Natty Bumppo’s euchre columns

from the publisher 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.

Lead trump, damn it! (volume 2) – December 4, 2009
White Buffalo, ahead 9 to 7, picked up the ten of dia-
monds. The only other trump he had was the queen of
diamonds, but he had the ace of spades and the ace-
queen of hearts outside. Yeah, that’s only one black ace; but stay tuned.
Leespiller, on his left, led the ace of clubs. Guess who took it with the ten of diamonds? Yup. One for the Good Guys.

Guess what the White Buffalo led to the second trick? The ace of spades? The ace of hearts?

Hell, no! He led his last (and first) trump, the queen of diamonds. Leespiller donated the left bower as Buffalo’s partner showed out (already, with nine of clubs) and Leespiller’s partner, Gordon McGourd, contributed the ace of diamonds (from ace-king). Lee then led the king of spades; Buffalo’s partner, Burro, ducked with the queen of spades; Gourdhead had to follow suit with the jack of spades (a bower, in any other color), and the White Buffalo cashed his ace. Two tricks to one.

Now Buffalo led his ace of hearts. Lee, out of trump, dumped the ten of clubs. Burro, who never had any trump, dumped her queen of spades; and Gourd Head had to follow suit, with the nine of hearts. Gordon Gourd Head (who promptly booted White Buffalo from the table at the end of the hand) took the last trick, of course, with the king of diamonds (trump); but school was out. The game was over.

What is so remarkable about this hand?

Nothing, except the fact that White Buffalo played it right. He had two aces; and he got the trump out first, to make the aces good. Had he led the ace of spades instead of the queen of diamonds to the second trick, he would have taken the trick; but then the o-fays would have been sitting on him with the left, ace and king of trump. Yeah, he could still have led his last trump to the third trick; but, given his chicken lead on the second trick, do you think he would on the third?

And what if Leespiller had had a void in spades? His left bower would have gone down on the ace of spades, and Gourd Head would have been sitting on the euchre with the two reamaining boss trump. What you accomplish by leading the little trump is a twofer: Dropping the opponents’ left bower and ace or king of trump on one trick.

So, what if it was not a good idea to pick up the trump? What if you’re euchred? Because the opps have the left and the right and the ace and the king, and manage not to play them all on two tricks.

No big deal. It’s only 2 points. You’re still in the game. If you turn that diamond down, you’re at risk of an opponent’s loner. You have no suit stopped. It’s the “Bloomington corollary” (to the “Columbus coup”) – a safety play by the dealer, with a good chance to score.

The main lesson is, lead trump, damn it – when you make it. It promotes your aces.

Here’s the hand in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory in case you want to play with it.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Don’t send a boy – November 6, 2009

Slotman ordered the jack of hearts to his partner (right
bower – mistake No. 1) and trumped the opening ten of
clubs lead with the nine of hearts (mistake No. 2). Brian,
in third chair, overtrumped with the queen; and Slotman’s
partner had to follow suit. Good Guys, down 1.

Brian returned the ace of diamonds; and Slotman’s
partner (the dealer) – figuring Slotman for the left bow-
er – ruffed with the right bower, his only trump.

Slotman dumped the ten of spades, the only nontrump
he had.

Slotman’s partner then led the ace of spades (one
of two black aces he had – it was the nine of clubs he
dumped on the first trick). Slotman trumped his part-
ner’s ace with the ten of hearts and got lucky, as the
queen Brian had played (from third chair) on the first
trick was his only trump (he didn’t have any black
cards at all).

Slotman then led the left bower for the point, and then
the king of trump for Chris’s trick (i.e., the fourth trick of
a non-march hand).

Had Slotman ruffed the first trick with the king of hearts,
he and his partner would have made two points: Why

Slotman (Dealer’s partner)

Dealer (Slotman’s partner)

Brian (pone)

Brian’s partner (age – this is all the
information you need on his hand)
send the nine or ten when the queen is out against you? The only thing that could have beaten his king was the ace (and, in this case, it was buried). Then he could use the nine or ten of hearts to lead to his partner’s right bower.

He might as well have let the ten of clubs lead go. That would have been “second hand low,” for his partner, who did have the ace of clubs, after all (albeit not very effective against a trump from third chair).

And, mistake No. 1? Not assist with four trump?

The proscription is, “Don’t order a bower to your partner. Slotman’s partner would have picked up the jack anyway, with two black aces and no black trump suit to run to. Trust your partner. With all the trump Slotman had, maybe his partner had a loner. There were three trump out, including the ace; and Slotman already knew his partner would have the right. When you see your partner turn up a bower, bite your tongue and JUST SAY NO.

Or, with four trump, maybe Slotman should have gone alone himself. And played it like he had it. Coulda, shoulda, didna.

