Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A frustrating night

Last night was league night. We lost 2 games to 3. It was a bit frustrating as I was getting terrible cards, making some terrible plays, and so was my partner. Here was an example.

Early on in the game (score 2-4) my partner orders me up giving me the king of trump. That puts into my hand Left-King, off Ace (green), and 2 dud cards. I was three suited.

First trick: Opponent leads heart, my partner follows, trumped by RHO, I throw my ace.
Second trick: Opponent leads Ace of clubs. Everyone follows.
Third trick: Opponent leads hearts again. Instead of trumping like I should, I opt to throw off. LHO plays Ace of trump and my partner throws a heart. Euchre.

Terrible play.

I should've trumped in. Although, I still would've lost if I trumped in with the King instead of the Left. I just figured my partner to have a nice high trump and she did (right, nine)
but she never got a chance to play it.

We've got four victories going into the last week and I think our spot in the playoffs is assured. But I really would've liked to have won last night. We are better players than we showed last night.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Saving yourself from a loner

Monday is euchre league night and my partner and I are doing pretty well. This is despite the fact that I've made significant changes in my euchre strategy without telling her what they are. She is a great euchre partner.

Anyway, there was a hand where our opponents went alone, and I had the following.

9 of clubs (trump)
K, 10 of spades
K of hearts
K of diamonds

The opponent was on my right so it was my turn to lead.

Trick 1: I lead the King of diamonds, partner follows with the Ace and my opponent trumps in.
Trick 2: He next leads the right bower and I play my 9 of trump. My partner plays the 10.
Trick 3: He next plays the left bower and now I have to decide

...do I play the King of Hearts or the 10 of spade?

I played the King of Hearts and it worked out. My opponent next led the Ace of spades and then the Jack of spades which I took with my King to stop the loner sweep.

My reasoning for throwing away the King of Hearts was that I thought about how my opponent plays and what he might have gone alone with. He was a conservative player and rarely went alone. I figured he had a 2 suited hand with either 3 or 4 trump. If he had a 3 trump hand then I wanted to protect my King of Spades in the event that his other suit was spades. The King of Hearts is no good here unless he went alone with something like 4 trump and the Queen of Hearts. Fortunately, this wasn't the case.

Bottom line: When someone goes alone, keep your long suits long

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ruffing the leader - euchre end-play strategy

There was an interesting question posed in the Euchre Science group that prompted me to do a little mathematical figuring to come to an answer. It involves the following scenario that comes up often in euchre.

Your side has ordered it up.

You need to win the last two tricks to make either a sweep or to prevent a euchre.

The first three tricks have been played and your partner was good enough to win the last trick with a trump. Now, you have the lone trump remaining and you also have a King of an off-suit that has yet to be led.

Your partner leads an off-suit King of another suit that was never led. The opponent on your right follows with the Queen of that suit.

Now it's your turn to decide, should you ruff (play trump) or should you play your off-suit King and hope that your partner's King will win the trick?

To find the answer you need to figure out the probability of two events and do the one that has the highest chance of winning.

Event 1: Letting your partner's King win the trick.

To figure out the chances in this case, let's review the overall situation at trick 4.

Your partner has 1 card left
Your right hand opponent has 1 card left
You have 2 cards left
Your left hand opponent has 2 cards left
The talon (kitty) has 3 unknown cards

There is only 1 card that can beat your partner's king.

There are 5 unknown cards that are relavant (2 in left hand opponent's hand and 3 in the talon)
There is a 40% chance that the Ace lies in left hand opponent's hand and a 60% chance it's in the talon.

So, mathematics would say if you let it go you have a 60% chance or winning and a 40% chance of losing.

Event 2: Ruff your partner's trick and lead you mighty King.

In this situation everyone has 1 card left.

You, the off-king of a suit that hasn't been led
Left and right opponents - 1 card
Partner - 1 card
Talon - 3 unknown cards

Again, your opponents have 2 chances to hold the card and the talon has 3 chances. We assume your partner doesn't have the Ace else he would've led it.

That means the chances of you winning with the King is 60%. And the chances of you losing is 40%.

Bottom line...Mathematically, there is no difference. However, if you can pick up on some psychological clues about who might be holding a high card, then you can adjust your play accordingly.

