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.

Holiday quiz – December 2, 2005

OK, here’s the skinny on the “annual holiday quiz” in Joe Andrews’ November euchre column on MSN:

1. In which country is a version of Euchre played with a Joker (called the “Benny” ) ?

That’s easy: The Land of Benny Hill.

2. What is the most popular format of Euchre featured at live tournaments with large numbers of players?

Joe is “puffing” here: He runs all the tournaments. It’s his own “8-by-8 progressive” format – eight rounds of eight hands with each of eight partners. (But it’s not real popular with Joe’s favorite euchre player, Harvey Lapp.)

3. Besides yours truly, name four other authors who have published Euchre books during the past fifty years.

“Yours Truly,” Gary Martin, Joseph P. Wergin, Tom Gallagher, John Ellis, and Joe Andrews, in chronological order.

And now we have a confession from Joe: He published his own book (it wasn’t published by the United States Playing Card Company, or “Bicycle”).

4. Where in the United States did the French originally introduce the game of Euchre?

The French did not introduce euchre to the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch did (and they were German, not Dutch).

They introduced it in Pennsylvania.

Some say euchre came up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. But even if that’s the case, the French did not bring it. As R. F. Foster, the foremost early author on euchre, wrote, “The French know nothing about euchre, in any form!”

But see Q&A No. 6 below.

5. Name five of the six U. S. states where Euchre is most frequently played.

This is the most interesting question in the quiz. How would anyone know? It would take the assistance of the Census Bureau (and a question I think they don’t ask).

But maybe Joe is reckoning by where he likes to hold his tournaments – or by his book sales.

Even reckoning by book sales is not easy: I don’t know where sells my book (they send me checks and reports, but the reports do not reveal their trade secrets). I can tell you rather easily, though, the top ten states in PayPal sales of The Columbus Book of Euchre since Borf Books went on line in 1998, in order:

1. Michigan
2. Indiana
3. Ohio
4. Illinois
5. California
6. New York
7. Kentucky
8. Minnesota
9. Pennsylvania
10. Florida

To get a more representative picture, though, you ought to weight the results by population. The weighted results, in order, are:

1. Michigan
2. Indiana
3. Ohio
4. Illinois
5. Kentucky
6. Minnesota
7. Iowa
8. Wisconsin
9. Oregon
10. New York.

[The above does not include Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand. I’ve forgot whether they are states. It’s been a while since I took fifth grade geography.]

Are you a little surprised to see New York and Pennsylvania so low on the list?

I don’t think that’s attributable to the Hoosier theme of my book. Talking about Indiana more likely would depress sales in the neighboring states of Ohio, Michigan and Illinois (and in Indiana too, for that matter, with the specific Columbus locale theme).

Here’s what I think we need to consider:

1. Most people in New York already know it all. They don’t need a book.

2. Many people in Pennsylvania don’t know how to read.

6. Who is John Scarne?. What is his claim to fame?

John Scarne is quoted in The Columbus Book of Euchre. He was a gamesman, author, and compiler of “Hoyle” encyclopedias. He’s the idiot who gave Joe Andrews the idea that the French introduced euchre to America in Louisiana.

7. What was the Number 1 card game in the United States from 1850 - 1900?

Joe wants you to say euchre; so let’s say euchre. That’s probably right, anyway. (But, again, who knows? And how?)

8. What is the “Dutchman’s” hand? (Be specific!)

A “Dutchman’s hand” holds the three highest trump. So says Wergin.

But you don’t know who held the three highest trump until the hand has been played, and the Dutchmen I have known want to know what’s happening long before the cards are on the table. So let’s just say right bower, left bower and ace of trump.

The only Dutchman I ever spent much time with did not know how to play euchre. Maybe that’s why they call it a Dutchman’s hand: It’s the only one he can win with.

9. What is the difference between a March and a Sweep?

No difference: Some people say “march”; some say “sweep. The technical term is “march. It means taking all five tricks in a hand.

10. If you are sitting in the South seat as Dealer, in what direction (North, West or East) does the “Eldest” hand sit?

West (if you deal clockwise, as you should). It is called “eldest,” or “the age,” because it has had the first card and all the others, including a full hand, longer than anyone else.

11. In tournaments which require possession of a “natural” trump in order to be able to pick up/or order the top card, is the singleton left bower in your hand considered a “natural” trump?

No. It is not a trump until trump is made (and you don’t need the word “natural” to ask or answer this question).

12. Barring hackers, why can there never be a renege (revoke) or lead out of turn when playing on-line?

Well, duh, the programs won’t let you. It’s not for lack of trying. Believe me.

13. The word bower comes from which similarly-sounding German equivalent?


I cheated, you say? I waited for the answers? Well, no, actually. Joe’s December column, with his answers, was posted as I was writing this. I was on No. 13 when Joe’s column came up. Trust me. I haven’t changed any answers. Sorry I didn’t get them to you in time to win the contest.

But you would have lost with my answers: I got Nos. 3, 4, 10 and 13 right, and Joe got them wrong.

His answer to No. 13 is close: “bauer. But German nouns are capitalized.

