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.

Shuffle, cut and deal – November 3, 2006

The only thing unique about the deal in the game of euchre (besides condoning efforts to steal it, in some circles) is the dealing of two and three cards at a time to each player. Otherwise the rules of shuffling, cutting and dealing in euchre are no different from those of other games.

A reader asked me why there was no mention of any and all players’ right to shuffle in The Columbus Book of Euchre. I replied that it was because I wanted to produce a compact book on euchre, without stuffing it with minutiae applying to all card games – as the author did in Wergin on Euchre, which contains 33 pages of rules in its total of 137 pages. Compare that to the 7 pages of rules – which is all and more than you need – in my 90.

The following rules on the shuffle, the cut and the deal apply to practically all card games. Almost all card players know them before they get to euchre, and those who don’t can look them up in any complete “Hoyle” (by which I mean not a book by Sir Edmond, but a standard card game encyclopedia or instruction manual).

Shuffle – Any and all players have the right to shuffle the cards, but the dealer may shuffle last (some say the dealer must shuffle last).

Cut – The player to the right of the dealer may cut the cards. A cut is a separation of the pack into two (and only two) sections with the bottom section placed on top in reassembly. While the cut must be offered, most players play by rules allowing it to be declined. The two United States Playing Card Company books cited below indicate, however – when read in tandem – that the cut is mandatory in all games but poker.

The cut, if made, must leave a minimum number of cards in each section of the pack. The USPCC says 4 in bridge and euchre, 5 in pinochle and poker. It doesn’t say how many for hearts or rummy. A rule of thumb, recognized by most card players and good for all games, is that at least as many cards must be left in each section of the cut as the number of players in the game.

Deal – The cards are dealt, one at a time (except in euchre, casino, 7-up and some other games) to each player, clockwise (except in parts of southern and eastern Europe, Asia and Switzerland), beginning with the player on the dealer’s left (or right, in those foreign lands aforesaid) – who, since he gets his first card before anyone else does, and his full hand before anyone else does, is known as the “age,” or the player with the “eldest hand.

That’s it.

Sources: The United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules of Card Games, the United States Playing Card Company’s Poker: The Nation’s Most Fascinating Card Game, the Card Games internet site, David Parlett’s The Oxford Guide to Card Games, various dictionaries, and various other “Hoyles.


Shuffle – The subject of this essay arose, in the context of euchre, in a poll in the Yahoo! discussion group Euchre Science, in which the question was, “Your attempt to steal the deal fails before you shuffle the deck, and your left-hand opponent false-shuffles or barely rearranges the cards and offers you a cut. What do you do?” Five of the seven respondents astutely opted to shuffle the cards – which was their right, despite their initial criminal intent.

My reader suggested that the custom of “stealing the deal” in euchre made it incumbent upon me to include a rule on shuffling in my book, but I didn’t think so. Whether a minimal shuffle occurs as a result of an attempt to steal the deal, or not, has no bearing on any other player’s right to shuffle, or on when he should exercise that right. It’s cards; it’s not just euchre. One might argue that the thief might more often attempt a minimal shuffle; but it’s the requirement of offering a cut that will more likely squelch that, not any other player’s right to shuffle.

All my book said, however, was, “The dealer shuffles. That was, if not incorrect, at least incomplete in failing to countenance the rule allowing any player to shuffle. So I am correcting that passage to read, “Any player may shuffle, but the dealer shuffles last. That won’t cost the book even an additional line if I can find some superfluity to excise (and I already have).

Cut – Separating the pack into two sections means two – not three or four. That’s why a “whorehouse cut” – separating the pack into three or more sections, or cutting repeatedly – is a shuffle, not a cut, and may be treated as such. It is not only proper, but in some circles required, that a dealer shuffle again after a “whorehouse cut,” since the dealer shuffles last.

It is standard also that the cut be made toward the dealer. That’s as much common courtesy as rule. This custom allows the dealer to assume that the cut was made toward him; and thus, if he was not looking (or even if he was!), he can place the farther section on top of the nearer section in any case (a word to the wise, on the dealer’s right).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Video games – August 25, 2006

They call it “swoosh.

It’s a bit like the home run in expansion baseball. No-hitters are boring. Bunts are boring. Double plays are boring. Pitchers’ duels are boring. Only home runs make the highlights on ESPN and the 11 o’clock news.

