Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A questionable euchre lead - What should you play?

Skewed Euchre Jargon (from the urban dictionary):

Eucharist: A large box of bed sheets.

Skewed Euchre QOD:
I went to the store to buy a eucharist.

Euchre Strategy:
I was testing out a euchre simulator today and came upon the following hand when I was in seat 1.

The upcard was the Queen of hearts and the dealer’s partner (seat 2) ordered it up.

This brings to mind a question. What should you lead? Let’s look at the case for each.

Left Bower (Jack of Diamonds):
If you believe that the person in seat 2 is ordering with a weak hand, a trump lead might be good. You could be pulling out the dealer’s only trump and you would be setting up your Ace of clubs to win. The Left might even be the highest trump out so you’d be winning that trick too. However, you will likely be pulling out your partner’s trump and you’ve only got 1 other winner. I don’t like this lead.

9 of diamonds:
This is the “lead a loser” philosophy. Not a bad one when you are on offense but on defense, forget it. Sure your partner might have the ace of diamonds or might be able to trump it but the odds are not good. I’d stay away from this lead.

Ace of Clubs:
With three clubs, the ace of clubs doesn’t have a great chance of winning. (Somewhere around 50%) However, it’s not a bad choice. I like the King a little better however.

King of Clubs:
This one has just as good a chance of winning as the Ace of Clubs since you know they can’t both be played on the trick. However, you have the added chance that your partner will trump it, forcing the next player to trump higher if they’ve got it. Of all the cards, this one to me is the best option.

10 of Clubs:
This card is almost a certain loser and only makes your Ace of clubs less likely to win later. Of all the cards, I’d say that leading the 10 of clubs is the worst choice.

Euchring the opponents with this hand is not too likely. But you can improve your chances if you just lead the right card. According to the leading scientific research at the Euchre Universe, we say the King of Clubs is the best lead, followed closely by the Ace of Clubs.

I’m sure everyone in the rest of the euchre universe would agree.


TheEuchreMaster said...

I agree with your choice of leading the King of clubs. Another bonus that you didn't mention to leading the K rather than the A is that 2nd seat may decide to lay off in hopes that his partner holds the Ace or can trump it on his/her own.

In some cases, however, I feel that one could make a fairly strong argument for leading the left bower instead of the King of clubs. Like you mentioned, if you believe 2nd seat ordered with a weak hand, then leading the left could make this hand tricky for the players on offense (especially 2nd seat if you are able to pull the dealer's only trump). Furthermore, I think the score should, as always, be a variable in your decision on what to lead in this hand. If your team is losing by a significant margin and/or your opponents have 9 or even 8 points, leading the left bower may happen to be the "tricky" play that will foil your opponents plan at cruising on to victory. Also, if indeed your opponents are on their way to a "sure" victory (or at least in their mind they are) then 2nd seat may very well be trying to just finish the game off with a weaker than usual order (i.e. he/she may just be holding a couple of non-bower trump and an ace). Moreover, if the dealer only has 1 trump and 3rd seat (your partner) has 2 or possibly even 3 trump, then leading the left is obviously BY FAR the best play on trick # 1.

Ultimately, in my opinion, leading the King of clubs is the safe choice, especially if your first objective is to stop your opponents from marching (making 2 points). However, if your team is in dire need of points then really I wouldn't argue with 1st seat leading the left bower.

Perry said...

Euchre master, thanks for stoppin' by. After running the scenario in a euchre simulator (a computer program designed to automatically play euchre and tally the results) I have to conclude that the Ace lead is best.

I agree with you about the Left and if you want to maximize your chances of getting 2 points with a euchre, the Left is the way to go. However, the Left lead also increases the chances that your opponents will march (or sweep) so leading that one when they have 8 points is not good.

According to the simulator, the Ace is better than the King. This must be because your partner will ruff a King but won't ruff an Ace.

TheEuchreMaster said...

I'd love to know how this euchre simulator works. There are certain variables in euchre that I wouldn't think a computer program would truly be able to interpret (i.e. opponents' tendencies/habits). I'm also curious whether or not this simulator takes things into account such as the score and seat positions.

Harvey "the Rabbit" Lapp said...

Thought I'd add my two cents...
The ace and king of clubs are both worth equal value together in your hand, so why not lead the king? If your king is still in the lead when it gets to your partner, he should ruff it if he can. He might discard trash if he sees your ace make it past your LHO, leaving the trick (and the next lead) fair game to your RHO.
Also, if you changed the 9D into the other black ace, I would seriously consider the Left Bower lead. If I have all three side aces and the solo Left Bower, there is no question but to lead trump.

TheEuchreMaster said...

Well let's say your partner is void in clubs and you lead the Ace of clubs. The only time he/she should even consider ruffing that lead is if he/she has the bare K or A of trump, and probably absolute junk in the other two side suits. But if you lead the King of clubs and he/she is void, then your partner may have a few options to choose from based on what he/she is holding in trump.

For example, if your partner holds R+1 (R9 to RA, not counting RQ of course) then he/she should certainly lay off your club lead. In this case it makes no difference if you lead the A or K, laying off is the correct play. But what if you're partner holds something like K9 or A10 in trump? In this case, if you lead the Ace of clubs he/she will almost certainly lay off and hopefully void one if his/her side suits. But if you lead the King of clubs, your partner won't have much choice but to play his/her higher trump (then your partner might choose to lead out his/her last trump, especially when holding a ide ace or two).

All of these possibilities (and several others) are at least somewhat likely to occur, so all should be considered. This is where the simulator could really come in handy by calculating the probabilities of how trump is distributed between players and the like. However, when it comes down to it (and I'm making an assumption here) this simulator doesn't calculate player tendencies, player's theories/beliefs on how certain situations should be handled (i.e. trumping your partner's side suit King), etc.

And yes I agree with you Harvey; if you have the ace of diamonds too then leading the left bower would be my first choice as well.

Perry said...


The simulator does take into account the score and seat position when making bidding and playing decisions. It has been designed to play an "optimal" strategy. Although, I didn't personally design it so there are definitely things that I would play differently than the simulator.

However, compared to other card games euchre is a game with few options and in the long run most of the differences in play between me and the simulator don't matter.