Natty Bumppo’s euchre columns

from the publishers of

The Columbus Book of Euchre

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

Second hand low – December 13, 2002

A reader calling himself “Scolar2” pointed
out, in regard to last week’s column, that if my
partner had not trumped the first trick, I would
not have been euchred.

Second hand (Don’s)

In case you don’t recall, I was the dealer and held the ace, king and nine of diamonds and king and jack of spades and had made diamonds trump. Darcy, on my left, led the ten of spades; my partner, Don, ruffed with the queen of diamonds; and Darcy’s partner, Carrie, jumped it with the right bower. Carrie then led the king of hearts; and Darcy was sitting on me, with the left bower and ten of diamonds over my ace, king and nine (I was damned if I trumped, damned if I didn’t. If I trump high, Darcy merely ducks; if I trump low, he overtrumps me with the ten and his left bower is good for the third trick. And that’s how it was played).

Here’s the setup again on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

If Don, however, had held off trumping that first trick, we were OK: Even if Darcy had led his queen of spades instead of his ten, my king would have taken the trick if Carrie had held her right bower; and I could have forced the opponents’ trump by leading my other spade. Or, if Carrie had trumped in with the right anyway, Don still would have held the queen of trump over Darcy’s ten if I trumped her heart lead high.

The main reason Don should not trump in that situation, however, is that if he takes the trick, he has no trump left to lead to the partner who called it; and he is setting up the opponents to kill us with cross-ruffs. Generally speaking, if your partner made trump and you sit in second chair with only one trump, you should not trump anything but an ace or a king. If you take the trick and lead an ace on the next trick, it is apt to be trumped by an opponent. And if your partner has to trump or overtrump your lead, he will lose a trump he needs to gather the opponents’. See the New Appendix to The Columbus Book of Euchre, on line, and pages 48 and 49 of the book.

“Second hand low” is, in a nutshell, on second play on a trick don’t trump a weak lead just because you . Say hearts are trump; you hold the ace and ten of diamonds, the king of spades, and the ten and nine of hearts; and the player on your right leads the queen of clubs. This is a case not to trump even if you do have trump to lead to your partner, whether or not it was he who made trump. You should consider throwing the king of spades. Your partner may have the ace of clubs, or he may be able to trump, too. If the player to your left is void in clubs, he can overtrump you; and your trump would be wasted without forcing his (as was the case in the hand discussed last week, and above). Ditching the king of spades, however, gives you a void; and one of your little hearts may take a spade trick later, or be led back to your partner when you take your red ace. “Second hand low” can turn a one-point hand into a two-point hand, and it can save a one-point hand. On defense, it can even euchre.

“Second hand low” does not apply when you can trump an opponent's ace or king, or when you can use an unguarded left bower. It has significantly less application after the first trick. It does not mean exactly the same thing it does in bridge. But it’s a useful maxim, especially for novices.

In last week’s column I was focusing on what did happen, not on what should have happened; so I did not point out Don’s mistake; and I thank “Scolar2” for bringing it up.

Returning to the Shit happens and Shouldn’t happen columns of November 22 and 29, “Dr. Math” finally reports the probabilities as follows (taking into account the void in spades to the right of the dealer, and the assumptions that neither the dealer's partner nor the player to his right has all three of the trump unaccounted for):

“For question 1, the probability that West (‘Joe’) will hold the ace of trump
and a void in clubs is 9.04 per cent, which is in range of the confidence
interval from a simulation I ran: 0.0091 +/- 0.002.

“For question 2, the probability that West (‘Joe’) will hold all three trump
unaccounted for (including the ace) is 0.835 per cent, which also is in range
of simulation results 0.0083 +/- 0.0007.

“I arrived at these results through very tedious arguments. Including
East’s spade void makes things extremely tedious. So I decided to do
simulations too. I should point out that I go to simulation when I think
it is less error-prone than doing the math. But if the math can be done,
as in this case, I am never content until both are done and give the same

Thus, when Becky uses her king of hearts to ruff Mary’s return lead of the ace of clubs, she has about a 9 per cent probability of getting euchred; when she goes up with a bower (and comes back with her ace of diamonds), her proability of getting euchred is less than 1 per cent. That makes ruffing with the bower about a 9 per cent better play.

Send an e-mail requesting “Dr. Math’s” PDF report if you have further curiosity, or watch for it on the message board on the Euchre Science Yahoo! group.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

What to lead – December 6, 2002

Here’s a hand I thought I blew on Yahoo! last week: I dealt myself the ace and king of diamonds and the jack, king and nine of spades; and I turned up the nine of diamonds. I picked up the little diamond and discarded the nine of spades.

That was not a mistake. Sure, I’d rather have played spades; but the chance someone else would call it was slim, and the chance it would get back to me to call was almost none. I had absolutely no “next” (hearts); and I’d have to get lucky to get a single trick in clubs (with an unguarded left bower, three cards in the suit with my ace – including the one I did not pick up – and a king-nine). By picking up, at least I was two-suited with three trump. Help, partner.

As I saw and felt myself sinking into the quicksand of euchre, I thought my mistake was in the play. Darcy, on my left, led the ten of spades. My partner, Don, trumped with the queen of diamonds. And Carrie, on my right, overtrumped with the right bower. (I threw in my jack of spades.)

Carrie came back with the king of hearts, and I trumped with the nine of diamonds. But Darcy overtrumped me with the ten of diamonds, and he still had the left bower. He didn’t play cat and mouse with me – he led his left bower. It was over. Ka-ching! Two points for the opponents.

Had I trumped Carrie’s heart with the ace or king of diamonds, I thought immediately, it would have forced Darcy’s left bower; and it would have made no difference what he came back with: My king of spades was good if he led his queen; I had the nine of trump for his ace of clubs (and the ace of trump to capture his ten); I had an end play if he led trump.

The only way he could beat me, if I had played my king or ace of trump – I was thinking – would have been to play weak two tricks in a row: Refusing to overtrump my king or ace of diamonds with his left bower (throwing, say, the queen of spades), and refusing to trump the next trick, too, when I led out the king of spades (throwing, now, his ace of clubs), or taking it with his ten of trump, not knowing whether my partner had the ace (or king) of trump.

But my hindsight was less than 20/20: If I lead my king of spades after he ducks the second trick, he can take it with his 10 of trump; and he can take his team’s third and euchring trick with his left bower.

If I lead trump, he is sitting on me: Left-ten over ace-nine (or king-nine).

He has to believe (as Tug McGraw said. Instant poll: How many of you are old enough to remember who Tug McGraw was?). He has to believe that it is I, not my partner, who holds the other high trump – the king or the ace, depending on what I trumped in with on the second trick. This is true whether I lead my king of spades or a trump.

But the guy I am trying to beat is the guy who led not his singleton ace of clubs, but a guy who led from a loser doubleton in spades. Most players would have led the ace of clubs, but that would not have euchred me. It merely would have made my spades good, in an end play on Darcy’s lead, once I had taken his ace of clubs with my nine of diamonds and led one round of trump. Here, go try it on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

It was not, in the final analysis, my low nine of trump ruff on the second trick that euchred me; it was (besides Don’s failing to play “second hand low” on the first trick – more about that in a later column) Darcy’s opening lead of the worthless little spade. Was this a case of “Ignorance will provide,” or was my opponent a rare bird?

I know that there are players out there with the experience of thousands of games played who can tell me from their analysis of situations why Darcy's opening lead of the ten of spades was a better lead than his singleton ace of clubs. If you can show in general (i.e., with reason, other than the example above or another like it) why his little spade is the proper lead here, send in your essay.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Shouldn’t happen (my mistake) – November 29, 2002

Several readers pointed out an error in last week's column, “Shit happens: If Becky had ruffed Mary’s ace of clubs with a bower, drawn one round of trump with her other bower, and then led her ace of diamonds, the only way Joe could have euchred her would have been by holding all three other trump (the ace of trump with two “guards”) – the probability of which, I now think, was not much more than 1 per cent, if that.

If Joe holds the ace of hearts and only one other trump, he loses his lower trump to Becky’s trump lead and has to use his ace of hearts to take her ace of diamonds, making her king of hearts good (or let her take her third trick with the ace of diamonds. Mary’s only trump was drawn by the bower lead).

I made three errors in calculating the probabilities, too – one of which a reader caught, the other two of which I caught myself. Two minor but essential factors were left out of the calculations: The lower numbers of hearts and spades (three each) than of clubs and diamonds (four each) left in the 14 cards remaining unseen, and Mary’s void in spades, making her a greater magnet for the missing hearts than Joe (both these rendered Joe’s probability of euchring Becky less than calculated, whichever way Becky played it). I made another, rather large error in the calculation of the probability Joe held the ace of hearts and one other heart only (this was one of the two mistakes I caught myself. But this error does not factor heavily in the scenario as revisited, since the ultimate question – as the astute readers pointed out – was whether two trump, not one, underlay Joe’s ace of hearts).

The upshots are that the probabilities of winning the point on the two ways Becky might have played the second trick were a lot closer than reported, and that the way she played (ruffing with her king of hearts instead of with a bower) had the lesser, not the greater, probability of success. My revised calculations show her winning the point about 92 per cent of the time by ruffing with the king, about 99 per cent of the time by ruffing with a bower.

I have referred the calculations to a professional mathematician – my brother, Dr. Math – for greater certainty of probabilities; and I invite other mathematicians among you as well to calculate the odds.

With a 92 per cent chance to win even with the lesser probability play, Becky or her partner still might say “Shit happens” when they get euchred; but, clearly, Becky could have played it better – in fact, 7 per cent better if the alternative probability was, in fact, 99.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Shit happens – November 22, 2002

Becky and Bart clawed their way back from a 7-1 deficit to tie the game at 7-7 (Bart's lone march at 7-2 was particularly helpful), and then from a 9-7 deficit to tie it again at 9-9. Becky had the deal, turned a jack of hearts, picked it up, and said “gg” – which is the proper thing to say anyway at 9 to 9, I guess, win or lose, since it’s the last hand, and if you subscribe to that phony courtesy chat (I prefer the attitudes of Ty Cobb and Unser Choe Hauser, who considered their opponents the enemy).

But Becky was not saying it just as a matter of courtesy. She thought she had the game nailed down. She held both bowers, the king of hearts (trump), the ace of diamonds and the king of spades. She had discarded the king of clubs.

