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.

Lesson in “next” – December 19, 2003

A member posted the following query in the Yahoo! forum Euchre Science:

You are sitting in first chair; the score is 8 to 8; you hold the ace of diamonds, the ace and king of clubs, and the queen and ten of hearts, and the king of diamonds is turned up by the dealer – and down. What do you do?

Hand left of dealer

(king of diamonds turned up – and down)
The forum member said he called hearts (“next”) and led one – and got euchred, thereby losing the game on that hand. He did not recommend it.

I, too, played this hand calling hearts and leading one.

But I played it more than once. I played it 25 times, in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory on line. (You can too; here’s the setup.)

And these are the results I got:

We scored one point 15 times.

We scored two points 4 times.

We got euchred 6 times.

That looks like a net of 23 points to 12 in favor of calling “next” on this hand, and four outright wins of the game (but six outright losses). Pretty good, I’d say.

But let’s take a deeper look at the results: I did not “throw out” hands on which the king of diamonds would not have been turned down, in this minisimulation.

Of the six euchres, four probably would not have occurred because the diamond would have been ordered or picked up. On two of these the dealer had both red bowers; on another, his partner had both red bowers and the ace of hearts.

Another euchre depended on the dealer’s counterintuitive lead of the left bower to draw a second round of trump after taking the first round with the ace, not yet having seen the right bower, and having other good leads. And the sixth depended on his leading the right bower to draw a second round of trump, which also could be seen as counterintuitive, since he did not have the aces I held.

So you have to throw out at least four of those euchres, and maybe all of them. I think throwing five of them away is fair enough.

Then, there was one hand we scored a point on in which the opponents should have ordered the diamond; so, that, too, has to be thrown out. The adjusted results:

We scored one point 14 times.

We scored two points 4 times.

We got euchred once.

That’s a net of 22 points to 2 in favor of calling “next” on this hand, and four outright wins of the game against only one outright loss.

I think the guy who posed the problem made the correct call, even if he would not do it again. Call “next” and lead it, even at 8 to 8.

Calling “next” with only a couple of little trump is risky at 8 points because a euchre will knock you out. “Next” (the other suit of the same color turned down), in general, is as much a defensive call as an offensive call – the idea may be as much to stop a loner, by getting euchred, as to score. That defense does not work, of course, when the euchre ends the game.

But “next” is an offensive call also, based on intuition and percentage. The reason it often scores is that the dealer’s team did not have the bower or bowers they needed to feel comfortable with the suit turned up; therefore, your partner might have one or both of the bowers.

In the hand outlined above, at 8 to 8 it may be your last chance to take control of the game; and hearts are the best trump you have. Your aces of diamonds and clubs would rank only third in their respective suits as trump, but they are bosses in their respective suits if something else is trump. It’s do or die at 8 to 8. I say do it.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Power seat – December 5, 2003

First hand of the game. “HootOwl” dealt and turned down a king of hearts.

Had he picked it up he would have had ace-king-ten of hearts and ace-ten of spades – that is, two-suited with three trump to the ace-king and a kicker off color.

“HootOwl’s” hand
(if he had picked up a heart)
Not to mention that his partner had the right bower. HootOwl didn’t know that, of course; but it would not have been unreasonable to count on his partner for one bower or the other or, that failing, dropping both bowers from the opponents in one lead.

Partner’s failure to order did not mean he had no help. As it turned out, he had also the 10 of diamonds -- which meant that he was “sitting” on “next”; and he held three spades, for a probable stopper in one of the black suits.

You guessed it: “LittleCubbie,” on HootOwl’s left, went alone in clubs and made it. 4-0 off the bat. Nice start.

It’s just a good reminder of the power in the hands of the dealer. He had a likely point in hearts by himself (he had a nearly sure point with his partner’s help, and a possible march); he had no defense to “next,” the most likely call on his left; and he gave up control of the hand. And so what if he had got euchred picking up the heart? 2-0. Big deal. He’d have been still in the game. Scoring is not the only reason to make trump.

A dealer must remember that his partner’s pass is not a sign of weakness. A good partner will almost always pass a marginal holding in the up card (and sometimes a good holding) because (1) he has no control of the lead (unlike his partner, who gets to play last) and (2) many a dealer’s loner has been queered by an overeager partner.

Two-suited? Three trump? Ace-king high in trump? Ace-x outside in the other color? Pick it up. And go alone with it if you're in a pinch.

P.S. “HootOwl” was rated 1930 – “advanced. He’d be a candidate for Stone Idiots, but he admitted his error.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Cheaters and obstructors – November 21, 2003

I did not want to believe this. But I believe now that cheating is rife on line. (Think stock market.)

Recently, playing euchre on Yahoo! I have received “IM”s (“instant” messages) from other players at the table. That’s a sign. Yahoo! used to “flag” IM’s in the chat line, with something like “dimwit123 has sent a private message to numbnock789. Apparently Yahoo! now has given that up because, what could it do? With AIM, ICQ, and the (ahem!) telephone. Damned if Yahoo! is going to get outsold by Ma Bell and her babies.

In a game just last night something smelled bad off the bat: I was dealer and got a hand decent enough to pick up, with three trump (spades) to the ace, and a king and jack of hearts outside. But the player in third chair ordered me up, and went alone. My partner led the ace of diamonds, and the “loner” sluffed the ace of hearts (making my king good, among other things). Turned out my partner had the right bower, too.

About that time I got an “IM” from someone in the lounge warning me that our opponents were “scammers. Ha! Ha! One of them had a 69 per cent winning percentage; the other, 82 per cent. When later in the game the previous loner’s partner called alone with a donation, I figured that they were IM-ing – and I said so. But “they” – he or she – admitted that they were the same person and had come in with two personae through the “back door” (“their” screen names were “doing_u_lol” and “bushong37,” if you want to look them up or avoid them).

Also recently, in a game of hearts on Yahoo! I received an IM from another player telling me what cards he was passing to a third player. I didn’t even know the guy. I typed in the chat line, “NO PRIVATE MESSAGES – NO CHEATING, PLEASE. I also identified the offending player. And he left.

It is extremely difficult to find a substitute player in a game of hearts on line, especially in a game to 100 points (which is what we were playing), because it is such a long game. So, as host of the table, I invoked a robot to play the departed cheater’s hand.

And another player refused to play with the robot. He demanded a forfeit – or else, he would take his allotted three minutes to play at every trick.

And, taking a look at his record, I understood why: He had ten “wins” and one “second place” out of eleven games played.

There is no way in the real world anyone will win ten games out of eleven in hearts, and place second in the eleventh. Hearts is a game for three or more players, without partnerships. On line it is a game for four – again, without partnerships. At random you win 25 per cent. If you are really good, you might win a third of your games or a little better – against inferior competition, but not against your peers. Ninety-eight per cent? (counting the second place as three-fourths of a victory). I don’t think so. Not even in a sample of only 11 games.

In a forfeit at hearts, you get a win, or “first place,” added to your record if you are not the one forfeited, regardless of what place you were in at the time of the forfeit – first, second, third or fourth – and an add-on to your rating significantly less than what you would have got if you had actually won the game. You get a “second place” if you are the one forfeited – with a deduction from your rating no more than if you had lost in a full game (the rating deduction is the same in a full game whether you place second, third or fourth). Why not forfeit if you are losing hopelessly, and that is the only penalty?

And the players in the middle say, “No ’bots, please. Of course.

Stalling in euchre is pretty severe, at three minutes a trick. But in hearts – at 13 tricks to a hand, and in a 100 point game with no more than 26 points scored in a hand (and that many highly unusual) – it could mean virtually all day: Five or six hours to finish the game, easily.

In this case, however, we had a solution: The fourth player – who was not involved in the cheating or the obstruction – had a commanding lead, about 20 points. And I was pretty far behind. So, in order to teach the forfeituremonger/obstructor a lesson, I began eating all the hearts and queens of spades I could, to help the leader win in less than an hour. I threw the game to the only remaining honest player at the table, and announced in the chat line that that was what I was doing.

And thus it was I – the player who blew the whistle on one cheater, and thwarted another – who was labeled a cheater (by the obstructor, of course, and by a friend he had invited to the table to replace the robot).

The initial cheater was “bambam01956”; the obstructor was “U_Kiss_My_Ass” – in case you want to look them up or avoid them. I have misplaced the screen name of the obstructor’s invitee; sorry.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

It’s “bower,” not “bauer” – November 7, 2003

Because it’s on the internet, it’s got to be right. Right?

Posted at a euchre forum on line: “Actually, bauer means barn. . . . The word euchre means farmer. See

The site linked (in case it is no longer “up”) said:

Euchre is a trumping card game, originating in Germany. The word euchre means “farmer,” and so the game is thought to originate in the rural areas.

It is closely related to a French game called La Manie. It requires the understanding of the concept of a trump suit (like bridge), but if you have played Uno, it’s not much of a stretch. . . .