In a typical euchre game on Pogo, if one player has the rest of the tricks – without a possibility of anyone else’ taking one – the computer will sweep the rest of the cards into his hand, announcing the fact, but not showing the cards taking the tricks or the cards taken. You might never know what a player took the deciding trick with. It might have been the ace of spades, or the ten of hearts. If he takes two or more remaining tricks and the next-to-last was the decisive one, you’ll never know. (You can see “last trick” on Pogo but not “last hand. And if a player takes the time to look at the “last trick,” he is liable to be booted by the others for delaying the game.)

The feature is “TRAM,” an acronym for “The rest are mine. It’s optional, but if you set up a game without it on Pogo you will be verbally crucified by most other players. They like it. They like it especially for loners. That’s when they like to say “Swoosh!” – when the program sweeps up three, four or five tricks at a time to make the loner.

Picture this: You might make a loner with a left bower and king and ten of trump plus queen and ten of a suit outside, and “swoosh” the last four tricks or even all five tricks (in a five-trick swoosh, no one sees any cards). All it would take for a four-trick “swoosh” in that example would be one trump held by the opponents lower than the right bower, caught on the first trick, and no cards of the outside suit – all three other trump and all four cards of the other suit would be lying in the stock (four cards) and your partner’s hand (five). Or, you could make a loner with a lone king of trump and a couple of ace-kings outside, and “swoosh” the last four tricks if you took the opponents’ only trump on the first trick. You could even “swoosh” all five tricks if the opponents had no trump (that’s possible).

In either event, wouldn’t you like to see that – regardless of whether you are on the receiving end or the bleeding end? You’re a card player, right? You like to watch the cards fall, and see who had what, right?

Not if you play on Pogo. It’s all in the “swoosh. Players say, “It speeds up the game. But (1) the time saved is infinitesimal among prompt players, and (2) what’s the point of “speeding up” a card game? Granny and Aunt Gin taught me that playing cards is a “pastime.

Other live euchre sites on the internet – Hardwood, Mystic Island, Playlink, Playsite – have their own razzle-dazzle. Not all have “TRAM” (“swoosh!”), but those that don’t have flashes, splashes, whoops and whistles.

And I think that, after all these years, I have figured it out. These people are not playing cards. They are playing video games. It’s not the speed at all. It’s the bling.

There used to be a site on the internet where you could play euchre as a card game, and it was the most popular of them all. It’s still on line. It’s called “Yahoo!” “TRAM” is not an option. There is nothing fancy. One of the critics of my critiques dissed Yahoo’s “Commodore 64 graphics.

Well, guess what? “Commodore 64” has gone “Kay-Pro. A Yahoo wonk came along in the summer of 2006 and fixed something that wasn’t broken. There still is no “bling” about Yahoo, but (1) the explanatory fonts have shrunk (“Where's the magnifying glass, Mabel?”), (2) the table has expanded and, as a result (3) you can no longer chat with the other players, and (4) you can no longer see the score while you play. Besides which, they have done nothing about the spoilsport who can come along and, for whatever petulant reason, delay a game interminably by taking three minutes to play at every trick.

A number of players, including yours truly, wrote Yahoo to complain. I received no reply; but a colleague in the Yahoo group Euchre Science reported, “They responded that whatever it was they did has now been re-corrected, if there is such a word. Well, there is no such word; and there has been no correction.

Yahoo’s hearts and spades setups are horse shit, too, for other reasons.

Yahoo used to be the only internet site on which you could play euchre like a card game. No longer. Euchre on the internet is dead. If you don’t like video games, turn off the box and get back to a card table.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Two lessons for the price of one: Lead trump when you make it; don’t when you don’t – July 14, 2006
This was not the best hand I ever played, as my partner continues to remind me. She’s an old hen from California and thinks she's a pretty good euchre player. And she is. And she won’t let me forget this hand.

The dealer picked up the ace of hearts. Little did we know at the time, but the rest of his hand was the queen and ten of hearts, and the queen and ten of spades.

I had the left bower, both black aces, and both black nines. I eeny-meeny-miny-moed the opening lead, and the ace of clubs hit the table. Dealer’s partner played the king; my partner played the ten, and the dealer ruffed with his ten of hearts.

And led his queen of spades.

My ace of spades took the trick, as the dealer’s partner played the jack of spades and my partner sluffed the queen of clubs.