Joe forgot the format of his question No. 10: He asked “in what direction (North, West or East) does the ‘Eldest’ hand sit?” and he answered “to the immediate left of the dealer” (emphasis added)! Duh! Let me see if I can find that on a map. . . .

No. 4 – where euchre landed in the U.S., and who brought it – is amply discussed above.

In his answer to No. 3 (“four other authors who have published euchre books during the past 50 years”), Joe mentions the same authors I did “and John Keller, to name a few” (emphasis added). John Keller has not had a book published on euchre since 1887. That’s 118 years ago, if my calculator is still working (I know; I know; the batteries are low). John Keller wrote the first book published on euchre, not any of the latest.

I have caught a lot of flak for criticizing Joseph D. Andrews and other euchre authors, and I have caught a lot of the flak in “Kid’s Review”s on

A recent (and nominally signed, but actually anonymous) review on complained of “the never-ending and persistent effort of Natty Bumppo and/or his ‘cronies’ to discredit most other euchre authors. . . . Look at the eight pages of ‘put-downs’ . . . ” (that’s a reference to the section “Reviews of Other Books on Euchre” in The Columbus Book of Euchre).

There are ten pages of reviews. What is good about the other books is pointed out. That goes for Joe Andrews’, Tom Gallagher’s, Gary Martin’s and Joseph P. Wergin’s books. The only big “put-down” is of Euchre: The Grandpa Lou Way (any objections?).

Eight of those ten pages, it is true, are highly critical. But what the reviewer seems to have overlooked – and what other critics of this part of my work have overlooked – is that the reviews I have written are not merely “put-downs” or “put-ups”: They are instructive.

For example:

A discussion of why to go alone when you can. Pages 74-75.

An admonition to consider your position in the hand as well as your cards. Page 75.

A suggestion that it is better to play euchre by intuition than by formula. Page 75.

A spelling lesson. Page 76.

Instruction on what to do with singletons. Page 76.

Three history lessons. Pages 77, 78 and 80.

An essay on ethics. Page 77.

A lesson in mathematical probabilities. Page 78.

A lesson on when to trump your partner’s ace. Page 78.

A lesson in commercial promotion (it’s not euchre; but it’s relevant in the context). Page 79.

An explanation of reasons not to “assist. Page 80.

An explanation of a time to go alone with 8 points. Pages 80-81.

An explanation of the difference between bidding (as in spades and bridge) and calling (as in euchre). Page 81.

An explanation of the rationale for not shifting the lead on a lone hand. Page 81.

An explanation of scoring. Page 81.

I make no apologies for criticism of the work of others. That’s part of my job.

I got an e-mail a few years ago from Joe Andrews suggesting that authors in the same genre should not put one another down, out of concern for encouraging one another’s sales. I rejected that suggestion out of hand. I reject it now. It is my duty, as an informed observer, scholar of the game and author, to flag errors in other publications. If I didn’t, I’d be selling out – and letting my readers down.

The reviews are a travesty. Anyone can take a potshot at anyone else – and anonymously, with the blessing of in the “Kid’s Review” format.

By the way, I did not write any of those “Natty Bumppo fan club” reviews on I did not induce them; I did not promote them, and I have no idea who did write, induce or promote them.

Another thing: Those who criticize The Columbus Book of Euchre for presenting “no hands” have not read pages 32, 36, 39, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 52, 56, 57, 59 and 67.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

When your partner fails to “donate” – November 4, 2005

My partner, a new acquaintance, was doing everything right. It was a rare moment on Yahoo! : Playing with someone I could trust.

We were leading 8 to 6. The nine of diamonds was turned on my left. My partner passed, and so did the dealer’s partner. I held both red bowers, the queen of hearts, the king of clubs and the ten of spades. I, too, passed; and the dealer turned the diamond down.

My partner passed again, and the dealer’s partner called clubs alone. Oh, boy, I thought, where was next? I’m gonna watch this partner for hearts.

I gnashed my teeth as the player on my right took trick after trick, and the game. My partner showed nary a heart – but is that an excuse for not calling “next” when the opponents have six or seven points?

And then I thought about what my partner did show: Three diamonds to the ace. Well, that’s why he did not order up that nine of diamonds. He had diamonds stopped.

My partner’s hand

My hand

Turned up
It was my fault we lost the game, not my partner’s. By passing an opportunity to order for a safey (what some call a “Columbus coup” or a “donation”), my partner showed me that he had a sure trick in the suit turned. And there I sat with two sure tricks of my own, the bowers. I should have ordered the diamond. For a point, and the deal – and, probably, the game.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

The McLaughlin Group – October 14, 2005

Issue 1: In first chair you hold the jack of diamonds, the queen and ten of hearts, the jack of spades, and the king of clubs. The queen of diamonds has been turned down. What do you do at a score of 9 to 0, your favor?

Call hearts: 75%
Pass: 25%.

Issue 2: What do you do ahead 8 to 0?

Call hearts: 60%
Pass: 40%

Issue 3: What do you do ahead 9 to 8?

Call hearts: 30%
Pass: 70%

Issue 4: What do you do ahead 9 to 7?

Call hearts: 70%
Pass: 30%

Issue 5: What do you do ahead 8 to 7?

Call hearts: 40%
Pass: 60%

Issue 6: What do you do behind 7 to 9?

