Friday, June 30, 2006

Euchre strategy - The top 10 euchre tells

Euchre QOD: “Strong is weak and weak is strong”

Euchre Palaver
Tell – A habit, behavior, or other physical reaction that lets other players know how strong your hand is.

Savvy Strategies
While it’s true that playing a statistically/mathematically based euchre strategy will win you more games than it loses, it will also naturally limit your ability to win. For example, we here at the euchre universe love the donation strategy but it also gives away points. In the best case, you should only use the donation strategy when you know one of your opponents is going to attempt and make a loner. But the only way to know for sure is by looking at their cards and this is against most normal rules of euchre.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the world of poker. Players are constantly trying to find hints or tells about what their opponents are holding. Can the same strategy be used in euchre? You bet!

An article posted at lists some of the most common poker tells. Here they are as they might be applied to euchre.

1. Watch the eyes. Players with good hands will stare at them for an inordinate amount of time. Look to your opponents and see if their eyes tell you whether they’ve got a loner or not.

2. Facial expressions. When a player has a weak hand they will often frown but with a strong hand they will have a look of confidence about them. Watch for this. I know my usual partner is the easiest person in the world to read because she just can’t control her look of disappointment when her cards are terrible. Then again, neither can most people.

3. Weak is strong / Strong is weak. While this one works better for poker than euchre it can also be instructive. If someone seems disinterested in their hand it’s often because they have great cards and they are praying it comes to them so they can order up their monster. And if someone is obviously handling their cards like they have the best euchre hand ever, they’ve likely got nothing.

4. Anxiety. This one comes up when a player has a really strong hand (lay down loner perhaps). These are actual physical changes like eyes dilating or blood pressure increasing. Look for these uncontrollable changes in your opponent (or partner) to see if they have a great hand.

5. Trembling hands. Shaky fingers means a strong hand. It’s a sign of anxiety.

6. Glance at scorecard (chips). While there are no chips in euchre there is a scorecard. Often a player will use the score to decide what they are going to do, especially when they have 6, 7, or 8 points. This usually means they have a pretty good hand because they are trying to decide if they want to go alone or not. If they look at their cards and have no chance of making a loner, they usually don’t care about the score.

7. Peeking at hole cards on the flop. Although it is interesting for poker, it doesn’t have much application to euchre.

8. Repetitive betting patterns. Not applicable to euchre. Although repetitive drinking patterns can help your game. We discussed how the drinking gambit a little while back.

9. Body posture/Attitude. Look for a player’s shoulders to drop or for them to slump a bit when they have a weak hand. Don’t bother donating to this player. But look out for the player his sits up in her chair and is real attentive. They’ve got a great hand. Be careful to look for the actors however. When a player is making it obvious that they have a great hand (or really weak one) the opposite is usually true. As they say in poker, strength is weakness and weakness is strength.

10. Trick arranging. (Chip stacking). Generally, more thoughtful euchre players will arrange their tricks in an organized manner. These players will be solid but conservative. The less organized the tricks the crazier the player. If you see one of these at your table, get away fast!

Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed the top 10 euchre tells. If you have any to add please leave a comment.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Euchre Strategy - Hand of the week 1 play

Euchre Quote: Sometimes cheaters win

Euchre Haiku:
Experts at euchre
Playing every hand perfect
And getting lucky

Savvy Strategies:
Hand of the week
Just to finish up on the hand of the week from Monday. Remember the hand was…

K (Hearts)
10 (Diamonds)
J (Clubs)
J 10 (Spades)

Upcard is…

Q (Diamonds)

The way you should play it depends on what happened during the ordering round and what seat you are sitting in.

Opponents order it up and they are dealing.
That would put you in either seat 1 or seat 3. In seat 1 you would have to decide what to lead. In this hand you have little chance of winning any trick. Your best hope is the King of hearts. Unfortunately, a non-trump King will only win a trick about 1 out of 10 games. And this King is the in the “next” suit which reduces the winning chances even more. Things are not looking promising for you to win a trick.

But of your five possible leads, the King of hearts is probably the best bet. There are really two reasons it is best. First, it might win a trick. Second, your partner might be short in that suit so she can ruff.

The other leading option is to lead the 10 of diamonds (a trump). I could support this option if the opponent in seat 2 ordered it up. A trump lead from you may force them to make a decision between playing the Right Bower or their Ace of trump. It may also strip the only trump out of the dealer’s hand. Of course, it could also strip your partner’s trump and screw up the whole defense so I’m going to stick with the recommendation to lead the King and hope for the best.

If the dealer orders it up, you should definitely lead the King of hearts or maybe the 10 of spades. All the things said about the King stand but the 10 of spade lead could possibly set up a win for the Jack of spade later in the round. It’s weak but possible.

