Euchre is a trick-taking card game that has many popular variations. Some are listed below.
These variations (often referred to as “House Rules” – reflecting their non-standard acceptability) allow a player dealt one of several types of poor hands to “throw in” their cards and initiate a redeal. In some circles, these are considered a form of “misdeal,” causing the deal to be passed to the original dealer’s left. In standard play, these are considered just part of normal play, and the player must play the hand they are dealt, regardless of how bad it might be; in the long run, things will even out.
Nines & Tens: a hand consisting only of 9s and 10s. It is impossible for more than one player to have such a hand in regular play.
Ace, No Face: a single ace and nothing else except 9s and 10s containing only non-trump.
King Nothing: a single king and nothing else except 9s and 10s containing only non-trump.
Bitches’ Hand: a single queen and nothing else except 9s and 10s containing only non-trump.
Jack Shit: a single jack and nothing else except 9s and 10s containing only non-trump.
No Ace, No-Face: a throw-in hand determined after the make, containing only non-trump 9s and 10s.
Common in the Midwestern US, certain weak hands (usually those containing either three 10 cards or three 9 cards) are designated as “farmer’s hands” or “bottoms.” After inspecting the hand dealt, a player may call out “farmer’s hand” and is then allowed to show the three cards in question and exchange them for the three unexposed cards in the kitty (also called “going under” or “under the table”).
One variation allows that a player with any combination of a total of three 9 and/or 10 cards may exchange them. This is generally referred to as “farmer’s hand mixed” while the prior example is called “farmer’s hand clean.” Another variation dictates that none of the low cards being exchanged may match the suit of the turned-up kitty card. If more than one player wishes to call farmer’s hand, there is generally no structure for determining who will take the cards other than a first-come first-served method, although some players only call “farmers” on the player’s turn to bid for trump. Otherwise, the person closest to the deal will sometimes be given priority. Some variations allow for multiple farmer’s hands to be called out, but those exchanging cards with those left behind in the kitty after the first exchange are essentially guaranteed very poor cards.
If a player is dealt a hand consisting entirely of 9’s and 10’s, they may declare a ‘McEvoy’, resulting in a re-deal by the same dealer. The McEvoy must be declared, and the cards must be displayed immediately after the deal, before any player calls trump or passes. All players’ cards are returned and re-dealt. Only one McEvoy is allowed per player per match.
Stick/Screw/Dick the Dealer: If the trump selection comes all the way back around to the dealer the second time, the dealer must call the trump suit. In other words, there is no option to redeal. Etiquette suggests if the dealer who was “screwed” gets his partnership euchred, the team that won should not gloat, since they were too scared to call trump.
Chuck: A variation of Stick/Screw/Dick the Dealer. The dealer has the option to declare trump, keep one card from his dealt hand and exchange the other four for the cards in the kitty, including the card that was turned over. This can be a very strategic move, for example, the dealer can call Next when a Jack was turned over, guaranteeing that he will have at least the left bower.
Club Euchre/Dirty Clubs: Whenever the upturned kitty card is suited clubs, the dealer must “pick it up” and his team must play as the makers, with clubs as trump.
Wagering: If the top card from the kitty is turned down, the player to the left of the dealer may bid Euchre points to call trump, with a minimum of 2 points required to bid. If the bidding player is Euchred, then their bid determines the number of points the opposing team will receive. The player to the left of the bidder then has the option to raise the Euchre bid and call a different suit as trump. This proceeds until the bid has returned to the initial bidder. The initial bidder then has the final option to raise the bid or concede to the highest bidder. The highest bidding player wins the trump call and play begins.
Poker for a Point: A variation popular in Michigan, during the Making Trump phase any player may offer “Poker for a Point.” If all players agree (or sometimes if only a player of the opposing team agrees), all hands are immediately shown and the team of the player whose five cards represent the best hand by Poker rules is awarded one point. The hand is then deadened and dealership continues to the next player.
No Trump: A variation of Screw the Dealer popular in Iowa, although the Dealer is screwed, he has the option to declare “no trump” and hand is played with Aces high, no trump, and no bowers.