This is some of the most ignorant stuff I have ever read. For starters, there is not the slightest concept of trump in Uno, which is a sophisticated Mattel copyright version of “crazy eights” (or “dirty eight,” as we called it in my home town). A “trump” card is a card of a superior suit that will take a trick of any other suit no matter how high the card of the other suit or how low the trump card. There are no tricks in Uno, let alone trump. Uno is not a trick-taking game.

The essay goes on:

. . . The Jack of the trump suit (the “left bauer” (bauer means “barn”)) is the highest card, followed by the Jack of the other same-color suit (the “right bauer”) . . . .

Besides getting the bowers (“bauers”) backward, here is an erroneous definition of “Bauer. “Bauer” is German for peasant, or farmer. We find this in the message posted to the forum:

[On] Babblefish . . . bauer does come back as farmer, and a farm is a bauernhof. Barn comes back as “stall” in German. . . .

OK. The “free translation” page renders “Stall” to “stable,” from German to English, and “barn” to “Scheune,” from English to German.

But there is no such word as “euchre” in German, and there never was. And “euchre” does not mean “farmer,” in any language.

And, as the forum post ultimately acknowledges, “Bauer” does not mean “barn” in German (nor does it in any other language). It does mean “farmer” or “peasant,” and in German it’s the jack in a deck of cards.

The site linked may be a joke (but it’s not very funny and, whether or not meant as humor, reflects a dearth of scholarship. The euchre forum post, too, may have been a joke; but a fair number of readers took it seriously).

Further: “Bauer” must be capitalized – and so must “Scheune,” and “Stall,” and “Bauernhof” – even in the middle of a sentence. They’re German nouns.

Rather complete etymologies tracing “bower” to “Bauer” and both “euchre” and “joker” to “Jucker” are presented on pages 7-9 and 77 of The Columbus Book of Euchre.

The game of euchre is of Alsatian origin, not German. Alsace historically has bounced between Germany and France like a Ping-Pong ball. Most of Alsace was even independent briefly in the 13th century. Although Alsace became part of Germany in the late 19th century (from the Franco-Prussian War, 1871, to the end of World War I, 1918), and again during World War II (1939-1945), it is now part of France; and most of Alsace was part of France at the time of the invention of the Alsatian game “Jucker” about the turn of the 19th century. “Jucker” is pronounced roughly the same as “euchre”; and, although it is an archaic German word that meant “carriage horse,” it probably denoted a surname in the name of the game.

Alsace is largely bilingual. Although most Alsatians speak German (or, at least, a German dialect), they do not consider themselves “Germans” and, by and large, never did. There is a loose historical consensus that the game known as “euchre” originated among the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” and the “Pennsylvania Dutch” were largely southwestern Germanic peoples including Alsatians.

So, although euchre has roots in the Alsatian game “Jucker” (see David Parlett, The Oxford Guide to Card Games), it’s not German. There is a little French and Spanish thrown into the game, too. And since the game of “euchre” is essentially of American origin in its present form, and the word “Jucker” has been Anglicized (or Americanized) to both “euchre” (through the French “écarté”) and “joker” (from the American wild West, no French at all, thank you), it makes little sense not to Anglicize (or Americanize) “Bauer” also, to “bower” – which is by far how most playing card writers and “Hoyle” encyclopedias spell it.

If we must purify, by spelling bower “Bauer,” then let's go all the way: Let’s spell euchre “Jucker” (and joker “Jucker. See page 8, The Columbus Book of Euchre.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

“Green,” “next,” and idiocy – October 17, 2003

The dealer turned down a club; and “BringIt,” on his left, called not “next,” but hearts (i.e., “green”) – and led the jack of spades (i.e., the right bower – in “next”).

I was his partner, and I was sitting there with both left bowers – in “next” and in hearts, both guarded – and I would have appreciated a “next” call. In the alternative I would have liked at least a trump lead in what was called. I wanted to help.

“BringIt’s” hand
(left of dealer; club turned down)
BringIt’s left hand opponent (the dealer’s partner) took the first trick with the king of hearts and led the ace of clubs – drawing my jack (my “left bower” in “next”) – to take his second trick. Fortunately for our side his next lead was another club, and not a diamond. I got in with the “real” left bower and led the nine of hearts to BringIt’s right bower. (BringIt shed a little diamond on the second club lead; and I had a diamond, too. The dealer did not have any, and my nine of hearts lead drew his only trump).

BringIt had the ace of trump in reserve and managed to make his point, but we were lucky. When I complained about the jack of spades lead, BringIt explained that he did not want to strip me of trump, that he was “thin. If that was the case, he should have called “next,” not “green,” if he called at all; and still he should have led trump – and low trump, if he had more than one.

He had a black bower; so “next” was his proper call anyway, if he called at all. And he had a bower in the other color guarded in either suit (he was fortunate to find both other bowers in my hand). He had the power to euchre; he had the power to help his partner.

The only ace BringIt had was the ace of hearts; but that, too, is an argument for “next,” not for hearts: It’s the boss of its suit, and off color. As trump, it’s only third in rank. True, BringIt had only one spade (the right bower, if he had called it); and he had two hearts. But, with the club turned down, the ace of hearts was as likely good for a suit trick as a trump trick, if not more likely. I am not going to go into the many, many reasons to call “next”; they are the subjects of other columns and a lengthy discussion in The Columbus Book of Euchre. Suffice to say that it is a call for your partner as likely as for yourself, and it pre-empts the opponents’ making trump “green” (and BringIt had both “green” suits stopped, as did I. A euchre was lurking).

The proper call was “next” or pass (particularly in a game of “stick the dealer,” and this was); and the proper lead was trump if he called it.

BringIt had a 2017 rating on Yahoo! and is now enshrined as one of Borf Books’ Stone Idiots.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Exposing your hand: The penalty – October 3, 2003

This was the poll question (in the Yahoo! euchre groups Euchre and Euchre Science):

“When a player exposes two or more cards of his hand prematurely – ”

And these were the replies (out of a whopping response of 15 voters in the two groups combined – counting only once the votes of those who voted in both groups):

[1] There should be no penalty (it’s just bad manners): 2 (13%).

[2] The cards should remain exposed and be played at the earliest
legal opportunities: 5 (33%).

[3] The cards should remain exposed and be played at the direction
of the opponents: 1 (7%).

[4] The cards should remain exposed and be played at the earliest
legal opportunities, and the opponents should be allowed to
command or forbid a lead of their suit by the offenders’ team
if and when the offenders gain the lead: 2 (13%).

[5] The remainder of the tricks should be forfeited to the offender’s
opponents [the rule suggested in my last column ]: 5 (33%).

Obviously there is no majority. There is not even a plurality: The second option tied with the fifth.

We can analyze a little further, however.

Both the first two options, not just the first, really suggest no specific sanction. The last three options give the offender’s opponents real sanctions for the infraction. Looking at the results that way, you find a slight majority in favor of sanctions.

It was the lack of a specific rule on the subject in “Hoyle” (i.e., in commonly accepted rules published in card game encyclopedias) that inspired the poll. Ultimately, of course – unless euchre finds itself governed by a tight-fisted international association, something it has resisted for well more than a century-and-a-half – it will continue to be a matter of “house rules.

Or “tournament rules. Competent tournament directors seeing a need to address the issue will continue to address it in “tournament rules,” as all good tournament directors do in all issues of potential controversy.

With the majority (with whom I voted), I favor a real sanction.

Most players observe a sanction for reneging (typically, two or four points for the offender’s opponents, depending on whether they were going alone).

Most observe sanctions for leading and playing out of turn (typically, allowing the offender’s opponents to call the lead or the play of the exposed card – cf. options Nos. 3 and 4 above).

Option No. 1 (“It’s just bad manners”) is fine for people playing for fun, and not for blood, honor or money.

I do have a problem with option No. 2 (largely technical): What is the rule when either or any of two cards or more can be “legally” played on one trick? Who decides? It’s a real question – e.g., if it is a choice between two cards of one suit, or between a suit card and a trump card, it is not always the lower that is of least advantage to the offender. Further determination is required. That leads to options 3 and 4 (and there is a bit of the same problem with No. 4).

I favor Option No. 5 over options 3 and 4, as I stated previously, because I believe that the exposure of multiple cards is more egregious than the exposure of only one card – that it is tantamount to reneging.

The Columbus Book of Euchre did not previously address the issue of simultaneous exposure of multiple cards, but it will in the future. The recommended rule will be option No. 5 above: When a player exposes two or more cards of his hand prematurely (except when going alone, or “showing up” or “showing out”), the remainder of the tricks in the hand are forfeited to his opponents.