My hand

Partner’s hand

Dealer’s hand

Then, sensing a weakness in trump in the opposition, I led my left bower. Dealer’s partner played the nine of hearts (that was the purpose of my lead, to strip her of trump – and I did); and my partner – oops! – took the trick with the right bower, her only trump.

Then there was no way out. All my partner had left to lead were the nine and king of diamonds. Made no difference. She boldly led the king; the dealer prudently ducked (sluffing the ten of spades); I had nothing left but black nines; and the dealer’s partner took the trick with the ace of diamonds. The dealer’s ace of hearts – by now high trump, and the only one left to anyone – was good for the point.

My partner bitched and screamed: “We had them euchred! If you had not led trump.

Well, she was right. It was not the best play I had ever made.

But it was the dealer who had made the big mistake. If he had led trump to the second trick – as he should have, with three trump – he would have dropped both bowers from the opponents (my partner and me), and he and his partner would have made the point anyway. As Ryan says, “Lead trump, damn it!” When you make it.

So the dealer sucked me into a dumb trump lead. I’m not ashamed. He could have made the point anyway by leading trump himself. We already had the march stopped; so I took a risk. If my partner had had two trump, or the right bower had been buried, my lead might have been a good one. But there is a second lesson here: Don’t lead trump on defense. In general. Hoist on my own petard, I was.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Redd Dogg riddle No. 7,000,000,005.5 – June 10, 2006
You’re trailing 9-6. Your partner, the dealer, turns a heart. The “eldest hand” (the “age,” the opponent left of the dealer) has passed, and you have the right bower and all three suit aces. What do you do?
Many an “aggressive” player would order the heart to his partner (“assist”) in this situation. Some would even go alone.

But if you are playing with the cognoscenti, you might consider passing.


Because the age did not order. The fact that he did not call a “safety” (donate), if he is smart, means that he has a loner stopped – i.e., he has the left bower guarded, or the ace of trump “guarded twice” (as Billy “Dozer” Arnold would say).

Desperate times call for desperate measures. You might want to play for a euchre and two points, instead of for one point on offense. Passing might call the age’s bluff, and your partner may have the bowers in the other color.

Think about it. [Thanks for this riddle to Paul “Red Dogg” McCreary.]

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Tournament – May 7, 2006

Why would anyone go to a euchre tournament at a hotel in a distant city – dozens, even hundreds, of miles from home? At today's expense of travel and lodging.

To play, of course. To win a prize, perhaps. To show off? Sure. Perhaps just to meet other euchre players, and to mingle and interact with them. Perhaps even to see or hear something about euchre not seen or heard before.

The inventor of the euchredoodledandy, Todd Martin, and I attended a euchre tournament at a Holiday Inn last weekend in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio (close to Todd’s home town but not particularly close to mine). We did pretty well – we came in second in the partners tournament Friday night and won $400. And we had a good time.

But that’s not all we went for. Todd wanted to show his euchredoodledandy scoring device – and perhaps sell a few. I wanted to show The Columbus Book of Euchre – and, perhaps, sell a few. And we both wanted to show our new bumper sticker, “I’m a euchredoodledandy” – and, yes, perhaps sell a few. We thought the bumper sticker might even make a nice tournament souvenir (I gave one to the pretty girl we beat in the playoff for second place, and she was delighted with it). We priced everything with big discounts except for the new bumper sticker.

The tournament directors were a couple you may know from the “Profiles in Euchre” in Joseph D. Andrews' book The Complete Win at Euchre: Darlene Pinocchio (“ap_roadrunner” on Yahoo!) and Duane Hudson (“blackjackhud”). Todd e-mailed Darlene a month before the tournament to ask if she would mind his selling some stuff there. She never answered him.

So Todd and I made it a point to get to the hotel early. We found Duane and asked him if it was OK to set up a vendor table, either in the game room (there was plenty of space) or in the hall outside. Duane said it was up to Darlene, who was not there yet – but he said he felt sure she would say OK.

When we finally caught up with Darlene, she was in conference with one Darschell, the hotel’s catering director. Darlene denied having received Todd’s e-mail, and she reacted less than enthusiastically to our vending proposal. “There’s a problem with liability,” she said.

I’m a lawyer; and I’m still trying to figure that one out. We were not proposing to show or sell nuclear bombs, or even bottle rockets or Jalapeņos.

