Friday, March 31, 2006

The weak lady and her pips

Euchre QOD: “Euchre favors the bid

Euchre Haiku:
Queens and tens and nines
Nights with these cards are brutal
Unless they are trump

Euchre Palaver
“Puppy paws” – Cutesy name for Clubs
“Shovels” – Cutesy name for Spades
“Bubbles” – Cutesy name for Hearts
“Diamantez” – Cutesy name for Diamonds

Savvy Strategies
Ordering weak.

How many times does this happen to you? You are the dealer and you flip over a Queen (say Queen of Clubs). You look at your own hand and see the 10 of Clubs and the 9 of Clubs. Everybody passes and it’s up to you. Do you order or pass?

Sometimes you should & sometimes you shouldn’t. How’s that for definitiveness!?

No, don’t do it when…
1. Your opponents have 8 points. While the odds of you making it are slightly better than 50/50, the odds of you being set are still pretty high (>40%). And if you get euchred here, the game is over. Your best bet is to pass and hope it turns out ok.

2. Your other cards are green Bowers. If you have two bowers in the green suit it’s best to wait for a chance to order up those.

3. You have more card points with a different suit as trump. The more card points you have in a suit, the better your chances of making it. You should pass and hope to get to call your better suit, or hope your partner calls it!

Yes of course you pick it up when…
1. Your opponents have 9 points. As we saw Wednesday you are a 2 to 1 underdog to win the game anyway. Having 3 trump no matter what your other cards are is still a better than 50/50 chance to win.
2. Your opponents have 6 points and the player on your right is an aggressive loner caller. This is a semi-defensive strategy where you hope to make your point but you also want to prevent a loner call by your opponents in a different suit. We covered this idea when we discussed donation.

3. One of your other cards is an Ace. Three trump with an Ace! You have to pick that up.

4. You would be 2 suited. If you can discard such that you are 2 suited go ahead and pick it up. You can likely ruff the first trick, then lead back low in your off-suit to promote your higher card. This is still a weak hand but you’ve got to be able to count on your partner for 1 trick!

5. You are playing the “Screw the Dealer” rule. Well, unless you have a couple of red Jacks your hand isn’t going to get much better than 3 trump. You better order it up and hope you can score it.

Admittedly, the hand with the lowest three trump is weak, but it’s not so weak that you shouldn’t pick it up. Euchre favors the bidder.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mind control

Euchre QOD: “Paying attention is expensive”

Euchre Haiku:
Guess what they will lead
Hold a card in the middle
Now control their mind

Euchre Palaver
Maker – The person who orders up trump. Her team has to win at least 3 tricks or else will be euchred.

Savvy Strategies
To keep me amused and engaged in a euchre game, I like to try to predict the card that an opponent will play even before they play it. Often I will hold a card face down in the middle of the table while I wait for the opponent to lead. It drives them nuts when I can simply turn over the card that I was holding out as if I “knew” what they were going to play. Tossing in a “mind control” comment here and there reinforces their exasperation. It’s quite fun. And can also goad the opponent into making a “wrong” play. Some euchre players would rather prove you wrong by leading something you couldn’t predict than lead the right card to make the contract.

Here are some tips to do your own euchre “mind control”.

1. Play a card that doesn’t matter. Some euchre hands are so bad that you’ll only be able to follow suit once or not at all. For example, if you have a four card suited hand and that suit is led once, odds are you’ve got 3 dead cards. You can hold any of those cards face down knowing there is a good chance you won’t be able to follow anyway. But don’t let on that that is the reason you can play it. Always make it seem like you wanted to play that card.
2. Play a trump when your ordering opponent gets the lead. So the opponent orders and picks up a Bower. After she wins the first trick odds are pretty good that she’ll be leading back trump. You pull your low trump out of your hand before she can do it and hold it menacingly out over the playing field. When you flip your card over with a snap and it is the suit asked, you look like a genius.

3. Play a suit that hasn’t been led yet. If the person who won the previous trick was not the ordering partner, odds are pretty good that they won’t be playing back trump. Certainly your partner won’t and the ordering partner might not either. They also aren’t likely to play a suit that has already been led. That leaves only 2 suits left and gives you a 50/50 chance of picking the right one. Just pick the suit you’d like them to lead and hold it out, face down, in the playing field. The 50% of the time that you predict right makes them feel that you are controlling their brain.
4. When you have no other good ideas, try the card that you want to play. Sometimes there just isn’t enough information to accurately predict what the opponent will play. Though you can probably always get it down to a 50/50 chance. In these cases, just hold out a card that you would “want” to play. In euchre, and life, it’s best to be an optimist.

When you do inevitably pick the wrong card to play, casually pull back the card and congratulate your opponent on their ability to “block” your mind control. Compliment them one what a strong mind they must have. Then use the tips you’ve learned here at the Euchre Universe to crush them the rest of the game!

Euchre on the Web
Hey a mention about the blog in Gaper’s Block. However, I do wonder where they got the idea that we have an obsession with a rubber chicken.

Some Joe Andrews tips about euchre. He has some good information but I find it a little difficult to follow. Maybe the same could be said about the Euchre Universe. Anyway, in this article I disagree with the first play where the dealer trumps in at the first trick. I would throw off the loser 10 of clubs. “Lose early, win late”.

Thanks for your continued support!
Now, tell your friends about the Euchre Universe. Where else are you going to find a daily rubber chicken picture?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Cutting loose in euchre

Euchre QOD: “A sound strategy makes you feel better about losing”

Euchre Haiku:
Travel thru forests
Plow through pastures and fences
You got to the bridge

Euchre Palaver
“At the bridge” – When a team has scored 9 points and is only 1 away from winning the game.