Remember, though, we are talking about rules of games, not about laws of states or nations, or treaties of the world. The rules of games always are subject to agreement and convention among those playing, and thus the rules laid out in books and instruction pamphlets are hardly ever really more than recommendations (I’ll bet there are lots of Monopoly players out there who don’t realize that the Parkers Brothers rules don’t require you to put tax payments under “Free Parking”).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Exposing your hand – September 19, 2003

The player to the dealer’s left ordered up the nine of diamonds and led trump; the dealer played a low club; the leader accused the dealer of reneging, and the dealer exposed his entire hand to show that he had no diamonds (he had discarded the card ordered up).

The dealer did not renege, but he did commit an infraction by exposing his hand. What’s the penalty?

The Official Rules of Card Games published by the United States Playing Card Company says, “An exposed card must be left face up on the table and must be played at the first legal opportunity. And that’s all it says on the issue in its presentation of the rules of euchre.

That rule was inherited from whist (as was the whole game of bridge, along with its rules). But in the rules for whist and bridge there are further stipulations, such as that when the team of the player with the exposed card has the lead, the opponents can require or forbid the lead of that card’s suit. That, in a nutshell, is also the euchre rule for leading or playing out of turn; but that rule, in either case, really addresses only the exposure of one card, not the more egregious exposure of multiple cards or of an entire hand.

Joseph Petrus Wergin proposed the following rule in Euchre According to Wergin: “If a player, for any reason whatsoever, lays his cards face up on the table, the opponents may declare them all exposed cards and the offender shall play the cards as they are called. This rule is not applicable to a lone hand. . . . (The lone hand is exempt, of course, because a loner in euchre, like a declarer in bridge, helps only his opponents by exposing his cards.)

But that rule, like the rule in Official Rules of Card Games – which really was designed to cover the exposure of only one card, after all – does not carry a sufficient penalty: Exposing cards gives illegal information to the partner; and the partner can take advantage of that information in playing to the opponents’ leads, as well as on his own lead when he does not have the suit called or called against. And the play of exposed cards may be dictated by the cards themselves: Giving the opponents the call may not give them a remedy at all.

A better rule would be, “If a player not going alone exposes two or more of his cards prematurely – except when ‘showing up’ or ‘showing out’ – his team forfeits the remainder of the tricks in the hand.

(Exposure of only one card prematurely is either “leading out of turn” or “playing out of turn,” covered by other rules. “Showing up” is playing two or more cards at once that cannot be denied – e.g., leading the top three trump at once, saying, “Contribute three apiece, please." “Showing out” is either claiming the remainder of the tricks by showing that you have all the bosses, or pitching in a hand of nothing but losers, or pitching in at a trick score obviously coming to 3 to 1, when the fifth trick will be meaningless. Even “showing up” and “showing out” may not be allowed in tournament play among strangers, of course, although both are common practices in games among acquaintances. And there are specific rules governing, and thus even allowing, “showing up” and “showing out” in whist. By extension the same is true of spades, which is but a variant of whist with a fixed trump suit and simpler scoring.)

Forfeiture of the remaining tricks “seems very harsh,” commented John McLeod, proprietor of the Card Games web site. It could, in effect, result in a penalty of 2 points – even 4 points if an opponent is going alone.

But it’s no harsher than the penalty for reneging – an infraction that, like exposing the cards, might be committed quite innocently (and rules of card games in general do not distinguish between intentional and accidental or negligent infractions, for to do so would require inquiries, maybe even jury trials, that could delay the games indefinitely). And if the offender’s team already has taken a trick at the time of the infraction, the penalty is effectively only half that of the penalty for reneging. When I made these points, Mr. McLeod replied, “I think you're right. . . . I agree with you.

And if the penalty is harsher than one you would find in whist, bridge or spades, it should be. There are 13 tricks in each of those games; there are only five in euchre: The advantage of the exposure of more than one card (but fewer than all) to the offender’s partner is correspondingly diluted in those other games, and the advantage of exposure of a whole hand to the opponents is correspondingly enhanced. (And in bridge, the declarer is always “going alone,” in effect, and thus helped even more by the knowledge of exposed cards, and less in need of a penalty.)

Polls on the subject followed in two of the Yahoo! euchre groups; results in next column.

P.S. Remember what got this discussion started: A player exposing his hand to refute an accusation of reneging. Mr. McLeod suggested (tongue touching cheek, I think) that a sharp penalty for exposing cards could open up a brand new ploy for those rogues in Columbus: A deliberately false accusation to entice an opponent to expose his hand!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Discarding the card ordered up – September 5, 2003

I received an interesting query last month from John McLeod, the proprietor of the Card Games web site. He said that a correspondent of his had reported a euchre hand in which the player to the dealer’s left had ordered up the nine of diamonds; the dealer had discarded; the maker had led the right bower; and the dealer, at his turn, had played a low club.

The player who had ordered accused the dealer of reneging, and the dealer exposed his hand to show that he had no trump – he had discarded the nine of diamonds.

“My correspondent asked two questions,” Mr. McLeod reported: “(1) ‘Is it legal for the dealer to discard the card ordered?’ (My answer was yes – I can find no rule against it anywhere), and (2) ‘What happens next? If a player falsely accuses another of reneging, do the points for the hand go to the accused side?’ (My answer was no – there is no penalty; you have to play out the hand.)

“What is the correct procedure? Was the dealer wrong to expose his cards to prove his innocence? I could not find any discussion of this in The Columbus Book of Euchre, and I would be interested in your comments.

On question No. 1 Mr. McLeod is absolutely right: There is no rule limiting the discard. In fact, if the lead player orders up and goes alone, there are cases in which it would be foolish for the dealer to keep a singleton trump, since the maker will most likely lead trump and take it.

Mr. McLeod’s correspondent’s second question – and Mr. McLeod’s own questions – are more interesting. Mr. McLeod was correct also in answering that there is no penalty for a false accusation of renege, and that the hand must be played out (a challenge of renege may be made at any time, but resolution of the challenge must await the play of the entire hand, always. To determine the matter at the time of the challenge would require illegal exposure of cards not played, or illegal exposure – during the play – of tricks taken, or both.)

And Mr. McLeod and I thus agreed that the dealer had committed an infraction – not in discarding the card ordered up, but in exposing his hand. It is true also that the matter of “exposing a hand” has not been fully addressed in The Columbus Book of Euchre. I left it rather in the category of things that simply are not done – things you could get cut or shot for.

There are penalties for exposing your hand suggested in some Hoyle encyclopedias and in Euchre According to Wergin, but they really are not sufficient (cutting or shooting would be more appropriate). We’ll get to those suggestions, and to suggestions for a better rule, in the next column.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

The ten of clubs – August 15, 2003

Here’s the answer to the question in the August 1 column: Why is leading the ten of clubs the only way to euchre the dealer?

The setup, again, is, dealer picks up to hold right bower and ace of spades in trump, with king, ten and nine of hearts outside. Sitting to his left you hold left bower and king and queen of spades, with ace of hearts and ten of clubs outside. The dealer’s partner holds the ten and nine of spades, with ace and king of clubs and queen of diamonds outside. Your partner holds no trump but only the ace, ten and nine of diamonds, the nine of clubs, and the queen of hearts.

You can take another look at the setup, and play with it, in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

If you lead the ace of hearts, the dealer’s partner trumps it; and his ace (or king) of clubs and partner’s right bower are good all day for the point. (But here’s a little mistake I made August 1: You could euchre on this lead if the dealer’s partner led back the queen of diamonds and the dealer failed to trump your partner’s ace of diamonds, allowing you to ditch your ten of clubs on it. But both the dealer and his partner would have to be asleep at the wheel for this to work. And a reader – Tom “Ten O’Clock” Scolar – pointed out, the dealer would have to make also a third mistake, by trumping your partner’s lead to the third trick.)

If you lead trump, the dealer is sitting on you with an end play: All he has to do is go one higher, whichever you lead; he still has the boss, and his partner’s ace of clubs is still good (or small trump if the dealer leads back a heart). Doesn’t work.

Your hand (left of the dealer)

Dealer’s partner’s hand

Your partner’s hand

Dealer’s hand
(right bower picked up; spades trump)

But if you lead the ten of clubs, the dealer’s partner takes it with the ace or king and has to lead through his partner.

If he leads a spade (trump), it sets up your own spades and ace of hearts for three tricks if the dealer finesses his ace of spades (you take it with the left bower and clear trump with your next lead) or if he plays his right bower and leads back his ace of spades. If the dealer plays his right bower, however, and leads a heart instead of his last trump, he still makes the point, since his partner can trump your ace of hearts. (Tom “Ten O’Clock” Scolar says that the dealer must play that way anyway, given your partner’s void in trump – and that’s true if he is playing for only one point, or to avoid a euchre. But playing for two, he does not know what you and his partner hold.)