“And if I let you do that,” Darlene continued, “I’d have to let others, like internet services.

I don’t get that one, either: She could, quite legally, limit whatever privileges she controlled however she wanted, as long as she did not violate civil rights laws. But why not extend permission to all vendors who have something related to euchre?

Have you ever attended or observed a seminar, convention or conference in a hotel where there were no vendors in the halls outside the meeting rooms?

So we asked Darschell for permission to set up in the hall outside – which Darlene had not rented, and which lay between the game room and the hotel bar. Darschell deferred to Darlene. Follow the money: Darlene, Todd and I all were paying guests; but Darlene was paying more (“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”).

The Dars suggested, however, that we could sell our stuff from our rented room. Darlene Pinocchio offered to announce our sale at the beginning of play. That was not exactly what I had in mind, but Todd was happy to get a foot in the door. His room was only four doors down the hall from the tournament’s hospitality room (free food and drink) on the same floor; so we accepted. I penned a 27-word script by which Darlene could introduce us and tell the players what we were doing, and I asked her if it was OK. “Oh!” she said. “I’m not going to make a speech. I’m just going to introduce you.

Oh. Well, OK.

Came the games, though, and she didn’t. Came the break between the first and second games and she didn’t. Came the intermission and she didn’t. At each juncture Todd reminded her, and Darlene kept reassuring him. She even volunteered to Todd once or twice that she had not forgot. But came the next break between games and she didn’t announce or introduce. And she didn’t, and she didn’t, and she didn’t. To make a long story short, she had lied to us. (And, relying on her lies, Todd and I lost a whole evening of show and tell.)

There was a singles tournament the next day. I felt no obligation to honor a pact dishonored by those who had proposed it. So before the event began, my wife laid flyers for the book and the dandy on each tournament table; and I laid books, dandies and bumper stickers on a table in the hall outside. That table – about the size of a card table – was one of several already in the hall, for the use of hotel guests. I did not move the table or decorate it, nor did I bark. I just laid out my stuff and sat there.

Players I had met the night before nodded and smiled and greeted me as they entered the game room. Some stopped to see what I was doing. In the first break between games, some came out in the hall; and I even made a couple of sales.

Unlike the night before, the bar was not yet open, and all doors to the tournament room were locked except those at the front (probably in violation of fire regulations). The doors locked included those immediately in front and behind the table I occupied. I maintained my optimism and my cool, however.

But at the next break Darlene Pinocchio arrived at my table, with one Ashley, the hotel manager on duty, along with a goon wearing a shirt with a patch sewed on it saying "Maintenance." I was surrounded. Ashley declared to me that Darlene had informed her that I was “disrupting her tournament. When I pointed out that I was merely sitting in the hall outside the tournament, Ashley added that Darlene had “rented the hall.

“Not this hall,” I corrected her. The hall I was in served a number of rooms, including the hotel bar, and was not rented out to anyone in particular.

Darlene persisted in interrupting me as I attempted to converse with Ashley, and I asked her to shut up. Ashley asked me not to be “rude to our guests” (seemingly oblivious to the facts that I was her guest, too, and a paying one, and that Darlene was being rude). The goon moved in closer, and Ashley threatened to call the police. I packed up the merchandise. Follow the money.

I learned later that Darlene had announced to the players that she was “pissed off” at me and that I had been evicted from the hotel. She may have been pissed off, but the rest of her announcement was just another lie.

What she was “pissed off” about, I do not understand. I had a euchre book, a euchre board and a euchre bumper sticker that players might have found interesting. Even if they did not sell, they were conversation pieces. I was not disrupting Darlene’s tournament. I was enhancing it.

Attendants at seminars, conferences, conventions and tournaments are free to speak with vendors in the halls, or not. They may buy from the vendors, or not. They may even sell to the vendors, or not. There is no coercion, oppression or disruption as long as the vendors do nothing to interfere with proceedings in the main venue and do not restrict anyone’s movement, or harass anyone, outside. Good vendors are a plus. They create opportunity for commerce, conversation and camaraderie.

I was tempted to call Darlene’s behavior “self-serving,” but it was not. It would have served her better to have served her clientele better. It would have served her patrons better to allow them access to euchre vendors.

I have been questioned in book reviews and other forums, and even criticized, for not going to euchre tournaments. Perhaps this episode will help explain why I’m not overly eager to go to such events. I don’t enjoy being treated shabbily, let alone lied to (and I don’t like being arrested for not committing a crime – that's another chapter from the same story).

