How to Play Euchre: Tips for Beginners

Updated on March 28, 2018

Want to Learn How to Play Euchre?

You can learn how to play a new card game like euchre (properly pronounced you-kurr, and often misspelled as euker and eucher) in only a short time. Here I'll teach you all of the basic skills and techniques in euchre. Remember, this is a game meant for four people, so grab a few friends.

When You're Just Starting Out

Euchre is a card game where four players (two teams of two people each) take turns playing cards to win tricks. Partners sit across from one another and cooperate to win. It's an easy game to learn, and having a rule book will make it even smoother if you're just learning how to play euchre.

The Columbus Book of Euchre, Second Edition
The Columbus Book of Euchre, Second Edition

This rule book will go over the ins and outs of euchre, and is good to have on-hand while playing - especially when first learning. Pick one up today for a steal from Amazon! I strongly recommend having one of these around.

 

Important Terms

These words and phrases are used all the time when playing. Don't worry, there aren't too many. Just get familiar with each of them before you sit down and start playing.

  • Trick: When each player plays their card, these four cards are called a trick. There are five tricks per hand, and scoring depends on these, along with who called trump (scoring is usually kept with the fives - the game is played to 10). The different scenarios and appropriate scoring are below:

    You and your partner call trump. If you win:

    1/5 or 2/5 tricks = 0 points

    3/5 or 4/5 tricks = 1 point

    5/5 tricks = 2 points

    You and your partner do not call trump. If you win:

    1/5 or 2/5 tricks = 0 points

    3/5, 4/5 or 5/5 tricks = 2 points

    You "go alone" (will be discussed more in Intermediate Skills). If you win:

    1/5 or 2/5 tricks = 0 points

    3/5 or 4/5 tricks = 1 point

    5/5 tricks = 4 points! This is because your partner doesn't play with you this round.

  • Follow suit: A basic principle in the game, meaning a player must play the same suit as the person that led for that trick, unless they don't have any of that suit in their hand. To get a better understanding of the idea, try a game of hearts to get a feel for it. If you fail to follow suit in a game, you renege, giving the other team two free points, no matter how many tricks either team has.
  • Leading: Whoever "leads" is the person who plays first for that trick. The lead begins with the person to the dealer's left after trump has been decided, and from that point on, goes to whoever won the last trick.
  • Euchre: The name of the game - a euchre is when the opponents - the players that don't call trump - take a majority of the tricks. Remembering there are only five tricks, this means 3 or more. Euchring your opponents is worth two points.

A standard euchre deck
A standard euchre deck

Creating the Deck and Proper Dealing

The Euchre Deck Takes Little Prep

I've been to game shops before and seen packages of cards labeled as "euchre decks." Sometimes they try to make it seem like an aswesome deal - "Two packs for the price of one!" Don't fall for this - making a euchre deck is simple.

The deck contains the cards 9 through A (that's less than half a deck, but card companies will try to sell their special "euchre decks" for up to 2x the cost of a normal one). Once completed, the deck should consist of 24 cards. Be sure to count before you begin playing, as missing a card will lead to a misdeal (an error in dealing).

Because there are only 24 cards in the deck, each player can only have 6 cards total - in euchre, each player is dealt five cards. This is most often done is sets of 2s and 3s, though one at a time isn't necessarily wrong. The last four cards, called the kitty (cute!) are placed next to the dealer, and the top card is then flipped over.

Video Tutorial on Dealing - Watch How to Deal Here!

Trump

Trump is the most important concept in euchre The entire game revolves around it!

Determining Trump

How Trump is Decided

Now that you have your hand and all players have five cards, it's time to begin the bidding process. This involves each player, starting with the person to the left of the dealer, deciding on whether or not the card that is face up should be trump.

If a player has many cards of that suit (usually, more than three of a suit makes that suit a good candidate for trump), they tell the dealer to "pick it up," putting the face up card in the dealer's hand. The dealer then discards one of the cards in his hand that he doesn't think will win anything - usually a 9 or a 10.

If nobody tells the dealer to "pick it up," the face-up card is flipped over and each player has a chance to make trump any suit other than the one that was up. Often, the bidding will get to this point, and a player can then choose whatever other suit they like. Once the bid gets back to the dealer, if they don't want to call it after going all the way around, the cards can be thrown in and the next player can deal (though this is uncommon: most people play with the rule coined "stick the dealer.")

Video Guide on Determining Trump

A lot of euchre concept are better learned by watching - here's another video by expertvillage on how to call trump.

Trump's Hierarchy

Trump is different than the other suits, in that the suit that is determined trump has a different hierarchy of cards than normal. Rather than follow the usual:

9 < 10 < J < Q < K < A

The trump suit's hierarchy looks like this:

9 < 10 < Q < K < A < J* < J

The jack with the star is the jack of the same color, but different suit. This is often hard for new players to grasp. For example, if spades are trump, J* is the jack of clubs.

