 when we started, forfeited every game (he was 1-26 in won-lost when I left), as his partner, rated 3440, kept adding to his victories – 292 won and 4 lost when we quit (but he was not adding to his rating).

My partner, 18-0 in won-lost, was the one getting “boosted,” fortunately. Therefore I got boosted, too – 21 wins in a row, and more than 450 rating points added in a little over an hour.

One of the players was an Italian; one was from Delaware, and one said she was a “Creole. My partner, the Creole, indicated also that she was a prostitute. “It’s like being a waiter,” she said.

She left, and another woman took her seat. The new woman thought she was being “set up” at first; but once she got the drift of what was going on, she whored right in.

I felt like the bystander the bank robber gave money to.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

Five easy pieces – September 2, 2011

    People like to beat me up in euchre, and brag about it. It happens a lot when I have strangers for partners. But if my partners would simply follow the Five Easy Steps to Winning at Euchre, we’d rarely lose:

   1. Don’t order up from second chair (see this, this, and this).

   2. Don’t order up from third chair (see here).

   3. Don’t turn down a bower (see this, and this).

   4. Call “next” in first chair (see this, this, and this).

   5. Call “across” in second chair (see this and that).

    The links above are only a sample – these themes run throughout The Columbus Book of Euchre and my columns on line.

    So, if you’re having trouble remembering the Ten Commandments of Euchre, or Wergin’s or Benjamin’s probability tables, just commit these five easy pieces to memory.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

Don’t “false card” your partner – August 12, 2011

   Sally ordered a king of clubs to her partner, Pete. Pete
already had the ace of diamonds and the four top spades,
including the jack;  so,  which spade did he discard?   No,
not the left bower – he wasn’t that dumb. He threw away the ace of spades.  The king and queen were just as good, right?

Pete’s hand (above) be-
fore the king of clubs
was ordered up to him

   Not quite.  Reagan, the age, did his opponents the favor of opening with the ace of clubs (he had a reason – he hoped Pete had only the club ordered up to him, and he wanted to drop it on Sally’s bower).  Sally put up the right bower; and Pete dropped the left, to let Sally know where it was (his king was just as good at this point, and she already knew he had that).  Max, the pone, sluffed the nine of spades.

Sally then led the ten of clubs to Pete’s king as Max dropped the nine of hearts and Reagan gave up the nine of clubs.  Pete then cashed his ace of diamonds, everyone following suit but Max (Reagan played the ten of diamonds, and Sally played the nine from her jack-nine as Max sluffed another heart).

    Pete and Sally had their point, in the first three tricks – and Pete had the rest of the tricks, right?  His king and queen of spades were good, as we know, if Reagan was out of trump.  Right?
    Wrong.  Reagan didn’t trump Pete’s king of spades lead, but Sally did.  She didn’t know that Max did not have the ace of spades; and her jack of diamonds might be good for the last trick, since diamonds already had been around once.  But Reagan took the last trick with the queen of diamonds, as Pete’s good queen of spades fell (Max contributed his one “good” card, the ace of hearts).
    It’s fun to show off with a “false card” when your cards are good and you can win a trick with a king to rub a march in your opponents’ faces.  But it’s not nice to fool your partner.  If Pete had had the ace of spades to lead to the fourth trick, Sally would have laid off; and she and Pete would have made two points instead of one.
    There are other situations invoking this principle – some of them more applicable to other whist games than to a short game like euchre – e.g.:  Play the king first, not the queen, from a king-queen holding (to alert your partner not to waste his ace if he doesn’t need the lead).

    If you want to play with this hand, I’ve set it up for you in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

Table talk – July 1, 2011

    I visited Euchre Science last October 17 for the first time since August (I had been ill), and the thread “Is this kosher?” caught my attention.  The more I read, the more I liked “Mushkie’s” early suggestion of the death penalty for “table talk.”  Here’s the post that triggered the discussion:
Player 1 led something not trump.

Player 2 trumped.

Player 3 had to follow partner’s lead.

And, before Player 4 had a chance to throw anything, Player 2 announced to her partner (Player 4, the dealer), “I got it.
Player 3 proclaimed Player 2 a cheater.

Was Player 2 wrong?
And, if so, the thread began, what was the penalty?
Law XXXV of  “a Professor’s” Euchre and its Laws (T. B. Peterson, Philadelphia, 1862) states, “Every species of unfairness is strictly prohibited; and if a player, at any time between the turning up of the trump card and the playing of the last card of the deal, indicates to his partner the strength of his own hand, either by words or gestures, or advises him how to lead or play; or invites him to make trump – by such expressions as &145;Follow the rule,’ &145;Make it something,’ or any similar phrase – or asks any questions about the game except such as are specifically allowed by the Laws of Euchre, the adversaries shall immediately add one point to their game.”  Similarly, Paul H. Seymour says in Laird & Lee’s Hoyle (Albert Whitman & Company, Park Ridge, Ill., 1950, 1955), “If a partner indicates his hand by word or gesture to his partner, directs him how to play – even by telling him to follow the rules of the game – or in any way acts unfairly, the adversary scores one point.