If the dealer’s partner leads his queen of diamonds, your partner’s ace forces trump from the dealer. If he ruffs with the ace of spades, you can overruff with your left bower; but you will still lose your ace of hearts to a trump in the dealer’s partner’s hand. If the dealer ruffs with the right bower, you ditch your ace of hearts and cash your three trump for the euchre. If the dealer ducks your partner’s ace of diamonds, you can ditch your ace of hearts; and you will be sitting on the dealer with two good trump out of three for the euchre – if, as Tom “Ten O’Clock” Scolar points out, the dealer does not duck again on the third trick. All the dealer has to do to preserve his point on his partner’s diamond lead, in sum, is the usual and logical thing: Ruff your partner’s ace of diamonds with the ace of spades. But you can score a euchre here if the dealer plays wrong – twice.

If the dealer’s partner leads his other club, there is not much you can do: If the dealer ducks and you take the trick with a trump, the dealer is sitting on you with an end play. If the dealer trumps, you still have to lose your ace of hearts to the dealer’s partner’s small trump, even if the dealer trumps only with the ace and you take it with the left bower.

Your best hope, considering all the above, is that the dealer’s partner leads a spade and the dealer either finesses his ace or plays the right and leads the ace. Your second best is that the dealer’s partner leads the queen of diamonds and catches the dealer asleep at the wheel.

The dealer can short-cut all this nonsense on the first trick, by the way, by trumping his partner’s good club and leading a heart (but Tom “Ten O’Clock” Scolar says that this, too, would be nonsense!).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Leading to the right bower – August 1, 2003

Here’s the setup – take a look at it in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory before you read any further.

A jack of spades turns; and you, sitting left of the dealer, bite your tongue and pass. You hold the left bower and king and queen of spades, with the ace of hearts and ten of clubs outside (it was that ten of clubs that made you bite your tongue).

The dealer picks up the right bower to go with his ace of spades and king, ten and nine of hearts. His partner holds the ace and king of clubs, the queen of diamonds, and the ten and nine of spades.

Your partner holds the queen of hearts, the nine of clubs, and the nine, ten and ace of diamonds – that is to say, nothing.

You want to lead your left bower, but you know better. You think about leading your king of spades, but you prudently abandon that idea, too. You decide to lead your ace of hearts.

But the only way you can euchre the dealer is by leading your ten of clubs. Why?

Play with it. You’ll see (and you’ll need a little help from the dealer and his partner). Answer next time.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Your hand (left of the dealer)

Dealer’s partner’s hand

Your partner’s hand

Dealer’s hand
(right bower picked up; spades trump)

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

International “Eurchre Meetup” – July 18, 2003

Here’s a new web site we’ve all been waiting for:

If you will go there – or to and type “euchre” in the search box – you will find hordes of players just dying to “meet up” and play euchre with you, and probably two coffee shops, a hamburger joint and a book store designated as “euchre meetup” sites – in your own town!

As of this morning Euchre Meetup had a whopping total of 273 players in the world signed up to “meet up” with you to play euchre. (Sources tell me that 270 of these are in Indiana, but I just don’t believe that. Hoosiers are notorious isolationists.)

And here’s the best news of all: This new web site has designated July 22 – just four days from now – as “International Eurchre [sic] Meetup [sic] Day”! At 7 p.m., to be more precise (time zone not indicated – maybe it’s global – or local). In Bowling Green, Ky., and 586 other cities! Let’s see, that’s . . . 1, 2, 3, . . . 2.15 cities per player! Well, so some of us will have to travel a little. . . .

Oops! We just typed in an Indianapolis zip code and got this message: “Not enough Euchre Players near Indianapolis, IN can make it, so this month’s Meetup is cancelled [sic]. Join this topic by filling in the info below and we’ll sign you up for next month.

But “Meetup is growing very fast. They’ll even tell you that.

Let’s help it grow: There’s a “Suggest a Venue” link at the bottom of the page. Let’s not let McDonald’s, Barnes & Noble, and Borders hog up all the euchre players. Suggest a “venue”! Suggest Borf Books. Our address is 1931 Willie Webb Rd., Brownsville KY 42210. All of you, please. We’ll have a great time, with or without Joe Andrews.

There is a drop-down query in the “Suggest a Venue” process asking for “type of Venue. Use your imagination. We ask only that you not list us as a “gay bar. We’re in a dry county.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Trumping partner’s ace – July 4, 2003

Here’s an interesting play, reported by a guy “that no one knows” (like the old Spanish priest in the Randy Newman song). His screen name is “scolar2”; his e-mail address is “” (maybe – it’s hidden after the “@a”); and he signs his messages “Tom” on Euchre Science.

Tom’s hand
He has not let the public know who he really is; but 2 times 4 plus 2 is 10, so we’ll just call him “Tom (10 O’Clock) Scolar. Here’s his report:

“After I turned down a diamond, my left hand opponent called clubs and led the right bower. I held the left bower and king and nine of clubs, and the king and queen of hearts.

“My partner showed out, and my right hand opponent followed suit to the trump lead. The left hand opponent then led the ace of hearts, which took a trick, and then a spade that my partner attempted to win with the ace. My trumping it drew a ‘Why did you trump my ace?!’ question from partner. My reply was, ‘In order to get a euchre, it’s mandatory.’”

Well, he’s right – essentially. Don’t be too quick to jump on your partner when he trumps your ace. Sometimes there’s a reason.

Others pointed out, and Tom acknowledged, that it was not “mandatory” if Tom’s right hand opponent had played the ace of clubs on the first trick – but he didn’t.

Tom (and only Tom) pointed out that it was not “mandatory” if the left hand opponent had called on a cold right bower (and that, if the caller’s partner had three trump to the ace, it was even the wrong thing to do).

Also it is not “mandatory” if the left hand opponent has only two trump not including the ace.

But the first of those three scenarios was not the case (the caller’s partner did not play the ace of trump). In the third scenario, it makes no difference – you get the euchre whether or not you trump your partner’s ace. Only in the second proposition of the second scenario is it the wrong play (caller’s partner with three trump to the ace), and that’s too unlikely to bank on.

Tom exaggerated a little with the word “mandatory,” but trumping your partner’s ace in this situation is the only way to catch the caller’s ace of trump if he has it, and the only way to euchre the caller if he has the ace of trump and does not have to follow suit on your partner’s lead.

Tom’s partner went *POOF* when the game was over, but he should have stuck around. He had a good partner.

Here’s the hand set up for you in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory if you want to see for yourself.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Dumb luck – June 20, 2003

Wilbur picked up the jack of hearts. My partner, Daniel, led the queen of hearts right into Wilbur’s mitts, stripping me of my unguarded left bower in the process (and taking nothing from Wilbur’s partner: The measly jack of spades is all that fell from his hand).

Wilbur led back the ace of hearts, catching my partner’s nine (and nothing signifcant from his own partner’s hand or mine – the queen of spades and the jack of clubs, respectively).

Wilbur then led the ace of diamonds. Daniel took that, with his last trump, the king of hearts; and he cleared the board with the ace and nine of spades for the euchre.

Pretty smart, you say? I’m not so sure. Let’s look at what would have happened if Daniel had not led trump.

If he leads the ace of spades, everyone has to follow suit; and he gets the first trick off the top. Then he leads the nine of spades. Wilbur’s partner covers it with the queen; and I ruff with my unguarded left bower, forcing Wilbur’s right. Daniel still has all three of his trump; Wilbur has only the ace, and we still get the euchre.

Now let’s change the scenario by just one card: Substitute the ten of hearts for the nine of diamonds in Wilbur’s hand.

Wilbur’s hand (dealer)

Daniel’s hand (the lead)

Wade’s hand (dealer’s partner)

My hand (your hand)

Not so unreasonable, to expect the maker to have three trump (particularly if he’s three-suited). Then the heart lead does not work if the dealer resists his temptation to lead trump back to the opponent who so boldly led it, and leads the ace of diamonds instead. But an initial ace of spades lead by Daniel, followed by the nine of spades, still achieves the euchre.

What’s wrong with leading losing trump on defense is (1) Daniel doesn’t have a sure trump trick to begin with, with king high; (2) he renders his partner’s left bower useless; (3) he gives the dealer an end play on the first trick (knowing the dealer has the right bower, which his king or queen will not even force, necessarily), and (4) he tips off the dealer to set up an end play with his remaining trump on a subsequent trick, if he can, rather than to try drawing his opponents’ remaining trump.

A “best case” scenario would be seeing the two partners’ hands swapped – i.e., mine for the dealer’s partner’s. Then the heart lead would strip the dealer’s team of the left bower (and, in the scenario dealt, force the dealer’s team to cough up both bowers or bower and ace in one trick). That’s the main reason to lead trump on defense, when there’s a reason – to strip the maker’s partner. That’s not what happened here, and there was no particular reason to believe it would happen (granted, though: Daniel did not know where the left was).