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Euchre marching song – April 7, 2006

J. Todd Martin, inventor of the euchredoodledandy scoring device, has written a euchre marching song. Sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” it has obviously been influenced by The Columbus Book of Euchre and Harvey Lapp’s Ten Commandments of Euchre (and, Todd will admit, I suggested a couple of the lyrics). The result may rank right up there with Saxe’s and Pettes’ euchre poems. Here it is:

the euchredoodledandy

Euchre Doodle Dandy (c) 2006 J. Todd Martin (to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”)

Euchre once was Juckerspiel;
Alsace is where it started;
Thank you, Pennsylvania Dutch,
For pastime so full-hearted!

Euchre Doodle, deal the cards;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Give each five, in twos and threes,
And with the cards be handy!

Five tricks march but three tricks score;
A lone hand might get four, yet;
But don’t forget to bag the prey:
It’s two for three when they’re set!

Euchre Doodle, pick it up;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Mind the score and go alone,
And with the cards be handy!
Order, call, or pick it up,
Or order as a donor,
But keep your mouth shut in third chair,
And don't queer partner’s loner.

Euchre Doodle, turn it down;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Mind your drink and steal the deal,
And with the cards be handy!

If you’re the “age” you must call “next”;
The dealer’s partner “crosses”;
But don’t renege and don’t forget that
Jacks of trump are bosses.

Euchre Doodle, bleed the right;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Could be your partner’s not too bright,
But with the cards be handy!

When your partner makes the trump,
Don’t start by leading aces;
Lead what he called; he’ll get to you;
You’ll cash them in most cases.

Euchre Doodle, show the left;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Play your hand the best you can,
And with the cards be handy!
You can order at the bridge
Or any time it suits you;
Just keep in mind you want to wind up
With more points than they do!

Euchre Doodle, trust your partner;
Euchre Doodle Dandy!
Don’t complain about the cards,
Just with the cards be handy!

There has already been a hit recording of this new song; check it out! It’s by Perry Romanowski, of Chicago. Perry had a little diffculty with the meter (perhaps because the song is not a polka); but he went alone, with his ukulele (it’s not a luau lullaby, either), and we think he scored the march! (p) 2006

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Right call, wrong lead – March 3, 2006

Edie held the jack of hearts, and hearts were “next” – the nine of diamonds had been turned down.

But Edie held also four clubs – ace, king, queen and nine – and that’s what she called, from first chair.

She led the nine of clubs, however – and that was her undoing, not the call. The opponent on her left held right bower and ten, and played second hand low, the ten, hoping his partner had left or ace (or both) and could beat Edie's partner.

Turned out, neither Edie’s partner nor the dealer had any trump. The dealer’s partner took that first trick with the ten of clubs and eventually took another with the right bower, and the dealer had the ace of hearts for the setting trick.

All Edie had to do was lead the ace of clubs (or the king or the queen, but the ace is better – to let her partner know he doesn’t have to go up with left-ten). That way she takes that ten of clubs, either then or later. She’s euchred only by finding all three other trump in the opponents’ hands, and even then only if she can’t make both bowers fall on the same trick.

The ace lead also might induce a left-hand opponent to spend a bower unnecessarily – “Honor on an honor,” as they say in bridge. But this story is a better lesson in “second hand low,” speaking in bridge terms. Restraint is the order of the day for the player left of the leader.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Journey to the past – February 3, 2006

My correspondent Todd Martin – inventor of the euchredoodledandy and its progeny, and known on line as “jtmwingnut” – found an old Hoyle compilation on e-Bay he couldn’t afford; but the buyers generously shared the pages he was interested in, by e-mailed JPEG’s.

Euchre pages, of course. And copyright page and table of contents, to verify date and publication.

The Oxford English Dictionary (along with The Columbus Book of Euchre, quoting the O.E.D.) found the first published mention of euchre to be in an officially reported 1846 Mississippi court case (in which it was spelled “uker”).

But the book Todd got a glimpse of (which he shared with me) was Hoyle’s Games, published in Philadelphia in 1845 by Henry F. Anners, with four pages on “euchre,” and so spelled (the author was unidentified, unless it was the same as the publisher). The game described was very much like the game we know today but for the usual archaisms, such as playing to 5 points, with 32 cards.