Opponents order it up and you are dealing
In this case you are in either seat 2 or seat 4. Not much to do here except wait to see what’s played. With three singletons, you’re pretty much just going to be following suit.

Partner orders it up and they are dealing
If your partner orders it up and you’re in seat 1, lead that trump right away. She ordered from seat 3 so she must have a strong trump hand. She would like to see you pull trump so the opponents don’t win a cheap trick ruffing one of her off-suit aces.

Partner orders it up and you are dealing
Again, not much to do here except wait to see what’s played. With three singletons, you’re pretty much just going to be following suit.

So now you are an expert at playing this hand. If you become an expert at the remaining 42,503 hands you will be the greatest euchre player in the known universe, at least the Euchre Universe.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Euchre Strategy: Hand of the week number 1

I hope you’ve been pondering the euchre hand of the week from yesterday’s post.

Today, we’ll discuss whether you should order it up or not.

There are a couple of missing pieces of information that are critical for you to know before you can answer the question, should I order it up or not?

You need to know the current score and which seat you are sitting in.

How to Order
The first step in deciding to order or not is to evaluate the power of the hand using the point system. With diamonds as trump, this hand is worth 5 points. Pretty much based on hand strength alone, you should always pass this hand. But making this decision based on hand strength alone will not lead to superior euchre play. Here are some situations where Passing wouldn’t be your best choice.

Order it up if…
1. You are sitting in seat 1 and the game score is 9-6 or 9-7. This euchre donation strategy will prevent a loner and possible immediate victory by the opponents.

2. You are in seat 1, it is passed around to you and your team has either 6, 7 or 9 points. With a score of 6 or 7, you should order up green, and go alone with Spades as trump. This gives you a chance for immediate victory. With 9 points, just order it up and win the game. With 8 points you should bag and let the opponents (or your partner) order something. The chances of you euchring them are pretty good. With all other scores not yet mentioned, you should order it up in green.

Tomorrow, we'll look at how you might play this hand.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Euchre strategy - Hand of the week 1

Well, I’m back from vacation and ready to start writing a bit more about euchre. When I started this blog at the beginning of the year I really didn’t think about how long I could make it last or more importantly, how much material I had. But if thousands of blogs about poker can be kept, couldn’t one blog about euchre be kept up? Well, I’ll keep trying.

Perhaps the format that I was following was too restrictive. Today, something new.

I’m going to deal out a random hand. And talk about how to play it.

Here’s the hand of the week…

K (Hearts)
10 (Diamonds)
J (Clubs)
J 10 (Spades)

Upcard is…

Q (Diamonds)

Questions to consider.
  1. How should this hand be ordered?

  2. How should this hand be played?

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the answers.

Monday, June 19, 2006

On vacation

I'm on vacation in South Carolina. But for all of you who need your Chicken fix here's a shot to enjoy....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Euchre Strategy - How to play a euchre hand

Euchre QOD: “There’s no atheism in euchre!”

Euchre Haiku:
When your foes have six
And they order it alone
Will a euchre hand

Euchre Palaver
“Euchre hand” – A hand that has at least one winning trick no matter what suit is declared trump. An example would be a hand with 4 jacks. With this hand, you can’t help but win trick.

Savvy Strategies
Unlike a game like Bridge, Euchre has a small enough number of unique hands that it is possible to be dealt every hand in your lifetime. Think about it this way.

There are 42,504 possible euchre hands.
The average euchre game goes 10 hands.

So, if you played one game of euchre a day, you should expect to see every possible hand in just over 11 years. Play 3 games a day and you’ll see every hand in about 4 years.

But it won’t feel like it takes this long because many hands are practically the same. If you hand a farmer’s hand would it really feel different if your two 10s were the diamonds & clubs versus hearts & spades? No. Thus the number of unique “feeling” hands is much lower than 42,000.

With the frequency of unique feeling hands in mind, you can bet that sometime during a marathon session of euchre you are going to be dealt a euchre hand. These are a type of hand that has a guaranteed winner no matter what suit is called trump. It is an excellent hand when you are on defense but not as strong on offense.

Euchre Hand Examples.
1. Any hand with four jacks. With this hand you’ve got 2 winners no matter what suit is ordered. But 2 winners is not enough and to make, you will need some help from your partner.
2. Any hand with three jacks and an ace in the suit in which you don’t have a jack. Here you can’t help but win a trick.

3. Any hand with three jacks and a King, Queen combination in the other suit. Again, a winner no matter what suit is called.

The nice thing about a euchre hand is that it will prevent a march. The bad thing about it is that it is not usually strong enough to order trump, but as we’ve seen that will depend on the seat & score. Here are some ordering tips.