But if you wind up playing the hand, don’t send a boy (the nine of hearts) to do a man’s job (the king of hearts’).

Here’s the setup in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

Think about this: If the dealer has a black jack and either the ace or king of diamonds, he can turn down the jack of hearts with impunity – and either euchre someone or help his partner.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

“Official” rules – October 2, 2009

“I am in favor of a standardized set of euchre laws.
Who can imagine the arguments in family, social
tables and bars across America, where everyone
thinks they know the rules? It's time!”

– Robin Neill, euchre player

“Isn’t it time for a 21st century set of standardized
rules for euchre? Isn’t it time for the game of eu-
chre to get with the times?”

– Todd Martin, euchre player

Every now and then we hear pleas for “standard rules” for euchre. (Some plead even for “official” rules, but anything that is “official” must have emanated from an office. I know of no Office of Euchre.)

And it is often the case that the same people who are clamoring for standard (or “official”) rules are simultaneously trying to change the rules – like, to require that the cards be dealt one at a time instead of in batches of two or three, or requiring a certain number or shuffles (or none), or restricting speech in the trump-making process (no more “Best I got,” for example; “I'll help you” is not a proper way to “assist,” etc. – T.M.I.)

Euchre has been around for 200 years or more now, and it is one of the least changed games we know – on the board or on the field. “Reformists” can jerk each other off as long as they want about their desire for “standard” rules; but until euchre has an organized competition of national or international stature – like the National Football League, or the NCAA, or the World Bridge Federation – it’s not gonna happen (and Joe Andrews’ “Grand Prix” tourneys are not of sufficient stature to make it happen).

There will be at least as many variations as there are books that publish rules (whether labeled “official rules” or not) until they all are published by the same company. And people are going to make their own house rules and table rules as long as they are not subject to sanctions by an institution that has the power to impose sanctions. That’s human nature and the nature of games. It is precisely at family tables and in the corner taverns, and in other social groups, where the rules would vary even if there were “standard” (or “official”) rules.

And where’s the harm? The only major changes to euchre rules in two centuries have been reducing the pack from 32 cards to 24 and increasing the winning score from 5 points to 10 (11 in Pennsylvania and parts of the British Commonwealth). Euchre has changed less in the last two hundred years than baseball has in a hundred, or than football has in fifty, or than basketball has in thirty (the 3-point shot, although introduced in the ABA in 1968, did not arrive in college or the NBA until 1979). And those three sports are governed by rather widely recognized standard rules.

And then there’s bridge, which, in its present incarnation, is not a hundred years old.

With the advent of the internet and “texting,” euchre has changed less in 200 years than the English language has in the last 15 years (LOL! IMO . . . on line . . . website . . . “on the same page”).

Yeah, some people play “stick the dealer”; some don’t. Some play that you have to have trump to order or call it; some don’t. We all have our opinions of the better ways, but as long as we agree on the rules before the cards are dealt, what’s the big deal? A tournament director can simply say, “All games will be governed by the rules laid out in The Columbus Book of Euchre,” or “in the United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules of Card Games,” or even “in Euchre According to Wergin. So, there’s all the standard you need. Yeah, STD changes the strategy of making trump a little, and “gotta have it to call it” negates the strategy of calling a “safety” (or a “donation”); but the adjustments are minor, and a good player can adapt.

The closest thing you can find now to standard rules, or likely will find in the foreseeable future, is what you find on Yahoo! Like it or not (I don’t, very much), it is the biggest euchre venue in the world right now; and it has the power to make its rules stick in its own venue.

Yahoo's rules do not touch shuffling, cutting or dealing, of course, which is the subtopic in which this lust for standardization has come up recently. One of the guys quoted above has suggested that the cards be scooped after each hand and dealt, without shuffling, one at a time for the next hand. I ran this suggestion by two of the regulars at my table, B. Woods and Ron – one step at a time.

“By not shuffling,” I explained, “you spread out the suits and weaken the hands. Fewer loners.

No, no! ” they shouted (both of them, simultaneously). “That would almost guarantee a loner in something, to someone.

“But you deal only one card at a time,” I added.

“Well,” they said, “that’s not euchre.

Both of them. At the same time. True story.


Another of my regulars, Pete Falcon, commented, “If we had ‘official’ rules, what would be the use for guns? (Except for huntin’, and wingin’ revenooers.)”

Nor do Yahoo’s rules touch reneging, or exposing cards, or “throwing in”; and it does not seem likely that they will any time in the near future (those things just don’t happen “on line”). But, who knows?. Maybe the internet will come up with a “touchy feely” game. Who’d-a-thunk in 1984 that people in California, Indiana, England and New Zealand all would be playing cards at the same table while sitting in the comforts of their own homes? Or at “internet cafés” . . . .