Savvy Strategies
The point system is based on the notion that you should order up anytime you have a hand that will win 67% of the time. This stems from game theory and the resulting analysis of the way euchre is scored. The break-even equation for euchre is as follows.

Break-even strategy = (+1)*67% + (-2)*33%

This equation just means you are playing a rational strategy if you order up whenever you have a 2/3 chance of winning. In the long run, if you played this strategy you should expect to break even. However, if you order up on hands that only have a 50% chance of winning you would expect to lose over the long run because the positive gain (1 point 50% of the time) does not make up for the negative gain (-2 points 50% of the time).

We mention this because you need to change your strategy when your opponent’s score is 9 points. At this point of the game, the break-even strategy equation changes a bit. Since their score is 9 points, the 2 they get for euchring is essentially the same as them getting 1 point and winning the game. Either way, they win.

So, you should change your strategy when your opponents have 9 points. The new break even strategy equation is as follows.

Break-even strategy (when opponents score is 9) = (+1)*50% + (-1)*50%

This means you get to loosen up your ordering strategy when your opponent’s score is 9! Instead of waiting for the hands with 21 card points, go ahead and order up on anything with 16 card points or more. And if you’re in the pasture, call loners whenever you have 3 sure tricks.

Remember, the chances that you will win the game are not good. The dealing team with 9 points has anywhere from a 67% chance (if your score is 9) to a 99% chance of winning. The best you can do is hope that when the fate of this game was ordained 14 billion years ago at the moment of the Big Bang, you ended up on the winning team. But don’t count on it.

Euchre on the Web
Sure some people think euchre is a low-brow game (bridge players) but euchre was mentioned here in literature by none other than Mark Twain. It was in his book The Innocents Abroad. The problem with Twain is he could write great stuff and some really awful stuff. This is one of his better ones.

Proof that they’ll give a patent for anything, a euchre scoreboard. I think I’ll stick to my euchredoodledandy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Loner defense resolved

Euchre QOD: “Scratch that niche”

Euchre Haiku:
Hands of nines and tens
In poker they win often
In euchre, re-deal

Euchre Palaver
“Farmer’s Hand” – A hand which contains only Tens and Nines. In some euchre circles being dealt a farmer’s hand would result in a re-deal.

Euchre Puzzler
In yesterday’s entry we asked the question, when defending a loner, should you lead a lone ace or a lone king? A couple of responders answered that they would hold the ace until the end. Others suggested that it didn’t matter.

Well, it turns out that the best strategy is to hold on to that lone ace and lead an off-suit card, preferably from a long suit. Here’s the explanation.

When your loner opponent orders they likely have a 4 trump hand with non-trump card (maybe an ace) or they have 3 high trumps with two off cards in the same suit. Let’s look at the strategy in the former case. Ordering opponent is on your left.

Strategy 1: You lead a singleton Ace.
Result: You chose right and you win the trick and prevent the march. (about 33% of the time). You chose wrong and the trick gets trumped. Worse, your partner was not able to play one of their Aces or they played trump and got over-trumped. (about 67% of the time)

Strategy 2: You hold singleton Ace ‘til the end and lead a different suit.
Result: You hold that card for the end and you stop the march if the opponent has that suit. (about 33% of the time) Your off-suit is won by partner because they were void in that suit and were able to trump or they had the Ace in that suit. (about 25% of the time) Opponent wins the trick and marches (about 45% of the time).

Strategy 2 stops more loners than Strategy 1.

Bottom line, hold that singleton Ace and play your long suit.

Now if you have 2 singleton Aces, then you should play one of the aces. This prevents you from being squeezed at the end of the hand.

If you have no Aces, well good luck. Lead something low from a long suit and pray that your partner has them covered, they aren’t in the pasture or your lowly long suit card gets promoted to a winner.

Euchre on the Web
Some more euchre paraphernalia. I could really use that euchre cap! The shirts are ok but I think I’ll have my brother design one over at Zazzle.

And a special thank you to Todd and his very cool euchredoodledandy. This handy score keeper ensures that no one pulls a fast one with the score cards. And you can get the pegs in any of the Big Ten school colors! Way cool even for a guy who went to DePaul University.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Alone again, naturally

Euchre QOD: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”

Euchre Haiku:
Another loner
My partner plays without me
I exist to sweep

Euchre Palaver
“Shooting” – This is another term for “going alone” which is an attempt made by a player to win all 5 tricks without help from partner. If successful in winning all 5 tricks, 4 points are awarded. If less than 5 tricks are won, standard euchre scoring rules apply.

“No-brainer” – Also known as a “lay down loner”, this is a hand where the cards are so strong that no one else will win a trick (e.g. having a 5 trump hand with the Right and Left bowers).

“Sweeper” – The player that picks up the winning tricks for their side. In some partnerships one person sweeps all the tricks whenever their team wins and the other partner keeps score.

Euchre Puzzler
I was playing euchre Friday night at a party when the following situation came up. My partner called a loner and it was the opponent to her left that was responsible to start the game. Here was the rest of the situation…

1. Hearts ordered up alone by dealer.
2. Score is 5-2 ordering team ahead.
3. First opponent has singletons King of Clubs and Ace of Spades.
4. I was the team sweeper.

My opponent leads the Ace of Spades, second opponent follows suit and my partner trumps it. For the next three tricks, she draws out the rest of the trump. On the fifth trick she plays the Queen of Diamonds which loses to the second opponent’s Ace of Diamonds.

At this point, the second opponent scolds her partner insisting he should not have started with his Ace. She says that he should have held the Ace 'til the end. So what do you think, should he? We’ll talk about the answer tomorrow.

Euchre on the Web
Here’s a listing of some interesting variants on the standard euchre game. Some of the ones that I find intriguing…

  1. Reverse: It’s the opposite of euchre where you try to lose tricks. If you get dealt lots of “farmer’s hands” this game’s for you.