Euchre Hand Strategies.
1. In seat 1, pass in the first round. Order “Next” in the second. This play was described in the two jack ordering entry from last week.

2. In seat 2, pass in both first and second rounds. You have a good chance at euchring your opponents or being of great assistance to your partner.

3. In seat 3, pass in the first round, order it up in the second. With 3 Jacks, you’ve got two winners in at least 1 trump suit. You might as well take a gamble.

4. In seat 4, pass in the first round, order it up in the second. Again, you’ve got at least two winners. Count on your partner for 1 and you’ll score at least 1 point for your side. Euchre is not a game for the timid.

Follow these tips for handling a euchre hand and you’ll be euchring more opponents than you ever have.

Euchre Traveler
Traveling abroad this summer? Well, if you want to go to a place with real life euchre be sure to go to visit Cornwall, located in the south west corner of England. According to the wikipedia, there are numerous leagues throughout the county.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Euchre Strategy - Two Bower hand defense

Euchre QOD: “Play passive when you’re strong”

Euchre Haiku:
Strong hands on defense
They require passive play
Hang your opponents

Euchre Palaver
“Benny” – A term for the joker. In some euchre circles, the joker is used to denote the absolute highest bower. Why an extra card had to be added to the deck is beyond me. But to be a complete euchre player, you should know all the terms.

Savvy Strategies
As promised, an entry on how to play a hand with two Jacks. Just to break things up a bit we’ll look at the two Jack hand on defense first.

Here’s the scenario. You are sitting in seat 1 and have a 2 Jack hand. The dealer ordered it up. What should you lead?

Many people I know will automatically lead one Jack and then the next. The thinking is that it makes sense to pull out the opponent’s trump and see how they fair in the off-suit. While this is a logical strategy it is not the best one to employ.

Unfortunately, what happens is that you end up pulling the trump out of your partner’s hand making it highly unlikely that they will win any tricks. And if you don’t have an ace, then your opponents will still have a chance to make.

Even if you have an Ace, you shouldn’t lead like this. The play that gives you the best chance of euchring your opponents is to lead a low, off-suit card. This lead gives your partner a shot at winning the trick (outright or by trumping it) or it could force your opponent to have to trump. This will give him two or less trump most likely and give you a great shot at stripping his trump.

The bottom line is that when you hold two bowers on defense, don’t lead them until you know you will pull out the trump! Play passive to hang the opponents.

Euchre on the Web
Only in the Midwest are you going to find people mentioning euchre in their personal ad. Check out Joan and Sharon. Feel free to contact these ladies if you are looking to do a little dating in Ohio.

Euchre Universe Notes:
Sorry about the infrequent posts. I was out on vacation last week and am going again next week. We’ll get better after that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Euchre Strategy - Double Hooks, The Two Bower Hand

Euchre QOD: Always count on your partner for one trick

Euchre Haiku
Two jacks in your hand
Double hooks means two winners
You still need one more

Euchre Savvy Strategies:
Every so often you are going to be dealt a euchre hand that has 2 bowers, but no other trump. Should you order this hand up or not? Go alone? How should you play it?

Well, the answers to these questions depend on various factors such as seat position, score, and the value of the other cards in your hand. Today we’ll look at whether you should order it up or not. Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to play ‘em.

Seat Position. As we’ve seen in previous posts, the seat position plays a big role in whether you should order or not. Here are some guidelines worth following.

Seat 1 : Never order it up in the first round. Nothing good can come of ordering up in the first round from seat 1. If one of the opponents happens to have 4 trump, then you could get euchred. If your partner had 4 trump, you just squelched her loner. Since you get to order up first in the second round, you can make trump Next and have an excellent shot of making it or maybe even getting a sweep.

Seat 2: Generally, order it up but sometimes you might pass. In this seat, you have an excellent shot of making it and it isn’t likely that your partner has a loner. You may as well order it up and be happy to get a point or two. If you have an off ace and you’ve got 6 or 7 points, going alone would also be a good play. Passing may be a better decision if you are playing against good euchre players. They will have a tendency to automatically order Next and you’ll have a great chance of euchring them for 2 points. This doesn’t work as well if you are playing opponents who don’t know the value of the Next strategy.

Seat 3: Generally, you should pass. You have an excellent hand for setting an aggressive dealer and a perfect helper hand if your partner orders Next on her turn. However, if your partner is timid and hasn’t embraced the Next strategy, you need to try something different.

In that case, order it up unless your opponents have 8 points. The chances of your team getting euchred are pretty low. Simulations of this situation still show that your team will win about 65% of the hands which is just about a break-even point according to game theory.