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

“B There” – September 4, 2009

The “B There” play, when you take the first trick in third chair on defense, is leading back the suit your partner led to you. It was named for its discoverer, B. Woods; and here is a good example of how it works.

Carl, the dealer, picked up the jack of hearts for trump. Red opened with the king of spades; Carl's partner, Missy, followed suit with the queen, and Bart – with ace and ten of spades, and knowing his partner's king was boss – overtook the king with the ace, as Carl also followed suit with the nine. Bart led back his ten of spades; Carl covered it with the jack, and Red took the trick with the king of hearts, his only trump. Missy was void in spades by now, too, but couldn’t overtrump the king; so she sluffed her jack of clubs. Two tricks for the Bad Guys.

Red led the king of clubs to the third trick, from king- queen- ten; Missy trumped with the ten (from nine-ten), and Bart overtrumped with his queen, unguarding his left bower but forcing Carl to use his ace of trump to forestall a euchre (and, also, preventing Missy from leading trump through his left and its guard). Carl was then in a box. He could catch Bart’s left by leading the right, but then he would have to lead his ten of diamonds to Bart’s queen. Should he lead the ten of diamonds first, Missy would have to follow suit with her nine; and Bart’s queen still would be good.

Red (Age)

Missy (dealer’s partner)

Bart (pone)

Carl (dealer)

School was out.

Nor would it have done the Good Guys any good for Missy to have discarded her diamond on the second trick instead of her club. In that case Bart could just have let his partner’s king of clubs ride through to the dealer for an end play with his guarded left bower on the last two tricks.

Had Bart let Red’s king of spades take the first trick, Red would have had no opportunity to use his king of hearts; and the Good Guys would have made their point. Red would have led his king of clubs to Carl’s ace of hearts, and Carl would have taken Red’s king with the right bower. Bart would still get another trick for the bad guys with his guarded left bower, but Missy would take the Good Guys’ third trick, and a point, with her ten of hearts on a spade, whoever led it (Bart or Carl).

The theory is, if a maker in the dealer’s chair has to follow suit to the first lead, he is likely to have to follow again (wtih a typical “three trump, two-suited” hand). And that’s exactly what happened here. Here’s the hand set up for you in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory, where you can play with it.

If the dealer can trump the second spade lead, your partner has the opportunity to overtrump him – the dealer may not be able to afford to trump high, lest he lose a card he needs to draw trump. Here’s a case where that works:

Same pickup, same opening lead, same results on the first trick as in the first example; but give Red the left bower this time, unguarded; give Bart, his partner, the king and queen of hearts instead of the left-queen, and the king of diamonds instead of the queen, and give Carl, the dealer, the right bower and ace of hearts, the jack of spades, and the queen and ten of diamonds (Missy gets the same hand she had). Carl trumps the return spade lead this time, with the ace of hearts (he can’t afford to go up with the right bower, and he can’t trust his partner to overtrump Red – after all, Carl is the one who made trump – and if he did sluff his ten of diamonds, he’d be unguarding his king).

Red overtrumps with the left bower, and Missy tosses her little club. Two tricks for the Bad Guys, again. Red returns the king of clubs, as in the first example; Missy trumps, Bart overtrumps, and Carl is in a box again. He has to ruff with the right or it’s a euchre already. But he’ll lose a diamond to Bart before Missy can take another trick for the Good Guys with her other heart. If Bart had let his partner’s king of spades take the first trick or had led anything other than a second spade to the second trick, Carl and Missy would have been home free. Here’s that hand in the Euchre Lab.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Don’t argue with success – July 3, 2009

Following is the text of an e-mail I sent to a player I partnered with on line one day. I don’t think the message reached him directly, but maybe it will this way.


I don’t know if this will reach you. I maintain a e-mail address to maintain Yahoo group services, but I never go to my Yahoo mailbox; and maybe you don’t, either. If you do:

I left the card game abruptly this morning not because I have a thin skin, but because I saw an argument developing between you and me that I did not want to engage in publicly. I have a personal taboo against “arguing with success,” and we were doing quite well as partners.

Second hand, heart up:
Don’t order your partner

Third hand, spade up:
You might consider passing
Stuffing euchres and loners down our chief opponent’s throat was fun, and euchring him at least twice on his own loner calls was a particular pleasure (there are those, not the least of them himself, who think he is a good player). I was happy to be playing, so rare it is, with a partner who played well.

As you noted, one thing that worked well for us was my passing orderable hands as your partner when you had the deal. At least three times I had such as left-x with an outside ace of opposite color that I passed, that you made loners on.