But let’s look at what might be the “worst case” scenario: Go back to the original deal, and let’s say that Wade, the dealer’s partner – for whatever reason, prescient or perverse – holds on to his spades instead of his higher cards. Instead of the jack or queen of spades, he throws his lone king of clubs on Daniel’s initial heart lead (he figures a lone king will lose to an ace, but a second card in a suit might be worth something). Let’s say Wilbur, the dealer, thinking Daniel was bluffing, does lead the ace of hearts back; and Wade still holds doggedly to his spades, tossing his queen of diamonds (either because he’s out to lunch, or because he reasons that his partner is more likely to need help “across” than in “next”).

Daniel eventually gets the lead and cashes his ace of spades, but he loses his nine of spades to one of Wade’s; and he doesn’t get the euchre. If he had led his two spades from the beginning, however, the euchre was a cinch, as shown above.

If you want to make that last scenario a little more plausible, just give Wade the king and queen of spades instead of the queen and jack. That’s an equally likely result of the deal.

So, was Daniel’s leading loser trump on defense wise? Or was the euchre a bit of dumb luck?

You can study and play this hand 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 2003] [next]

Holding aces (revisited) – June 6, 2003

Here’s another hand illustrating Gary Martin’s principle to hold your aces on the opening lead.

The dealer picks up a diamond; and you, sitting to her left, hold the right bower, the ace of spades, the ace of hearts, and the king and queen of clubs.

Turns out the dealer has three trump to the ace, with ace of clubs and queen of hearts outside. Her partner holds the left bower, both “black bowers,” the nine of clubs and the king of hearts. Your partner holds the nine of trump and four spades (all of them but the ace and the jack). Here’s the hand set up for you in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

What's the most “logical” lead? Ace of spades, maybe? It’s a singleton, off color.

But an opening lead of the ace of spades never results in a euchre. Try it.

So, ace of hearts? It’s a singleton, too; but it’s “next” – more likely to be trumped. And the maker is on your right, with the trump strength and the end play. I don’t think so.

But, let’s try it. Whoa! It flies! But you get the euchre only if you follow it with the king or queen of clubs (for your partner to trump). There’s no way to euchre the maker by leading both your singleton aces off the top.

But if you lead the king or queen of clubs (and save your aces), you always get the euchre. Your partner takes the opening lead with the nine of trump and comes back with a spade (the only suit he has left). If the maker trumps it, she still has to lose to your ace of hearts and right bower. If she ducks it (by sluffing the queen of hearts), you get the trick with your ace of spades and have the right bower behind it.

So, unusual distribution? Yeah. What does it prove? Nothing much – except, an ace is not always the best opening lead. It’s a little unrealistic to expect three tricks from a right bower and two outside aces. The chance any ace will fly is less than 50 per cent; so the chance both will fly is less than 25 per cent. To euchre you probably need help from your partner (that’s usually the case anyway); and your partner will be reluctant to use his trump on either of your aces, even if he can.

You could cut the chances of your aces’ being trumped on the left by leading the right bower, but not on the right; and a trump lead would as likely strip your own partner as it would the dealer’s partner (in the case presented here it would strip both of them – and set up the dealer’s trump and ace of clubs for the point). Not a very good idea.

By leading away from your aces you are giving your partner a chance to help while he still has trump. What made the euchre in this case was your partner’s ability to trump the suit in which you didn't have the ace. Here’s a previous example. If one of your aces is good, the dealer eventually will have to lead to it (she’s not going to sluff on the trick your partner trumps).

Gary Martin is the author of Euchre: How to Play and Win.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Euchre ’n’ etiquette – May 23, 2003

Contrary to popular belief, there is an etiquette to cutthroat euchre. My Aunt Gin – an avid player and a contemporary of Emily Post – jotted down the following list of “Don’ts” shortly before she died last year at the age of 120 (some of these apply to euchre in general and some just to games “on line”):

1. Don’t go alone on the first hand unless you have a solid loner. Five sure tricks, optimally. Three sure tricks and two highly probable tricks, at least. Going alone is rude to begin with; going alone on the first hand, doubly so. A marginal loner on the first hand, not made, just heartens the opponents and discourages your partner. It’s not Desperation City at 0 to 0.

2. Don’t trump your partner’s ace. It’s not only a matter of good play; it’s also a matter of courtesy. When you have the hand wrapped up (three or five tricks in the bag), and your partner’s ace is on the table as a winner, don’t trump it just because it’s a meaningless fourth trick, or because you have your own ace behind your trump, or because you have a bower you want to show off. Let your partner take the trick. That’s teamwork. You are showing up not only your opponents when you trump in that situation, you are showing up your partner also. Let him in on the fun; let him feel as if he participated.

3. Don’t play a laydown loner from the bottom up – e.g., king of spades (catches first trick), ace of spades, jack of clubs (trump now are drawn), ace of hearts (just for smarts), jack of spades. Or, it can be done even more rudely: Trump in with left bower; then lead ace of spades (as if the right were out); then king (as if the right were out); then ace of hearts; then right bower. Jesus! Trump in with the right bower and play down to the ace of hearts.

4. Don’t say “Good game” (at the table) or “gg” or “gga” (on line) before the game is over, ever! How rude! It’s a form of gloating. If you have it knocked, just say, “Game,” or “Laydown,” or “Throw-in” (or throw them in, at the table) if that’s the case, or – just play it out and let the losers say “gg”! And don’t say “Good game” or “gg” or “gga” anyway if it wasn’t. How rude!

5. Don’t say, “Fast game, please” (“fast game pls,” on line). Have you ever noticed that it’s always the last one to sit down at the table – who has no idea with whom he or she has sat down, or what their priorities or constraints may be – who says that? And, do these idiots not realize that playing cards is a pastime? If you are looking for a sure fire way to slow down the game, just say, “Fast game” or “Play faster, please. Doesn’t Yahoo! do enough by itself to slow the game down?

6. Don’t go “brb” on someone else’s “brb. He or she may be gone for half a minute, and you may be gone for three; and the rest of the players will be wondering whether you have been Yahoo!’d (or are masturbating). When you leave your computer, say “brb.

7. Don’t sit down as a “guest” or “watcher” and engage one of the players in conversation. The players have the table (and the floor). It’s OK to kibitz, but “kibs” should be seen and not heard.

8. Don’t boot someone you have invited to your table just because he got there after the game started. How rude can you be? Invite and boot? Give the latecomer credit for enough intelligence to realize that there are four players there already playing, and to leave on his own. Or, let him stay and watch. What will that hurt? (Unless he yaks; then you can boot him.)

9. Don’t “narrate” the game. You don’t have to say “nh,” to partner or opponent, either one, after each hand; you don’t have to say “nt” every time a loner doesn’t take all five tricks, or the makers don’t quite get euchred; you don’t have to say “ns” every time a march is stopped; you don’t have to say “ty” every time you receive a compliment.

And what’s this “gla” and “gle” at the start of every game? That’s so phony. You don’t really mean that. You don’t want your opponents to have good luck; you want the good luck.

And, for God’s sake, don’t say “gj” or “wd” when it’s simply the cards that score the point, and not the player. How stupid!

And don’t say “ne,” ever, under any circumstances. There is no such thing as a “nice” euchre. It’s nasty. (Oops! Maybe that’s my mistake. Maybe “ne” means “nasty euchre. But, that’s redundant.)

Caveat: If you do these things, you will be recognized for what you are – a woman.

10. And, for Christ’s sake, quit saying “lol” every time you speak. If I had a nickel for every time someone said “lol” when he was not laughing out loud, I would be richer than Bill Gates.

BONUS commandments (make it a dozen!):

11. Don’t say, “I sure saved your ass” to your partner, or even, “Your partner sure saved your ass,” to an opponent, ever. It may be that the trump maker had reason to expect his partner’s help, or intuited it – even two or three tricks’ worth or more (as on a call of “next” or “across”). Or that he received unexpected help on a “donation” or semidonation. It is simply good play, in either case. Euchre is, after all, a partnership game. Think about it.

12. Never apologize. This is euchre. Throw “sp” out the window. And if your partner says it, don’t reply “npp. The correct response is, “That was pretty sorry, all right.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

The finesse – May 9, 2003

The “dictionary” definition of a “finesse” is “an attempt to win a trick with a card lower than one outstanding. What it really is, in so many words, is a guess that the card that can beat you is on your right and not on your left.

It’s a ploy in bridge and spades (and Rook, and other trick taking games) as well as in euchre; and it’s a way to “steal” a trick. And even when you don’t “steal” the trick, you put the lead on your left, which is where you would like to have it when you don’t have it yourself.

Here’s a hand in which the dealer (and trump maker) could have made two points instead of one if she had finessed. Kiki picked up the jack of diamonds to go with her king and ten; she had also an ace of hearts kicker, and a ten of clubs loser. Ally, on her left, led the queen of spades.