Call hearts: 90%
Pass: 10%

Issue 7: What do you do behind 8 to 9?

Call hearts: 90%
Pass: 10%

Issue 8: What do you do tied 5 to 5?

Call hearts: 36%
Pass: 64%

Issue 9: What do you do tied 8 to 8?

Call hearts: 30%
Pass: 70%

Issue 10: What do you do tied 9 to 9?

Call hearts: 90%
Pass: 0%
Punt: 10%

Pat Buchanan: Pass a callable hand in next with the opponents at 9?

Not me, brother – no way, no how.

At 8-9, you can take one here and get the deal at 9-9.

It’s tougher at 7-9 but, in my opinion, you are far more likely to score one in hearts than two in anything else. Just what do you propose to euchre the opponents with? Your hand is good for only one trick in black. Counting on your partner to take two tricks on an opposing call is a long shot, to say the least. I prefer to play the cards I have, instead of the cards my partner may have.

Tony Blankley: This is not what I call a “euchre hand.

It is but a hand which, if hearts is made trump, would probably succeed, at most, slightly less than 50 per cent of the time; so I consider it to be a “highly euchrable” hand. However, to go with hearts as trump when the score is 9-9 should score your team more victories than would passing to second seat which will in all probability call a black suit, trump. I would expect, at best, if black was made trump, to stop any march attempt and, since that is not good enough at 9-9 or 8-9, make hearts trump. Take your lumps and salvage now.

Eleanor Clift (shouting): Have you forgotten the definition
of “euchre hand”??!!

A “euchre hand” is simply a hand with a sure trick in every suit. It’s the kind of hand on which you might be better deferring to others on the making of trump.

Tony Blankley: Then the hand in the polls is not a “euchre hand.

The potential left bower in it is only protected with a king. If first seat wins the first trick and leads back trump, your play does not 100% guarantee your team a trick.

To me, a euchre hand will have a serious threat to upset the opponents, should the opponents make trump as you anticipate. I call what you describe a "stopper" hand.

[Lawrence Kudlow tries to make a point but is shouted down
by Tony Blankley and Eleanor Clift.]

Tony Blankley: At 9-0 the opposition minimally needs three
straight long-shot scores to win the game (two loner marches,
one partner march).

At 9-1 the opponents still need two long-shot scoring plays and a single point – three scores – before my team scores a single point. Since the risk to be euchred, should I call hearts, is too high for my liking, and a 2-point score by the opponents will place them in position to win with only two long-shot scores, I would sacrifice the probable point by the other team and count on winning shortly after, by virtue of having two of the next three deals. Patience, I say.

Similarly, I pass at 8-0. If the resulting score after the hand is 8-1, the opponents still need two long-shot scores plus a single point to win, and my team has two of the next three deals to close it out. Getting euchred will permit the opponents to be capable of winning in only two scores. Patience, I say.

In my opinion, at any score, making trump or passing with this hand is a crap shoot. That is why I would choose to pass in all situations involving this hand, in which the gun to finish me off is not being held to my head.

Not that I agree with it, but, if I correctly follow the logic for passing in first seat when the score is 9-9, then it would not be such a bad thing if the partner in third seat passed. After all, you passed with a “euchre hand”???

No way are you going to euchre the opponents near 50 per cent of the time if they make a black suit trump. No way! Won’t happen. Can it?

Even though the potential to score one point with this hand is in grave doubt at any score, with partner’s help two points is absolutely possible.

John McLaughlin: The answer is: PASS.

Unless the score is 9 to 0, your favor (or, perhaps, 9 to 1, or 9 to 2 or 9 to 3).

You have a “euchre hand. Hearts is your best suit, and the opponents have indicated that they may not have the right bower. But you have at most one point in hearts, most likely; and your hand is eminently euchrable. That’s why it makes sense to call hearts at 9 to 0 (you might go out, and getting euchred won’t hurt you) – and maybe at 9-1, 9-2 or 9-3, scores not posited in the poll. Not at 9-4.

You do not want to call hearts at the other scores because of the pregnant possibility you will be euchred. And the worst that can happen to you by passing (unless the opponents have 9 points; I’ll get to that) is letting the opponents score a mere point, to pass you the deal. You have them stopped on a march.

Why “punt” at 9 to 9? At 9 to 9 it’s a crap shoot. The reason to call hearts is that your partner is conditioned to pass if you don’t call next. But the reason to pass is that you cannot guarantee it. It’s not the normal “next” situation, where you don’t mind being euchred.

Here’s the deal: If your partner is a conservative good euchre player, you call hearts at 9 to 9 (because he would pass a good heart hand). If he is a “wild and crazy guy,” you pass – let him decide.

Bottom line: Call hearts at 9-0, 9-1, 9-2 and 9-3, and maybe at 9-9. Otherwise, pass.

Call hearts behind 7 to 9 and 8 to 9? Yeah, yeah, I know, you need to score. But you are only slightly more likely to score by calling hearts than by passing; and if you score calling, you’ll probably score only one point. At 7 to 9 you need to euchre the opponents to get back in the game. At 8 to 9 a euchre would put you out. You need two points in both instances. You won’t get two points calling hearts. You might get them letting the opponents (or your partner) call. Bite the bullet. Let someone else call trump. Especially at STD.


Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Review of a pretty old euchre book – September 2, 2005

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

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

Joe Andrews would not call Keller’s work a “book,” I’m afraid: It’s only 82 pages long, with 78 pages of text. Compare that to The Columbus Book of Euchre with 90 pages (75 of text, also not a “book”) and Joe’s book with 171 pages (151 of text). And Keller’s work contains only 28 lines to the page, compared to 30 in Joe’'s and 38 in The Columbus Book of Euchre. By conversion to Kellerian for common denomination, we get Keller, 78; Bumppo, 102 (now I have a book!), and Andrews, 162.

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

But I digress. Keller’s The Game of Euchre is quite an interesting book, for its antiquity. The most interesting thing about it is that euchre, it seems, has not changed all that much in the last 118 years. Keller describes a game played to 5 points with 32 cards – but so do modern “Hoyle” encyclopedias.

Keller’s book is a little top-heavy in rules: Twenty-four pages – nearly a third of the book – are devoted to the basic rules of the game. Four pages are devoted to definitions. Another 34 pages – nearly half the book – are devoted to rules of variations of the game. Only nine pages are devoted to strategy.

The remaining seven pages are devoted to history and sociology. And that’s pretty interesting. Keller seems to have thought that “the French settlers of America brought triomphe with them and transformed it into euchre. Today we don’t buy this – we think the Pennsylvania Dutch brought Jucker from Alsace and that some influential writers misspelled it “euchre,” partly because of the influence of the French game écarté (a derivative of triomphe) on Jucker.

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

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

The “French euchre” described by Keller did reduce the deck to 24 cards, the deck most people play with today. But you played to 15 and made trump by bidding, not by ordering, picking up or naming.

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

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

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

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

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

There are some intriguing differences between the basic euchre Keller describes and the euchre we know today (besides the 32-card deck and the 5-point game):

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

For another, Keller reported plays called “jambone” and “jamboree. A “jambone” was a strong lone hand that the holder lay down on the table face up. His left-hand opponent could dictate the lead or the loner’s play on the lead. Thus one did not want to “jambone” with a marginal loner. But if you took all five tricks with a “jambone,” you got 8 points, not just 4.

A “jamboree” was a “perfect” hand: Both bowers and ace, king and queen of trump. It was worth 16 points. That made a big difference if you were “lapping” points from one game to the next, as in modern “railroad euchre” (which Keller described also, but without emphasizing the “lapping. The “lapping” he described – carrying excess points from one game to the next – was an option in any euchre variation).

Keller did mention the option (depending on player agreement) of defending alone against a loner. And, in his tips, he spoke of “next,” “cross” (“across,” most people call it now), the safety (which most people now call a “donation” or a “Columbus coup” – Keller did not give it a name), and “ordering at the bridge” (the “bridge,” in those days, was a score of 4 to 1).

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

One more thing: Keller described a “progressive” euchre.

But it was not the same thing as the “8 by 8” formula promoted by Grand Prix Cowboy Joe, in which 64 players play eight rounds of eight hands each, all players moving on to other tables after eight hands regardless of whether anyone has reached a score of ten. In Keller’s version there was a “head table” that dictated length of play by how long it took that table to finish a game. At the other tables, the winners were whoever were ahead when the head table finished (ties were broken by cutting cards). Players then moved up or down to other tables, depending on winning or losing; and partners were switched when the new tables were set. Ultimate winners were determined by games won, not by total points scored. Loners were not allowed.

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

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

“Nice stop” – August 5, 2005

John was dealing and picked up the ten of diamonds to go with the right bower and the king. He held king and queen of clubs outside. Turned out, his partner had the ace of clubs. Why John did not go alone, who knows? Maybe he’s from Pennsylvania.

Hedy (third hand)
Anyway, Fuller led the queen of spades; John’s partner, Hawk, dropped the jack of spades; Fuller’s partner, Hedy, went up with the king, and John pulled in the trick with the ten of diamonds. He returned the king of clubs. Everyone followed suit, and it was Hawk’s lead. Where Hawk went to school, we don't know – Ohio? Alabama? – but he did not lead trump, either, even though he had a little trump. He laid down the queen of hearts.

Hawk had already showed himself to be a pretty good player, though. Give him the benefit of the doubt: Since John had not led trump, maybe Hawk figured John for a wing and a prayer and played for the cross-ruff.

So: Two tricks are gone; the queen of hearts is on the table, and Hedy’s sitting there with the ace of spades and the ace and nine of trump. And what does she play?

Trump with the nine of diamonds, you say? Nah. “Don't send a girl to do a woman’s job.

Trump with the ace of diamonds, you say? Nah. Want to lose it to a bower?

Hedy sluffed her ace of spades. John took the trick with his king of diamonds. Fuller followed suit with the ten of hearts. Third trick. Sure point.

Now John led trump: Right bower.

Fuller had no trump (the left bower was buried); Hawk played the queen of trump, and guess who’s sitting pretty with a guarded ace of trump?

Hedy. She laid down her nine of trump on John’s bower and claimed the last trick with the ace.