That's all for today from The Euchre Universe.
Sorry about the sparse posts, I've been training hard and focusing on my efforts to joggle the Chicago Marathon

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A free euchre book

Hey all you out in the Euchre Universe, check out this great book I found over on Google.

The Law and Practice of the Games of Euchre.

Sure, it was written in 1862 but the game hasn't changed much since then. I haven't read it yet however, when I do I'll write a book review. We've written one previously (Columbus Book of Euchre) on this site.

I love Google. Free and useful stuff.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

3 Tips For Stealing the Deal

There was a raging debate going on at the Euchre Science group about whether it was ok to steal the deal or not. We here at the Euchre Universe recognize stealing the deal as a legitimate part of euchre. It is not "immoral" as some would suggest, nor is it cheating. It is a standard play found in many live euchre events. Unless it is specifically stated to be against the rules (as it is in the league that I play in) then you should feel free to steal the deal as often as you can.

Here are a few tips on how to subtly lift the deal without your opponents noticing.

1. Become a card gatherer. Most times people flop their tricks on the table in an disorganized pile. Cards are not lined up and sometimes they are even exposed. When the hand is over, make it a point to gather up and straighten all the cards. Then hand the cards to the appopriate dealer. After a while, you can either keep the cards or hand them to your partner when it's not really your team's turn to deal. If you're opponents aren't paying attention, you've successfully stolen the deal.

2. Take the cards with confidence. When you are trying to execute the steal the deal maneauver, sometimes you can bodly just take the cards, quickly shuffle, and deal. As long as you flip the upcard, the deal stands. Speed and confidence are key with this ploy.

3. Distract with patter. The key to stealing the deal is to catch your opponents not paying attention to the game. One way to do this is to engage them in a conversation. Successful topics generally include subjects about them. Ask them where they work, what they do, how they like their life. If that's not working, bring up a normally taboo topic like politics, abortion or religion and take a contraian view to their own. They'll be so busy defending their beliefs that they won't notice you dealing the cards.

Having the deal is an incredible advantage in euchre. If you can steal the deal just a couple of times during a euchre match, this might be just the advantage you need to defeat your opponents. Use these tips and see if you can start stealing the deal yourself. Just one word of caution, make sure you pay attention yourself. You don't want your opponents stealing the deal on you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Good luck rubber chicken

When I play euchre in the league at McGees on Monday nights, I like to bring a host of good luck props. This will include anything from coins to medals to red clothing. And of course, there is always a rubber chicken. My latest rubber chicken was given to me by a kind soul at work. I suppose there is something about me that makes people think I need rubber chickens. I'm not complaining though. It's great!

Here is a short video of my lucky rubber chicken in action. Whenever I win a point, make a loner, euchre the opponents, or just sense a need for rubber chicken frivolity I "squeeze the chicken." Check out the video below.

That makes me wonder about the rest of you in the Euchre Universe. What are your good luck trinkets, props, or habits at the euchre table?

Monday, October 09, 2006

World Series of Euchre Report - part 4

Tonight is league night again. Last week we won 2 games in a row with a stretch where my partner and I rattled off 21 points to the opponent's 0. That was quite a run. We've won 2 matches and lost one. We are in good shape to make a run come playoff time. But we really need to win 5 games to zip to move up the rankings signifcantly. Stay tuned.

Euchre Tour
Our final installment of the World Series of Euchre Report. Click on the appropriate number to find parts one, two and three.

Thanks so much to Harvey "the Rabbit" Lapp from Euchre Links for a great report. And good luck next year Harv. Perhaps Euchre links and the Euchre Universe can team up and take the title.

Sunday, Sept. 17th:

After breakfast, I checked down at the tournament site. I was told that they hadn't finished all the games the night before, and that the WSOE wouldn't be over until at least 2pm. There was now a dilemma. Football started at 1pm.

You see, in Vegas, I work on Sundays, and I never get to see live football. Adding to that, my favorite team is from back east, and not available on regular television in Nevada. Plus, I live on the wrong side of the building to get satellite t.v. at home, so I can't even record my game and watch it later. Now, here I was in Lansing, MI trying to decide whether or not I should watch a euchre tournament that I had been eliminated from (granted, it is the big one), or go to a sports bar about a block away to watch my favorite football team. Easy choice; I watched football! Sorry euchreheads, but it's just not as much fun watching euchre when you aren't playing. However, I find that watching football is quite enjoyable, and never get tempted to go in and take a snap.