  2. Sudden Death: The “black mariah” of euchre. If the Queen of Spades gets turned as the up-card, the game is over and the highest score at that point wins.

  3. Naughty Nines: If a nine is flipped over, dealer is forced to pick it up and go alone.

If you have any other interesting variants, please leave them in the comments. Euchre is a great game but a little variety can certainly spice up a 10 hour session.

**Note: If leaving comments, the character verification system IS case sensitive.

Friday, March 24, 2006

When you can't win a trick

Euchre QOD: “What to throw, what to throw, what to throw”

Euchre Haiku:
The turn is now mine
Nothing in my hand looks good
Why is it so hard?

Euchre Palaver
“Throw off” – To play a card that is not the suit led but is also not trump.
“Make the hand” – To order trump and win at least 3 of the 5 tricks.

Savvy Strategies
Many times in euchre a suit will be led in which you have no cards. On your turn to play, you have a free choice to play any card you like. So, what do you play?

Of course, that depends on what you have in your hand, who is currently winning the trick, and how many tricks your team already has.

Let’s just look at the situation when you have no trump. Follow these guidelines and you will give you and your partner the best chance (however slight) to make the hand.

1. If you have a doubleton Ace in a different suit, play the low card in that suit. This signals to your partner that you have an ace in that suit. It’s not a perfect signal but it’s something.

2. If you have a doubleton King in a different suit, DON’T play the low card in that suit. Playing the low card pretty much nullifies any chance the King had for winning a late trick in that suit.
3. Get rid of your singleton low cards. These won’t win anything anyway and you’ll want to protect your long suits (the ones with doubletons and triples).

4. Get rid of the singleton Next cards. These have a slightly lower chance of winning than the Green suits because there is one less card.

5. Keep smiling no matter what you play. Euchre is about having fun. Sometimes, you won’t be able to win any tricks and smiling doesn’t tip your poor hand to your opponents.

Euchre on the Web
Want a retro euchre t-shirt? Check out this site here.
Or play euchre with dominos!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hand Review - What to Do

Euchre QOD: “Rules are regional”

Euchre Haiku:
We screw the dealer
They score with the five markers
Rules change, not the game

Euchre Palaver
“Skunk” – When you beat your opponents (or in the unbelievable event that they beat you) 10-0. In some euchre leagues where points count towards season placing you can score up to 13 points by making a loner when your team has 9 points.

Savvy Strategies
Let’s review the hand from the other day.
You have Ace, King, Queen of clubs (trump), and Queen & Ten of diamonds as below.

The Ace of diamonds is led and you have to follow as does your partner.
The Ace of spades is led next and your partner follows. You trump the trick to win.
What do you lead next?

I used the euchre laboratory to set up the scenario and randomly deal the rest of the cards. It turns out that most of the time you are going to lose (7 out of 10 times that I ran it). But in the 3 times that you do win, leading trump is the only way you could win. So, based on this tiny sampling, I’d say that the trump lead gives you the best chance to win. Primarily because it forces your opponents to trump. Since most of the hands will be void of diamonds at this point, leading diamonds gives them the option not to play trump. Your partner’s trump only matters if it’s high. A low trump would likely be overtrumped when she tries to ruff anyway.

Euchre on the Web
If you ever feel like playing euchre but don’t want to go online and don’t have anyone to play with, try euchre solitaire

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All in the mind

Post 44!!

Euchre QOD:
“Luck is annoying”

Euchre Haiku:
Looking through rule books
Hoyle is supposed to be boss
But his rules are weird

Euchre Palaver
“Maker” – the player who establishes the trump suit by ordering up in the first round or naming trump in the second round of bidding.

Savvy Strategies
I’m reading a book called the Pleasures of Small Motions and the author spends a lot of time discussing competition and performance. He gives two pretty good tips that I think are applicable when entering a euchre match (or tournament).

1. Get your expectations in line with reality. Euchre is not a game of pure skill but it is also not a game of pure luck either. Some players are better than others and knowing how your skills compare to the competition helps reduce self-imposed pressure and anxiety, making you play the game as best you can. You should have a realistic assessment of your skills. Are you a euchre playing machine that always knows what to do? You should expect to lose to players with more skill and win against inferior ones.

2. Use the competition to figure out your playing status. Competition establishes your playing status, not your preconceived notions. If you go into a match figuring you are the best, you can only be disappointed. If you don’t win you’ll be crushed and if you do win, it was just expected. Use your play and performance to establish how good you are compared to the rest of the group.

Following these guidelines will ensure that you perform your best, given the cards dealt. It won’t guarantee a win, but at least you know you played the cards the best they could be played.

Euchre on the Web
This one is interesting. It is the rules of euchre as published for the 19th century player. I like this line the best. It is generally played by four persons, and owes much of its absorbingness to the fact that you can talk, and drink, and chaw and cheat while the game is advancing

And for those interested in writing their own euchre computer program, here is how this group did it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It comes crashing down

Euchre QOD: “Losing sucks.”

Euchre Haiku:
Play tough all season
Build a big second game lead
Lose to a loner

Euchre Palaver
“Promotion” – Increasing the power of a lower card in any suit. This occurs when any of the higher cards are played on an earlier trick. For example, if you have the Left Bower and the Right Bower is played on an earlier trick, the Left is “promoted” to the highest ranked card.

League Update
Well, we went down. Finished in 5th or 6th place. So troubling. We started out so well too and our opponents were not what I’d call “tough”. In the first game, my partner and I cruised to a 9-3 victory. The second game started well too. We were up 6-3 and my partner was dealing. Clubs is turned up and I have nothing so I pass. Both opponents pass and my partner picks it up. First opponent leads Ace of hearts and I have to follow as does my partner. Next comes the Ace of spades which I follow with a nine. This time my partner trumps in. She next leads the Jack of hearts which gets trumped low by our opponents and I have to follow suit. Opponent shows the Right bower and we’re set moving the score to 6-5. Her hand was two suited with three trump and two hearts. Not a bad call but an unlucky lie of the cards.