No suit: A variation in Ohio requires that after the first round of naming trump has passed (the original suit having been “turned down”)and no trump having been called then a player may only call one of the three remaining suits trump if the player has at least one card of that suit in their hand. If all players pass again and no trump is chosen then the hand is redealt (or see above “Stick the Dealer” rule.)
No Trump High/No Trump Low: A variation in Indiana and Ohio; if no suit has been named after two rounds of bidding, on the third round a player may call “No Trump High” or “No Trump Low.” In both these options, the jacks are valued between the ten and queen. In No Trump Low, nines are the winning cards, tens are second in value and so on.
Picking up the Top Card
Some areas require the dealer to discard first, and then pick up the card.
Others require the dealer to show the discarded card to all players.
Partner’s Best: When a maker “goes alone”, he may choose to exchange a single card with his partner before trick taking begins. The maker is required to discard before he receives his partner’s card.
Canadian: When a player orders his partner to “pick it up”, he must attempt the hand as a loner.
Blind-Double Loner: Before the maker sees his cards, the maker calls “blind double loner”. Here, the turn card is automatically trump, and the game is played by normal loner rules. If the Blind-double Loner wins all 5 tricks, 8 points are awarded to the player’s team.
Nello or Nullo: When a maker “goes alone,” attempting to lose every trick rather than to win every trick. Playing the game with the possibility of nello changes the bidding strategy considerably.
Scoring Variations and Rituals
Scoring can also be tracked with a two and a three (common in western New York and Ohio). In this scenario the first five points are generally tracked by revealing the pips normally, however it is sometimes also common for both score cards face down in a V position (signifying Roman Numeral five) to signify five points. In either case, the sixth point and onward are marked by turning the bottom card sideways so that it forms a V, so that for six through nine the score is actually five plus the number of pips showing.
Players in the Midwest often will indicate the next point that they are hoping to score by “sprouting.” The team will partially uncover the next pip on the score card so that it looks like the pip is growing up or sprouting.
Players in the Cincinnati\Northern Kentucky area prefer to use hearts and spades as score cards. If clubs or diamonds are used it is considered bad luck. In extreme situations other cards may be used, if the 6 or 4 of hearts or spades is missing, because after all the game must go on.
For some players in the Midwest, when a team has nine points, players place the score cards next to each other, face down. The team is now “in the barn” (also “on the corner”) or “mooing”. Some players have also been known to place the two score cards behind their ears upon “entering the barn.” A celebration ceremony involved with “entering the barn” is “milking the cow,” whereupon one member of the team that just “entered the barn” interlaces their fingers and points their thumbs downward. This completed, their teammate “milks” the down-turned thumbs just as one would milk a cow’s udder. Another action that players sometimes do is known as “Churning the Butter.” Players lock fist into palm and move their hands up and down as if “Churning the butter.” If the team scores their tenth point then the “barn doors are opened:” the cards are flipped to show all ten pips. Actions such as this, however, are considered insulting.
On many American college campuses, the players of a losing team which failed to earn any points at all are considered to have been “skunked” by the winning team. Sometimes, the relatively rare event of being skunked implies that the losers must perform some form of ritual penitence such as streaking the campus.
In Australia, New Zealand and certain parts of the USA the game is typically played to 11 points, rather than the typical 10. The 5 and 6 are usually used as the score cards.
Games to 15, using the 7 and 8, are sometimes played as well when a longer game is desired. This is common in Iowa.
One variation exists in which the player to win the last trick is the dealer for the next hand.
In some Euchre circles it is considered acceptable to “steal the deal” from the other team if they are not paying attention when it is their turn to deal.
Pepper or Hasenpfeffer
Pepper is an offshoot of 24-card Euchre popular in the Midwestern U.S., where the entire 24 is dealt out, bids are made numerically for the naming of trump, and declarer may name no trump in place of a single suit. A six-player version exists, played with a full pinochle pack and no bowers. Follow the link for complete rules.