On the hand in question at the time I left, I was in third chair with both black bowers, the ace and ten of clubs, and the nine of spades when I passed a turned-up spade – that Our Esteemed Opponent turned down. The score was 7 to 7. I could have ordered the spade and surely we would have scored – maybe I could even have made a loner. But Our Esteemed Opponent wasn’t turning anything down this morning; so I thought, what the hell, let him pick it up to give us two points and the deal. If he doesn’t, we’ve still got a good shot at two points (and maybe even four) in clubs.

He didn’t pick it up; and, granted, you had no club. You would have had to pull Todd Martin’s “full Eddy” to have called “next” on that hand (and if OEO and his partner had had 8 points, “next” would have been the wrong call). You called diamonds, with three little – king, ten and nine – plus the ace and ten of hearts. You made it; and when I kidded you about calling the “wrong color,” you protested that the only help you needed was for me to have one trump because you had three with two winners outside.

Not exactly. In the first place, between the ace and ten of hearts, only the ace is a sure winner, and then only if the trump are out and you have the lead. In the second place, the opponents had potentially three trump in one hand, including both bowers, even if I did have one (which I didn’t, by the way), and potentially the lead on the fourth trick.

I’m not saying your “green” call was a bad call. It worked. All I said was “wrong color. And that’s all I was going to say, because I don’t argue with success.

Anyway, why didn’t you order the spade? The dealer’s team had 7 points, and you had no sure trick. Wasn’t it time for a “safety,” or “donation”?

And since you didn’t, why didn’t I?. Here’s why: When the opponents have 6 or 7 points and my partner passes in first chair, I am entitled to assume he has a sure trick; and if I have two sure tricks (and I sure did), then I should order from third chair. But my hand was so strong, I just didn’t believe you; and, as I explained, I expected you to call clubs.

So we both blew it. And scored. I’m not arguing with success. If I had wanted to argue with success, I could have picked a few other bones with you:

1. There was at least one time I expected a trump lead from you, when I picked up, that you led an ace instead. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that. As I said, we were winning.

2. Another time, Our Esteemed Opponent went alone in hearts, as dealer, and you led the ace of diamonds (which OEO took with a small trump). Your lead did, in fact, squeeze me, because I had both black aces. Fortunately OEO was short and his loner was stopped anyway.

3. And another time, when we had seven points you turned down a jack of diamonds that I had passed holding left-ten and a black ace. I did not order because, even though a loner has “diminishing returns” at 7 points, it will end the game; and I had “next” stopped. But I had no suit to call in black, and ultimately it was a pass hand. Lucky for us. The only way you could have had everything stopped, though, was to have held three hearts to the ace with two black cards of different suits, one of them a jack. Perhaps you did.

I did not mention any of these hands, at the time, and I gave you the benefit of the doubt on all of them, because I don’t argue with success.

You just don’t need to get huffy when I suggest “wrong color” or otherwise that there might have been a better way to play a hand.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Discarding trump, part 2 – June 5, 2009

Last month’s column, “Discarding trump,” in which I stated unequivocally that there is no rule against discarding the card ordered into your hand (or picked up voluntarily) when dealing, drew a strong suggestion from another player I know that there is a rule against discarding the card picked up – based on the fact that several 19th century books on euchre and most modern “Hoyles” (and by “modern Hoyle” I mean a card playing encyclopedia published in the last generation or two) say that the card ordered up shall be left, face up, on the talon (that is, on the undealt remainder of the deck) and played in turn.

Only one of the 19th century books (Leeds & Dwight’s Laws of Euchre as Adopted by the Somerset Club of Boston, March 1, 1888) and one 20th century book (Gary Martin’s Euchre – How to Play and Win) say specifically that the turned card cannot be discarded, however. Another 20th century book (Thomas Gallahger’s Winning at Euchre, 1991) says the dealer must discard “any other card” when ordered up.

But none of these prescriptions amounts to a rule, in my opinion, for two reasons:

1. None of these books prescribes a penalty for discarding the turned card. Thus what they are describing is a custom, not a rule. Many of them even present it as a custom. For example, the United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules of Card Games, 2002, says, “In practice . . . the dealer leaves it on the pack . . . . Morehead & Mott-Smith, in Hoyle’s Rules of Games, 1983, say, “The turn-up is customarily left face up on the table until played. (Emphasis added, in both instances.)

2. The custom is obsolete. Almost no one these days observes the custom of leaving the turned card face up on the talon.

And that and one other thing tell me that none of the compilers of the modern Hoyles ever played euchre, or at least not much. The other thing is that these Hoyles all call for a 32-card deck, which has not been in vogue for most of the last century. Their presentation of euchre appears to be based on ancient text.