Seat 4: Order it up, and go alone most of the time. If you have 2 bowers in your hand, that means there is another trump on the table. You’ll have 3 trump and 3 sure tricks. You better go alone. But suppose one bower is on the table and you have one in your hand. In this case, you should just pick it up and play with your partner unless your team has 6 or 7 points.

If you have 6 or 7 points and some decent off cards (an ace, king, two suited) feel free to go alone. There is a chance that you can march and a relatively small chance that you’ll get euchred. To go alone you should have some non-trump potential winners but it’s worth a shot since a march will give you the game.

If the opponents have 8 points, don’t go alone unless you have an off ace or even two. Being euchred will lose you the game which would suck. Getting euchred when the opponents have 8 points is like making the third out at third base in baseball. Just order it up and take your 1 point.

Other cards in your hand
Of course, the stronger your off-suit cards, the stronger you can play. If you have an off-ace or two you should be going alone. If you have a fistful of queens, tens and nines you better bring your partner along to help. As the old adage goes, always count on your partner for one trick.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how you should play the two jack hand.

Euchre News - Around the world of euchre

Euchre QOD: “I’m dying, but then again aren’t we all”

Euchre Haiku:
Nothing is endless
Bad cards, lucky breaks all cease
Except a circle

Euchre Obits
It seems we lost a euchre player on May 31, 2006. Ronald Childers, the game will miss you.

Euchre News
Who says Canadians can’t play euchre? Nobody, I guess. Here’s a quaint story about a group that started playing euchre when Ronald Regan was president.

And a story about a retiring lunch lady who will have more time to play euchre. Watch for Linda Zulz online.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blog reorganization

Hello Euchre Universe faithful.

To make this blog more useful we are in the process of organizing all the old entries into various categories. You can see some of the new categories on the side there such as Euchre Playing Strategies, Euchre Ordering Strategies, etc.

This is taking a little time so today we will only be left with a picture of the chicken after a wild night of drinking. We'll be back in full swing tomorrow.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Euchre Strategy - Liberal Loner versus the Conservatives

Euchre QOD: “Lose a little to win a lot”

Euchre Haiku:
Go alone often
Mathematics are on your side
As should your partner

Euchre Palaver
Loner” – Ordering up while telling your partner to lay their cards down. You attempt to make without help from your partner. Scoring is the same as if you were playing with your partner except that if you sweep you get awarded 4 points.

Savvy Strategies
I stumbled across this website that tells you how to play euchre. eHow is actually a pretty interesting website and if you want to know how to do something, someone probably wrote it up already. Anywhoo…

Here is what someone wrote as a “good” tip.

You can only call a loaner hand if you have the trump ace, both bars, and no 9's in your hand. Even with the one trump nine, you cannot call a loaner, it is too risky.

Now frequent visitors of the Euchre Universe have heard that euchre is a game for the bold. If you are limiting your Loner calls to hands in which you have the top three trump and no 9’s, you are not going to win as many euchre games as you should. This advice is so conservative that it will hurt your game.

True you will never get euchred when playing like this. Some people get really embarrassed when they get euchred on a loner. But this is ridiculous. By following the tenets of game theory, you have to make the play that gives you the highest rate of return. Sometimes this return will lead to a loss, but if the gain is great enough it wins over the long hall. Let’s look at two possibilities.

Conservative lone bidder. Never orders a loner on a hand that can get euchred.
Liberal lone bidder. Orders a loner whenever there is a positive expectation of gain.

Based on experience and a little logical guesswork we can put some numbers behind these two approaches to see which is better. To figure it out we need to know how often the loner is called, how often they make the loner, and how often they are euchred.

For the conservative bidder these factors would be as follows.
  1. Ordering up a loner - 1%

  2. Getting euchred – 0%

  3. Sweeping – 50%

  4. Making bid – 100%

For the Liberal lone bidder the numbers are more like this.
  1. Ordering up a loner – 10%

  2. Getting euchred – 10%

  3. Sweeping – 10%

  4. Making bid – 90%

So how do these two players fair over the course of 1000 games? The following equations shed some light on that.

the number of times they order a loner: 1000 x 1% = 10 hands
Expectation: (1 x 100%) + (3 x 50%) = 2.5 points
Points generated over 1000 games = 25 points

the number of times they order a loner: 1000 x 10% = 100 hands
Expectation: (1 x 90%) + (3 x 10%) – (2 x 10%) = 1 point
Points generated over 1000 games = 100 points

That’s a huge difference!

It just shows that sometimes you have to risk losing a little to win a lot.

Note: Just because Liberal bidding is more successful here doesn't mean it always holds true, in euchre or in politics.