1. Lead trump, damn it! That reduces the chances your clubs will be trumped, and you’ll catch the left bower if it’s unguarded. “Lead trump” goes for both partners. John would have given Hedy a trick by leading trump, but it would not have cost him the point. If Hawk had led trump, however, through Hedy, she could not have stopped the march.

2. Go alone, damn it! John had a pretty sure point, and his partner’s ace of clubs would have been just as good buried as in his hand. If both Fuller and Hedy had had only one trump apiece, it would have been a walk to four points. If one of them had had the ace of clubs, John still would have had a club winner for the point.

3. Nice stop, Hedy! Players on line type “ns” any time a maker fails to march, but it’s not true. What Hedy did was really nice. She saved the day. Her nine of trump on the heart lead would have been overtrumped by the king; her ace, by the right bower. By ducking (sluffing a black ace, no less, of a suit she knew the dealer could not lead anyway) she saved her red ace (and her team’s red ass). And she had reason to believe that John did not have both bowers, since he had not led trump.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Trust your partner – July 8, 2005

I finally found a compatible partner on line. He picked up bowers; he led trump when we made it; he did not lead trump on defense. We won our first game going away. The only mistake we made was my not getting euchred at 8 to 2 to preserve our lead: I passed a poor hand, and the dealer made a loner to pull within 8 to 6.

We were sailing through the second game in similar fashion, leading 5 to 1; and, with a spade turned down and holding left-nine in clubs and a red ace, I called “next. The dealer’s partner was “sitting on me,” and I got euchred. We didn’t take a trick.

And my partner typed in the chat line, “waaaaaaaa?”

This relationship deteriorated rapidly. We limped to victory in that game and the next, hating each other. He even learned to call “green” on a turndown, without a bower, and, when euchred, had the nerve to ask me, “Where were you?”

Well, of course, I had a guarded bower in “next” and the ace of the suit he called. He had simply called the wrong color. It was not where I was; it was, what was he thinking?

He wasn’t, obviously.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that by that time, with animosity building, he was trying to show me up.

The crucial juncture was “waaaaaaaa?” There is no excuse for such carping. My partner had eyes. He didn’t have to ask to see that I had a hand practically begging for a “next” call. It was euchred. So what? “Next” often is euchred – that’s what it’s for, among other things. I had no defense to a red loner.

We were still up 5 to 3. Don’t argue with success. Trust your partner.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Renouncing, reneging and revoking – June 19, 2005

I turned down the king of spades; and Ron, on my left, called clubs, or “next,” as he should have.

And Ron led a low club, as he should have.

And Ron’'s partner, B Woods, took the trick with the right bower, as he should have.

And B Woods led the king of hearts to the second trick.

As he should not have.

Because I had not played yet.

I took B’s king of hearts with my ace of hearts and led my left bower to claim Ron’s last trump and another one from B. B got back in the lead when I exited with a diamond he was able to trump, but I had the ten of clubs left over to trump the queen of hearts he had worked so hard to promote.

For a euchre.

Ron was curious why I had two cards to play on the last trick, however, when everyone else had only one. I explained.

“Well,” Ron said, “you reneged, then.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “The only reason I did not follow suit on the first trick is that B did not wait for me to play. By the time I had a chance to play, he had led the heart; and if I had played one of my trump then, I would have been reneging.

“Renege” – or, more precisely, “revoke” – is defined in most books on playing cards (e.g., the United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules of Card Games, and The Columbus Book of Euchre) as to “fail to follow suit when able. My explanation to Ron was that I simply wasn’t able to follow suit on the first trick – because of his partner’s premature lead to the second trick.

Technically – by the rules of bridge, at least – Ron was right. I could have insisted on playing to the first trick at any time. But I’m not convinced that the opponents have any standing to complain when they have condoned my not playing by inducing and ignoring it. Litigants seeking relief in equity must come to court “with clean hands.

This might be a good opportunity to discuss the correct terminology regarding “renege” and “revoke. Both words denote examples of the generic term “renounce,” which means to play a card not of the suit led. That’s legal, of course, when you don’t have any.

It’s legal in some games even when you do. For example:

In two-handed pinochle you do not have to follow suit at all in the first round of play.

In 7-up you can trump any time, even when you have a card of the suit led.

In spoil five, a game akin to euchre, there are certain high trump you do not have to follow suit with when lower trump is led.

A “renege” is actually a privileged legal renunciation, as in the examples above. The word comes from the medieval Latin “re” and “negare,” meaning (when combined) “to deny forcefully.

An illegal renunciation is a revoke – failing to follow suit when you are required to. It’s what we usually mean when we say “renege.

These niceties are not found in most dictionaries, or even in most playing card encyclopedias; but they are explained in David Parlett’s Oxford Guide to Card Games (Oxford University Press, 1990).

There are at least two types of “revoke,” however, that go beyond renunciation of the suit led: (1) In some games – notably in partnership pinochle – you must play trump if you have any and cannot follow suit. (2) Also in partnership pinochle, when trump is led you must top previous trump played if you can. Not to do so, in either case, is to revoke.

So a better definition of “revoke,” to encompass those games, might simply be “to fail to play a card required.