On our opponents deal, he orders up a King of Diamonds and makes a point (6-6). On my deal, I turn up the Nine of clubs (my favorite suit). The opponent to my left says “Alone”. Of course, I have nothing higher than a Queen in my hand and the 9 is my only trump. He lays down the top 4 trump and my partner and I throw out our garbage. He then tries to float the King of Diamonds. My partner holds the Ace of hearts, I lay down my highest card (Queen of Diamonds) and we lose the game. 6-10 Terrible luck!!

The final game of the match starts with us being euchred on the same hand that my partner was euchred on in the previous game two suited, three trump hand. (0-2). Next our opponent deals himself a hidden loner (didn’t turn up a bower) and he makes it (0-6). The rest is a slow bleed until we lose 5-10. We tried a couple of loners to get back into it but it just wasn’t meant to be.

It was a good season for us. But I think with a few different calls we could have won this match. Yes, we would have had to play perfect euchre, but the potential for us to win was there. Sometimes, your play won’t matter and you’ll lose. That’s euchre. This wasn’t one of those times.

Euchre Strategy Question of the Week
The score is 6-3 and you are dealer. You order it up with the following hand…
Ace of Clubs
King of Clubs
Ten of Clubs
Queen of Hearts
Ten of Hearts

The first card lead is the Ace of Hearts and everyone follows suit. The opponent next leads the Ace of Spades. Your partner follows suit as does your right hand opponent. You trump with the Ten of Clubs.

What should you play next? Ace of Clubs, King of Clubs, or Queen of Hearts?

We’ll discuss the answer later in the week.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The lone ace lead

Euchre QOD: “Trump ‘em if ya got ‘em”

Euchre Haiku:
Partner leads an ace
Next opponent follows suit
The do decision

Euchre Palaver
“Trumping” – Playing a trump card on a trick in which a different suit was led. Also known as “ruffing”, this play requires that you do not have a card in the led suit. Since any trump is higher than any non-trump, this card will usually win the trick. That is unless someone trumps higher.

Savvy Strategies
Sometimes it happens that your partner has led an ace in an off-suit and the decision on what to play comes to you. Often you will have no choice because you’ll only have one card in that suit and you must play it. On occasion you’ll have more than one card in the led suit or you’ll have no cards in the led suit. In these cases, you’ll have to make a decision. Here are some thoughts on what you might do.

First, when you have more than one card in the suit.
1. Play your low card to set up the high one as a winner. Suppose you have some a King and a ten in the led suit. You should play the ten and save the King in the event that the suit gets led again. Similarly, if you have the Queen and nine, you should play the nine. It’s not likely that these cards will win later on but it’s good to leave open the possibility that the will.

When you are
void in the suit but have no trump
2. Play your lowest card in a long off-suit. This is a signaling play that a savvy partner will pick up on. Suppose you have an Ace and another card in a different off-suit. By playing the low card in that suit, you are signaling to your partner that you have an ace in that suit and you would like them to lead it. If you don’t have a doubleton ace, you should still throw your lowest card in your long suit. This tells your partner that you are long in the suit and they should be wary of leading it. It will most likely be trumped.

When you are void in the suit but have trump
3. Play a singleton in one of your off-suits. One of the Ten Commandments of Euchre states that you should “never trump your partner’s Ace”. This is excellent advice that you should almost always heed. If you have a singleton, you should play this card to void yourself in a different suit. Your partner will then see this and lead that suit hoping that you will ruff it.

4. Play a trump to win the trick. While many euchre partners will lash out at you if you trump their ace, it is not always wrong to do so. Here are some cases in which you should trump your partner’s ace.
A. You want the lead. If you have a particular strategy in mind and you need the lead to do it, then feel free to trump it.
B. All you have is trump. Not much choice here. But play a high one so your opponent can’t win with a small trump.
C. You believe your left-hand opponent is going to trump. Make sure you play a high trump so the left-hand opponent has to trump higher.

Follow these tips and you won’t do your partner’s Ace wrong.

League Night
Tonight is the final night of winter league euchre. We are in the top 6 teams and need to win 2 matches to make it to the finals. I feel good about our chances! We are the best team that is left and if our cards are good enough, we should win. Stay tuned for results tomorrow.

Euchre on the Web
- I don’t know who put together these rules but they’re terrible. Don’t follow them.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Keeping score with the horse and rider

Euchre QOD: “Keep the horse off the rider”

Euchre Haiku:
Keeping score with care
Put the six at the bottom
The four goes on top

Euchre Palaver
“Horse” – The 6 card used for scorekeeping
“Rider” – The 4 card used for scorekeeping

Savvy Strategies

Keeping score in euchre has some standard traditions that many people follow. Follow these guidelines to seem like a euchre pro.

1. A six card and four card are used to keep score. Euchre is a game played to 10 points so 6 and 4 work well. Nobody uses two 5s or 7 & 3, or 8 & 2. Nine and Ace couldn’t work because you need them to play.

2. Start with the six (face up) on the table and the four (face down) covering it. This is the standard start to the game. It’s an old euchre adage that you should never put the six on the four as it’s bad luck. They say keep the horse off the rider. I’m not much of a believer in luck so I put the 6 on the 4 all the time.

3. Move the face down four card to expose the “pips” on the six as your score increases. The order in which you do this is a matter of personal preference. Some people expose one side at a time others expose from top to bottom. I like top to bottom myself.