It is possible also that Martin, Gallagher and the writers of the modern Hoyles simply overlooked the prospect of discarding the turned card. R. F. Foster, the foremost writer on euchre at the turn of the 20th century, wrote, “The dealer has the advantage of being allowed to take the trump card into his own hand, discarding one of his worthless cards in its place. Perhaps it did not occur even to the pontifical Leeds & Dwight that the turned card might be the most worthless card in the dealer’s hand. (Foster, famously, is not among those who state that you cannot discard the turned card.)

None of the modern books on euchre alone – not even Martin’s or Gallagher’s – suggests leaving the ordered card face up on the talon (and I count nine such modern books, including my own). One of the modern books (Fred Benjamin’s Euchre Strategies, 2007) says specifically that “the dealer will discard one of six cards" (emphasis added). Even the latest edition of the United States Playing Card Company’s Official Rules (one of those “modern Hoyles” that still say euchre is played with a 32-card deck) says only that the dealer “has the right to exchange the turn-up for another card in his hand” (emphasis added) – suggesting also that he doesn’t have to.

A parallel difference between rule and custom in euchre (and another obsolescent custom, at that) is the issue of dealing in batches of two and three cards. This custom, once nearly universal, remains widespread, and is presented nearly universally in writings on euchre. But no one calls dealing otherwise than in twos and threes a misdeal except Leeds & Dwight – not Martin, not the “Professor” (author of the first extant book on euchre, published in 1862), not Foster, not the modern “Hoyles. Dealing in twos and threes is another precept without a penalty and, therefore, a custom and not a rule. (Some other authors do call a misdeal for mixing twos and threes in the same round of dealing, instead of dealing one round of twos and then one of threes, or vice versa – but that’s another issue.) And it is not nearly universal any more in practice.

A parallel difference in real life is found in the issue of giving up your seat to a lady on the bus (another obsolescent, if not obsolete, custom). It’s not against the law not to, and it wasn’t even when people were polite.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Discarding trump, part 1 – May 1, 2009

[Note: This column revisits an issue discussed in my column published
September 5, 2003. Also, it has generated some criticism, which will
be discussed in my next column. – NB]

A reader wrote:

“I ordered up the dealer to go alone. I led the right bower, and the dealer did not follow suit. I called a renege and threw in my cards. The dealer then showed the rest of his hand, and it appeared that he had discarded the card I had ordered up.

“The other players agreed that you can discard any card. I didn't agree because the dealer was ordered to pick up, which means it must be in his hand.

“How many points should be given? Who should get the points? Why? Can you discard the card that was ordered up?”

Four points, for the loner. It’s a little complicated how we get there. Stay with me.

The dealer can discard anything he wants to, including the card ordered up. I do it all the time when I’m the dealer and the loner has the lead, if I have only one little trump and four suits. I’ve never seen any really good reason to do it, until now. But if it addles the maker to distraction, it’s a good idea.

“Order up” means order up. It means the dealer must pick up the card, thereby establishing trump. It does not mean that he must keep it, or that he must play it if he doesn’t have it. There is no rule on what the dealer can or cannot discard. He has six cards to choose from when he is ordered.

The reader should not have thrown his cards in. There’s a rule against that. And there’s a rule also – applying to whistlike games in general, not just to euchre – that a revoke (renege) cannot be proved by exposing cards, without consent, before completion of the hand (see “irregularities” in many card game encyclopedias). A revoke is not even established until the accused plays a card of the suit denied; and although it might be called then, proof – without concession or agreement – must await a review of the tricks at the end of the hand. This rule is often unwritten, but here’s the proof: To prove a revoke sooner would require premature exposure of the accused’s hand. Thus throwing in your hand on the first trick, as was done here, amounts to an assumption of a revoke (and a challenge therefor) before it can be proved.

There’s yet another rule that applies: A player has the right to correct a revoke, if made, before the next trick is led. If you can call a revoke before the next trick is begun, either by throwing in your cards or by demanding that the accused expose his cards to prove it, you are depriving him of his right to atone.

So, why does the loner score, if he committed an infraction by throwing in his hand?

Because the dealer showed his hand, too. There is no penalty imposed on a loner exposing his cards prematurely, because he harms only himself by doing so. But the penalty on anyone else who exposes two or more cards simultaneously and prematurely (thereby potentially assisting his partner) is forfeiture of the remainder of the tricks.

Had the dealer not exposed his hand on the challenge of a revoke (as he should not have), the hand should simply have been played out – with the loner’s hand on the table, if he has not raked it into the deck. If he has, or refuses to play out the hand, then there’s a euchre, and two points for the dealer’s team.