Kiki’s partner, ToadFrog, took the opening trick with the ace of spades (Jadzu, on Kiki’s right, had to play her king, as Kiki got to shed her loser); and ToadFrog led back the ace of diamonds.

Jadzu played the nine of diamonds; and now Kiki had the opportunity (if not the obligation) to decide whether or not to finesse. If Jadzu had the left bower, Kiki could let her partner’s ace of diamonds take the trick and try to catch the left later with her right. Only if Ally, on her left, had the left bower – and unguarded – did it make sense for Kiki to go up with the right.

Kiki played the right bower; Ally played the queen of diamonds, and Jadzu’s left bower eventually stopped the march. Had Kiki let ToadFrog’s ace of trump fly, ToadFrog would have led back the ace of clubs, taking Jadzu’s king and Ally’s queen (along with Kiki’s ace of hearts – or Kiki could have trumped in safely with her king at that point); and then he would have led the jack of clubs. At that point Jadzu is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t: She can play the left bower and lose it to Kiki’s right, and the last trick to Kiki’s king of diamonds; or she can duck again, and let Kiki finesse again, to take the trick with her king of diamonds and come back to grab the left with the right. In either event, Kiki holds the keys playing behind Jadzu.

Kiki made a point, but she could have made two. In bridge or spades or Rook, it's a 50-50 guess where the hurter is. In euchre, it’s a better bet: The left bower could be buried (we assume that Kiki’s partner, ToadFrog, does not have it because he did not lead it; he led the ace. We give him credit for being a good player until he proves otherwise). The finesse is a stronger play in euchre (and pitch) than in other trick taking games: In bridge, spades and Rook (and four-handed pinochle) the missing card will be in one hand or the other.

And if the guess is wrong? Big deal, Kiki still wins a point. She gives herself an end play by ducking: Ally has to lead into her right-king.

Note also that it would have done Jadzu no good to have laid her left bower on ToadFrog’s ace of trump unless she had the king, or had reason to believe her partner had the king guarded. The former was not the case, and the latter had poor odds.

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

It would work even better if Kiki had had the ace and her partner had led a lower trump (even the king, say). Then Kiki could have taken the trick herself, with the ace, and come back immediately with the right bower to catch the left: School’s out.

Sometimes there is good reason not to finesse: For example, if Jadzu had shown out of trump on the second trick, you know she does not have the left; and it’s necessary to go up to catch Ally’s left bower if she holds it unguarded. Or, say your partner led the queen instead of the ace; and both the left and ace are out to get you: You’ll probably catch one of them with the right bower; and if your ace of hearts does not catch the next trick, it will force out the remaining trump. The finesse is not a play for every season, but it was for this one.

It’s a play that can work on defense, too, particularly when the maker is on your right.

Think of it as an “end play” with a risk (you’re in the middle).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Hot bot – April 25, 2003

At someone’s suggestion, I played a game in a “social” lounge on Yahoo! I was blessed with a loner on the first deal, and my partner quit the table in the middle of my march to a 4-0 lead. Not wanting to squander that, I invoked a robot.

Diamond turned down? Call hearts
He wasn’t real bright, of course. He called trump a couple of times with nothing but a king or a queen. But he got euchred only once.

And he was helpful. His very first play was an ace lead that stopped an opponent’s loner.

And midway through the game, my right hand opponent turned down a jack of diamonds, leaving me with ace and nine of clubs, ten of diamonds, and ace and queen of spades – and no “next” to call. So I called “next” – hearts. Both my aces held, and the bot had some hearts; so we made the point, even though the opponents had more hearts, including the ace and the right bower.

The best part of it was this:

Since my partner was a bot, I didn’t have to hear him sneer,
“What did you call that on?!”

And because my partner was a bot, I didn’t have to hear my
opponents accuse me of cheating.

We won, 10 to 3.

When first I told this story, one listener quipped, “You must have been playing with Bot 1, 2 or 3, ’cause Bot 4 and Bot 5 have ‘messenger’!”

Ha! Ha! Yup, it was Robot3! . He’s the best one. . . .

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Trumping a loner – April 11, 2003

Here are two examples – from the same game – why to trump your partner’s ace when defending against a loner.

In the first hand, Mailman, the dealer, picked up the ace of diamonds to go alone, with the right bower and ten of trump to go with it and the ace and queen of clubs outside.

Rin_Tin_Tin, the opponent on his left, led the ace of hearts, from a holding of three hearts and the king and nine of diamonds. Rin’s partner, Jaguar_Lady, held the ace, queen and nine of spades, the king of clubs, and the queen of diamonds; and she cut her partner’s ace with her lone queen of trump.

The Jaguar_Lady’s defense

The Mailman’s defense (unused)

That wasn’t any better for the trick than Rin’s ace of hearts: The Mailman overtrumped with the ace of diamonds and took the trick. But then he was unable to draw the outstanding trump: Rin_Tin_Tin was sitting on him with the king and nine of trump – which would have been wholly “unguarded” had the Mailman not been forced to cough up his ace of trump. The Mailman had to settle for a point. It was a sure 4-point loner without Jaguar_Lady’s intervention.

Here the hand is set up for you on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

On the next hand it was Rin_Tin_Tin’s deal; and he went alone: In hearts, with both bowers and queen of trump, and the ace and ten of spades outside. His left-hand opponent, Bagman, led the ace of clubs from a holding of three clubs plus ace and ten of hearts (trump). The Mailman sluffed the nine of diamonds; and Rin trumped in with the queen, drew trump, and led his spades for four points (the Mailman had only one spade; Bagman, as noted, none).

But the Mailman had the king and nine of hearts. If he had trumped his partner’s ace with his king of hearts, he would have forced Rin_Tin_Tin to overtrump with a bower, giving the Bagman a guarded ace.

Here’s that one in the Euchre Lab.

Note that although the Mailman had the nine of hearts also, cutting his partner’s ace with a nine of trump would have done no more to force a trump from the loner than the ace of suit that was led. It would have been a mere waste of trump. Playing the king is what would have stopped the loner. This is the extreme example of “Don’t send a boy [girl] to do a man’s [woman’s] job,” or, “If you can’t play with the big boys [girls], stay home.

Note also that these two consecutive hands amounted to a six-point turnaround for Rin_Tin_Tin and his partner: The three extra points they did not lose to the loner on the first hand, and the three extra points they did win (but should not have) on the second.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Stone Idiots Nos. 12 & 35 – March 28, 2003
Behold the first player to earn more than a paragraph among Borf Books’ “Stone Idiots” at euchre:

My partner, “Colt,” picked up a club on the first hand; I grabbed the first trick with a suit ace, and I led the right bower – stripping the maker, my partner, of his only trump. Yes, we were euchred.

She didn’t go alone!

“I had four hearts,” he explained. “When I’m all red, someone else is going to be all black. Perhaps it had not occurred to him that it might be his partner or the guy in third chair who might be all black (chances 2 out of 3 if the major premise was correct) – or that his partner at least would have a guarded bower in both black suits, as I did.

Two hands later my partner called spades trump. “Watch him for diamonds!” I warned the opponents.

They laughed, but it was true: My left hand opponent led the queen of diamonds, and Colt took it with the ace of diamonds and led back a diamond. Fortunately there were enough spades in my hand to save the point.

OK, you say; no major damage. Maybe his reasoning was not so hot, but he had reasons. Maybe, even, he had great powers of deduction or intuition as to what I held.

Three hands later I called “next,” in diamonds, and led the ten of diamonds away from my left bower. My left hand opponent took it with the ace as Colt played the queen. Colt then trumped the next trick with the right bower, and my left was good for a second trick – but that was all she wrote: Another euchre. The opponents were ROFL at this point.

Somehow, nonetheless, we managed to be leading 9 to 5 (don’t ask) when the deal came back my way and I turned the ten of diamonds, holding the nine of diamonds, the king and queen of spades, the ace of hearts, and the ten of clubs. Came three passes and, just to make sure the worst case scenario of 9 to 9 on their deal did not occur, I picked up the ten of diamonds and tossed the ten of clubs. It was easy: Colt held the ace of diamonds and the right bower. We took four tricks to win the game as our opponents hit the floor LTAO, one more time, at Colt’s passing up the diamond (yes, that was the only jack he had; and he had nothing significant in any other suit – his jack of diamonds was not even guarded as a left bower in hearts).

“I’m just having fun,” Colt explained (but, at my expense? Well, I left alive).

Colt had a 2233 rating on Yahoo!

But he’s not the latest stone idiot: The latest – rated 1719 on Yahoo! (that’s “advanced,” you know) – had the left bower, ace, king and queen of trump and an outside ace (off color), and the lead – and did not go alone.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Trust your partner (if you can) – March 14, 2003
A debate has been raging on the Yahoo! group Euchre Science regarding whether trumping your partner’s ace is the correct and likely play in a certain situation. Here is the situation:

You are behind 9 to 8; the dealer’s partner has ordered up the queen of hearts; you have led the queen of clubs; the dealer’s partner has covered it with the ace of clubs, and your partner has taken the trick with the nine of trump (the dealer having followed suit with a small club). Your partner has led back the ace of diamonds; the dealer has followed suit again, and the question is whether you should or will trump your partner's ace of diamonds, if you can.