I couldn't honestly tell you who won it all, but Joe Andrews will be posting it soon at http://grandprixtournaments.com. My congratulations to them! Mozeltoff!

Overall, I had a great time, and plan on returning again next year.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

World Series of Euchre Report - part 3

If you missed it, see parts one and two of the World Series of Euchre reports for the whole story.

Part 3: So close and yet so far. Our heros make a valiant effort but fall short of their World Series of Ecuhre dreams of glory.

Saturday, Sept. 16th:

10:00 am EST: There was a much rowdier bunch on Saturday. Drinks were flowing early, but I had made a previous agreement with my partner, that I wouldn't touch a drop of alchohol until we were eliminated, or preferably, until we had won the entire tournament.

It became obvious to me that most of the players in the WSOE all knew each other by playing online in Hardwood. I noticed this in Cleveland in 2005, but this year it seemed to be an overwhelming majority, as opposed to about half. Some players we spoke to actually believed that Hardwood was running the World Series and that you had to be a member in order to enter. When we introduced ourselves to our opponents, they usually asked; "what's your names on Hardwood?", and we usually replied; "we don't have any.

Note: I have joined Hardwood since returning home, if for no other reason, so that I will have a name on Hardwood next year.

In our first match of the day, nothing clicked. The cards were terrible for us. The opponents slowly chopped us down and beat us both games. During a brief break afterward, Michael said; "You might as well have a beer Harvey. As soon as we lose another game, we're out of it". I declined on the beer, insisting that we remain positive about our chances. Although I enjoy drinking beer while playing euchre, it dulls the senses and makes it easier to make mistakes. I couldn't afford mistakes at this point in the venture.

Upon returning to the tournament area, we noticed that there were some empty tables. Some of the teams had left after they were eliminated, so Scott Zagol restructured the roadmap to keep 2 teams on each table. This was when Scott announced that "the top 25 percentile was going to make it into the playoffs", giving hope to teams who might finish with 9 or 10 wins.

On that note, the cards began falling into place. We won 6 out of the next 8 games. We found ourselves building up momentum and heading into the final two games with 8 wins, on a pace to finish with 10 wins overall and a possible playoff entry. Joe Andrews then made a heartbreaking announcement before the 9th and final round; only teams with 11 wins were being accepted into the playoffs. Although everyone there knew that you needed 11 wins to get to the playoffs before they started playing, any hope that was offered by Scott earlier to teams with 9 or 10 wins, was suddenly crushed.

Joe's statement eliminated our entire table in fact, so we all took a trip to the bar before the 9th round and bought a round of beers. We played two half-hearted games even though Michael and I scored four loners. I also reneged once and pitched a card off the table, but it didn't really matter. The cards were on fire, but we were eliminated.

Shortly after that, the playoffs began. 16 teams with 11 wins or better played a best-out-of-three, double-elimination tournament to decide who the winners of the WSOE would be.

Michael and I were out of contention, so we sort of hovered around for a while. Word began circulating about a No-Limit Texas Hold-em tournament that was going to take place in the ballroom. My partner Michael might not be the most experienced euchre player in the world, but he plays Texas Hold-em several times a week in Las Vegas with some serious sharks. I didn't want to play poker, as I am burned-out on the game personally, however Michael did. While this game was being organized, and the initial rounds of the play-offs were taking place, Michael went upstairs to the room for a nap and it became "beer:30" for me. Why not? I was on vacation. I'm a mostly a "home-body" back in Vegas believe it or not.

At the bar, I spoke to all sorts of interesting people, including a gentleman from New Zealand who helped me out with a euchre-related project that I have been working on for some time now. I also played some pool with Sammy D. and his wife, a very cool couple I met that lived near Lansing.

Unfortunately, word had gotten out about the poker game and hotel security had shut it down before it started, but I found Michael another game that was taking place in one of the rooms. I woke him up and staked half of his roll, and he went up there and easily won everyone's money. Cool beans for us. We got our euchre buy-ins and part of the plane fare back, plus had fun doing it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

World Series of Euchre Report - part 2

Continuing with the WSOE report. Our heros start their first day of euchre and only manage 2 wins out of 6 games.