The lead, from Joe, on her left, was the jack of spades, which Becky's partner, Bart, covered with the ace of spades; and things were looking pretty good. But Joe’s partner, Mary, trumped with the 9 of hearts and Becky had to follow suit with her king of spades. Mary led back the ace of clubs, and Becky trumped in with the king of hearts ’ losing it to Joe’s ace of hearts (Bart had to follow suit). Joe then led the nine of diamonds; Bart, having neither diamonds nor trump, sluffed the ten of spades; Mary trumped in with the queen of hearts; Becky had to follow suit with her ace of diamonds, and school was out: Becky was euchred on the old 1-2-3 punch, and she and Bart lost the game they had fought so hard to stay in. Becky said, “Wow!”; but Bart said only, “Ca ca pasa” (which, I think, is roughly the Mexican translation for “Shit happens”).

[See correction]

Joe’s hand

Bart’s hand

Mary’s hand

Becky’s hand (dealer)

It didn’t have to happen. Becky knew the ace of hearts was out somewhere, and that if it was on her left, there was a chance of losing that second trick and getting euchred if she trumped in with the king of hearts. If she had trumped in with one of her bowers, she would have got a guaranteed trick to put out the fire, and the lead she needed and craved. Since the opponents had already used a trump, she had a fair chance to draw the ace (if it was out and not in her partner’s hand) with her remaining bower. The odds were very good: One trump had been used, and she had three. There were three left, and four places for them to be: In her two opponents’ hands, in her partner’s hand, and in the deck. The odds that the ace and another trump were both in one opponent’s hand were slim.

In fact, you can compute them. The probability the ace was in Joe’s hand was 4/14 (four cards left in his hand divided by 14 cards yet unseen – four each in Joe’s and Bart’s hands, three each in Mary’s hand and the deck), or 28.5 per cent (there actually were four cards in the deck, but Becky had seen one of them). The probability the ace in Joe’'s hand was guarded, if he had the ace, then was 9/13 (three trump left times three chances to get one equals 9, divided by the number of cards left, 13), or 69.2 per cent; and the probability he held the ace guarded then was the product of those probabilities, or 19.8 per cent, or about one in five. Not real high. Since Mary was down to three cards, the probability she held the ace guarded was less – 3/14 times 6/13 equals 9.9 per cent. The sum of the two probabilities is 29.7 per cent; and that means that 71.3 per cent of the time, or more than seven times out of ten, Becky will draw the ace (if it’s out) with her remaining bower if she trumps Mary’s ace of clubs with a bower. Those are pretty good odds.

Now, let’s compare that to the probability Becky’s king of hearts will take the trick: That would be the inverse of the probability Joe has the ace of trump and a void in clubs. The probability he has the ace, as we have seen, is 4/14. There are four clubs out (we have seen Mary’s ace, and the king has been discarded); so the probability Joe has a void in clubs with his three remaining cards is 9/13 times 8/12 times 7/11. Thus the probability Joe has the ace of trump and a void in clubs equals 4/14 times 9/13 times 8/12 times 7/11 equals 8.4 per cent. The inverse of that is 91.6 per cent, and that is the probability Becky’s trumping with the king of hearts will take the trick. Considerably better odds than the 71.3 per cent probability of winning the hand by trumping in with a bower – in fact, they’re 28.5 per cent better.

So that’s the play she made, and she got euchred for it. Hindsight is 20/20. If Becky had used a bower to take the second trick, and her other bower to lead the third trick, she would have drawn both the ace of trump from Joe and the queen of trump from Mary; and her king of hearts and ace of diamonds would have been good for the fourth and fifth tricks (her third and fourth tricks), and the point and the game.

This was a rare hand: You can’t compute these probabilities in the heat of battle; and the play Becky made, we know now, statistically, is on average 28.5 percent better than the play that would have won the game for her. That’s why "“Shit happens” is about as good a moral to this story as any.

But there’s another moral: If you feel that you have to gloat, don't gloat before you have 10 points. You may have to eat your words. And it tends to piss off the Euchre God (even when you gloat after you have taken the game, He can come back to haunt you). I would never urge anyone to be polite in a game – euchre is not pretty – but you can be discreet.

This hand is set up for you here on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory if you want to play with it.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

The “end play,” part 2 – November 15, 2002

In setting up an “end play,” you will recall from last week’s column, you engineer the lead to the opponent on your left to force him to lead into a “tenace” you hold – two cards of a suit (usually trump) two or more values apart in rank (one of which normally is “boss” in the hand). You look for an “end play” when you have no realistic hope of taking all the tricks.

Last week we “ducked” a trick we might have trumped, in order to get our left-hand opponent into the lead. This week we explore why, when and how to do it when you have the lead.

This is a case in which to avoid leading trump; it is a matter of leading weak on purpose. If your hand is particularly weak, except for that good tenace and the trick you have already taken, you lead low after you have taken a trick, hoping that it will be claimed by the opponent on your left if not by your partner.

Even when you have a fairly strong hand, if you need only one point – or simply should play conservatively (because, perhaps, you already have a healthy lead in the game score) – it might be time to lead an ace off suit instead of the right bower. If your ace is good, you have your point. If it is trumped on your left, you have an “end play. If it is trumped on your right, and not by the left bower, you’re in trouble (but you were anyway, with the left bower on your left).

Fielder’s hand

Iberia’s hand

Nellie’s hand

Your hand (dealer)

Here’s an example: You pick up the jack of hearts, discard the ten of clubs, and hold right-king-nine of hearts and king-ten of diamonds. Fielder, on your left, leads the ace of spades – and holds yet the ace and jack of clubs and the left bower and ace of trump. Your partner, Iberia, plays the nine of spades – one of her best cards; she holds yet the queen and ten of spades, the nine of diamonds, and the ten of trump. Nellie, on your right, holds the ace and queen of diamonds and the king, queen and nine of clubs, and throws in the nine of clubs. I have set the hand up for you in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory in case you want to play with it.

You take the trick with the nine of hearts. If you lead trump twice, Fielder euchres you outright with his good clubs once he gets in the lead on the second trump trick. If you lead trump only once, you still are euchred as long as Fielder has the good sense, when you lead one of your diamonds, to play “second hand low” (page 48, The Columbus Book of Euchre; see also “Let the puppy in!”) and not trump, and if Nellie has thrown another club, not her queen of diamonds, on the trump trick – because, then, you are leading into her tenace when you lead your diamond – she has the “end play.

The only lead that guarantees you a point, after you take the first trick with the nine of hearts, is a diamond. I would lead the ten, not the king, in hope of establishing the king as a possible eventual winner by drawing the ace with the ten. That doesn’t work in this case because Nellie holds the ace-queen; but it doesn’t make any difference, either: Nellie takes the trick, either with the queen or the ace of diamonds.

If Nellie leads back a diamond, you duck (still hoping for an “end play”); and Fielder either has to trump in with one of his jewels, giving you the “end play,” or lose the trick to your partner’s little ten of trump (and your right bower is good for the third trick). If Nellie leads a club, you duck (same reason); and Fielder has to take the trick with his ace of clubs (the only club he has left), giving you the “end play.

[second of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

The “end play,” part 1 – November 8, 2002

The “end play” was not discussed in the first edition of The Columbus Book of Euchre or early printings of the second edition because it is not unique to euchre – it’s a ploy common to all trick taking games: Bridge, spades, Rook and the rest.

But it is an important tactic to carry in your strategy bag. The idea is to engineer the lead to the opponent on your left to force him to lead into your “tenace” – two cards of a suit (usually trump) two or more values apart in rank (one of which normally is “boss” in the hand) – when you have no hope of taking all the tricks. A recent hand demonstrates how it works:

Your partner, Debbie, the dealer, has turned down the ace of hearts; and the opponent on her left (on your right), Jared – sensing that Debbie is sitting on “next” (he’s right; Debbie holds the jack of hearts and two little diamonds, along with the nine and ten of clubs) – declines to call trump, even though he holds the jack of diamonds (the king and queen of clubs lurk in his hand, but no other diamonds).

You call “across” in clubs, holding the right bower and ace, along with the queen of diamonds and the queen and nine of hearts. Jared leads the ten of hearts; and his partner, Blondie, takes it with the king of hearts. She leads back the nine of diamonds, which your partner, Debbie, grabs with the king of diamonds (kings rule!).

Jared’s hand

Your hand

Blondie’s hand

Debbie’s (your partner’s) hand

Debbie then leads the ten of diamonds, on which Jared lays the ten of spades (he knows you will overtrump his king or queen of clubs; so he lays off). Now your decision: To trump in with your mighty ace of clubs and come back with the right bower to claim the point? Or do you lay off, too?

You don’t know where the left bower is. If you trump in with the ace, the lady on your left, Blondie, may overtrump you, leaving you with only two sure tricks – the king of diamonds Debbie already has taken, and the right bower you still hold. If you lay off, on the other hand, either your partner’s lowly ten of diamonds will take the needed second trick, or Blondie, on your left, will be forced to take the trick and lead back to you. If that happens, she will have to begin the last two tricks by leading into your right-ace; and you cannot lose.

As it happened in the hand above, you correctly sluffed your remaining heart; and Blondie had to use her left bower to take that third trick, leaving your ace of clubs and right bower as the two top cards, for the last two tricks.

If you had trumped in with the ace, Blondie would have taken it with the left bower; she would have led back the queen of spades, forcing you to overtrump Jared’s queen of clubs ruff with your right bower, and leaving your queen of hearts to fall on Jared’s remaining king of clubs (trump. Your partner’s, Debbie’s, two little clubs proved useless).

Now let’s look at some “what ifs”: What if Jared, on your right, had trumped in on Debbie’s ten of diamonds lead on the third trick? That would have forced you to overtrump with the ace, leaving it fat for the kill by Blondie’s left bower; but, when she then has to lead back one of her two spades, your partner gets one with one of her two little clubs (Jared has to follow suit), and your right bower is saved for your third trick. Correctly, however, Jared had played “second hand low” (page 48, The Columbus Book of Euchre; see also “Let the puppy in!”).