Rules about one exposed card – leading or playing out of turn – are as old as the hills. The rule I cited about exposing two or more cards simultaneously and prematurely is not universal, but it’s been in The Columbus Book of Euchre since 2003. For a further discussion of this rule, see my September 19, 2003, and October 3, 2003, columns.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Book Review – April 3, 2009

Euchre Anyone? Euchre Solitaire, by Richard Buchko,
Calumet, Mich., 2009,, 92 pp., $9.99

The scary thing about this book is the “Volume One” printed on the cover and title page, in large type (but not advertised). Messages inside the back cover announce that Volume Two will soon follow (for $10) and that you can sign up for continuing monthly volumes at $30 for six months (with free shipping). I was already wondering how anyone could write 92 pages about one game of solitaire, and now here comes a whole series?

But the book does not really present a game of solitaire as card players normally understand the term. The only places you will find a game of euchre solitaire that can be played with actual cards are still The Columbus Book of Euchre, where it was presented in the first edition, published in 1982, and remains, and on the Card Games web site, where it is used with permission.

What Buchko’s Euchre Anyone? Euchre Solitaire is, is a workbook. It consists of black and white photographs of 41 euchre hands, with commentary (in addition to title and advertising pages, score cards, and a one-page introduction, with a little historical inaccuracy).

Each right-hand page, in the 82 pages of photographs, presents only one of the four hands dealt to the table in a particular deal (plus the card turned). You are asked what to do with the hand – whether to order, pick, pass, or call.

The next page (the overleaf) shows all four hands in that deal, suggests what you should have done, recites how the author thinks the hand would have played out, and gives you or your virtual opponents a score for what you did, which you write down in a table (“score sheet”) in the back of the book. If you move from page to page through the whole book, you will have “played” enough hands this way for several full games (the author says “up to four”).

The commentary, which appears on both presentation page and overleaf, not only contains advice but comes also with discussions of rules, definitions of euchre terms, statements of mathematical probability, and occasional jest (and even with advertisements for the author’s other work in half a dozen instances, most of it not related to euchre).

No game score is given in any of the scenarios, and good euchre players always want to know the score when confronted with a hand out of the blue. But if you follow the author’s lead in taking one hand after another in a simulated “game,” you’ll be keeping score and know what it is on each hand (and that may give you an argument with the author on his strategy, on a hand or two, since he never mentions the score).

The hands and the instruction are basic – the book is not a collection of riddles or difficult and mysterious hands. I did not scour the book for mistakes. Most of the instruction is sound (e.g., “Two terms you hear all the time in euchre, and should ignore, are ‘never’ and ‘always’”).

But I have a problem with the photographs. I realize that color printing on every page remains prohibitively expensive, even with the “print on demand” technology provided by the likes of, and But desktop color laser printing is affordable these days, and highly presentable. You could print your book at home or in the office; and a book this size can be “saddle-stitched” at home, like The Columbus Book of Euchre (you don’t have to send it to a bindery). And it still can be sold on

And aside from the black-and-white presentation, the photos simply are not very clear. In some of the photos it’s even a little hard to read the suits of some of the cards – and not only because the pictures are blurry and not in color, but also because the cards are not sorted in the hands depicted in the photos. It might make sense to show an unsorted hand on the presentation page, where you are figuring out what to do with a hand just dealt to you; but it makes little sense on the overleaf, where the cards are being played out.

Even blurrier are color photographs of a lone hand in clubs, on the front cover, and of the author, on the back cover. All for $14.82 (with tax and shipping). Caveat emptor.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Two ba’rs ’n’ nothin’ else – March 6, 2009

The question asked in Yahoo!’s Euchre Science
discussion group was, what do you do when you
hold both bowers, and nothing else, and the opening
lead – on defense?

To make it worse, you are “full suited” – i.e., you
have losers in all three off suits.

The correct opening is to lead one of the bowers
and follow it with any of the suit cards.

The reason is that your partner’s assistance for a
euchre, if any he has, is much more likely to be in the
form of an off-suit ace than in ruffing a suit; and the
bower lead may strip the maker’s partner of the trump
he holds for your partner’s ace.

This is apparent for two reasons:

1. The dealer or his partner, whoever made trump,
probably has three trump, to have assisted or picked
up without a bower – leaving only two to be divided
among his partner, your partner and the deck. So it’s
somewhat unlikely your partner will have a trump to
begin with.


Dealer’s partner


Dealer (maker)
2. Your even distribution in the off suits indicates also that it is not highly likely that your partner has a void, let alone a void in the suit you lead (you have only one chance in three of picking the right suit even if your partner does have a void and a trump).

It is not at all unlikely, however, that your partner has an ace (or other boss), given your lack thereof and the fact that the maker has only two cards available for suit aces.

I dealt 50 hands in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory to test this idea. I dealt the dealer the ace, king and ten of hearts and named hearts trump for him; I gave the two red bowers to the eldest hand along with the nine of clubs, ten of diamonds and jack of spades, and I let the lab deal the rest of the cards at random. You can play with it here.