From Harvey "the rabbit" Lapp

Friday, Sept. 15th:

The day of the big show arrived with my partner and I still discussing the same strategies. I planned to donate from first seat with a score of 8 or 9 to 6 or 7, if I had no definite stopper of the turned suit. This tactic is often known as "ordering at the bridge." The other part of that plan is, if I pass (indicating that I have a sure stopper), my partner only orders up if he thinks that he can take two tricks. Michael said that he would also order at the appropriate scenario, that is, if he remembered to. The way I looked at it, if that situation were to come up, we had about a fifty-fifty chance of protecting our interests. The opponents had a much smaller chance of actually scoring a four-point loner though, so I convinced myself that this was okay.

We began registering outside the ballrooms at about 5pm EST, and then had two hours to kill before the tournament started, so we went to Whitecastle for some of those tiny hamburgers that we can't get in Vegas. Our discussion over dinner didn't change much. I tried to pump Michael full of euchre strategy, but I began to feel that I was in danger of blowing a circuit in his brain. He looked confused. Even the concept of "next" seemed to be evading him. I decided that it would be better to just let him "wing it" again. Otherwise, he might not even call hands that he could score with for fear that he would be foiling some plan of mine that he didn't understand. He did assure me that he would order at the bridge at the appropriate time, but I doubted that he would remember to.

The table rules at the WSOE are harsh, as they probably should be. After dealing and offering the cut, the dealer must place a plastic "cut-card" under the deck while dealing. The players can only say; "Pass", "Pick it up" or "Alone." No variations of ordering and no knocks on the table are allowed. When a suit is called or ordered, a trump cube is placed on the kitty with the appropriate suit turned up. No asking "what is trump?", or even worse; "what was picked up?" allowed. Exposed cards, cards played out-of-turn, revokes and everything else mentioned above, score two points for the opponents of the guilty party while setting back the guilty team two points (a four point swing). When any of the above happens during a loner, four points are awarded, while two are taken away on the other side (ouch!).

In the WSOE 2006, each team played two games against 9 opposing teams, for a total of 18 games. On the first night, we played two games each against three different teams. The chip we drew randomly during the registration was N (North/South)-18, which meant that we were stationary on table 18. Our opponents (East/West), had to travel. The East/West teams played two games and moved up one table, each round. The tournament director, Scott Zagol, allowed a one hour time frame to finish the both games, which seemed to work pretty well. Last year in Cleveland, I saw players taking longer just to finish 8 hands (as opposed to two 10 point games) for some reason.

The first game was tense. Everyone was being careful to remember to mark the trump cube and say "Pass", Pick it up" and "Alone" instead of knocking, or using other phrases which are okay back wherever home may be. The game moved along at a decent pace and Michael and I were doing well at first. When we reached a score of 9-6 in favor of us, Murphy's Law took effect. The dealer was to my partner's right. He turned up the Jack of Spades, and my partner looked across the table at me as though he were remembering the "order at the bridge" strategy that I had been cramming down his throat for the past 24 hours. "Pass" he said, giving me a small hope that he was indicating a certain stopper in his hand. I had the nine and ten of Spades and a red Ace, none of which qualified as a definite stopper. I would have ordered up with this hand from Michael's seat, but, the question was, did my partner really have a stopper? I should have ordered it up anyway, not giving my partner a chance to drop the ball. Instead, I "Pass"ed, and was immediately "Alone"d by the dealer. We both passed that bower to him. The dealer had a "lay-down" too, but he followed the rules and played one card at a time. This opening loss set the pace for what was to become a tough evening. We only ended up winning 2 games out of the 6 that night. 3 rounds out of the 9 were complete.

Michael was especially bummed out. He had learned the hard lesson about defensive euchre and the need for conventional card play. He had also reneged during a hand in a later game in which we would have euchred the opponents and won, but instead, he turned himself in and had to hand the game over to them. I did respect Michael's honesty though. We didn't go there to cheat.

Back at the bar we discussed more euchre strategy. It was becoming clear to my partner that he was ill-prepared for an endeavor of this magnitude, but we weren't about to give up now. We had been told earlier that it would take 11 wins out of 18 to reach the playoffs, and that was our goal. So we needed to get up the next day and win 9 more games out of the 12 that we had left to play.

Friday, October 06, 2006

World Series of Euchre Report

Hello out there in the Euchre Universe.