Berkeley’s law, in Ecarté and Euchre (George Bell & Sons, London, 1890), is, “No intimation conveying improper information concerning the game must be made by a player to his partner, such as calling his attention to the score being at the point of &145;the bridge’; this would amount to saying, &145;Order up unless you hold a certain trick.’  The penalty for this is that the player to whom the hint was given is obliged to pass.

And Leeds and Dwight say in The Laws of Euchre (a private publication for the Somerset Club of Boston, 1888), followed by R. F. Foster in his Complete Hoyle (Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1897, repub. 1963), “If anyone, prior to his partner’s playing, should call attention to the trick either by saying that it is or is not his, or by naming his card or by drawing it without being asked to do so, or call on his partner to take or not to take the trick, the adversaries may require that opponent’s partner to play his highest or lowest of the suit led, or to win or lose the trick.
     One problem with these citations is that all are to ancient texts not generally followed in modern times (if ever they were).  “Table talk” is a problem in a lot more games than just euchre, moreover; and rules for card games in general tend to get left out of many of the one-game manuals, such as mine.  But here’s a good general rule found in a recent edition of the United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules of Card Games (71st ed., 1990, p. 22, re bridge):
“If the offense occurred

“(a) during the auction, either opponent may require the offending side to pass at every subsequent turn and . . . require or forbid the opening lead of a specified suit by the offender’s partner,

“(b) during the play, may require the offender’s partner to withdraw a play suggested by the improper remark or gesture and substitute a card not so suggested.
     Such a rule is commonly observed in circles not playing to the death.  It allows the game to flow naturally without the imposition or deduction of artificial points, and it seems adequate.  Section (a) seems to be in accord with the rule quoted from Berkeley, and section (b) seems to be in accord with the rule posited by Leeds & Dwight and by Foster (albeit a bit less specific).  One might just go with Foster; his is the latest of the ancient texts.

     But the biggest problem with all these rules – especially in enforcing such a severe penalty as awarding or deducting points on the score – is the finding of guilt or innocence.  Table talk can range from brother Joe’s saying, “I have the left bower,” at the most egregious, to Aunt Betty’s sighing sometimes when she picks up a weak hand, at a few levels below, down to Billy Bubinski’s wrinkling his nose, which may be a sign to his partner and may be just a nervous tic.  You might have to interrupt one 10-point game several times to conduct jury trials.  I’m a lawyer, and I’m tellin’ ya, you can’t write a rule in fewer than 17 pages to cover all possibilities and degrees of table talk; and there still will be credible, plausible defenses.

     Why can’t people just be polite?  If they are known or repeat table talkers, just don’t play with them, and disinvite them from your leagues and tournaments.

     But I still like “Mushkie’s Rule,” posted on Euchre Science:  IMO stating your cards to your partner is blatant cheating subject to penalty of death, not simple table talk.  They still cut and shoot people in Columbus.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre
 Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

Wait for “next” (vol. MDCCXIX) – June 3, 2011

   Freakyface – holding the jack, queen and nine
of spades, the king of hearts and the ten of clubs, in
the third seat – ordered up the king of spades, at a
score of 2 to 2.  His partner, having no spades, led
the ace of clubs from his ace-queen, taking the first
trick. When he saw the dealer drop the king of clubs,
he led clubs again (how to draw trump without lead-
ing it).

Pone (in third chair),
holding the hand a-
bove at 2 to 2, ord-
ered up the –>
   Dealer’s partner ruffed with his only trump, the the ace of clubs from his ace-
queen, taking the first trick.  When he saw the dealer drop the king of clubs,
he led clubs again (how to draw trump without leading it).  Dealer’s partner
ruffed with his only trump, the ten of spades, forcing Freakyface to overruff
with his queen, and the dealer took the trick with the king that had been order-
ed up. He led back the ten of hearts to Freaky’s king, which was good. Freak
had the point.

     But Freak should have passed.  He held the classic “wait for next” hand.
With ten and left bower, his hand would have been a little weaker in clubs;
but he would not have had to give the opponents a trump (and the king he
ordered up was not exactly a small trump, especially with the ace in the same
hand).  As it happened,  Freaky’s partner had a plausible hand for calling
“next” with ace and queen of clubs, but his jack of hearts and jack and nine
of diamonds with the strong clubs give him a diamond loner.  Even if your
partner’s strength is not in “next,” good things happen when you wait for it.

     And between the two of them, Freak and his partner had enough to eu-
chre the dealer, as the playout showed, had the dealer chosen to pick up the
king of spades without being ordered.

     When partner pointed all this out, after the hand was over, Freak remon-
strated, “What am I, a mind reader?  Do I have X-ray vision?”

     No, of course not.  But he had no vision, either.  He could easily have
been euchred.  His hand was not the strong hand you need to order from
third position.  He had only one sure trick, the right bower.  He had no aces
outside, and his other two trump were tiny.  Give the dealer’s partner the
ace of clubs or the ace of hearts, or give him a void in hearts and the dealer
the ace of clubs (or just take it out of Freaky’s partner’s hand), and school
would be out.  It was a very risky order.  You’d better have two sure tricks
and a chance at a third to order after your partner has passed.

     Freaky made a point, but he lost shots at two and four.  That’s a three-
point deficit right there.  And it would have been a six-point error if he had
been euchred.

     If you want to play with this hand, I’ve set it up for you in Gerry Blue’s
Euchre Laboratory.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2011] [next]

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