What if Jared had led trump in the first place? . That works for Blondie and him only if you wind up having to choose between the queen of hearts and the queen of diamonds to lead on the third or fourth trick, whether or not you finessed on the first trick (i.e., played your ace of clubs instead of the right bower), and lead the queen of hearts. In at least one of the ways it could play out, it depends also on your partner’s, Debbie’s, failure to trump a spade lead by Blondie. Not a very likely scenario for Jared and Blondie any way you look at it.

Finally, what if your partner, Debbie, had led one of her little clubs on the third trick instead of the ten of diamonds? That would have worked, even if you had finessed the ace of clubs and lost it to the left bower, as long as Debbie trumped Blondie’s low spade lead on the fourth trick. But that’s asking a lot of Debbie, isn’t it? She’s the one who did lead the ten of diamonds (and she’s the one who didn’t pick up the ace of hearts in the first place, when she held the right bower. And they call her opponent “Blondie”!).

Try it all out in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

As the hand was played, under circumstances under no control of your own until the third trick, the “end play” is what got you the point. If you will go back to that Euchre Lab scenario and alter it to make Debbie pick up the ace of hearts, you’ll find another “end play” – that works for her, in hearts, if the player on her left starts with a club. Here, let me set it up for you: Euchre Lab.

And sometimes you will find yourself in a situation in which you want to set up the “end play” not by “ducking,” as illustrated above, but with a low lead from your own hand, after you have taken a trick – hoping that it will be claimed by the opponent on your left if not by your partner. We’ll take that up next week.

[first of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

The Robin Hood of euchre – November 1, 2002

If you have visited Borf Books’ euchre links page, you may recall having seen a critique of Yahoo!’s, Pogo’s and Playsite’s player ratings systems (and the rest of them) in which it is stated, in part:

“Speaking of the ratings, they are somewhat less than accurate. We have played on line with players with astronomical ratings who don't know enough to lead trump when their partner has called it; and we have played with players rated ‘intermediate’ and even ‘beginner’ who know a lot more about what they are doing.

“We know how to massage and manipulate the ratings without ‘cheating’; and if you don’t, we’re not going to tell you – it’s bad enough as it is! We saw a team on Yahoo! on which one player was rated 35000-plus (that’s thirty-five thousand, not hundred) and his partner was rated -12000-something (that’s minus twelve thousand and change)! It was a hoot.

Last week I “sat down” at a table in a Yahoo! “advanced” lounge with two “provisionals” and an “advanced” player. I sat opposite one of the “provos,” who had a record of 4 wins and 0 losses and a rating of 1479. The other “provo,” on my right, had a record of 0 and 4 and a rating of 1244. And his partner – the “advanced” guy – had a rating of 11111 (yes, not eleven hundred eleven, but eleven thousand one hundred eleven), a record of 320 wins and 13 losses, and a winning streak of 117 games. We’ll call him “BigChooChoo” (not his real screen name, ha! ha!, as we investigative reporters like to say).

Whatever trump was called and from wherever it was made (it made no difference), the play would always stop on the first trick – at the turn of the “provo” on my right, who eventually would “time out” and forfeit. Before I knew it I had “won” eight straight games (as had the 11111 guy and my partner), and my rating had jumped from 1615 to 1871. BigChooChoo invited me to stick around to boost my rating as high as I wanted to go – he seemed to be sort of the Robin Hood of euchre on line – but, I had to get back to work! Anyway, after a little conversation with him, my curiosity was satisfied.

He told me that he was all three other players; that he was doing it all from one computer, with a program he had written, and that he could play 28 players at once that way. I don’t doubt it a bit.

I checked on him later in the day; he was up to a record of 371 and 13, a winning streak of 168, and a rating of 12423. His “partner” – let’s call him “Patsy” (OK? heh! heh!) – was down to 0 and 13 and a rating of 668. A couple of days later BigChooChoo had improved his record to 418 and 13, and a winning streak of 215 (but his rating was still stuck on 12423. Guess his competition wasn’t stiff enough!). Patsy, however, had dropped to a record of 1 win (I guess BigChooChoo made one of his other selves forfeit that game!) and 74 losses, a losing streak of 54, and a rating of -3234 (that’s minus 3234).

Looking through BigChooChoo's “profile” I found some game partners and opponents who obviously were not he, including some that I had played, and some who had gone back to BigChooChoo a time or two to fatten up their records. These included a player with a rating more than 100 points higher than mine, whom I beat, and who had lost 11 of her last 14 games. I don’t remember anything particularly intelligent about her playing (except that she left the table when she lost).

And I found another “Patsy” whose rating was -192405 (that's minus one hundred ninety-two thousand four hundred five)! The amazing thing about this Patsy is that his record was not all that bad: He had won 6,136 games and lost 6,337, for a percentage of 49.2 per cent, and he was on a 20-game winning streak.

So, the next time you criticize another player for his idiotic play, and all three other players jump you and say, “Who the hell are you to blame someone! Look at your puny rating,” just say, “So’s your old man!” or, “BFD – I know a guy with a rating ten times as high as yours! Choo! Choo! Woo! Woo!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

P.S. I have a few ideas that would make the ratings systems a little
more equitable (not that the wonks who program Yahoo!, Pogo
and Playsite ever would adopt them. OFF the fucking wonks):

1. No “booting” of a winner allowed (no matter how obnoxious
his chat may be).

2. Equal credits and debits in the ratings for wins and losses regard-
less of rating or rank (“give the St. Louis Browns a chance!”).

3. It’s OK to penalize a player for leaving a game, but don’t impose
a penalty for being “fried” (disconnected involuntarily). Surely
the wonks can devise a system that can tell the difference.

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Ordering at the bridge,” part 2 – October 25, 2002

“Ordering at the bridge,” we recall from last week, is calling a trump into an opponent’s hand when we have 9 points and our opponents have 6 or 7.

And perhaps you recall also the discussion of the almost interminable discussion on the Yahoo! group Euchre Science of whether or not, and why, it was a good play, and the guy who kept insisting on mathematical or statistical proof.

While they were blowing smoke, and fire and brimstone, over whether there was any scientific basis for “ordering at the bridge,” and arguing over whether games theory or statistical analysis was even appropriate to the discussion, another guy sat down at his kitchen table with a deck of cards and conducted a little empirical research.

He set the score at 9 to 7 in favor of the team opposing the dealer, dealt a hand and turned a card. As stated last week, whether the card was a jack or not made no difference – that has nothing to do with “ordering at the bridge” under the postulation by the great euchre writer of the turn of the (20th) century, R. F. Foster.

Then he looked at the hand to the left of the dealer. If it had a sure trick – a right bower, a guarded left bower, three trump to the ace, or four trump – he scotched the hand and dealt again. No need to “order at the bridge” when you have a sure trick (unless you’re ordering to score. And, again, here I use Foster’s precept to order unless you have a “sure” trick. Some say order unless you have a “pretty sure” trick. That’s not cautious enough for the classicists).

If the hand on the left did not have a sure trick, our experimenter played the hand, twice – once ordering up, and once again passing. He played 50 such hands.

He played each player’s hand “optimally” (“with hindsight aforethought,” he said). Although he took a lone march for the dealer’s team whenever he could, he did not allow any to depend on a “squeeze” play – i.e., defenders always saved the right cards, whether aces or tens. If it took a king or a jack to break a loner, even at the expense of sluffing an ace in another suit, the defender saved it. That is, our mad scientist cut the loners no slack; the only lone marches he reported were loners that could not be stopped.

And here are the results, of the 50 “games. First, the results of “ordering at the bridge”:

– The order was euchred 40 times, or 80 per cent of the time (we
sort of expected that, didn’t we?).

– This means that 10 times, or 20 per cent of the time, the order
scored (this is what is called a “Rushville stroke” in The Co-
lumbus Book of Euchre
. Didn’t expect that! Nice to have a
partner). End of game when that happened, the ordering team
won; the dealer and his partner lost.

– The order stopped a five-trick loner 14 times, or 28 per cent
of the time – each of which would have ended the game with
a victory for the dealer and his partner.

– The team that “ordered at the bridge” won the game 33 times
(the 10 “strokes” plus 23 games it went on to win on the next
deal) – i.e., 66 per cent, or almost two-thirds, of the time. Its
17 losses included three games in which the order nonetheless
postponed defeat by stopping a five-trick loner.

Since “stoppers” were played maximally for the defenders, you can say that “ordering at the bridge” favored the ordering team at least 72 per cent of the time (I am including in this calculation the three loners stopped when the dealer’s team went on to win on the next hand or hands anyway. Included also are the 28 per cent of the orders that stopped loners, which would have ended the games right then and there for the dealer’s team).

These results do not mean that a dealer’s team will have a loner 28 per cent of the time. Here’s another statistic from the kitchen table: A flat one-third of the hands dealt – 25 out of 75 – were thrown out and not played because they gave the player to the left of the dealer a sure trick in the trump turned. Those hands reduce the dealer’s team’s loner percentage to 18.7 per cent. In the second place, a number of those loners would not have been called. Some of them would have been scotched by an order by the dealer’s partner, and some would have gone uncalled out of caution or timidity – e.g., king high in trump, and three-suited with only two trump, etc. But they were all there to be made if they were called (and among good players, most of them would have been called); and that is why you have to “order at the bridge.

Now, the results from passing:

You already know 14 of them; the dealer’s team won on loners. As for the other 36 games, the dealer’s team won 12 of those. Thus the dealer’s opponents won only 24 of the 50 games, or 48 per cent, when they passed; they won 33, or 66 per cent, when they “ordered at the bridge. ’Nuf said?

This does not mean that a team leading 9 to 7, with the opponents dealing, wins only 48 per cent of the time it passes – because, again, the experiment did not include the one-third of the time the lead hand got a sure trick on the deal, or the unreckonable number of loners the dealer’s team failed to call.

I am satisfied – not only from cautionary strategy, the wisdom of other strategists, and “two bites at the apple” logic, but also from the results posted above – that “ordering at the bridge” is the proper maneuver.

I don’t care if I am already leading 9 to 7, I think it is pretty darn good to win two-thirds of the games in which I see a trump turned against which I have no sure trick. I get there by “ordering at the bridge. And that winning percentage does not even take into account the undoubtably better winning percentage I will have when I include in the sample the number of turns on which I do have a sure trick.