Today, we have a special treat. One of our faithful affiliates, Harvy Lapp of the excellent site EuchreLinks.com was able to attend the World Series of Euchre and has filed a report. I’ve never actually been to the WSOE ,so I was keenly interested in hearing about what goes on. As soon as I find out the details of the event next year, I’m in.

The WSOE took place over the weekend of September 15 – 17, 2006 in Lansing, MI. This 4 part report chronicles the adventure of two ex-New Yorkers transplanted in Las Vegas who invade the Midwest hoping for Euchre Glory. What they got were euchre heartbreak, dashed hopes and White Castle “sliders”. Enjoy.

WSOE 2006
From the perspective of Harvey "the Rabbit" Lapp

Thursday, Sept. 14th:

My partner and I arrived a day early. The flight from Vegas to Lansing was occasionally speckled with further strategy discussion. I had brought my best friend, Michael, on this mission. Although he is a decent card player in general, he is originally from Long Island, NY, and not from the euchre heartland. He only learned euchre a few years ago, and only plays once or twice a month at our bar tournament back home. My partner had been harder to meet up with to prepare our game plan back in Las Vegas than I had anticipated. He works a different shift at the casino than I do, so the plane trip became the bulk of the strategy discussion we've had going into the tournament.

My belief has been, that the best way to prepare for a partnership euchre tournament like the World Series, you have to go over conventions with your partner, such as; (if, and) when to donate, to (or not to) order a bower up to each other (unless going alone) and (whether or not) to always pick up a bower as dealer, etc., so that your partnership is always working cohesively. When you begin with the 50/50 expectation that you have in euchre, you can alter the odds in your favor by consistently making good plays with your partner.

When we checked into the hotel room, I must have bombarded my partner with 30 years worth of euchre strategy. He had no clue that my favorite game could be so complicated. He also was having trouble understanding and accepting the idea of donating at the bridge (or any other form of donation for that matter). Euchre and strategy didn't jive well at first with Michael.

My partner can play some serious eight-ball however, and they happened to have a pool table in the hotel bar, so we got on it right away and began beating up on the local hustler. Michael and I were on an APA team in Las Vegas that came in first place during the last spring session. If this had been a partner's pool tournament we were at, I would have been more optimistic about us taking home the prize.

Later that night at the same bar, Joe Andrews was holding some small, single-elimination euchre tournaments, so we entered one. Michael and I did well, advancing deep, almost winning the whole thing. We did it by "winging it" too. There were no pre-planned tactics employed.

After the tourney, my partner was tired, so he went up to the room and went to sleep. I stayed at the bar, playing small-stakes euchre games until closing time with Tom ("lovin' it") as my partner. Tom and I played very much the same way, making it tough to beat us. We had met last year and played a small tournament together once on Pogo.

Note: I've been in Las Vegas long enough to be rather surprised when a full bar wants to close down. It seems bad for business.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A euchre society in Michigan

While stumbling around the web I found this euchre charter for the creation of a Euchre Society at the University of Michigan.

Right away I find it amusing because one of the stated purposes of the society is to "have a damn good time."

But they lose me a little bit in the Composition section where they state that "Members will be inducted only during the awards ceremony...". Inducted members in a euchre society? Ridiculous. Why would you need to have formal membership in a euchre society?

Next they have elelctions and leaders and everything. Very formal. Should euchre be this formal?

The Amendments provide some of the more interesting aspects of this document.

First, it is evident that they play euchre the same way that we play it here in Chicago.

Second, they leave the option of scoring with the 5s or the 6 & 4. We've previously discussed scoring systems and are advocates of the 6 &4 method. Or if you can get them, we also encoursage the use of the euchredoodledandy.

I then find it interesting that they use the term "bid". At least one euchre guru squawks about how this is just wrong terminology. And maybe he is right that it was not originally part of the euchre lexicon but it is so widespread now, that it seems reasonable for everyone to accept that the term "bid" is ok to use for the ordering rounds.

The rest of the rules are pretty standard, although I wonder how they handle scoring for a reneg during a loner. That is to say what if one team is going for a loner and the opponents reneg? Does the former get awarded 4 points or just 2 as indicated in the rules? How does the rest of the Euchre Universe handle this?

There is a list of variations that they don't accept (No Trump for example) and that is notable too. In our league we also accept only the Screw the Dealer variation. It's nice to know that if I'm ever at the University of Michigan I'll be able to play euchre like we do in Chicago.