4. When you get to 6 points, put the four card face up on the six card and expose only two pips on the six. This gives you 6 points and keeps the horse off the rider.

5. When you are in the barn, separate and turn both cards over. This is the universal sign that you have nine points and are ready to win. No one, except rubber chicken loving players from Chicago exposes five pips on the 6 and four pips on the four to signal “in the barn”.

That’s it except to say some also consider it bad luck to sit between the markers. That is when you keep score, you don’t want the opponents score cards on your left when your score cards are on the right. You get “squeezed” and folks from Ohio consider it bad luck. Which leads to a fun ploy…put the scorecards next to your opponent to try to squeeze them. Seasoned euchre players will notice and move their scorecards.

Euchre on the Web
Joe Andrews is one of the more popular writers about card games and card game strategies. Some say he’s a shill for the United States Playing Card Company but I like his stuff. Here’s what he has to say about the history of euchre.

Incidentally, the Bee 92 cards from the USPCC are my favorite.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Snakey strategies

Euchre QOD: “Please squeeze the peas”

Euchre Haiku:
Two aces in hand
Must get rid of one but which
Choose wrong the squeeze works

Euchre Palaver
“Squeeze Play” – A strategy in which you force your opponent to choose between two equally good cards to throw away. It is an offensive strategy often employed when going alone.

Savvy Strategies
One of the ordering strategies suggested is to go alone anytime you have 4 trump (unless your team score is 8 points). This usually leaves you with a low card in an off-suit that could easily be beat by one of your opponents, thus squelching your loner. Well, a good way to handle this is to employ the squeeze play. It works like this…

Assuming you win the first trick, lead back trump. Then lead trump again, then lead your 4th trump. For the last trick you can lead your low off-suit and hope that the opponents have thrown away the stopping card.

The squeeze comes in to play on the second to last trick. What happens is the opponents have been throwing off their low cards on the early tricks saving their big cards for the end. This is a good defensive strategy that you should follow.

But when you get down to the second to last trick, the opponents have to choose between two equally good cards. Suppose Hearts is trump and they have both the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Clubs at the end. You play a trump and they have to get rid of one of the aces. Which one do they get rid of? This is the squeeze play. It gives you a 50:50 chance of getting them to throw away the wrong ace.

Perhaps an illustrative hand might be in order. That we can do tomorrow. Right now, I’ve got to go play my ukulele.

Euchre on the Web
Hurray!! We passed the 100 visitors mark in less than 2 weeks. Tell your friends so we can push 200 even quicker.

I was thinking of registering for the World Series of Euchre. I’m not sure if $85 and a trip to Lansing, MI is worth it but it would be fun. It’s early but they’ve got 6 teams signed up already. I couldn’t figure out how many they had last year. I’ll send them an email and see if I can get more information.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dirty deals and deceptions

Euchre QOD: “I don’t mind cheaters, as long as they lose”

Euchre Haiku:
Focus on the game
Reneges and botched scores abound
Play should show winners

Euchre Palaver
“Table talk” – Saying something that reveals information about your hand or indicates what your partner should play. For example, telling your partner not to trump your ace or to lead a certain suit is illegal table talk. Some also call this “Kibitzing”.

Savvy Strategies
Just to finish up on our “Euchre Cheaters Exposed” segment I direct you to Harvey Lapp who has written an excellent article about cheating at euchre. He exposes the many accidental cheats and also some blatant ones. It’s unfortunate to think that people will cheat at a card game but they will. The bottom line is Pay Attention! Cheaters rely on the fact that people are either not paying attention or don’t know the scam. Read Harvey’s article and you’ll learn many of the scams. Pay attention during play and you’ll ensure your opponents aren’t working them. Here is a list of cheat moves to look out for in a live game.

  1. Reneges. Not following suit when you must. We discussed this in a previous entry.

  2. Card manipulating. As discussed yesterday.

  3. Shifty scorekeeping. Adding extra points that weren’t earned.

  4. Signaling. Letting your partner know what’s in your hand through some subtle (or not so subtle) method.

Again, the best way to defeat these cheating methods is to pay attention! If you find someone is cheating don’t accuse them straight out. For reneges and shifty scorekeeping, assume it was a mistake and point it out in a friendly manner. For card manipulating just ask for the deck to be reshuffled. Saying something like “I just don’t feel good about the cards” is usually effective and non-confrontational. For signals, just tell a story about an article you read discussing all the methods for signaling. If a cheat knows that you know their methods or that you are just paying attention, they will be too sheepish to try. If that doesn’t stop them, then you’ll have to just stop playing.

In an online game the only form of cheating that will take place during a game is signaling. It is simple enough to instant message or talk on the phone with a partner during the game and just tell what you have. There is very little you can do to prevent this except don’t play euchre online for money. You could still get lucky and win but it is just much harder.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some shifty plays

Euchre QOD: “The cards go funny for everyone”

Euchre Haiku:
Cut cards at all times
And watch the halves when replaced
Shifts are too easy

Euchre Palaver
“Shift” – In the world of card manipulation (legerdemain) this is the act of reversing a cut thus putting the cards back the way they started. Highly effective and easy to pull off. Some shifty euchre players do this all the time.

Savvy Strategies
Yesterday we talked about looking for marked cards and using the information to your advantage. Today, we’ll expose some honest to goodness cheating through card manipulation. And we’ll also suggest ways to defeat their methods.

1. Stacking the deck. The euchre pack of cards is particularly easy to manipulate. This is primarily because there is such a small amount of cards and it’s easy to find useful cards. The first thing that the cheat will do is stack the cards. Stacking cards just means putting them in a desired order. Perhaps the easiest bit of card stacking is to find a Jack, put three cards below it and place that pack on the bottom. This can be done undetected when you are collecting the cards to deal.