More statistics: On the thirty-six hands passed that did not give the dealer’s team a loner, the dealer’s team marched for two points anyway four times (you might as well have given them a euchre on those hands); and, although the dealer’s team pushed the score to 9 to 8 nineteen times, only two of the fifty games went to a third hand (four of the 9-8 games were won by the original dealer’s team on euchres on the next deal).

How often you won when you had a sure trick and were not faced with “ordering at the bridge” was not part of the experiment; so we don’t know. But it would have to have been more than half the time, I am sure all would agree. So add just half of the 25 deals that were thrown out to the 33 times won “ordering at the bridge,” and you win at least 61 per cent of the times you are up 9-7 (33 plus 12.5 divided by 75). I would estimate that if you win 66 per cent of the time you do not have a sure trick in the suit turned (by ordering at the bridge), then you win at least two-thirds of the time you do have the stopper, and probably more. So, if you “play your cards right” (i.e., “order at the bridge”), you will win well over two-thirds of the times you are up 9-7 and have another deal coming after the present hand.

[second of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Ordering at the bridge,” part 1 – October 18, 2002

“Ordering at the bridge” is calling a trump into an opponent’s hand when your team has 9 points and the opponents have 6 or 7.

You are “at the bridge” to victory with 9 points; and your opponents cannot beat you with a lone hand if you make trump when they have 6 or 7, regardless of who wins the hand. Plus, you have the deal at 9 to 8 or 9 to 9 if you get euchred.

Most euchre strategists say that you must “order at the bridge” if you do not have a sure trick in the suit turned. And by “sure trick” they do not mean an ace off color, or even two or three aces; they mean the right bower, or the left guarded, or the ace of trump “guarded twice” (as Billy “Bulldozer” Arnold would say).

Of course, if you do have a sure trick and don’t like the turn, you can wait to see what the dealer does with it.

This ploy is akin to what most players call “donation” (and what is called the “Columbus coup” in Southern Indiana and The Columbus Book of Euchre), but it is not quite the same thing. “Donation” may occur at any score, and is usually done to invoke a euchre: You sense or reason that there is a high likelihood your opponents have a loner; so you order up to take a euchre and hold them to two points instead of four. “Ordering at the bridge,” on the other hand, is a safety play made not against the probability of a loner, but against the possibility of a loner.

In a discussion of the play in my favorite Yahoo! euchre group, Euchre Science, almost all the participants agreed that “ordering at the bridge” is a correct tactic, but they had trouble agreeing why; and one guy kept asking for mathematical or statistical proof. We’ll get to the statistics in next week’s column; we’ll deal just with theory this week.

These are some of the principles:

1. The card turned up makes no difference (whether it’s a bower
or something else may be a big factor in deciding whether to
“donate” or not, but not in “ordering at the bridge”).

2. You may get lucky and make the hand; if so, you win. If you
don’t, you are still in the game, still with the lead or at least with
a tie, and you have the deal (you can, and usually should, “pick
at the bridge,” too, if you are the dealer and have 9 points to
your opponents’ 6 or 7; but it’s not quite the same thing, since
you do not have the advantage of the deal on the next hand if
you are euchred).

3. It is an order that must be made from first chair, and never from
third chair, for two reasons: First, it may be the dealer’s partner,
not the dealer, who has a loner; and in that case, he who hesitates
is lost (funny way to spell “last”). Second, if you are in first chair
and do not order at the bridge, your partner – the guy or gal in third
chair – is entitled to assume that you do have a sure trick; and, if he
or she has two pretty sure tricks, he or she can order to score.

See pages 33-34 of The Columbus Book of Euchre. “Ordering at the bridge” is an ancient principle, advocated by euchre writers of more than a century ago, such as R. F. Foster. One of the best explanations was written half a century ago by Paul H. Seymour in Laird & Lee’s Hoyle Standard Games (Albert Whitman & Co., Chicago, 1952).

One of the participants in the Euchre Science discussion likened “ordering at the bridge” to the time Barry Bonds was walked intentionally with the bases loaded: Bucky Showalter did it, as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, on May 28, 1998 (see). The Snakes were leading the Giants 8-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the base on balls paid off: The next batter, Brent Mayne, lined out to right field on a 3-2 count. Similar respect was shown to Napoleon Lajoie of the Philadelphia A’s in 1901 and to Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs in 1944.

But to me that’s more like “donation” or “picking up at the bridge” than “ordering at the bridge. It was the bottom of the ninth, not the top; so there was no guaranteed “next hand” for the Snakes – they would have no “second bite at the apple.

And while it’s a good example of giving up a score to stay in the game, you don’t always give up a score when you “order at the bridge,” and not always even when you “donate. Sometimes you make the hand.

In the second place, I don’t think Showalter’s intentional pass was a good baseball move. If Bonds singles, you still have a tie game; but if Mayne singles, the game is over. With a 6-run lead or more, it makes a lot of sense (it’s the “Bubinski;” see pages 34-35, The Columbus Book of Euchre: Ordering for a euchre when you’re ahead 9 to 3). With a 5-run lead or a 3-run lead, it makes a little sense; with a 4-run lead, it makes no sense at all; and it makes no sense with a 2-run lead, to me, if Mayne has ever been known to single (the box score indicates that pinch hitters still were available, too). Yes, Bonds does hit a lot of doubles and home runs, but (a) not all doubles clear the bases; so you might still have a tie even if he doubles, and (b) even Barry Bonds made an out or fielder’s choice more than half the times he batted in 1998 (his “on base percentage” was .438). Showalter should have pitched to him.

Enough baseball! We’ll get back to euchre and “ordering at the bridge” next week, with statistics.

[first of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Method” euchre – October 11, 2002

Sick and tired of drawing stone idiots for partners in euchre games on line, and wondering where they came from, and how they managed to survive the ratings wars, I decided to become one.

I created a new screen name on Yahoo! and resolved to play it by a rigid formula that, while not totally stupid on its face, defies conventional euchre wisdom and discretion.

This is the formula (and read on past it to see the amazing results it gave me):

1. Join any game found open, without regard to any other
player’s rating or won/lost ratio, not even your partner’s.
Give preferences to three-player tables when available
(in order to begin play as soon as possible) and “stick
the dealer” tables (because a dumb player can rely on
luck a little more with STD).

2. Call trump only if you have at least three trump including a
bower (except when “stuck” as the dealer), and always
call trump on three with a bower. If your partner is the
dealer, count the card turned up in this formula in deter-
mining whether to order.

3. On offense – whether your partner has made trump or you
have – never lead trump if you have an ace of another suit.
Always lead an ace off suit if you have one. If you have
more than one ace, lead the one from the suit you have less
of (in the case of a tie, see No. 8 below). Color does not
matter. If the ace has been played on a prior trick (by you
or anyone else) and you have the king, treat it as an ace.

4. If you have no ace to lead on offense, always lead your
highest card, regardless of color, regardless of the number
of cards you hold in its suit, and regardless of whether it is
trump or not (in the case of a tie, see No. 8 below).

5. On defense, always lead trump if you do have an ace
in another suit; and always lead your lowest trump (even
if it unguards a left bower). Lead an ace only when you
are out of trump; lead another card only when you have
no ace in a suit other than trump; and then, as in No. 4
above, simply lead your highest card, regardless of its
color or the number of cards you hold in its suit (in the
case of a tie, see No. 8 below).

6. Do not trump your partner’s ace or overtrump your
partner (except to overtrump an opponent who has
overtrumped your partner), and never undertrump;
but otherwise always trump if you are void in the suit
led (and have trump). Always use your lowest trump
unless an overtrump is needed at the time you play.

7. In discarding when picking up and in sluffing on a
trick on which you can neither follow suit nor trump
(or have no reason to trump), throw a singleton if
you have one lower than an ace or a king; otherwise
just throw off your lowest card, regardless of color
or number of cards you have in the suit (in the case
of a tie, see No. 8 below).

8. If none of the rules above dictates your play – e.g.,
in deciding which ace to play if suits are equal, in
following suit on a trick you are already beaten on,
or in deciding what to sluff if you cannot follow suit
or trump, or in deciding what to discard if you are
picking up – always select the playable card farth-
est to the left in your hand. (Note: Yahoo! sorts
the cards lowest to highest, and by suits, left to
right, except for the left bower, which remains in
place in its nominal suit instead of going to the trump
suit it joins.)

9. Do not go alone without both bowers and at least
one additional trump, and do not go alone with any
“losers” (i.e., you have to have aces in both off suits,
or ace-king in one off suit, or nothing but trump).

10. Do not “donate” or “order at the bridge,” under
any circumstances.

Adopting this system and my new screen name, I began in the Yahoo! “beginners” lounges and moved up whenever I achieved a new rating appropriate to the level to which I was moving – i.e., I would not enter an “intermediate” lounge unless my rating was at least 1500, and I would not enter an “advanced” lounge unless it was at least 1650.

After 26 games I had worked myself up to four games over .500 and a 1602 rating – just 48 points short of “advanced” in the ratings scheme. Things went downhill a little after that (ratings do go up and down on Yahoo!), but then after just 43 games I had a 56 per cent winning percentage and a 1651 rating – “advanced”! After 50 games I was at 58 per cent (won 29, lost 21) and had a 1719 rating.

I have no doubt that, with patience and perseverance, and with a little selectivity on partnerships and on games to enter, and with a little discretion on when to call trump, I could work myself up to a rating of 2000 or more on this system, but – it’s a little tiring. You have to keep reminding yourself to be stupid.

You can do it, too. But it’s tricky. You actually have to get yourself into the mode of thinking (or not thinking, ha! ha!) like a numbnock. It’s not easy declining a trump call or declining a play that you know, in your gut, is the right thing to do. But once you have memorized the rigorous dumb precepts, just let it flow. And you will be a winner. Maybe not a big winner, but a winner. And, who knows?

Why does this work? I don’t really know. I think it has something to do with the synchronicity of stupidity – “dumb and dumber. A truly dumb player can actually outthink himself at a euchre table (and there is plenty of proof of that), but two mere idiots may have some symbiosis going for them. Also, you get the “50 per cent factor” on top: Most of your opponents are as dumb as you are, if not dumber. Your advantage is the consistency of your idiocy.

Playing my “stupid” system will not work with partners who know how to play – besides which, they will not stay with you. But, who cares? There are so many dumb players out there you are actually better off, if you are a dummy, with a dummy for a partner. And at random that is what you will get.