The site of publication was the biggest city near the Pennsylvania Dutch settlement; euchre was called “a German game” in the article, and going “next” was called “Dutching. So much for “uker,” John Scarne, and the French bringing the game up the Mississippi River from New Orleans for the entertainment of the interior masses.

Dealing in twos and threes was the way even way back then, and “ordering at the bridge” was one of the ploys described.

Going alone was called “cards away,” but the principle was the same as now.

Fascinating book, and not confined to card games: Entries in the table of contents included chess, backgammon, domino, rouge et noir, lottery, and “pharo. And not even confined to board games: Entries in the table of contents included also “goff (or golf),” cricket, billiards, tennis, boxing, horse racing, archery, and – the chapter immediately preceding the euchre chapter – “cocking. Cock fighting, that is.

The book contained a reprint of an introduction to its 1838 edition in which the French card game écarté was introduced as one of “a number of new Games, never before published. Todd and I are now looking for that 1838 edition and earlier editions, to see when euchre was a “new Game, never before published.

And then I found, corresponding with David Parlett and rereading his book The Oxford Guide to Card Games (1990), a mention of a book by the English actor and comedian Joe Cowell, Thirty Years Passed Among the Players in England and America, published in 1844 – a year earlier than the Hoyle’s Games that Todd found – in which Cowell recounted seeing passengers playing “Uker” and poker on a steamboat journey from Louisville to New Orleans in 1829. So now it is Cowell’s book that contains the first printed reference to euchre we know of – although the 1845 Hoyle’s Games may be the first to spell it “euchre. (The word “Players” in Cowell’s title, by the way, is surely a reference to actors, not to card players.)

Parlett, you may recall, traced the origin of euchre to a game played in Alsace called Jucker or Juckerspiel, for which he found evidence recorded as early as 1808. Yes, yes, we know that Alsace is a department of France. But the people are Germanic. Alsatian immigrants constituted a large segment of the original “Pennsylvania Dutch” – who were not Dutch, at all, but German.

The German word “Jucker ” is pronounced, in German, about the same as “euchre” is pronounced in English. Parlett suggested to me, in an e-mail, that the odd spelling of “euchre” might have been coined by someone thinking of the Eucharist when he heard the sound of the foreign word.

Also, looking for used books on the internet, Todd Martin turned up two books on euchre not mentioned in Catherine Perry Hargrave’s History of Playing Cards and Bibliography (New York, 1966), and not previously mentioned in The Columbus Book of Euchre. One of them predated John W. Keller's The Game of Euchre (New York, 1887), which we previously thought might be the first book solely about euchre. They are The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre by “A Professor” (134 pages, T. B. Peterson & Bros., Philadelphia, 1862 – an 1877 edition with 10 additional pages was titled The Laws and Practice of the Game of Euchre to Which Is Ad­ded the Rules for Playing Draw Poker), and Euchre – How to Play It (123 pages, ca. 1890, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, London and Canberra).

And the O.E.D. mentions an 1850 book titled The Game of Euchre, with its Laws (author and publisher not noted). It may be the first euchre book.

The 1862, 1877 and 1890 books show up on and They list Euchre According to Wergin also, at prices as high as $150; Gallagher’s Winning at Euchre, at prices as high as $93, and The Columbus Book of Euchre, at prices as high as $28.75. Sounds like it’s time to go out of print and make some money.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

Probability chart – January 6, 2006

The newest toy on the internet’s euchre block is a chart of the probabilities of who will win at any given score. It was created by Fred Benjamin, known on line as “Sword_4_hire.”

It suggests, for example, that:

* The dealer’s team has a probability advantage over the other team of 51 per
cent to 49 per cent at all tie scores up to 5 to 5, and of no better than 54 to
46 at 8 to 8, but a whopping advantage of 65 to 35 at 9 to 9.

* You still have an 8 per cent chance of winning the game down 8 to 2 (if
you’re dealing – it’s only 7 per cent if you’re not).

* Up 9 to 6 without the deal, your probability of winning is 82 per cent: Is it
worth a “safety” [“donation”] to preserve the good odds? Your probability
of winning at the next hand, ahead 9 to 8 with the deal, is still a strong 72
per cent.