Which brings us back to the euchre game recounted above: What happens when you are deprived of the opportunity to play timely a card required?

I say B Woods and his partner have to eat that euchre, and my “sixth” card with it. It ain’t bridge. It’s back alley euchre.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Twenty-one card euchre – May 6, 2005

John McLeod, proprietor of the Card Games web site, forwarded me an e-mail he had received from a player in West Virginia’s northern Panhandle telling how some people there play euchre with a pack of only 21 cards (they use only one nine).

“I would assume,” wrote the Panhandler, one Jonah W. B. Myers, “the point is to keep out the mystery of whether or not a trump card is out of play – so you know it’s out there, but you still don’t know where.

It makes sense. The reason for reducing the original euchre deck from 32 cards (with sevens and eights) to 24 was said to be to add power to every hand, and thus to diminish the role of luck in the game (the 32-card deck still is called for in most “Hoyle” encyclopedias). Reducing the pack to 21 just takes that application one final step – eliminating all unseen cards (there are no “buried” cards in bridge, spades, Rook or pinochle).

Playing with a 21-card pack eliminates not only the mystery of whether a trump card is out of play, but also of whether any particular card is out of play. For example, when no one is going alone, you know your king is not boss if the dealer has not turned down the ace.

But you have to adjust your perception of the odds, since it means also that there are three five-card suits and one six-card suit before trump is made, instead of four six-card suits. The game Mr. Myers described, if I understood him, has a set pack, with three nines removed permanently. For example, you might always play with a pack with a heart nine only. Or you could vary it by the session – nine of hearts one day, nine of clubs another, and so on (stay tuned: This is only beginning to get confusing).

With a 24-card pack, once trump is made there are two six-card suits, one seven-card suit (trump) and one five-card suit (“next”). With a set 21-card pack it varies: Depending on what winds up as trump, you might have one seven-card suit, two five-card suits and one four-card suit; or it might be two six-card suits, one five-card suit and one four-card suit; or it might be one six-card suit and three five-card suits. That’s a fair amount of recalculation on each hand.

But there are other ways to do it: You could start with 24 cards and, once trump was made, require that all nines be thrown out but the trump nine, to give you a turbocharged trump suit of seven cards against two five-card suits and a four-card suit. Players with other nines to discard would draw from the deck to replace them, in the same order as the order of play.

Or you could require that all nines be thrown out but the “next” nine, to give you always one six-card suit (trump) and three five-card suits.

Or, you could let the trump maker – or some other player – call the nine to be saved, with the same discard-and-draw procedure.

Think of the new strategic considerations: You could be sitting there with a fistful of nines, either calling wildly or keeping your mouth shut hoping to help your partner or euchre someone, in anticipation of what you would draw. And, if you adopted the last-stated variation, the player making trump could call for his own nine to stay in the game if it was trump, or for any nine but his own if not (if he was a dealer picking up, that could give him a quadruple discard).

In any of those ways, there’s still a lot of rethinking on each hand even after trump is made and the hands are set, for a typically drunken euchre player (“Oh! Yeah! A nine could fall on this trick!”).

Probably the least confusing method would be always to save only the “next” nine. That would weaken the trump suit slightly (but I can hear the “Equal Rights for Next” chant from the lobby, in support).

The West Virginia “Panhandle” is sandwiched between western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio (Wheeling and Weirton are the main cities – Weirton is only 30 miles from Pittsburgh).

It was in eastern Pennsylvania, not western, that euchre is said to have originated (with the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” who are not Dutch at all, but of southwestern German stock).

But it’s in central and western Pennsylvania that many people play euchre to 11 points instead of 10. Jonah said that his people play 21-card euchre to 10 points, however. So, the region we hear from about 21-card euchre doesn't say much if anything more about its origin than western Michigan says about the “win by two points” version we discovered there recently. Different foks, different strokes; lotsa folks, lotsa strokes.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

P.S. After this column was published, Jonah Myers wrote me:

“My grandmother told me she learned it from her parents and she always thought it was a game made up by the coal miners. There was a mine in my home town of Glen Dale (also George Brett’s and Brad Paisley’s home town), about 10 miles south of Wheeling. Most of the miners were Slovakians, Hungarians and other eastern Europeans.

“Here’s how we do it: We have a set deck with nine of hearts only. If you don’t use the nine of hearts, you can’t use the phrase coined by my friend Thomas P. Heise, ‘Everyone’s got a heart!’ He says that every time he leads them.

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Next: “Ya gotta believe!” – April 1, 2005

A lot of lip service is paid to “next,” but there are few true believers.

I posed the following question in a poll on the Yahoo! group Euchre Science:

Holding in third chair;
nine of hearts turned up
It’s 4 to 4; the nine of hearts is turned up; and you are in third chair holding both red bowers, the queen of hearts, the ten of diamonds and the ten of clubs. What do you do if you have a partner you know and trust?

Except for me it was unanimous: Order up the nine of hearts.

I was not surprised. I had already run this question by my own “panel of experts,” and the results were nearly the same (but my favorite expert was drunk, as usual, and never replied).

I said pass, if you can trust your partner to call “next”; and I still say it.