The normal hierarchy of cards (non-trump suit)
The normal hierarchy of cards (non-trump suit)

Playing the Game

The Order of Play

Starting with the person on the dealer's left, each person plays a card, following suit if possible. Lets create a hypothetical example and say that the first person to lead plays the A of hearts, and hearts are not trump (I'll explain why the person that began didn't play trump in a bit). All of the non-trump suits follow the normal hierarchy of cards:

9 < 10 < J < Q < K < A

If everyone has a heart in their hand, they must play it. Because of this, it is often a good idea, when leading, to start with a high, off-suit (non-trump) card. If everyone else has that suit in their hand, you have a good chance at winning the trick!

Remember that winning tricks is the point of the game. There are five tricks each hand.

To Understand How to Play Euchre, You Must Understand Trump

The hierarchy for trump (in this case, spades). Notice the jack of clubs in the order.
The hierarchy for trump (in this case, spades). Notice the jack of clubs in the order.

Remember this! Make sure that you always follow suit - the J* is often the cause of many reneges (when you fail to follow suit), especially when starting out.

You have no hearts in your hand, so you can play trump! You only have one in your hand, so the nine of spades is your only choice.
You have no hearts in your hand, so you can play trump! You only have one in your hand, so the nine of spades is your only choice.

Playing Trump

Vital Tips for Playing Trump

If you cannot follow suit at any time, you have the ability to play any of the other cards in your hand. Lets use the same example as we did earlier: trump is called and the first card led is the A of hearts.

Let's add to this scenario. Spades have been called trump and you have the hand seen here. What do you do?

If you play any of the non-spade cards, you will lose the trick. Playing a card like one of these - non-trump and off-suit - is called throwing off. Note that you can never win a trick by throwing off

The better idea in this case would be to play your only spade: the 9 of spades. Now, you and your partner have a trick, which is good news for you! If you or your partner called trump, you're a step closer to the 3/5 you need for a point. If not, you're only 2 tricks away from a euchre!

Again, you lack hearts, but someone already played a trump higher than your nine. Play the jack of clubs here (and remember - spades are trump, making this jack trump too!)
Again, you lack hearts, but someone already played a trump higher than your nine. Play the jack of clubs here (and remember - spades are trump, making this jack trump too!)

Overtrumping

Is Just Like Playing Over Any Other Suit!

There is another term, known as "overtrumping," which I will touch on for a bit. Lets again use the same situation as above - A hearts led, spades are trump, and your hand now has an adjustment - an extra trump. You are holding the left bauer, a term used to describe J* in the hierarchy. The J of spades is known as the right bauer and is the strongest card in anyone's hand - it will never lose.

Now, after your partner leads the A of hearts, the next player trumps with the A of spades. Your nine won't cut it this time, but you still don't have hearts. Even though it's the second highest card in the game, you should now play the left to win the trick - again putting your team up a trick early. Nice!

This playing of a higher trump when you can't follow suit is known as over trumping. Simple, no?

Never Overtrump Your Partner!

If your partner trumps something and you go after them, you should NEVER overtrump them. It's a waste of one of the trump in the deck - there are only 7 total. You should only over trump your opponents, unless all you have left is trump, in which case, you're probably set to take the rest of the tricks.

Euchre Basics in a Nutshell

Now You Know the Rules!

Now you know the general procedure of euchre in three easy steps:

  1. Each player is dealt 5 cards.
  2. Trump is determined.
  3. Each trick is played and scoring is determined.
You've learned about leading - high and off-suit - and about overtrumping. But there's a whole lot more to learn.

Start Online!

Playing online first makes learning euchre easier - the computer won't let you renege and will keep score for you. Try out this free version from Amazon:

Playing Euchre - Newbie? Refreshing?

Have you ever played euchre before?

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Are You Excited to Play? - Euchre is a Great Game!

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    • profile image

      SA 3 years ago

      Clear explanations with good videos. Think I will be a "sub" next week!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Stick the dealer only speeds up the game for tournaments. It is a variation and not as common as people think. I played for forty years, albeit not in tournaments, before I heard this at a meetup group.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      oh my goodness we used to play this a lot ...what a great game! will have to remember to play again with the kids. By the way, really good job on this lens.

    • profile image

      AngryBaker 6 years ago

      ok..will have to sit down with cards and this lens...I love learning new games

    • TTabenske profile image
      Author

      TTabenske 6 years ago

      @Diane Cass: Yep! That gets everyone! Haha. It's really just about practice and making it a habit to organize your cards so that the left is group with the rest of the trump in your hand. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 6 years ago from New York

      I love Euchre! It is HUGE here in Rochester, NY. There are Euchre clubs everywhere and kids take cards to play in their free times at school. For me, the hardest part about learning Euchre is the Bauers. It takes a while to remember that the Jack of the other color suit that is trump (hearts trump...Jack of Diamonds becomes left bauer), becomes the second highest card in the game.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      I've never heard of euchre...looks fun! :)

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