A common variation played in southwestern England competitive pub leagues uses the standard Euchre deck with an extra card, usually a joker or two of spades, called the Benny (often called the “Bird” in Australia). This card is the highest trump no matter what suit is called. When the Benny is turned over by the dealer, the dealer must choose a suit to call as trumps before looking at his or her hand. Bidding then proceeds normally.
The Duchy of Cornwall lays claim to the origin of the Benny in Euchre, its usage being exported from Cornwall to the USA, Australia and Canada by emigrant Cornish miners in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In southwestern Ontario (Canada), there is an extension of this style wherein the nines are removed from the deck and up to four “Bennys” are added. These usually take the form of either one or two jokers and/or one or two deuces (of differing colour, usually the deuce of spades and, optionally, the deuce of hearts). This is colloquially known as “Railroad” Euchre and in its simplest form (with only a single joker or deuce), it is identical to the English variant listed previously. As with the earlier description, the additional cards are ranked trump ahead of the right bower, regardless of the suit of trump with deuce(s) outranking jokers. In the case where two jokers are added, some method is achieved for establishing a “high” joker and a “low”. Often the cards are differentiated in some way by the manufacturer which makes this easy, for example a coloured joker (high) versus a black-and-white one (low) or by some other mark that distinguishes the two cards (in a pinch, marks can be added manually, but this is discouraged as it may render the card identifiable from the back). In any event, the “high” joker always outranks the low. If one deuce is used, it is always the highest trump in the deck. If two are used, the deuce matching the colour of trump is highest. Turning up a joker or deuce on the deal is handled in the same way as described in the English method above. Although Railroad Euchre is somewhat complicated and often takes a few hands even for experienced Euchre players to grow accustomed to, the addition of up to four higher-ranking trump cards makes a significant strategic impact in the way the game is played. For clarification, assuming the addition of both deuces and both jokers, and if spades or clubs is called trump, the ranking of the four highest trump cards would be 2?, 2?, Joker(high), and Joker(low), with the normal progression of trump from the right bower on down thereafter. If hearts or diamonds were trump instead, the ranks of the top four cards would change to: 2?, 2?, Joker(high), and Joker(low). The popularity of the Railroad variants appears to decrease as more trump are added with the two and three Benny versions being the most common.
In Guernsey (Channel Islands) the game is played with a 33 card deck incorporating 7 to Ace plus a joker as Benny. In addition, where the Benny is turned up, the dealer not only has to name the suit, he must then pick it up and play (although he may still choose whether to play alone or with his partner). Unofficial rules require the wearing of a “dealing hat” when dealing (usually a Fez) alternatively a ‘dealing duck’ may be placed in front of the dealer and referring to the Ace of Spades as the Death Card, regardless of trump. Tradition dictates that the Death Card should not be led on the first trick unless defending against a lone attacker as it will otherwise invariably be trumped. A cleverer lead is known as the “Brisey” which involves leading the left bower in an attempt to trick one of your opponents into a renege (a failure to correctly follow suit)if any particular player consistently reneges throughout an evenings play he / she is referred to as a ‘habin’. The Brisey lead itself is named after Brian Mauger, a famous Guernsey Euchre player. If a defender has won two tricks and still has possession of the Benny then he must slap it onto his forehead as a sign of the guaranteed euchre. In an attempt to improve a poor hand a player may call a ‘kezza’ with what would appear to be little chance of success in the hope that his partner may assist in winning the majority of the available tricks.
Check our our Deluxe Euchre Playing Cards to play these variations.
Players can also play with the extra cards 8 and 7, which adds more uncertainty to which trump cards can still be in opposing players’ hands.
A two player variation exists where a normal hand is dealt out to each player along with a 3-card dummy hand to each player. To have the best deal you should take out the 9’s. Obviously, there are no partners in this game and each person picks up their dummy hand after trump has been called. Each player must make their best five card hand out of the eight cards available. Going alone is still an option and occurs when the calling player opts not to pick up the dummy hand.