2. False shuffles. The object of the false shuffle is to make it appear that you are mixing the cards but in reality some cards are not being mixed at all. There are a host of false shuffles that cheaters use. The riffle shuffle can be employed nearly flawlessly. If the cheater has stacked the bottom of the deck to ensure a bower gets turned up, they will simply keep those cards on the bottom. This is done by running those cards first when the riffle shuffle starts and legitimately mixing up the rest of the cards.

3. Shifting the cut. A stacked deck and a false shuffle are defeated by cutting the deck. Some cheaters get around this by just not offering a cut. They shuffle and deal without question. If you are particularly trusting or disengaged, you won’t even notice. Fortunately, most people will notice so that ruse doesn’t succeed often. But a true card sharp will offer you the cut and then reverse it. There are lots of methods but the simplest is picking up the packs quickly and placing the halves back the way they were. It’s easy to do and nearly invisible.

The defense to these methods is cutting the deck and careful watching that the halves are replaced properly. If you have any suspicion, just tell your opponents you don’t feel good about the cut and you’d like to see it done again. They may protest but at least they know you will be watching. The cheater relies on people not paying attention to things like false shuffles and shifted cuts.

Another defense against this form of cheating is to talk about the methods of cheaters. Tell your opponents a “story” about how you saw someone cheating by stacking the deck and shifting the cut. If they think you know they are trying to cheat and how they might be doing it, they’ll certainly be more hesitant to try.

But card manipulation isn’t the only form of cheating. In another entry, we’ll look at euchre signaling and ways you might defeat those cheats.

League Update
Well, we’re still alive in the play-offs but we’ve fallen to the loser’s bracket. We won our first match despite the presence of a suspected “card shifter”. I’ve always been suspicious of this player because she tends to get a lot of Bower up-cards on her deal. I like to sit on her right just to make sure I get the cut. After she got a Bower I paid close attention the next time it was her deal. Then thought I saw a distinct attempt at shifting the cut. It was subtle. She’s good. But in my mind it was unmistakable. As she was dealing I said “I’d like to cut those cards again. I just don’t feel good about them.” And she protested saying, “You can’t do that!” And I replied, “I just don’t feel good about the cut. It seemed a little weird.” So, she collects the cards and says, “Fine! I’m not gonna let you get in my head!” She reshuffles and deals.

As first determined 14 billion years ago at the Big Bang, she offers me the cut, doesn’t attempt the shift, and proceeds to deal herself another Bower. She’s either really a great card manipulator or just lucky. Of course, she calls a loner and easily makes it. Unfortunate, but at least it was legit. I don’t mind cheaters, as long as they lose. In the end, we beat the team 2 games to 1 and advanced to the next round.

In the next round we played a couple of very good players. We won the first game but a couple of snafus in the next sunk us. In the third game we took a 4-1 lead but our opponents made that back and more. When it was 6-8 (bad guys ahead) we ordered up an Ace and got euchred due to some unlucky card spread. No matter. We are in the final 6 and just need to win out to be the champs. We are still in good shape to do that.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Four days is too long

Sorry Euchre Universe Enthusiasts. I've been out on vacation and didn't have easy access to the Internet. The beer, the baseball, and the euchre all conspired to hinder production of the blog. But I'm back now. On to the Universe...

Euchre QOD: "

Euchre Hakiu:
Watch the cards closely
Clues can be found on each one
Nicks betray bowers

Euchre Palavar:
"Readers" - Cards that are marked such that they can be easily identified when looked at face down. Some cheaters will knowingly bend the cards in a certain manner to easily identify bowers and aces. But cards naturally pick up nicks and marks and noticeing these is just good euchre strategy.

Savvy Strategies:
Since euchre is such a lucky game, even a very slight advantage can be the difference between winning and losing. Whenever you use a deck of cards for any length of time, they will pick up distinguishing marks. For example, last week during the play-off match it was pointed out by one of our opponents that the Jack of Clubs had a bent corner. I assume it picked this up naturally and wasn't the result of some nefarious action.

After it was pointed out, each time I delt I looked for the bent corner so I often knew where the Jack of Club went. It came in handy on one particular deal when I felt that the cut card had the bent corner. When the Jack of Spades was turned up and I held the Ace of spades, I knew that I had 2 gauranteed tricks. I ordered, we marched and won the match.

The bottom line is look for distinguishing marks and nicks at the start of every euchre game. An easy way to do this is to take the pack in your hands, square it up, and riffle through the cards one at a time. You will quickly see if there are any foreign marks that you can use later during the match.

Use this strategy cautiously however! It's easy to mistakenly think one card is somewhere when it really is somewhere else. (Until you get good that is). Also, others might recognize distinguishing marks. When this happens, it's time to ask for a new deck. Your advantage is gone and it's best to take it away from everyone.

One final note, while it's ok to look for marks & nicks that are already on the cards, it is totally unethical to put them on yourself. This is cheating and we here at the Euchre Universe do not recommend it.

League Night:
Tonight is round 2 of playoffs. We're undefeated so far. Hopefully, we can keep it up.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shake your tail feather

Euchre QOD: “Lead ‘em if ya got ‘em”

Euchre Haiku:
Begin with your trump
If you have ordered it up
Less so on defense

Euchre Palaver
“Shaking the bushes” – To lead trump in an attempt to pull the trump out of the opponents hand.

Savvy Strategies
In the 10 Commandments of euchre it is suggested that you should lead trump when you’ve ordered it up but NOT lead trump when you are on defense. These rules seem a little too narrow for my taste. Whether you “shake the bushes” is really dependant on what your cards are and who ordered it up. If you follow the point system for determining whether to order a few rules come into effect.

Since seat 1 is the lead player for the first trick of the round, here are 7 rules you should follow when deciding what to lead.