Only five of the 50 hands required a suit lead to score a euchre with a ruff by the age’s partner. And, no surprise, in each of those five hands, a particular suit had to be led. Since the chance of picking the right suit is only one in three, the probability of getting a euchre with such a lead was not 5 out of 50, but one-third of 5 out of 50, or 1-2/3 out of 50, or 3-1/3 per cent.

In four of the 50 hands, a trump lead was required to effect a euchre; and it guaranteed a euchre in two of those four hands. One of the trump leads required a particular suit lead to follow, reducing its value also to one-third of a hand; and one required either of two suits to follow, reducing its value to two-thirds of a hand. So, the adjusted value of euchres based on required trump leads is 3 (2 plus 1/3 plus 2/3), or 6 per cent, compared to the 3-1/3 per cent of 2/3 required suit leads. That may seem to be a statistically insignificant advantage in a 50-hand sample, but it’s a start on a pattern that can be more fully explored in a simulation; and here’s what would tip the balance: A euchre could be effected in fully 20 other of the 50 hands with a trump lead followed by a suit lead (or vice versa, leading the suit first). In all 20 it was your partner’s ace (or other high card, if ace was buried) that made the euchre, not a ruff. In other words, all told it did not hurt to lead the trump first.

You might argue, well, since a suit lead would work too in those 20 hands, this brings us back to a statistically insignificant difference between the requirement of a suit lead and the requirement of a trump lead. But in at least four of these 20 hands, the trump lead set up two suits in which your partner had aces, only one of which was worth anything before you stripped the dealer’s partner. While the dealer himself still might trump one of them in three of those hands, he would have to lead to the other, meaning you had two viable suit leads after the opening bower lead, not just one. In the fourth of those hands, both your partner’s aces actually became winners. So you can add these four hands as 2/3 value hands to the “trump required” column, since the trump lead gives you two bites at the apple, making the trump-over-suit advantage now 5-2/3 to 1-1/3, or 11-1/3 per cent to 3-1/3 per cent. This is getting close to statistically significant if it’s not there yet.

On two of the hands, interestingly enough, you got a euchre no matter what you led (they both went in the “20” column). On another of the 20, you could euchre by leading a trump or a club, or by leading both bowers off the top and anything to the third trick. But leading both bowers is not recommended, because (a) one of them should be enough to strip one player or another, (b) you don’t want to strip your partner if he has two trump, and (c) leading an offsuit to the second trick gives your partner an earlier opportunity to “sort his hand.

Until there’s a valid simulation to show that the trump lead advantage reported above does not hold up over the long run, I see no reason not to lead trump (“Damn it!”) – even on defense in this case.

It’s a better idea when the dealer’s partner assists than when the dealer picks up on his own. It’s more likely, in that event, that the maker has three trump. The dealer might pick up for only two trump if he, not your partner, is the one with the aces. But you can’t know that. You might as well figure him for three trump.

Here’s one of the hands (No. 35) that I found instructive (pictured above): In addition to the three trump assumed, the dealer has the queen of hearts (i.e., four trump) and the ten of spades. His partner has ace-queen of diamonds, queen-nine of spades and nine of hearts; and your partner has ace-king of spades, king-queen of clubs and nine of diamonds. An opening spade lead would get your partner his trick off the top. But a bower lead would set up both his black winners. The dealer would trump your clubs, of course, but eventually would have to lead to your partner’s ace of spades.

In other words, opening with a bower on this hand doubles your chances of euchre. If you open with a suit, it has to be the spade. If you open with a bower, you can score the euchre by leading either the spade or the club to the second trick.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Going alone with 8 points – February 6, 2009

“Don’t go alone with 8 or 9 points,” we were in-
structed when learning the game. When you are only
a point or two shy of game, you don’t need the two
extra points you’d get for a lone march; and it’s rude
to go for them (unless, of course, you are playing in
one of those foreign lands, like Pennsylvania, where
game is 11, or you are playing railroad euchre and
“lapping” your points from game to game, or you are
playing for money with a premium on points).

But there is a time, in a game to 10 without lapping
or point premiums, to go alone at 8 (never at 9). It’s

Candidate No. 1 (you have the lead)

Candidate No. 2 (you dealt)
when your partner is more likely to hinder the march than help it. The criterion is having five nearly sure tricks and needing to keep your partner out of the lead to secure them (having five sure tricks is no excuse).

An example proffered in my book for many years is not the best. At page 39 (page 60 of the first edition, page 40 of earlier printings of the second edition) I suggested going alone at 8 when, in first chair with the lead, you hold left, ace and king of hearts and ace and king of clubs. I have revised that in new printings, as of the first of this year, to left, ace and king of hearts with both black aces. You can play with this hand in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory and see what you think of it.