You can even talk about it while you are doing it. I even explained what I was doing to some of my partners – e.g.:

Partner: “Why didn’t you lead the right bower?”

Me: “Oh, I was just trying to play as stupid as
everyone else and see what happened.

Partner: “Oh. Yeah. I understand.

Then my partners would try to play as dumb as I was playing. Often they would outdo me.


1. In a non-STD game I played in a “beginners” lounge,
there were four pass hands in a row.

2. In another game I led trump on defense on the first
trick so often that my partner said, “Why do you
always lead trump when the dealer picks up?” I
answered, “I only do that when I have an ace.
And everyone said, “Oh, OK.

3. In another game I unguarded a left bower by leading
a low trump on defense on the first trick. The dealer,
on my right, took all five tricks. And she said, “Wow
– sry p – never thought it was a loner!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Lead low trump when going “next” – October 4, 2002
A player asked in a forum on line
that I like to follow: “The dealer
turns down the ace of hearts. Sit-
ting to his left you hold the jack of
hearts, the king of diamonds, the
king of hearts, the king of spades,
and the ten of clubs; and you call
‘next. What do you lead?”
“Does the score make a difference?”

Let’s save the score question for last.

Most of the respondents answered, correctly, lead the king of diamonds. Lead trump when you call “next,” and lead low. See page 52 of The Columbus Book of Euchre (2nd ed.), or the New Appendix on line.

One respondent said he would lead the king of hearts. That is the worst lead you could make. Yes, it is now an ace (since the ace was turned down); but which of the other three players is not merely most likely, but even simply likely, to be void in hearts, so that he can trump your king? That’s right, the opponent on your right, the dealer, the guy who turned down hearts for trump. Even if your partner is astute enough to consider trumping your king of hearts (effectively “trumping your ace,” which he has been trained not to do), he realizes that he will have to use the highest trump he has – perhaps even the right bower – because the dealer is in a position to overtrump him.

So why do you lead your king of trump, and not your left bower? And why do you unguard your left bower by leading the king? Because your partner probably has the right bower. If the dealer had it, surely he would have picked up the ace of hearts. If his partner had it, likely he would have ordered the ace into his partner’s hand.

But there is no way to know whether your partner has the right bower guarded; and, if it’s a singleton in his hand, you spend both your bowers on one trick if you lead the left. By leading the king of diamonds you begin to get the trump out (maybe you get them all out); and eliminating the trump is what makes your team’s aces good (like your own king of hearts).

And if no one ever leads hearts back to your king, you still have a guaranteed re-entry to your hand with the left bower if the right bower falls on your king of diamonds lead – even if it falls on your left side, from the dealer's partner.

It is because you are counting on your partner for the missing bower that you call “next” in the first place. But you cannot count on his having it guarded.

NOW: Does the score matter? Yes, it does. But it does not matter on what to lead; you lead the king of diamonds in any event. What it matters on is, whether to call next in the first place. If your opponents have 8 points, it’s a risky call. Your hand is not very good. You have probably two tricks in “next,” but neither of them is guaranteed. Better to let your opponents score a point on their own call than to take two on yours: If you are euchred at 8 points, the game is over. “Next” is as much a defensive call – to stop opponents’ loners – as an offensive call. But a defensive euchre is no good with the opponents at 8 points. Again, see page 52 – and my column “The why and how of ‘next’.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Stick the dealer,” part 2 – September 27, 2002

Ryan Romanik wrote back:

“When I’m in first chair, even in a game with ‘stick the dealer,’ I’m desperately looking for a reason to call ‘next,’ not for a reason to pass. Also, the second hand is sometimes more inclined to call with two medium strength holdings (lest his partner be forced into calling something ugly), which gives the first hand a greater tendency to call. We could probably go back and forth like this forever, using more and more levels of thinking. My experience is that STD doesn’t really discourage ‘next’ or ‘reverse next’ calls, and certainly doesn’t ‘decimate’ them, as you wrote in your book.

“I think that much of the basis of our disagreement on the subject is the fact that you and I play different games primarily (subtly different, but different). As I recall, you play without STD whereas in Michigan STD is standard. So you notice things about non-STD that I don’t, and vice versa.

I agree that euchre with STD and euchre without STD are different games (and a little more than “subtly different,” but not as different as the games of hearts in which the deuce of clubs or the player left of the dealer leads, or in which you can or cannot break hearts or the queen of spades on first trick).

I find euchre without STD more “macho” (ha! ha! Just had to say that. But I hear the converse already). I do hate that pre-emptive “STD p” apology (on line or off) by a dealer calling trump at the end of the second round. Three times out of four the dealer who laments “STD” when making trump on the second round should have thought about the situation a little harder on the first round.

Just as I hate the excuse “had to try p” (or “sp had 3”) by a player who gets euchred (playing STD or not), and the pre-emptive “gotta try p” by a maker apologizing in advance. That is so pussy! You don’t “gotta” do anything, and you should have the moral integrity to accept the responsibility for the consequences of a bad or unfortunate decision.

I, too, in first chair, and with or without STD, always look for a reason to call “next. I will, on occasion and without hesitation, call “next” even without any trump at all under the proper circumstances (can’t do that in Michigan, can you!). But there are these marginal strong multisuit hands that, while not fully qualifying as “euchre hands” (because there is not an absolutely “sure” trick in every suit), yet give you an incentive to let someone else decide (particularly when you are having trouble finding that least little reason to call “next”). With STD I feel safer in general, on second round, in leaving the call to my partner because I assume that a prudent player in second chair is more likely to leave the call to the dealer.

Ryan says that the “second hand is sometimes more inclined to call with two medium strength holdings (lest his partner be forced into calling something ugly), which gives the first hand a greater tendency to call. That’s exactly when the second player should keep his mouth shut with STD, in my opinion. With or without STD, he may assume that the dealer has something in “reverse next. If his own “reverse next” holdings are more or less equal and his hand as a whole is marginal, he should let the one who has to call (the dealer) make the choice (and the third hand will be more inclined to put the peril upon the dealer, by passing). The dealer’s partner, with the hand described, can support either call by the dealer.

And what if the dealer turned down because he was “sitting” on “next”? His partner will scotch the hand if he chooses between two marginal suits in “reverse. He should let the dealer decide.

It is without STD that, at second hand, I am most inclined to pick a suit in “reverse. I am trusting my partner to hold something; I am pre-empting a third-hand call (not infrequently a loner; and third hand, too – and perhaps more than anyone else – has a greater incentive to pass with STD), and I am punishing the opponents for not calling “next.

Which brings us again to “primarily different games”: I recommend that, on the first round, with a card turned for the plucking by the dealer, his partner should, as a rule, keep his mouth shut – that there is a reason for that unnecessary Canadian rule that requires the dealer’s partner to go alone if he orders.

That strategy is out the window with STD. If you are in second chair in an STD game and see a pretty sure chance at scoring in the suit turned, you had better order it up. Don’t “stick yer partner”! (“STP”!)

And so STD discourages not only “next”; it discourages loners, too. That’s another reason not to like it. It’s another reason to call STD less “macho.

The basic effects of STD are to enhance the incentives to order from second chair and to pick up the turned card on the first round, and to reduce the incentives to call on the second round from the first three chairs. The enhancement on the second chair on the first round reduces the dealer’s loners, and the reduction of the incentive to call from second chair on the second round reduces the duty to call “next” on a margin from first chair. Reduction of the first hand’s duty to call on the second round is an incidental effect of the reduction of the second hand’s incentive. The reduction of the third hand’s incentive to call on the second round offsets the reduction of the first hand’s duty to call somewhat, but not much; it is more a matter of discretionary deferral by first hand to third hand. Thus it remains correct to call “next” from first chair even with STD, but it is not as imperative.

Maybe the word “decimates” is pretty strong language; but its original meaning was to reduce something by 10 per cent, not to 10 per cent (or its present usage, “to destroy a great proportion of”). So, it’s not an obliterative word like “negates,” or “nullifies,” or “erases” (or “obliterates”!). That’s my story, and I’m st-stickin’ to it!

[second of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Stick the dealer,” part 1 – September 20, 2002

Ryan Romanik wrote:

“Why, in The Columbus Book of Euchre, do you say that ‘stick the dealer’ (or ‘screw the dealer,’ as some spell out ‘STD’) counteracts ‘next’ and ‘reverse next’? If anything, I think it would reinforce it. The only possible effect that STD could theoretically have on the dealer is to incline him to make looser calls, out of fear of being ‘stuck. So if he turns down a card when STD is being played, he will on average have a next bower less often.

“Note: In Michigan, we almost always play ‘screw the dealer. But as you point out, pass hands are rare, and I do not loosen my calling requirements from the dealer’s chair. But I don’t see how it counteracts ‘next’.

The answer lies in what the dealer’s partner should be doing. With “stick the dealer,” the dealer’s partner should lay off not only on first round but also on second round, and leave marginal choices to the dealer – because STD gives the third hand an incentive to lag also. So much for “reverse next” or “across,” which is the principle urging the dealer’s partner, on second round, to call the color opposite that turned down if the player on his right does not call “next” (the other suit of the same color turned down. “Reverse next” is a weaker tactic than “next” to begin with, but is an absolute squelch of a third-hand loner).

In short, the dealer’s partner has more incentive to lag with STD; and the main reason to call “next” from first chair in the first place is to pre-empt a call by the dealer’s partner.

And there’s another way STD discourages “next” and “reverse next”: Let’s say you hold a “euchre hand” – i.e., a guaranteed trick in every suit – and a fair shot at two tricks, in first or second chair, either one. If there is no STD, you probably should call trump lest the deal be passed. But with STD, you know that the deal cannot be passed; and you lie back for a euchre or a choice by your partner if you sit to the left of the dealer. If you are the dealer’s partner, you should pass and let him choose the suit (you’ve got the third hand stopped anyway, and maybe even euchred if he calls; and you have help for your partner in all three suits available).

There just is less incentive for first and second chair calls in general with STD, and since the usual most logical calls from those positions are “next” and “reverse,” respectively, there is less likelihood and less reason for those calls.