On offense in Seat 1:
1. If you have 4 trumps, lead trump. But if you have 4 trump you should be going alone and if you are going alone, You should always lead trump!

2. If you have 3 trumps but don't have the right, don't lead trump. You should lead your off-suit loser. This gives your partner a chance to either win your loser with the Ace in the suit or ruff it.

3. If you have 2 trumps, don't shake the bushes. In this case, you'll want to lead your off-suit loser card too. Lose early to win late. Note: this assumes you ordered it up.

4. If your partner ordered it up, lead trump. An order by your partner means they have a monster point hand. They want the trump to come out, so you should just lead it.

On Defense...
5. If the player on your left ordered it up lead trump. They generally order it up on a weak trump hand so there is a chance to set them. Also, there is a chance they will have to decide whether to play a low trump instead of the right and it could give your partner's Left (if they have it) a chance to win.

6. But don't lead trump if you have the Left. The opponents likely have the right and your left would just be wasted.

7. Don't lead trump if the upcard was a bower. Even if the person in seat 2 ordered it up. There is no advantage to leading trump.

Follow these "rules" and you will really frustrate your opponents and online partners but you will also be playing winning euchre!

Blog Notes
I'm off on vacation to sunny Arizona for the next 4 days so I might have a hard time updating the blog. I'll try but there will be much baseball to watch and euchre to play.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Stealin' stealin' pretty momma don't you tell on me

Euchre QOD: “No one cheats in euchre.”

Euchre Haiku:
On your turn to deal
Gather the cards and shuffle
Then your foes can not.

Euchre Palaver
“Steal the deal” – this is a legitimate method of cheating in euchre where you gather up the cards and begin dealing when it is not your turn to do so. Against drunk and sober folks alike this trick is pretty easy to pull off. The advantage you get as the dealing team is huge so it is a powerful ploy. According to euchre rules once the deal is complete (trump card is turned up) it is a legal deal and you’ve successfully stolen the deal.

League Night
Well, the playoffs started and things are looking up for my partner and me. The first round we played the 23rd ranked team. A nice couple of twentysomethings originally from Iowa. She is some kind of Marketing person and he is a banker consultant. They played a decent game of euchre and in both games started with 4 or 5 point leads. In our first game, the guy ordered the first three hands in a row. He made the first, got a loner on the second and made the third. When he tried to stretch to 4 in a row, we euchred them. He ordered his partner with only the Right. I led trump at trick number 1 and stripped him. We had the off-Aces and cashed ‘em. It got us back in.

Later in the game I made a loner (Right, Ten, Nine, off A-10), and my partner had a lay down winner when we were ahead 9-7. Game two went similarly. They had a four point lead, we scored a loner, set them and we won it when we were dealing with 9 points and I was dealt Left, Ace, King. We won 2 games to none, and moved to the next round.

The second match was against two hotties. They had squeaked out a victory against a team I don’t like much. I was glad to play them. For this match I decided to pull out the chicken and tap it each time before I looked at my hands. The hotties were amused and distracted such that our aggressive play was enough to sink them 2 games to none.

Overall, we got pretty good cards but we made some great plays. On at least 3 occasions we marched when we easily could’ve lost a trick. I’m feeling good. More next week.

Euchre on the Web
I just looked at the site and was appalled!! This is a terrible site that has next to nothing about euchre. They have poker strategies for god’s sake! I wonder how we might get that domain from them and turn it into a proper tribute to the game.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Paying Al

Euchre QOD: “Sometimes losing is a winning strategy”

Euchre Haiku:
Your cards may be weak
Opponents in the pasture
Order to stop four

Euchre Palaver
“Donation” – This is a defensive strategy in which you order up knowing full well that you will probably get euchred. Your intent is to concede 2 points to the opponents hoping to prevent a 4 point loner. Also called “Columbus Coup” by at least one euchre author. In Chicago, we call it “Paying Al”.

Savvy Strategies
To some, the idea of ordering up when you have a pretty good chance of losing feels like “dirty euchre”. No doubt, these are the same kind of people who frown on the practice of not trying to make a ball when shooting a game of pool (pocket billiards). But these people are hung up on the immediate object of both of these games and miss the overall aim, winning. In euchre, the object is to win points. In pool, it is to sink balls. Employing a strategy which goes against those goals is abhorrent to some.

Don’t be one of these people! Remember, the object of euchre is to win the game. If you are beating your opponents 9-6 or 9-7 and they order and make a loner, you lose! It would’ve been much better if you got euchred and “donated” 2 points. That way the score would be 9-8 or 9-9 and you still have a chance to win the game.

Use the donating tactic with care however. You don’t want to be giving up point willy nilly. The following are guidelines to follow when deciding whether to donate or not.

  1. Donate when the opponents are in the pasture (have 6 or 7 points). The object of the donation play is to prevent losing the game from a loner. This can only occur when the opponents have 6 or 7 points. When they have 8 or 9, the donation play is not applicable. If you donate in these situations, you will lose the game!!

  2. Do not donate if you have a sure trick. This may seem obvious but it’s worth stating. If you have a sure trick, the opponents will not make a loner so there is no reason to donate. A sure trick is the Right bower or the protected Left (that is the Left bower with another trump).

  3. Donation is a defensive tactic, the dealing team should not use it. Generally, the dealing team is not in a position to donate. Certainly, the dealer’s partner should never donate. The dealer may donate if she has a “feeling” that the player in the first seat is sitting on a great hand and will order up a loner in a different suit. This is a rare case. It is also not as useful for the dealing team as they will be giving up the deal on the next hand and will lose their advantage.