Two of the “experts,” with whom I play regularly (at a real table, and not on line), acknowledged that they “might” pass if I was their partner. And that response highlights the key element of the question: “if you have a partner you know and trust. That’s what makes “next” a “convention”; it’s a two-way street requiring strategic agreement. You don’t call “next” because you have it; you call it because, in first chair, it’s the thing to do. If you don’t have it, your partner should; and, if you are playing the convention, you can trust your partner to pass a good order if he is strong in “next.

It’s no sure thing, in any event; but there's a good chance your opponents do not have the bowers of that color if they did not order or pick up the turned card.

I did have second thoughts, however, when met with such an overwhelming rejection of my idea in both the private and public polls; so I dealt and played twenty hands, as posited above, in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory. The results were astounding:

* Ordering up I netted 17 points over the twenty hands
(19 minus 2: I was euchred once). No surprise.

* When I passed and my partner called “next” when there
was “any way,” we netted 25 points.

The latter result was not based on foolish calls. In the first place, there were only sixteen hands to call: The dealer would have picked that nine of hearts up on his own four times, and would have got euchred three of those four times. That gave us a 5-point head start in the experiment.

I did not have my partner call next every time, but only when it made sense to from his own vantage (and by the convention). He did call diamonds 13 times, making 9 points on 1-point scores, 6 on three marches, and 4 on a lone march = 19.

A lone march? How could he go alone, you ask? Without either bower? Try it sometime; you might like it. He had four diamonds and the king of spades (it was hand No. 3). I think that’s a reasonable shot. After all, it’s “next. He counts on me for any bower not buried. It won’t work if his left-hand opponent pays attention to what the other opponent discards – and the other opponent discards correctly – but it works about half the time. (Hand No. 12 was another good shot at a loner, holding ace and king of diamonds, ace of hearts, ace of clubs, and king of spades. It doesn’t work, but your partner can’t help you march.)

And on the other three hands of the 16, my partner called spades twice and made a point, and he passed once and saw the dealer’s partner score a point in clubs (hand No. 6). And I think that’s a reasonable pass: Partner holds the ace and king of hearts, the ace of diamonds, the ace of spades and the jack of clubs. Thus he has both black suits stopped and relies on me to stop any foolishness in diamonds.

The net result: 5 on dealer pickups + 19 calling "next" + 2 calling spades = 26 - 1 made by opponents = 25.

To complete the experiment, I played those sixteen hands yet two more ways: (1) Having partner call whatever looks good (or pass), without regard to “next,” and (2) requiring him to call “next” every time, regardless of what he holds. In the first scenario we netted only 12 points; in the second, 27. The second scenario is too much to ask for, of course, considering what is held in third chair; but the first is what you will get if you pass that nine of hearts to a partner not cognizant of “next.

One of the problems in the first alternative scenario (calling without regard to “next”) is a loner in clubs made by the dealer’s partner when your own partner passes. We would score a point calling “next. Your partner holds king and nine of spades, ten of hearts, queen of clubs and ace of diamonds. I think you should call “next” with that (unless your opponents have 8 points). It’s not a good hand; but it’s not one you can safely pass like the one above (the one with both black suits stopped and two diamonds). The worst that can happen is to get euchred. Sometimes you have to think of “next” as a “safety,” or “donation.

I photographed all twenty hands I dealt in the Lab, and you can see them here (click your magnifier or “Expand to regular size” if the photo shows up tiny on your monitor, as it does on mine).

It’s as Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe” (he’s in Heaven if anyone is). Either you believe in “next” or you don’t. And as my brother-in-law Bill the philosophy professor says, “If you go, you go all the way” (he’s a big Frank Sinatra fan).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

Win by two! – March 4, 2005

A Michigan woman e-mailed the Card Games web site to ask why there was nothing in the rules posted on euchre about having to win by two points – as in tennis and Ping-Pong.

“I have played Euchre for 35 years in the Midwest,” Ann said. “My dad and his four brothers were all in the Navy and played there. There is something in the scoring that you left out – or isn’t indicative of euchre. In the scoring, everyone I have ever known has played to 10, as you said. However a very important rule that we have always used is that you must win by two points. You can’t win 10 to 9, you have to keep going.

“I read your rules but saw nothing about this scoring.

In response to a counterquery by John McLeod, proprietor of the Card Games web site, the woman added, “The area where we played that version of euchre is in a highly Czech & Slovakian settled area in south central Michigan (lower peninsula) and western Michigan by Lake Michigan all the way around the tip of the lake into Chicago. I’ve never seen it another way, except on the internet.

And I’ve never seen a map stretching Michigan all the way around the tip of the lake to Chicago, without going through northwestern Indiana. So, does that mean they play this way in Indiana, too? And Chicago?

It’s possible. As I noted in my book, I have heard of people in Alabama who allow “no trump” calls in euchre, and not just in bid euchre – in regular euchre.

By the time I got into the conversation, the woman confessed, “My dad told me the other day that when he was younger, some people he played with just played to ten. However, we all still prefer the win-by-two method, because the good games can last a good half-hour. It just extends the life of the better games.

Well, thanks, Ann! They won’t buy that on the internet, where all they seem to want is “fast play pls”, and they play hearts to 25. But I think there’s something to be said for it. There are lots of ways to play. Mr. McLeod descibes more than half a dozen versions of bid euchre from central North America alone.