Another two player variation exists which involves 11 tricks being played per hand which makes it almost impossible to take all 11 tricks. Also, going alone is not possible in this variation because there are no partners or dummy hands. Three cards are dealt to each player to form their “hand” followed by four face down cards for each player and four face up cards for each player on top of the face down cards. Any card can be played by the player as long as he or she can see the card (meaning it is in the hand of the player or in front of the player face up). When a face up card is played, the face down card below it is revealed and is now eligible to be played. Play resumes for the current hand until all of the cards have been played. This can also be played where five cards make up each players hand with 3 sets of face up/face down cards in front of each person. First person to ten points wins.
According to the book Play According to Hoyle The way to play Three Handed Euchre (Known as Cutthroat) is:
Each player gets a 5 card hand as normal and the top card is upturned. The bidding process is normal until someone calls trump. This player then goes alone against the other two.
When the maker gets three or four tricks it is one point. When the maker gets five tricks it is three points. When the defenders get three or more tricks they each get two points.
Each player has their own score cards and plays until ten as normal.
A common three player variation is played by dealing out four hands, but with the fourth hand acting as a dummy hand. The player who calls trump on the current hand picks up the dummy hand and makes the best five-card hand for themselves out of his or her hand and the dummy hand. The player will now play alone against the other two players, who will play as partners for this hand. The two non-calling players will always play as partners which means that partners will switch from hand to hand depending on who calls trump. The calling player will score one point for winning the hand and 2 points for taking all five tricks. The calling player can still elect to “go alone” by choosing not to pick up the dummy hand. Taking all five tricks here results in four points. Each player keeps their own score.
Variations on the dummy hand also exist because being able to make a best hand out of ten cards is sometimes viewed as being too powerful. The other variations are:
A three card dummy hand where the calling player makes their best hand out of 8 cards instead of 10.
A five card dummy hand where the calling player picks 3 random cards in their attempt to make the best hand.
In western New York, a three player variation called “Dumpling” is played. Four hands are dealt out, one to each player and one face down on the table. The dealer turns up the top kitty card, as usual, and this card is automatically trump; there is no bidding for trump. Instead, each player has the option, in clockwise order starting at the dealer’s left, of playing the dealt hand or the blind hand on the table. If the player picks up the blind hand, he places his hand face down on the table and that becomes the new blind hand. Interesting play results if two (or more) players pick up the blind hand because the original owner of the hand knows what they have. When bidding gets to the dealer, the dealer picks up the trump card and play begins. Normal Euchre play now applies, with each player on their own. At the end of the hand, each player gets one point for each trick taken. If a player takes no tricks, he loses five points. A game of “Dumpling” is typically played to 21 points; tiebreaker rules vary by region. In Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, this version is known as “Gyoza,” named after the Japanese dumpling. In other areas of the Midwest, this version is called “Buck Euchre,” wherein a player losing five points is said to be “bucked.”
A slightly less common version of three person Euchre is played by removing the nines from a standard deck and playing without a dummy hand. In this version, the calling player always goes alone where four points will always result from taking all five tricks.
Another uncommon version of three person Euchre is to deal out three hands of seven cards with a three-card kitty. The 4-hand rules apply, except that the calling player must always go alone.
In Southern Ontario, a three-person version exists called “Shooter”. Each player receives eight cards and bids a number to win the contract and choose the trump suit. The winning bidder may also choose “no trump”, where aces are high and all jacks are treated as off-trump coloured jacks, i.e. beat a ten but lose to a queen. The minimum bid starts at three and subsequent bidders must out-bid the highest previous bid or pass. Points are scored for each trick taken, not merely by the contractor but by all players. The contractor is of course vulnerable however, and if he or she fails to take the number of tricks bidden, he or she loses that number of points. A player wishing to bid all eight tricks calls “shooter”, and if successful gains not eight but 12 points. (Note that a player bidding less than eight and subsequently winning all eight tricks will only score eight points). Score is kept on paper and the game is played to 31.