The chart is not gospel: It’s based on Fred’s notions of what good euchre play is. He taught a computer how to play; ran 10,000 simulations for every possible hand from 0-0 to 9-9, and collected data indicating that generally, among equally matched good players (i.e., four Freds):

* The dealer’s team would score 1 point 45 per cent of the time,

* The opponents would score 1 point 17 per cent of the time,

* The dealer’s team would score 2 points (either by marching or
by euchring the opponents) 16 per cent of the time,

* The opponents would score 2 points (either by marching or
by euchring the dealer’s team) 12 per cent of the time,

* The dealer’s team would score 4 points (a lone march) 5 per
cent of the time, and

* The opponents would score 4 points (a lone march) 5 per cent
of the time.

I think that’s 100 per cent. Add ’em up. These percentages are altered at scores including 8 or 9 points because of the lesser value of going alone at 8 or 9 and the lesser value of scoring a euchre at 9.

Fred’s software (which I think he'll share with you; you can e-mail him at allows you to alter those percentages if you disagree with them or if you wish to pit duller players against brighter players.

So what good is this?

Well, for example, say you are the dealer’s partner and down 7 to 2, and want to know whether a “long shot loner” attempt is a good idea, to get “back in the game. Down 7 to 2 and dealing, according to the chart, you start with a probability of only 14 per cent of winning the game.

Let’s say you have four aces and king of hearts, and your partner turns the jack of hearts. You have a great shot at a point, which would put you down only 7 to 3. Or do you order your partner to “pick it up and turn it down,” going for a loner to put you down only 7 to 6 in the game score?

First you do the arithmetic of the hand. Fred doesn't give you this, and neither does his chart. You actually have to play the particular hand (or ask Fred, or find another simulator).

But let’s say you play 15 samples of this hand going alone and the same 15 samples not. Fred did that and, going alone, scored one point eleven times (+11), made two lone marches (+8), and got euchred twice (-4), for a net score of 15. Going with partner he scored one point 11 times (+11) and marched four times (+8), for a net score of 19.

So far that seems to be a strong argument for not going alone, doesn't it? A net score of 19 is 27 per cent better than 15.

But before you buy that argument, look at the probabilities of winning (not net score) at resulting scores after playing the hand alone.

First, look at the probabilities of getting to certain scores on that hand:

7-3 73% of the time (11/15), scoring a point;
7-6 13% of the time (2/15), scoring a lone march, and
9-2 13% of the time (2/15), getting euchred.

Then look at the probabilities of getting to certain scores playing with partner:

7-3 73% of the time (11/15), scoring a point, and
7-4 27% of the time (4/15), marching
[9-2 – i.e., getting euchred – has been found improbable].

The opponents have the next deal. According to the chart, your probabilties of winning against dealing opponents are:

at 7-3 16%
at 7-4 22%
at 7-6 39%
at 9-2 3%

Thus the total chances of winning on the given hand, down 7 to 2, including the probabilities on the next deal, are:

Going alone:

7-3: 73% of 16% = 12%
7-6: 13% of 39% = 16%
9-2: 13% of 3% = 0%

The total probability of winning, going alone on the given hand – the sum – is 17 per cent.

With partner:

7-3: 73% of 16% = 12%
7-4: 27% of 22% = 6% [9-2, again, discounted].

The total probability of winning, going with partner on the given hand – the sum – is 18 per cent, not significantly better with such a small sample.

And Fred reports that he has since run more extensive simulations that indicate an approximate 3 per cent advantage in going alone with that hand.

The above, I hope, shows you how to apply a particular scenario to the chart.

I ran an experiment of my own – 20 hands in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory, going alone with only the king of hearts in trump, backed by the three suit aces and the king of spades (again, down 7 to 2 with jack turned to my partner). Applying the results to Fred’s probability chart, I was convinced that you might as well go alone with a lone king of trump in that situation. The odds of winning are about the same as with taking partner along, and you’ll sure amaze your friends, astound your relatives and piss off your opponents if you march alone with a lone king of trump. If you get euchred, so what? You can toss it off, saying, “Ah, what the hell, we were losing anyway.

Although this chart won’t do you much good in the heat of a game, you’ll probably find it fun to play with, and useful in confirming and debunking some of the intuitive notions you have about what are and are not good moves.

But let’s not get carried away just yet. Euchre is not bridge is not chess. I have yet to meet a tinhead that plays well. Perhaps Fred has one to offer Yahoo or Pogo.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2006] [next]

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