This hand was set up from your partner’s point of view,

Your partner’s hand (third chair)

First two cards played on first trick
(hearts trump)

not yours: His hand consisted of ace of spades, ace and ten of diamonds, and left bower and nine of hearts (trump). Here it is set up for you on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory: Click on “Play” to get to the table; then click on “Deal” to fill in the hands. You can fiddle with the makeup of the hands; but you should leave the queen of hearts and a club in the dealer’s hand; you should leave a diamond in the dealer’s hand to reduce the incentive to trump your partner’s ace, and I recommend that you leave the right bower and at least one other trump in the dealer’s partner’s hand to make his order credible.

The initial question was whether your partner should trump your opening queen of clubs lead with his nine, or with his left bower. A majority of participants in the debate agreed that the nine was the proper ruff, since the dealer was likely to have a club and you and your partner would need the left bower later for the slim chance of euchre to save the game. Most agreed also that your partner should lead back a diamond, in an effort to draw a trump from the dealer that you could overtrump (or to create an end play in case the dealer took the trick).

There was some debate on which diamond your partner should lead, however: The ten or the ace? Most agreed that the ace was not too likely to take a trick, and that the best chance of euchre lay in your trumping in to force the right bower out of the dealer’s partner’s hand. That argument favored the ten of diamonds, which most agreed you would be more likely to trump than the ace. But the worst case scenario would be seeing the dealer or his partner take the ten of diamonds with the king or queen: Hence the argument for leading the ace.

And thence began the debate about whether you should, or would, trump your partner’s ace of diamonds, even if the dealer did not trump it. Good arguments were made on both sides of this proposition. I hold with those who favored trumping the ace, particularly if you could do so with the ace or king of hearts, in an effort to force the right bower from the dealer’s partner and not allow him to claim the trick with a measly ten of hearts.

If you want to see or follow the debate, it begins with the results of a poll, which segues into threads titled “Poll results,” “Leading trump on defense” and “Trumping partner’s Ad. The debate on whether to trump your partner’s ace of diamonds begins at message 2059.

But that debate is not what this column is about. What this is about is the comfort of having a partner who thinks about what to do (and usually makes the right decision) – not one who trumps his partner’s ace simply with a “Get ’em while ya can” mentality, or who leads trump on defense because “Sometimes it works,” or who leads his “next” ace simply because “It’s the best card I’ve got.

What really inspired this column was another remark made by a regular contributor to Euchre Science, at message 1993, suggesting that “the higher you go on the euchre spectrum the less and less a superior player will hold a greater advantage over another. . . . Skill and mistakes will [more] greatly benefit the higher end euchre player” (against a “lower end” player).

I’m not sure I agree with that. I have found that I can win much more consistently among good players than among numbnocks. That is, in a nutshell, what my column on “method euchre” was all about. When I try to “play smart” among numbnocks, I find myself losing. Good play is based in large part on rational reactions to situations; and when the players you are reacting to are not behaving rationally, you often wind up drowning in the slough of dementia with them.

The Euchre Science contributor wrote also, “Don't get me wrong; mistakes play a role for the high end euchre players as well. But mistakes at that level are far and few inbetween [sic] . . . .

Again, I disagree: I find that I can beat “better” players consistently because they make more mistakes at critical junctures – they are more aggressive; they take more chances; they “donate” more often; etc. I love getting into games with players who think they are good because they are “aggressive. The higher the echelon, the more conservatively I play; and the more conservatively I play, the more I win. The reason is, the higher the echelon, the more I can rely on my partner to do the right thing, and the fewer risks I have to take.

Here’s an example (besides the one above, that initated this essay): I’m sitting in third chair with the jack and ten of diamonds and the king and queen of hearts, and a black king; and the nine of diamonds is turned up. Many an “aggressive” player will order that up. I don’t want to: I have one sure trick and a pretty good shot at a second; but I am relying heavily on my partner for a trick or two if I order, and I might be ordering the nine up to a hand with the left bower and one (or even two or three) other trump and a black ace. I’d rather sit on my hand and try to euchre the dealer if he picks up, and trust my partner to call “next” if the dealer doesn’t pick up. Hearts is a better suit for us for two reasons: (1) I have more, and (2) we don’t have to give a trump to the opponents.

If I can trust my partner to call “next if there’s any way,” I can pass that nine of diamonds comfortably. If I am playing with idiots – and especially if one of them is my partner – I pass up that nine of diamonds at my peril. “If there’s any way to call next” can sometimes mean calling it even without any. For example, if the dealer has turned down that nine of diamonds and my partner is sitting there with two black aces but no hearts (and no black jacks) – or with a “full house” or “farmer’s hand” – I still expect him to call hearts, under most circumstances; and if he is a good player, he will.

Another example: I’m in second chair. If I am playing with a good partner, I can trust him to pick up a bower when he is the dealer (if he does not have all three other suits stopped), and I can keep my mouth shut with a moderately good hand to the card turned (so as not to spoil my partner’s loner if he has one). Conversely, when I’m the dealer, I do not have to interpret my partner’s pass as lack of help in the suit turned.

It’s all about trusting a partner in whom you have confidence. That’s how to win at euchre. It’s a partnership game. That’s one of the things that make it different from poker, and hearts, and rummy; that’s a major reason that euchre – like bridge, and spades, and rook – is a greater game of skill and less a game of chance (poker is a game of skill, but not of skill in card playing – it’s a game of skill in human relations).

You just can’t rely on such things in the lower echelons. In the lower echelons you have to order bowers to your partner, for Christ’s sake. Even many competent players do not fully understand why you should rarely do that if you have a good partner. But I see dealer’s loners queered every day by orders from second chair, sometimes even more than once a game.

If I have a good partner when I am the dealer’s partner, I have to have a true sod buster to order, bower or not. There’s a reason for that silly Canadian rule that you have to go alone if you order your partner. In effect, that Canadian rule forces you to play well in second chair (and that’s not good either; it takes a piece of strategy out of the game).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Lead trump, damn it! – February 28, 2003

Our friend Ryan Romanik likes to say, “Lead the right bower, damn it!”

I like to say just, “Lead trump, damn it!” – when it’s called for, as in . . . .

Early in the game the jack of hearts was turned up on my left, and I held the jack of diamonds, the ace and ten of hearts, the ace of spades and the ten of clubs.

I ordered it up, of course – in a heartbeat. I’ll take a nearly sure point nearly any time I can get it when I see no better prospects, and there’s no point waiting for “next” (which might not be called anyway) when you have three trump in the suit turned, a sure trick and, probably, three tricks in your hand alone, even when the trump turned is the right bower.

All I needed was a trump lead – to drain the dealer’s partner, and to put the dealer in the lead to me for an “end play. But my partner led the king of clubs. Damn!” I thought. “Caught him dry. He had to know to lead a heart if he had one, I figured: He had a 2330 rating on Yahoo!

So: His king of clubs was cut by the dealer’s partner with the queen of hearts. The dealer’s partner then led the ten of spades through my ace; it was cut by the dealer with the king of hearts, and school was out.

When I finally gained the lead on the third trick, and forced out the right bower with a trump lead, my partner – let’s call him “Dimwit” – coughed up the nine of hearts: He had one.

If he had simply led trump to the partner who called it, we would have taken three tricks easily (and maybe four).

One of Harvey Lapp’s Ten Commandments of Euchre is: “V. Thou shalt leadeth trump to thine partner’s order. Is that so difficult to understand? To heed? To obey? Where is the pleasure in the sin?

Like, Dimwit thought I had ordered “thin” and thought we could make the point only by cross-ruffing? I don’t order “thin” in third chair, as a rule; and neither does any other good player. I was trusting my partner to play correctly, and he should have trusted his. That’s part of the deal in good euchre play, and particularly with good players.

So, maybe he thought I was “donating” when I ordered the right bower to an opponent? He still should lead trump. In the first place, I don’t “donate” in third chair, as a rule; and neither does any other good player. In the second place, I rarely “donate” early in the game; and neither does any other good player. And, finally, even if I had “donated,” it’s unlikely that Dimwit’s king off color is going to save a losing situation. Go for the score. Trust your partner.

Dimwit’s the newest entry on our Stone idiots page. Like, where did he get his 2330 rating – at K-Mart?

Lead trump, damn it!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

Leading away from an ace – February 14, 2003
An ace off suit and off color is not always the best initial lead on defense, even if it comes from a singleton or doubleton. This hand illustrates the point:

Blauer, the dealer’s partner and your left-hand opponent, has called clubs trump on second round (it’s a little unconventional; the nine of spades was turned down), and you hold ace and king of diamonds, queen of hearts, and queen and ten of spades. Your inclination is to lead the ace of diamonds.