I agree with Ryan’s conclusion that the most likely (I would not say “the only possible”) effect of STD on the dealer is to encourage him to pick up thinner (and there is concomitant pressure on his partner to order thinner, too), but I don’t see that the possession or not of either bower is necessarily a strong factor in the decision. For example, the dealer probably should not turn down a two-suited hand that includes three little trump and no aces, and maybe not even a two-suited hand with only two little trump and an off suit headed by an ace.

And because there is more pressure in general on all sides, and particularly on the dealer’s side, to make trump on the first round, the very opportunities to call “next” and “reverse next” are reduced.

By the way, this is the kind of writing that could turn my “pamphlet” (as Joe Andrews and his disciples like to call The Columbus “Book” of Euchre) into a dull, 1,000-page technical reference manual for $40 a copy that no one would buy!

[first of two parts]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Trump to call – September 13, 2002
A reader wrote:

“Need clarification . . . family feud . . .
here in good old Indiana . . . .

“Players A & C are partners. Players B & D are partners.
Player D deals and turns a spade.
Player A passes; player B passes.
Player C has three aces (heart, club and diamond) but no spades.
She orders up the dealer.

“Player A leads a heart, player B follows suit, and
player C lays down her ace and takes the trick
as the dealer also follows suit.

“Player C then takes the next two tricks with her other aces.
Her partner, A, takes the remaining tricks with trump.

“The dealer says C cheated because you have to have trump
in your hand to order or call. He refuses to play any more
with a cheater and demands a rule book. He says that
if C were in a euchre club, she would get kicked out.

“Please end this family feud. Did player C cheat? What is the rule?”

Ha! Ha! You say “here in good old Indiana,” but you didn’t say which side of U.S. 40! Sounds to me like you may be a little too close to Michigan.

There is no such rule in “Hoyle,” and they don’t play that way in Southern Indiana or most of the rest of the civilized world. Some people, however – particularly in Michigan (and this might include most of northern Indiana, by osmosis) – play by a rule that a player must already have trump in his hand (and, the left bower doesn’t count) to order or pick up a turned card for trump, as your dealer seems to have been taught, or to call trump on the second round. See page 29, The Columbus Book of Euchre (second edition), at “NOT RULES.

But most euchre players do not observe such a rule, and I know of no computer game or game on line where you will find it. Your dealer, player D, is either a Michigander or a sorehead (or both. Also, probably, your husband, since you said this is a family feud; you have revealed the sexes of the players, and my ESP tells me you were the one with the three aces).

The reader wrote back:

“Thank you for your clarification. I live in Indianapolis.

“Player D is not my husband but a gentleman sorehead
who, in my opinion, felt, ‘No woman can beat me at
euchre. My husband told him when he challenged me
to be prepared, that I had been taught by the best (i.e.,
my husband!) and that my off suit will hurt you every time.

“We played 10 games, and my partner and I won 8. I
believe we would have won the 11th, but the gentleman
politely (yeah, right!) left the table demanding the rule book.

“He was so thoughtful at Christmas that he mailed me
portions of euchre rules from someone’s web site. I now
have it in writing, thank you, from a more reliable source.
I will return a friendly (yeah, right!) gesture and purchase
your book, mark the appropriate page and send it to him!

“I know this is petty, but he’s my sister’s arrogant boy
friend. I’m stubborn myself, but when I’m proven wrong
I’m the first to apologize.

But you still didn’t tell me whether you were playing north or south of Washington Street! Or, whose house you were in! Makes a difference!

[It was a pretty uncanny “march,” and I’m not sure I’d recommend this Hoosier lady’s order. But you can play with this hand on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory. Just be sure to fill in East’s hand without spades before you click “Play” and “Deal.”]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Not a stone idiot – September 6, 2002
The dealer is on your right; you get
the king and queen of hearts and the
king, ten and nine of spades; and the
dealer turns the ace of spades. You
remember “not to order up anything
you can't catch”; you bite your tongue
and pass, and you begin to drool over
the coming euchre.
The dealer picks up the ace of spades; and you lead the king of hearts, which the dealer takes with the ace of hearts. He leads back the nine of hearts, which you take with your queen – you think, because the dealer’s partner plays the nine of clubs. But your partner trumps your queen and leads the ace of diamonds, which the dealer trumps with the ace of spades – which outranks all three of your little trump. The dealer then cashes his right bower for the point.

You ask your partner to explain himself. He says he wanted you to take the next trick. You call him seventeen choice names and leave the table, and you begin to write him up as the latest stone idiot. Which gets you to thinking. And, just to make sure, you run the hand through Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory (see link below). And then you realize that your partner’s trumping your good queen of hearts was the correct play.

Because, the dealer had a right-ace tenace – as your partner correctly assumed – and the only way to euchre him was to catch his ace with the left bower. Your taking the queen of hearts would have given the dealer an end play.

You lost one opportunity to catch the dealer’s ace with a guarded left bower when he declined to lead the right bower after cashing the ace of hearts. The only way left to catch his ace was your partner’s lead through him to your left bower – which, unfortunately, you did not have.

It’s the right play also if you hold the right-king of trump over the dealer’s left-ace-x.

And you need to give the dealer credit, too, for leading the nine of hearts back instead of the right bower.

You can try this hand out on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory. If you modify West’s hand (i.e., your hand, in the scenario set out above) so that he has (you have) the left bower instead of the 9 of spades, you’ll find that the only way to euchre the maker is for the third chair to trump his partner’s trick (i.e., for your partner to trump your trick). Then he just has to hope that he can explain his strategy before he is called 17 choice names by a partner who leaves the table!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Down in the boondocks – August 30, 2002

Isn’t that also the title of a popular song, of about 40 years ago?

Well, anyway – I have a neighbor who likes to play euchre, and he’s pretty good. But it’s pretty hard to find enough people to populate a euchre table here in south central Kentucky.

But my neighbor has a telephone, and a computer. And I advised him that for about $40 he could get a pretty good 56K modem, and that then for about $20 a month he could play euchre on line!

And he did, and he did (and he did).

He linked up to Playsite, and Playlink, and Pogo, and “Yahoo!” (and even MSN)!

But he didn’t like Playsite because every time he found players he liked, he was shunted to another table. And he didn’t like Playlink because there was no one there. He liked Pogo, but he found that it took him an average (he is a mathematician, and he took notes) of 22.79 minutes to log into a game on Pogo. And he didn’t fool long with MSN because, he soon realized, it was a venue for engineers who had the skills to negotiate connections with esoteric web sites, not for theoretical scientists like himself. So, he settled into “Yahoo! Not because he liked it, particularly (he commented that the graphics reminded him of his old Commodore 64), or because he liked the players there (he said that, actually, he found them rather rude, not to mention stupid), but because it took him only a minute or two to join a game.

And then something happened.

It took longer.

And longer.

And he found himself being electronically “booted” (i.e., “fried,” “Yahooed,” you know what I mean), several times a day (if he played several games a day), and more often, and more often.

And there was nothing the poor fellow could do. He couldn’t move to Indiana: He has lived here all his life (his parents were Hoosiers, and it was from them that he got his appetite for euchre; but he has roots and a family and a job here). And he has a “dial up” connection. He lives a mile from town, and there is no television cable service, and will not be in this new century. Maybe he could hook up by satellite, but the technology is yet in its infancy; and it costs $600 for installation and $100 a month. So: He had either to move to Indiana, or quit playing euchre. He quit playing euchre.

And, being a scientist, he figured it out: As the games sites on line got fancier and fancier (and “shlicker” and “shlicker”), they required more and more memory. My neighbor’s own computer, which had 90 meg of RAM, crashed again and again, and – even worse (you can always get more RAM) – his ISP (that stands for “Internet Service Provider,” ha! ha! what an oxymoron!) quit supporting his connection (after all, it was “dial up”; and the telephone number to “dial up” was in the next county, 25 miles away, through thicket and thunderstorm; and they have not learned yet how to maintain the connection, despite “fiberoptic” cable and the fact that they “turned on the lights in the country” more than 70 years ago through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Administration. Not to mention any names, but let’s call my neighbor’s ISP “Sprint/Earthlink”).

Actually, Yahoo! did not get “shlicker” and “shlicker”; but it did get advertisier and advertisier, and slower and slower, and stickier and stickier. So, same thing. By the way, have you ever noticed that “Yahoo!” is slower than Windows 3.0 at accessing messages?

I gave my colleague Gerry Blue, webmaster of the Yahoo! group Euchre Science, a look at the above; and he wrote back:

Yahoo! is an . . . interesting story. It reminds me of a shocking realization I was introduced to in high school. A teacher said, ‘TV exists to advertise. That may not be why it was invented, but that’s why it exists today. They just create shows that entertain because nobody would watch a 24-hour commercial. Entertaining is something they have to do in order to get you to watch their commercials.

Yahoo! is the same way. They advertise. That’s how they make their money. Providing services is something they have to do so they can force feed you the ads. Their advertisers get great service, and we get enough to keep us coming back.

Good point. My neighbor quit watching commercial TV, too; he just couldn’t stand the ever numerous and ever lengthening commercials. For him it became either public television or no television. And he doesn’t watch even public television during “Pledge Week” (and, of course, that’s when they air their best shows). He does contribute.

And my neighbor – who, like me, is in his 60’s, and has been around a while, and seen some stuff – got to remembering, and thinking.

He remembered the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s, when they closed the country schools – not for desegregation, but for “consolidation. The idea was, a big school could provide “better service” than a small school. Ha, ha! Tell it to Chicago, and Washington, and New York and Los Angeles.

And he remembered the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the banks and the Farmers Home Administration closed the small farms, on the same principle that “bigger is better.

And he remembered the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closed the filling stations in the country (and he remembered a summer day in 1994, with temperature at 94 degrees Fahrenheit, when he ran out of gasoline only 20 miles from Cincinnati, and could not find a pump at any price).

And he remembered the later 1990’s and the early 2000’s, when all the little post offices were closed. No more Nick, Ky., no more Ollie, Ky.; no more Sunfish, Ky.; no more Bumfukt, Ind.; you had to drive to Brownstown just to buy a stamp. And quaint and picturesque postmarks were a thing of the past.

And then came the bread monopoly; and his favorite country store had to close because its main profits came from sandwiches, and the bread distributor had decided that catering to the Mom & Pop stores in the country was not profitable; and, while someone in the government gave a damn about what Microsoft was doing to Dell and Hewlett-Packard, no one gave a damn about what Sara Lee was doing to Mom and Pop.