A somewhat popular three-handed variation exists. Players sit as though there is a “ghost player” in the fourth position. A hand of five cards is dealt to each player and the ghost player. Before the top card of the kitty is turned up, in clockwise order, players may opt to switch their hand with the ghost player’s hand. If a player does, no other player may choose to switch hands. Bidding proceeds as normal. The maker of this hand plays alone, with the two defenders as partners. If the maker gets three tricks, he is awarded 2 points. Five tricks is four points. However, if the maker opted to switch hands at the beginning of the round, he is deducted one point if he wins. Should the defending players take three tricks, they get 1 point each, and taking 5 tricks awards them 2 points each.
Another three-person variant exists called “Threechre” (sometimes pronounced “tree-ker” or “three-kree”). In this game, only three suits are used and a joker serves as the left bower, regardless of drawn suit. The game is played to a winning score of 10 points: a 2-trick tie wins both tied players one point, and three or more tricks wins the player two points. The penalty for calling is -1 point; thus, calling and losing means an overall score of -1, calling and winning equals one point, and calling and tying means no change in score.
Going it alone in Threechre: If the dealer goes it alone on the first round of bidding, the drawn card is turned down. No matter who goes it alone, the kitty is reshuffled and dealt to the opponents, who then must discard two cards from a hand of seven cards.
Another three-person variation is known as call-partner. Hands of 5 cards are dealt as usual, and a card is turned up over the kitty. Bidding happens as normal, except the person who makes trump may call for a partner by naming a desired card. As an example, the trump maker might call for the left bower. The partner is only revealed when the card is played. This adds an element of surprise, as only the person holding the called card knows that they are the partner until it is played. Sometimes the called card is in the kitty, in which case there is no partner. The trump maker may also elect to “go alone”. Scoring is the same as in 4 handed versions.
A five player variation exists. This game is generally referred to as Five-Handed Euchre[verification needed]. The major differences are a dynamic partner system and the addition of two permanent trump cards.
Virtually everything about 6-handed Euchre is identical to the 4-handed game with the exception of the details below.
Partnerships of three players.
34-card deck: Ace through 7 of each suit plus two Jokers.
The Big Joker is always the highest trump.
The Little Joker is always the second-highest trump.
When the Dealer Turns Up a Joker. Because Jokers do not have suits printed on them, the players determine how to handle this scenario before it happens. Below are several possibilities.
The first time, it is a club; the second, a diamond; the third, a heart; the fourth, a spade; and so on (in alphabetical order by name of suit).
Assign a suit to each player before the game begins; when it’s a “clubs” dealer, the suit being offered as trump is clubs, and so on.
Choose a suit that will always be offered as trump.
Insist that no cards be seen until the up card is turned, have the dealer choose a suit blind, then proceed with bidding.
The dealer must pick it up and name trump “blind”; the option to go alone is still available.
Throw it in and same player shuffles and deals again.
Throw it in and pass the deal to the next player.
When The Jokers Are NOT Named Some decks of cards specify “Big” or “Little” on the Jokers. For other decks, you can add a 1 and a 2 to the index portion of the Jokers with a marker as well as “Big” and “Little” on their faces for ease of identification. It is very helpful to include the 1 and 2 on the indexes since typical Jokers have barely distinguishable icons in the corners.
Some decks have a red Joker and a black Joker. With these, it helps to decide if they will have fixed ranks written on them (prev. ¶) or whether their ranks will depend on the color of trump (i.e., red Joker is highest when trump is diamonds or hearts, and second-highest when clubs or spades; black Joker vice versa).
Using red/black Jokers with variable ranks influences the decision for which “Joker as the upcard” rule to implement.
Another way to use the jokers is they are equal in trump but the second trumps the first if laid on the same trick.
Some tournaments are run with tables of four players each. Winners of each game (typically to 10 points) stay at their table and are split apart so that they are no longer a team. Note: splitting winning players may cause friction due to someone giving up their hot seat. Losing pairs of players are sent to other tables to team with other winners from the previous round. The player with the most wins during the tournament is the champion.
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