But look what happens if you do:

Blauer trumps it with his king of clubs (everyone else follows suit – including Blauer’s partner, with the jack of diamonds). Blauer then leads the king of spades (the suit his partner turned down). Your partner covers it with the ace; but Blauer’s partner, Stony, trumps it with the ten of clubs (you have to follow suit, of course). Stony then leads the queen of diamonds (Hey, that suit worked before!); you lay down your king; Blauer takes it with the left bower; and Blauer’s partner takes the rest of the tricks with the right bower and ace of trump, for two points.

OK, let’s try something else. Lead your queen of spades or queen of hearts and see what happens.

If spades, Blauer has to lay down the king and your partner plays the ace; if hearts, your queen is still good after three plays. But Stony still takes the trick, in either event, with the ten of clubs.


Blauer (maker, and dealer’s partner)

Your partner

Stony (the dealer)

Not aware that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, Stony then leads the right bower – trump, to the partner who called it. He takes the trick, of course, including his partner’s king of trump and your partner’s only trump, the queen (you sluff the ten of spades); and now he leads the jack of diamonds. You play your ace; Blauer cuts it with the left bower, and your partner follows suit with the nine. Blauer then leads the ten of hearts; your partner covers with the king; and Stony has to use his team’s last trump, the ace, to take the trick (as you follow with your queen of spades or queen of hearts, depending on what you have left after the opening lead). Now all Stony has left is the queen of diamonds, and guess who gets to claim it with his king? That’s right, you do; and Blauer & Co. score only one point.

This must be what Gary Martin means by leading a nine to save an ace, a suggestion he makes at pages 24-27 of his book, Euchre: How to Play and Win (Martin, Fort Wayne, 1982). Martin’s book is one of the best published on euchre in the last century. He says, at page 25, “A lone ace is better kept until after a trump is led” – i.e., until a number of trump have bit the dust. He does not fully explain, but this hand may fill in a blank.

It is worth noting here also that the only thing that keeps Blauer’s team from marching is leading trump. So, that’s not always the best policy for the team that made trump, either. And it is one of those rare instances in which leading trump on defense would stop the march – even though there is no quickly apparent reason to lead trump. But, you didn’t have any.

You can play with this hand in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory (while you’re at it, lead the queen of hearts and see what happens). If you want to try it with a singleton ace instead of a doubleton, just swap West’s king of diamonds (yours) for East’s jack of hearts (your partner’s). Same thing.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

The marginal hand – January 31, 2003

Here is an example of what is simply a well played marginal hand.

The dealer picked up a club and held right, queen and nine of trump and king and ten of hearts. He did not know it, but the player on his right held a lone ace of trump; and the opponent on his left held the left bower guarded and both red aces.

The hand set up for you on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

The left-hand opponent took the opening trick leading the ace of hearts, as everyone else followed suit. Here was the dealer’s first good play: He threw not his ten of hearts, but his king. His partner had played the queen; and his right-hand opponent, the jack. At that point, the ten was as good as the king. The dealer “false carded” the king to discourage a second heart lead, on which his partner could be overtrumped (if he had trump at all).

But the opponent on the left was out of hearts anyway; and he led his ace of diamonds, which the dealer took with his nine of clubs (trump). Now, what to lead? Either the right bower or the ten of hearts would draw trump; and, the ten might draw trump from an opponent only. But the right bower would draw from everyone, and that’s what the dealer led. It made the left bower good on his left, but it stripped the right-hand opponent of his lone ace of trump.

Then the dealer led the ten of hearts. The opponent on his left either had to go up with his left bower or play second hand low again, hoping his partner (and not the dealer) had the queen of clubs, the only trump not yet shown. Because the ten of hearts was good and the dealer did have the queen of clubs, the dealer made his point either way.

Go to the lab and play it different ways. You’ll wind up OK playing the ten of hearts instead of the king on the first trick, but if you lead anything but the right bower and ten of hearts, in that order, on third and fourth tricks, you’ll find trouble.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

“Pajonsero” – January 17, 2003

A player we know as Tim, and known as “Pajonsero” on the Yahoo! tables, has taken issue with going alone, playing to 10 points, and just about everything else: He wrote in a post to the Yahoo! group Euchre Science:

“I do not think loners should be a part of a game of euchre
up to 10 points. If there are going to be loners in the game
of euchre, I think the game should go up to 15 or possibly
even 20 points.

“For that matter, I think that the game of euchre without
loners should go up to 15 or possibly even 20 points.

Tim suggests that there is too much luck in the game, pointing out that “a good evenly dealt game of euchre often comes down to a single mistake – e.g., you should have gotten 2 points but only got 1. He points out that a lone march is worth 40 per cent of the points required to win a game of euchre. He wrote:

“If I am going to play a game of skill, and be good at a
game of skill, I want to win because of my skill. . . .
Not because of better cards.

“That is why I advocate a longer game of euchre, and
to remove loners. . . . While the loner adds a lot to the
game by way of strategy, I believe that in a game to 10,
15 or 20 without loners the more skillful team is probably
going to win. . . .

“The moral of the story: The longer the game or series,
the better the chance the more skillful team will win.
Hence, do away with the loner.

Tim has a point: We believe that the basket in the game of basketball should be raised to 15 feet. When it was established at 10 feet more than a century ago, we didn’t have corn flakes, Wheaties, Zulus and 7-feet-tall Chinamen. Height did not matter quite so much when you had to shoot up at the basket instead of down.

Euchre used to be played with a 32-card deck (or at least a 28-card deck) instead of the 24-card deck usually used today, and most card game encyclopedias still call for a 32-card deck. And the winning score used to be (and still is specified in encyclopedias) as little as 5 or 7 points. And the “Bennie” – a joker as third and “best” bower – was an option (and still is in England and the encyclopedias). Talk about luck. Reducing the deck to 24 cards, if it did nothing else, put more power in every hand, on average.

Well, Tim – maybe you don’t really like euchre. Maybe you should play more spades – or bridge.

In a famous interview at the Elks Club in Rushville, Indiana, half a century ago, the best poker player in town, a guy named Jerry, was asked whether luck or skill was more important in a game of cards. “Give me the cards,” he said without hesitation, “and I’ll use shit for brains.

We here at Borf Books sorta like the game the way it is, Tim, but – just because the United States Playing Card Company’s invented game “500,” based on euchre, did not really take off a century ago does not mean that you cannot invent a good new game based on euchre. Call it “pajonsero”!

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [margin]

Wait for “next” – January 3, 2003

“Bidhogg” (an aptly named player if ever there was one) held both black bowers and nothing else (well, nine of diamonds and king and ten of hearts); and, on the first play of the game, sitting to the left of the dealer, ordered up the queen of clubs. Fortunately, his partner held the ace of hearts.

There was absolutely no reason to order. Bidhogg’s “next” (spades) would have been every bit as good if the queen of clubs had been turned down (better, actually, since that’s one fewer trump for the dealer. And, sitting to the left of the dealer, Bidhogg had first shot to call if the clubs had been turned down. Partner’s ace of hearts saves that scenario also).

Moreover, by ordering up, Bidhogg forfeited an opportunity to euchre the opponents (who, for all he knew, had good enough clubs to call – and, for that matter, maybe even good enough to euchre him when he ordered – like, all five other trump in one hand, or four trump to the ace with an ace kicker, etc., etc.).

So, big deal, you say; Bidhogg scored a point? The point is, he could have done the same or better with “next”; and he blew a chance to euchre the opponents for two points.

This order earned “Bighogg” the new top spot on Borf Books’ list of Stone Idiots. He had a 1949 rating on Yahoo!

For the record, the dealer, “Johndoe1999ca,” held (after the order) the queen and nine of clubs (trump), the jack and ace of diamonds, and the ten of spades. The dealer’s partner, “Deeziedee,” held ace of clubs, nine of hearts, king of spades, and king and ten of diamonds; and Bidhogg’s partner, “Fanubartek,” held, in addition to the ace of hearts, the jack of hearts, the king of clubs, the queen of spades and the queen of diamonds. Fanubartek had dropped his jack of hearts on the second trump lead, to signal his partner (but Biddhogg’s lead of the ten of hearts at third trick was probably correct in any event). After taking the third trick with the ace of hearts, Fanubartek led back the queen of spades; and it was good for the fourth trick. He then led his queen of diamonds, and it fell to Johndoe’s ace. No matter; there was no way to squeeze five tricks out.

Go look at the hand and play with it on Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory. It’s set up the way it was called; but you can change the trump to spades and give the dealer the ace of spades in place of the queen of clubs – or change anything else you want – and see what happens.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2003] [next]

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