And now – and now – who gave a damn about whether country bumpkins could stay connected to the internet in the “Information Age”? Back to the rotten boroughs. They got cable.

Gerry Blue added:

“And along came Barnes & Noble, and the rest of the story is as predictable as Sprint snipping the lines to areas that constantly lose money. If an executive at Sprint were to ask me why he should continue to provide service to a money losing community, I’m not sure I could give him a convincing answer. I hate it, but I’m hard pressed to fault the business logic.

“By the way, I don’t think I learned anything about euchre in this column, but I decided that the Euchre Hall of Fame should be built in Bumfukt, Ind.!”

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

“Let the puppy in!” – August 23, 2002
“Let the puppy in” was mentioned in
last week’s column about the “why and
how of ‘next’,” in the context of what to
lead when you call “next” at first hand.
As I wrote in that column, you lead low
trump to “let the puppy in” – i.e., your
partner’s unguarded bower.

“Let the puppy in” has other meanings
in other contexts, however. It’s another
way to express the maxims “second hand
low” (page 48, The Columbus Book of
) and “high/low” (same page – a
variation on the theme).

Second chair; hearts trump

The lead:

“Second hand low” does not mean quite the same thing in euchre that it means in bridge, but it’s pretty close. As it is explained in the book, if you are playing second to the lead, don’t trump a weak lead just because you can. Say hearts are trump; you hold the ace-ten of diamonds, the king of spades, and the ten and nine of hearts, and the player on your right leads the queen of clubs. You should consider throwing off the king of spades. Your partner may have the ace of clubs (or even a good king), or he may be able to trump, too. If the player to your left is void in clubs, he can overtrump you; and your trump would be wasted without forcing his. This is true no matter who made trump.

But ditching the king of spades gives you a void; and one of your little hearts may take a spade trick later, when you need it. Or, if it is your team that has made trump, you can use one of those little hearts to lead back to your partner after one round of trump has been drawn and you have taken your ace of diamonds. “Second hand low” can turn a one-point hand into a two-point hand; it can save a one-point hand; it can even euchre on defense.

If you have only one trump and it is your partner who has made trump, you must not trump a weak opening lead. Better to let your partner take the trick if he can; you would be left without a good lead back to him if you took the trick. Your ace of diamonds is apt to be trumped, and more likely by an opponent than by your partner (there are two opponents, you know; you have only one partner. And he has been taught not to trump his partner's ace). And if your partner has to trump your lead, it may cost him a trump he needs to gather the opponents’ trump. I.e., let your partner’s puppy in! (It’s OK to trump an ace or a king, though – in fact, you probably should.)

If you have two trump including a big one, however, you should trump, even a weak lead – with the higher of your two trump (to guard against being overtrumped on your left) – and lead back your lower trump, to put your partner in the lead (and to show him what his opponents do not have). This is the “high/low” play. You can trump in even with the left or right bower in this situation (“Show your partner the left,” pages 54 and 59). You can assume that your partner has the other bower. See the New Appendix to The Columbus Book of Euchre.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

The why & how of “next” – August 16, 2002

The primary definition of “next” in euchre is the other suit of the same color of the suit the dealer has turned (e.g., hearts to diamonds, clubs to spades). The secondary definition is the other suit of the same color as trump once trump has been made. The other two suits are called, collectively, “green” – whether red or black!

Why should the first player – the one on the dealer’s left – call “next”? One correspondent, who is a pretty good euchre player, answered that it is because of a two-thirds probability your partner has the right bower in “next” (if you don’t) when it was a jack turned down, and an odds-on probability when it was any other card turned down.

The odds are not nearly that good. If the opponents don’t have the right bower in “next” (and you don’t, either), the probability is 62½ per cent (5/8) it is in your partner’s hand rather than in the deck. That’s good, but it leaves a lot of “ifs. The random probability over all that the right bower is in your partner’s hand, when the left has been turned down, is less than 28 per cent (5/18). But the probability he has at least one of the bowers in “next,” if it was not a jack turned down (and you don’t have one), is 55½ per cent (10/18).

And the “raw” probabilities are enhanced by the dealer’s team’s election not to order or pick up. Of course, each of your opoonents has the same 55½ per cent probability of holding one bower – and that’s 111 per cent combined – but, remember, they are the guys who turned the suit down. The right bower in “next” would have been the left bower in the suit rejected; and if one of the opponents held it, there would be a fair likelihood that suit would have been accepted. The odds – both calculable and incalculable – work the same for the other bower. The rejection of a suit by the dealer’s team enhances the actual probability your partner holds a missing bower far beyond a 28 per cent or 55½ per cent random probability; but the actual probability is, generally speaking, incalculable.

So, is that all? Pretty much. Calling “next” amounts to an educated guess that your partner has the missing bower and your opponents don't. If you have one of the bowers of the color turned down, sitting to the left of the dealer, calling “next” is almost imperative, unless you have a guarded bower in each of the “green” suits also and the game is “stick the dealer” (without STD, the hand might pass and, with it, the certainty you can help your partner or stop an opponent).

There are basically two reasons the dealer’s team would have turned the up card down: Weak hands in general in that color, or a strong hand in “next” (even a loner). If the dealer turns down for the latter reason, he is trying to “suck you in” to calling “next. The power is even more likely to your left, where a good player may have passed because he did not want to squelch the dealer’s opportunity to go alone, and he has “next” stopped if the dealer does turn the card down.

These are good reasons not to call “next” – or are they?

No, they are not. “Next” is a defensive call as much as an offensive call. If that guy on your left does have a loner in “next,” or if either of your opponents has a “green” loner, you have held them to two points by being euchred. This is why I recommend going “next” at first hand if there is any way you can. Just like being arrested for possession of marijuana, there is no shame in being euchred on calling “next” – unless your opponents have 8 points. Be real careful about calling “next” when your opponents have 8! You’d better have a pretty sure point.

If you don’t call “next,” the player on your left (the dealer’s partner) is highly likely to call something (unless you are playing STD), and it is highly likely to be something you don’t want (see the New Appendix on line, at “Calling trump,” and The Columbus Book of Euchre, at page 32).

I will often call “next” at first hand with only one little trump (particularly if I have a “green” ace or two), and even, on occasion, with no trump (you’re not allowed to do that – call trump with none in your hand – in Michigan, and in some other places north of U.S. 40; but we’re talking euchre here).

So, you have called “next”: What do you lead?

Lead trump (if you have any!). The assumption is not only that your partner has the missing bower but also that your opponents have jacks in the “green” suits, not aces. Therefore you have the aces off suit (and you know it if you have one or both of them yourself), and you want to get the trump out to make them good.

And if you have the right or left bower when you call “next,” lead it, right?

Wrong. Lead low trump. You are counting on your partner for a bower, and with good reason; but you are not counting on him for length in trump, or even to have a guard for his bower. Leading your bower is a good way to cause both your own team’s bowers to fall on one trick. Lead a bower only if you have the ace of trump to back it up; then it does not hurt to catch your partner’s bower on the first trick. If I have a right-king, even, or a left-king, I lead the king. See pages 51-52 of The Columbus Book of Euchre (2nd edition). “Let the puppy in!” The puppy, in this case, is your partner’s unguarded bower. See the New Appendix on line, at “Lead low trump when going ‘next’,” and The Columbus Book of Euchre (2nd ed.), at page 52.

It makes no big difference what the dealer turned down. The assumption is, his team does not have the bowers to support an assist or a pickup. It is not unlikely that if your partner does have the key trump, it is unguarded.

If I call “next” with bower-king-nine or bower-queen-nine, I lead the king or queen (to stay over an opponent’s queen or ten if that’s all that’s out there against us). I might lead the right if I have it in that situation, but usually not; it depends on the cards I have to fall back on. If I have the “green” aces, that’s a reason to save a high trump, to get back into the lead later to cash my aces.

And if I call “next” with only one trump – which I do not at all infrequently – I lead it, whether it is the nine, the right bower, or anything in between, including the unguarded left bower – because my partner probably needs it and expects it, if for no other reason.

Sometimes you wind up looking like a fool leading low trump when you call “next,” but it never hurts to let your opponents think they are playing fools.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

If you need the math . . . – August 9, 2002

A player calling himself Dwend, and claiming about 50 years’ experience at euchre, made an interesting remark in a message posted recently on the Yahoo! group Euchre Science. He said:

“I do not have to numerically calculate the odds in making a call. I usually know the odds (without referring to specific mathematical percentages). I know when I have a good chance of making a point, two points, four points, and making a set. I don’t always know the right card to lead; so sometimes you wing it, with the decision simply based on previous hands and experience. I have seen hands where one time you get set, and another time you make two points, as I am sure most of us have. I am a graduate of the Euchre School of Hard Knocks, and it just keeps on knocking; so I keep studying.

He’s right. If you need the math, you won’t be able to play cards.

I post a lot of messages and columns pointing out the chances of getting a “perfect hand” on the deal, the mathematical advantage of calling “next,” the probability of this, the odds against that, etc., etc.

But it’s not to get anyone to stop to calculate every time he or she is about to call or pass, or play a card. No one has time for that, and few have the equipment. Even fewer have the “photogenic mind” (as my lovely second ex-wife called it) to remember all the probabilities and odds posted on all the various holdings and combinations that may come around.

I post such messages and columns not to get anyone to compute or calculate or remember them while he or she is playing cards, but to point out why certain plays work and others don’t, why certain hunches pay off and others are not so hot, why I recommend playing thus and not so.

And, on occasion, I will discuss probabilities because someone has asked about the odds on a certain happening – like the guy from the college town who was giving a speech on euchre and wanted to know how often one could expect a “perfect” hand of J-J-A-K-Q of trump (but he never answered my question: Where does one give a speech on euchre?! ).

I have long pointed out that trying to calculate chances in a card game is an exercise in futility. In my review of the book Wergin on Euchre (see also page 80, The Columbus Book of Euchre, 2nd edition), I wrote, “The author’s chapter on ‘Euchre Odds and Percentages,’ seemingly arcane, is but simple probability theory taught in freshman math. Anyone needing the chart will get lost in the shuffle.