Do you suppose this two-point margin variation is what got some people – in Pennsylvania and Great Britain, mainly – to playing their games to 11 instead of 10?

One of the purposes of books like mine and the various “Hoyle” compilations is to present standards. I’d have to go from 90 pages to 900 to present every way euchre is played in the world.

But no one appointed Joe Andrews or me, or Edmond Hoyle, either, the Euchre God. We’re just here if you need us. Do it the way you like.

One of my family’s house rules in Monopoly is to let the blue dilcod roam the board as the Cop (we take turns rolling the dice for him). If he lands on you, you are under arrest and have to go to Jail. But you can bribe him for $100 (twice the fine for leaving Jail) and continue on your merry way. Doesn’t everybody play that way? Well, as Ann from Czechoslomichigan might say, we prefer it that way. Try it. You might like it.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

More book reviews – February 18, 2005

Here are a couple of new customer reviews of The Columbus Book of Euchre on

** (2 stars) Not very good, but still has some neat stuff
January 23, 2005 – "A Kid’s Review"

I am new to euchre, and I want to become better. I searched the internet for books on Euchre, and there were lots of listings for the Columbus Book of euchre. It had a great rating, and lots of nice reviews. So I had my dad send a way for a copy for me.

Wow, was I suprised. I showed it to my parents. My dad took a black marker and crossed out all of the bad words.

This book really does use the "f" word, and other bad words as well! Mr. Bimmpo trashes other Euchre writers, while praising his books to the high heavens. that is really not too cool!

The book is full of home grown Euchre slang from the state of Ohio It is NOT an easy guide for becoming a better player.

The book does have some nice sections, and you will really like the cool stories about some of the players who play in bars. I just loved the color pictures of euchre games and party loving people. I guess euchre is a good game for drinking and having fun.

Now my friend in Michigan wants to buy a copy and I told him no, you will be disappointed.

Has anyone else out there bought this book and read it?

Cory (age 11)

* (1 star) A really bad book!
January 22, 2005 – “A Kid's Review”

I ordered the Columbus Book of Euchre in December, and received it a few weeks later. It is just awful! There is not one hand of Euchre in the book. I was shocked to see the "f" word in print, as well as the word "bull---t". The back of the book is filled with an index which tells you such information that the word "euchre" is on 45 pages and the word "bower" was on 22 pages. And there is a chapter which puts down other euchre books except for one. Another page has a picture of some dude and a gun on a table with some other players playing euchre. This book looks like it was copied at a staples stores and then stapled together. I felt like I got rooked. Save your money, and get a copy of ellis' or gallager's book.

Thanks, kids – but, please, spell my name right? And, Cory – that’s Columbus Indiana, not Ohio.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

How to get euchred going alone – January 7, 2005

Here’s another hand from “Redd Dogg” (Paul McCreary): His partner went alone with the right, ace and queen of hearts and both black aces; had the lead; caught the left bower on the first trick, and got euchred.

Going alone in first chair
The left was held unguarded by one of the opponents, but the other opponent held the king, ten and nine of trump. It was Redd Dogg’s partner’s failure to account for the possibility of a guarded king, after the first trump lead (“king guarded twice,” as Billy “Bulldozer” Arnold would say) that caused the catastrophe. Dogg’s partner led trump twice more, lost her queen to the king, and watched the opponent cash two little diamonds.

The second trump lead was OK (the ace was a sure winner; and, if it caught a trump, there could be only one left out against the loner, if any). But she should have played it safe with one of the black aces on the third trick. That would have left the queen of trump for her third trick if her ace was trumped with the opponent’s last trump.

She called the euchre “fate. Dogg called it “stupid.

Here’s another way it could have happened: Left-hand opponent “false cards” the left bower on first trick – he’s the one with the king-ten-nine – as right-hand opponent shows out. Dogg’s partner should lead a black ace to the second trick in this case, just to be safe. She should smell a rat. At least she might have the excuse of confusing defensive play if she gets euchred on this one, and not incur the utter wrath of Dogg.

If she’s desperate (like, behind 9 to 1), she can go ahead and lead the ace and queen of trump to catch the ten; but she must know that she does that at the risk of losing her queen to the king. Better to play safe unless it’s “euchre or bust.

Here’s a different scenario, in which taking the risk (in times of despair) might be more plausible: You hold right-ace-king-nine of trump (hearts) and ace of clubs. Score is 5 to 5, and you are in the middle (second chair). A spade is led, and you get it with the ace of trump and lead the right bower, catching nothing on your left and the queen of trump on your right. Now what do you lead? If you lead the king of trump, the player on your right may have the left bower and the ten of trump as well, over your nine (having “false carded” her queen). But she might not have the left and still very well have the ten of trump. If you don’t lead the king of trump to take her ten, you may not get your four points; if you do lead the king, you can get euchred.

Well, you’re a big boy; you’ve been euchred before, and on a loner before; and if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. How bad do you want four points as opposed to one? Is it worth the risk? Redd Dogg might question your risk assessment if you get euchred, but he might not call you stupid.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2005] [next]

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