If your opponents have the right bower, your partner cannot help you march. If your partner has the right bower, he can take the first trick and lead back a club or a spade to be trumped by the opponents, mashing the march. You should go alone to keep your partner out of the lead. His right bower will help you more by being taken out of circulation than by being played. If you can’t draw all the opponents’ trump in the first three leads (because one opponent holds four), your partner can’t help you draw it, and he can’t help you march.

One thing wrong with my original example – left-ace-king with ace-king of a green suit outside – is that an opponent with three trump to the right bower, and a void in your green suit, can euchre you if you have to trump his lead to the second trick, whereas your partner might be able to take that second trick lead with a higher card. Here, play with the original example in the Euchre Lab and see what happens.

That’s much less likely if you have two of the three outside suits stopped, as when you have both “green” aces (the new proposal).

Another hand to go alone on at 8 is right-left-queen of hearts with ace-king of clubs outside in the dealer’s seat. You don’t want your partner trumping the first trick and unable (or too unwise) to lead trump to the second. If he leads a club before you have had a chance to draw trump, it could be ruffed by one of the opponents. If he leads a spade or a diamond, your queen of hearts could be overtrumped on your left. If it’s a spade or a diamond he trumped on the first trick, you could overtrump him, of course (and would be justified in doing so); but if he trumped with the king or ace, you would have to use a bower to overruff, diminishing your power to draw trump from the opponents. It’s much safer just to take control of the hand yourself, from the first trick, by going alone. Here’s the setup in the Euchre Lab.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

Redd Dogg Riddle No. 8 – January 9, 2009

This is the best riddle yet from Paul “Redd Dogg”

Let’s say the score is 9 to 9, and you are the dealer.
You have picked up the ace of spades to hold the jack,
ace and nine of spades and the nine and ten of hearts
(you threw away the nine of diamonds). Not the best
hand in the world, but you sure couldn’t turn down that
ace of spades, now, could you?

Let’s say the age – the opponent to your left – has
the ace and king of diamonds, the ace and king of
hearts, and the jack of clubs (i.e., the left bower,

Let’s say your partner has nothing: No trump, no
ace, maybe two hearts, two diamonds, and a club.

Let’s say the pone – the opponent to your right –
has the queen of diamonds, two spades, and the ace and
king of clubs.

The score is 9 to 9. You have to score, and the
opponents have to euchre you.

The opening lead is the ace of diamonds.



Dealer's partner

Aside from trumping in and leading the right bower (which would work in this case, but you can't be sure of that), how can you get a point?

And how can you be euchred?

The first way you can be euchred is to lead that right bower and find the left bower guarded. That's not the case here, but hindsight is 20/20. Do you want to take that chance?

The safer bet is to return the lead to the age, if you can. That would give you an “end play” into the pocket of your right-ace trump tenace. Therefore you lead not the right bower, but one of your little hearts.

The age goes up with the ace, and you've made it! You think. Even if he leads back his king of hearts for a second trick, he has to lead to the fourth trick into your pocket.

But the pone – the age’s partner, your right hand opponent – is not sleeping. He trumps his partner’s good king of hearts on the third trick and comes back with his good club, and now you’re trapped. If you ruff with your ace, the age overruffs with the left bower for the euchre. If you go up with the right bower, the age ducks and his left bower is good for the fifth trick.

Or it could happen this way: The pone trumps his partner’s ace of hearts on the second trick. He leads back a club, and you have three choices (all bad): (1) Ruff with the right bower; (2) ruff with the ace of spades; (3) duck (play your other little heart).

If you ruff with the right, the age ducks (saving his left bower), and you’re dead (the age’s left bower is good, and so is his king of hearts). If you ruff with the ace, the age overruffs with his left, and you are dead (the age’s king of hearts is still good). And if you duck, so does the age. Then his partner’s club is good for the opponents’ second trick, and you have to trump his club lead to the fourth trick. If you trump with the ace, the age takes it with the left (for the third trick and the euchre); if you trump with the right, the age ducks (and takes his left for the fifth trick and the euchre).

But what would give the pone – the opponent to your right – the bright idea to trump his partner’s ace on the second trick?

He senses your weakness, from your weak lead; and he’s looking for a way to force your trump without forcing his partner’s. And he’s right. How does he know his partner has a second good heart to lead to the last trick? He doesn’t. He has two high clubs, and he’s just getting in to do his damage when he knows he can.

You can fall into the same trap if the age starts out with hearts instead of diamonds and his partner trumps his second heart lead.

You want to play with this hand? Here’s the setup, in Gerry Blue’s Euchre Laboratory.

Natty Bumppo, author,
The Columbus Book of Euchre

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210

(270) 597-2187 [copyright 2009] [next]

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