And I wrote at page 46 of The Columbus Book of Euchre (2nd ed.), “The main difference between the good euchre player and the great player is the great player’s ability to subconsciously compute the favorable odds (my definition of intuition) on going alone on a mediocre hand, and then act accordingly. The key words in that passage are “subconsciously” and “intuition.

Unlike the criticism of Wergin (whose book had not yet been published), that remark appeared in the original edition of The Columbus Book of Euchre, published in 1982 (at page 44).

Dwend says, “Intuition is a good way to put it. I usually refer to it as a ‘gut feel. The difference for me is, intuition is a hunch based on experience; my ‘gut feel’ is much stronger than that and doesn’t happen as often.

Or, as my second lovely ex-wife might put it, “‘Intuition’ is from Venus; ‘gut feel’ is from Mars!”

There is no table of “euchre odds and percentages” in The Columbus Book of Euchre, and there won’t be. The “odds and percentages” are curiosities and explanations, not tips on how to play.

I have been criticized for having written a “pamphlet” and not a “treatise” explaining the finer points and mathematics of euchre. I have some serious questions about the market for a “treatise” on euchre, and I am happy enough with the label “pamphleteer. It puts me in pretty good company. Thomas Paine and James Otis were pamphleteers. So were Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Sir Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, and Voltaire.

Just play the game.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

False carded and sucked in – August 2, 2002

A poll recapitulated below, like all
those I post, was inspired by an actual

My partner sat to the dealer’s left and
called hearts, which was not “next” (the
nine of clubs had been turned down). We
had fewer than 9 points, and our opponents
had fewer than 8. My partner took the first
trick with the right bower – taking the nine
of hearts from the dealer’s partner and my
own ten of hearts. The dealer showed out,
sluffing the nine of diamonds.

My partner took the next trick with the
ace of spades – the nine fell from dealer’s
partner’s hand; I played the ten (my only
spade), and the dealer played the king.

My partner then led the jack of spades;
the dealer's partner sluffed the king of clubs,
and I held the king of hearts (a trump) and
the queen and ten of clubs.

First trick

Second trick

First two cards of third trick

My remaining cards (hearts trump)

What should I have played? The poll results:

Ten of clubs 31 per cent
King of hearts 69 per cent

I played the ten of clubs, and the dealer took the trick with the queen of spades. He had “sucked me in” by “false carding” the king of spades on the previous trick. But we still made our point.

Here was my thinking:

I was confident we had a point: My partner had to have more than he had shown – right bower and ace of spades – to call “green” trump (i.e., not “next”). He surely had two more trump, and quite credibly even the left bower in reserve.

And the player to my right, if he had the left bower – i.e., the dealer’s partner – probably did not have additional trump, given his own reluctance or failure to trump the jack of spades.

What my partner appeared to be looking for with his jack of spades lead was a fifth trick for two points, and what I assumed he was looking for was my ace of trump or left bower to overtrump a king or ace of trump to be laid down by the dealer’s partner. But, when the dealer’s partner failed to trump, and with the queen of clubs high outside in my hand, and the ace of clubs apparently in the dealer’s partner's hand, I figured my partner’s jack of spades had as good a chance to take that extra trick as anything I had. If the dealer’s partner had the left bower, school was out on the second point anyway. I saved my king of hearts for a diamond lead.

Wrongo, bongo! Those who voted for trumping the jack of spades with the king of hearts were (I hope and trust) not seeking to guarantee the point, but counting on my partner to trump my queen of clubs (nullifying the dealer’s partner’s ace), then to cash his third trump for the march.

Making two points depended on the left’s being buried or in my partner’s hand. The main fault in playing the ten of clubs was that it relied on burial of the queen of spades too. The secondary fault is that it ignored my partner’s likely void in clubs.

And here’s something else to consider: Maybe I should have trumped in with the king of hearts just to guarantee the point. My partner obviously wasn’t too bright. If he had the left bower, he didn’t lead it early to protect his ace of spades. And, with the jack and ace of spades, why didn’t he call “next”? What was this “green shit” hearts?

Although I played wrong when the hand went down, I set up the poll (on the Euchre Science Yahoo! group on line) with a “public” ballot (i.e., you could see what everyone else was voting for). I initially voted for the ten of clubs, and changed my vote to the king of hearts at the last minute. The group moderator noticed this and, in a private e-mail, accused me of “bait and switch” tactics. Alert devil! The real purpose of the poll, I told him, was to test my influence as euchre author and guru: Could I pull a majority to the ten of clubs by voting for it myself, early and publicly? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Almost did! Had 45 per cent and building until Ryan Romanik came back from vacation and pulled my vast following his way!

You can look at this hand and play with it graphically on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

My botched loner – July 26, 2002

Results of a recent poll on line, based
on a true story:

I deal and turn the queen of spades.
I hold the left bower, the nine of spades,
and the ace of hearts.

Tim, my right-hand opponent, is the
host, and can't sit still. As usual, he is
out of the room doing something else.

Ron, Tim’s partner, feels the urge to
go, too – to the bathroom? Outdoors
for a toke? Who knows? Laying down
his hand, he says, “Since this is not a
money game, can I just trust you guys?”

My partner, Chris, just smiles. Taking
advantage of my opponents’ absence had
not occurred to me – but it does now.
Ron’s hand is not available, of course;
he has seen it (and will remember it).

But Chris’ and Tim’s hands and the
pack are; and I go fishing first in Tim’s
hand – and find all I will ever need:
Right bower and king of spades.

Play eventually resumes. “Hey!”
cries Tim. “How come I’ve got only
four cards?”

My hand on the deal

Tim’s hand on the deal

My hand after the pickup and theft

Tim’s hand after the theft

Oops! I had managed to slip only one, not both, of my little diamonds to Tim. Not only does Tim have only four cards, but I have six.

What happens? That was the question in the poll (on the Yahoo! group EuchreScience), and here are the results:

87.5% The deal passes to Ron. [This is the correct answer.
In the final analysis, it's a misdeal.]

25.0% Ron and Tim get 2 points. [No. There is no scoring
penalty for a misdeal (or for cheating, for that matter).
Losing the deal (or your life) is penalty enough.]

25.0% Tim shoots me. [No. Why would Tim shoot me? In the
first place, there is no indication that Tim knows that I
have stolen his cards. For all Tim knows, I have blown
a pretty sure loner (and, in fact, I have blown a pretty
sure chance at a point, and an outside chance at 2 points
by euchring Tim). On top of that, I have lost my deal.
Tim doesn't shoot me; he kisses me.]

25.0% Ron shoots me. [Nah, that would be ingratitude. Ron too
cannot know there has been a theft (although he is highly
suspicious), and he gains the same in the game that Tim
does. And if he does figure out, or knows intuitively,
what I have done, he realizes that it’s his own fault and
that I have taught him a valuable lesson: Don’t trust no
S.O.B. at a euchre table! Money game or not.]

25.0% Chris shoots me. [This is a plausible and righteous
scenario, but it doesn’t happen. Chris’ smile has
become a guffaw, and he is laughing too hard to hold
a straight aim.]

25.0% Tim shoots Ron. [This is another highly plausible
scenario; but it requires Tim’s knowing what hap-
pened, which he doesn’t.]

25.0% I am 86’d from Tim’s house. [Not likely – see above.]

25.0% I am 86’d from Columbus. [This is another plausible
scenario, but it will require a meeting of the City
Council. If I were 86’d, however, it wouldn’t be for
cheating; it would be for blowing the loner.]

37.5% Other – with posted explication, e.g.:

“I . . . give Chris a look that says, ‘Don't say a word,
because my pistol is pointed at you under the table,’
and I convince Ron and Tim that it was a misdeal
all along.

– rromanik

“Tim shooting Ron’s not a real option.[?] All the other
ones but the deal simply passing are.[?] Cheaters never
prosper, Natty.[?] Tsk, tsk, tsk."

– Jed Taylor

[Bracketed question marks mine. Tsk, tsk. Oh, well –
Jed did not have the advantage of playing baseball for
the Sandlot Dirties with Jim Garretson and me when he
was a kid. “Cheating never wins!” Jim would proclaim.
“But it helps!”]

Two women voted that all three other players should shoot me, and that Ron should be shot too. But there were no voting options for shooting Chris or Tim! Why didn’t they vote also for “Other” and post their opinions that Chris and Tim too should be shot? (Maybe they were uncertain about Chris because of the ambiguous gender of his name, and forgiving of Tim because all he did was take a powder.)

The morals:

1. Never, never, leave your opponents alone at a euchre table,
money or not (in fact, the friendlier the game, the more likely
they will feel entitled to cheat you).

2. Count your cards. Always. Constantly. Even when you are
cheating. Especially when you are cheating.

3. Don't play euchre with women. They get too emotional.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2002] [next]

Don’t trump your partner’s ace! – July 12, 2002

We’ll call them Dick and Jane – not
high rated (1582 and 1316, respectively,
on Yahoo!) – but this is too good to let
go unremarked.

I pick up the jack of spades and hold the right and left bowers and queen of spades, with nine of clubs and jack of diamonds outside – that is the best I can do with my discard (I throw the nine of hearts). Even I am not comfortable going alone on that – and I don’t.

Dick leads the ace of diamonds, my partner has to follow suit (as will I), and Jane trumps it with the nine of spades. Jane leads back the ace of clubs, and Dick trumps it with the ace of spades (as my partner and I follow suit again).

“I dunno why I did that!” Dick exclaims, almost immediately.

“I thought you were just getting even with your partner!” I say (not entirely joking).

Dick then leads the king of hearts, and my partner aces it; but Jane trumps it with the king of spades, forcing me to overtrump with a bower. Whew! All of a sudden what looked like a marginal loner has become a squeaker.

When I lead my remaining bower, Dick coughs up the ten of spades. I thank Dick and Jane profusely for getting the trump out for me as I cash my queen of spades for the point, on a hand on which I could easily have been euchred.

If Jane lays off Dick’s ace of diamonds and then trumps his return lead of the king of diamonds with her king of spades, forcing me to use a bower, I am euchred, as I eventually have to lose tricks to Dick’s ace of spades and Jane’s ace of clubs. They get the same result if Dick leads back his king of hearts.

This hand is now reported in the Stone Idiots section of Borf Books’ euchre links page. And you can see and play it 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 2002] [next]

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