  4. The player in the first seat controls the donation play. It is up to the person in the first seat whether the team should donate or not. If she has a “sure” trick then she should pass. If she has no sure tricks then she should donate. The player in seat 3 has no donating responsibilities. But she should assume that if her partner passed, she must have at least 1 sure trick. So, if she has 2 winning cards in her hand, she should order it up.

It may still seem odd to you to be ordering up when you know you are going to lose. But good euchre players employ this tactic to great advantage. Computer simulations also demonstrate that donating is a better strategy than passing. Start donating and you will win more games.

League Night
Tonight is the start of euchre play-offs. Looks like we ended up solidly in 10th place which means we’ll play our friends Kevin and Chad. Yikes! I hate playing my friends. When you lose you feel bad that you lost. When you win, you feel bad that you beat your friends. Fortunately, it is double elimination so when we do win, we won’t bounce them from the play-offs right away.

The play-offs are a bit different from the regular season. The matches are best of 3 instead of best of 5. I think it makes it much tougher to win because winning 2 games against superior players is much easier than winning 3. In a 3 game match format, the luckier players win a lot more often. No matter, skill should win out in the end. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Weekend quick post

Euchre QOD: “Quick cards can cause confusion”

Euchre Haiku:
Some play euchre fast
Others will drag the game out
Quicker is better

Euchre on the Web:
A nice basic article about euchre is posted here at Flak Magazine.
And if you feel like looking at some euchre probabilities, check out this posting. The probability of you getting dealt 3 trump is about 8%, a relatively rare event indeed.

This is the weekend so I don’t write as much. Perhaps there’ll be more tomorrow. Tonight, I’m going out in the fine city of Chicago.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What to call the cards

Euchre QOD: “Seriousness betrays sureness”

Euchre Haiku:
Sometimes the cards suck
So keep your attitude sharp
Winning requires it

Euchre Palaver:
“Bullet” – an Ace. The Ace of Spades is sometimes called the “Shield”
“Cowboy” – a King
“Lady” – a Queen
“Hook” – a Jack. Also called a “Farmer”
“Dix” – a Nine
“Sick Dog” – A low, non-trump card

Savvy Strategies
One of the most challenging aspects of euchre is the fact that inferior players will inevitably beat you on occasion. As they said in the great pool movie, The Color of Money, "The balls roll funny for eveyone." In this case, it's cards instead of balls. When you get those crappy cards time and time again, fret not. Luck will return to you at some point. Begin thinking in terms of playing the best euchre that you can with the cards you are dealt. Some hands, many hands, are losers. All you will be able to do is follow suit and watch everyone else sweep the cards. But if you focus on staying sharp and playing the cards as best as they can be played, victory is within your control. The victory then is not in winning tricks but in playing great euchre. Sometimes, this is all we get.

Euchre on the Web:
Check out this free euchre program from Euchre It’s pretty good but a little crude. I like the ‘advice’ button.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Assisting your partner

Euchre QOD:  “Bower power”

Euchre Haiku:
Seat two has power
The weak hands are much stronger
Bid often win more

Euchre Palaver
“Assist” – To order up your partner when she is the dealer; ordering from seat 2 (the power seat).

Savvy Strategies
Of all the seats at the euchre table, the second seat is my favorite.  That is the seat who happens to be the dealer’s partner.  When you are sitting here even terrible euchre hands start to look better.  Follow these ordering tips to make the most of the power seat.

1.  Never order up with 1 trump.  We start with this tip because sometimes the point system will suggest ordering it up even if you have only 1 trump.  Don’t do it because it is a losing play.
2.  Don’t order it up when your team is “in the pasture” and the up-card is a Bower.  You don’t want to spoil your partner’s chance at making a loner to win the game do you?  Well, then don’t.  A 4 point win at this time in the game is much more valuable than the 1 or 2 points you could achieve by ordering it up.
3.  Order it up when you have 11 card points.  So, hands in which you have the 9 and 10 of trump with an off-Ace should be ordered.  If you have the Ace and 9 of trump with an off-King you should order it up.  And any hand where you have either bower with another trump, you should order.  Aggressive euchre is winning euchre.
4.  Go alone when you have 4 trump.  If your partner is taking one trump down and you have 4 that means there are only 2 unaccounted for.  Odds are pretty good that they are both buried (in partner’s hand or the kitty) or that the opponents only have 1.  

5.  Go alone when you have 23 points.  Again, your partner is taking one trump down and you’ve got at least 3 headed by the right bower.  This is a loner call if ever there was one.  Unless you have 8 points of course, then you should bring partner along.

The second seat is the most fun one to play.  If you are not ordering up too often, then you’re just not playing it right.

Euchre on the Web
An interesting post about euchre.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Be quick about it

Euchre QOD: “If you’re not getting set, you’re not bidding enough”

Euchre Haiku:
Get euchred often
And the ire of your partner
Could thwart your chances.

Euchre Palaver
“In the barn” – This means a team has scored 9 points in a 10 point game and is one away from victory. Also known as “at the bridge”.

Savvy Strategies
Often in euchre you are going to be dealt a terrible hand. There are some hands that are so worthless you feel like you shouldn’t even be participating in the game. What can you do with a full house of nines and tens? (A full house is when you have a pair of one type of card and three of another). Well, in these cases you just have to suck it up and play the cards to the best of your ability. And if there happens to be a good show on the bar tv, go ahead and watch it. Your cards don’t matter anyway. Although, don’t let your opponents notice your ennui.

If you are sitting in the first chair and you have to lead, be quick about it. Lead as soon as the dealer discards. You’ll find that sometimes people will hem and haw about going alone. In euchre the rules state that you have to announce a loner prior to any card being led. If you are able to throw a card out quickly, you can prevent the loner from happening.

Bottom line: Lead as soon as you are able.

Euchre on the Web
To make your euchre experience a little more interesting try Youker the euchre drinking game.