How to Play Euchre

First, make a Euchre deck. From a standard pack of 52 playing cards, discard everything except 9s, 10s, jacks, queens, kings, and aces. Set the 5s aside for scoring.

Form two teams of two people. Teammates should sit diagonal to each other.

Assign a dealer to shuffle the deck and distribute five cards, clockwise, to each player. Once dealt, stack the four remaining cards facedown and flip the top card face up. This stack is the kitty.

Let’s understand gameplay. Euchre is a trick-playing game, which means players take turns laying a card from their hand, and the highest card laid wins the trick. For instance: If 9 of clubs, 10 of clubs, queen of clubs, and ace of clubs are played, the player with the ace wins.

This is complicated by trump—a suit whose cards become superior to all other cards. If trump is diamonds, the lowest diamond is ranked higher than the highest of another suit. If 9 of diamonds, 10 of hearts, king of hearts, and ace of hearts are played; 9 of diamonds wins the trick.

Let’s return to the table: All cards are dealt, and one is faceup in the kitty. This faceup card’s suit is a choice for trump. The player left of the dealer has the first choice to call or pass on trump. If they call (by saying “pick it up”), that card’s suit becomes trump. The dealer then adds the card to their hand and discards another card facedown to the kitty. If the player passes, the next player gets to call or pass. If all players pass, the dealer can choose.

If the dealer passes, the faceup card is turned facedown, and the player to the left can call trump. They can pick any suit other than the turned-down suit. If they pass, the next player gets to call. If all players pass, the dealer must call the suit. This is called screwing the dealer.

Here’s where things get strange. Trump causes a weird mutation for jack. Yup, the weird-looking dude who’s either the queen’s son or sidepiece. Normally, jack’s middle of the road at fourth strongest. As trump, jack is the strongest. And not just one jack, but jack’s same-color cousin. If trump is diamonds, jack of diamonds becomes the bower (the strongest card in the deck). The jack of hearts also becomes trump, as the second-highest card in the deck: The left bower (a.k.a. the left). If trump is spades, the jack of spades is bower and the jack of clubs is left. To summarize: If trump is clubs, the strongest cards are—in descending order—jack of clubs, jack of spaces, ace of clubs, king of clubs, queen of clubs, 10 of clubs, 9 of clubs.

Don’t you love Euchre?

Back to the table. With trump selected, the player left of the dealer lays any card to start the trick. Play continues clockwise and each player must follow suit. For instance, if the starting player laid an ace of clubs, all players must lay a club. If a player can’t follow suit, she can lay any card—such as a trump card. If a player can follow suit but chooses not to, opponents can call re-negging and win the round (earning 4 points).

Once all players lay a card, the player with the highest card wins the trick. They collect the cards and place them to the side. That player then leads the next trick. Play continues until players use all five cards in their hand. The round concludes.

Score the round by counting tricks. If a team won all five tricks, they earn 2 points. If a team didn’t call trump and won three or four tricks, they earn 2 points (this is called euching the opponent). If a team calls trump and won three or four tricks, they earn 1 point.

Teams can also win points by going alone. Before the first card is laid, a player can declare they’re going alone. The player’s partner sits out for the round while the player takes on both opponents by himself. This is only recommended for players with a very strong hand. If trump is clubs, a good “alone hand” could be a jack of clubs, jack of spades, ace of clubs, king of clubs, and ace of hearts. This hand would win all five tricks. If a player goes alone and wins all five tricks, he earns 4 points. If he wins three or four tricks, he only earns 1 point. If he wins two or fewer tricks, the opponent team earns 2 points.

Let’s record points. Remember those 5s we set aside? From each team, assign a scorekeeper and give them two 5s. Place one 5 faceup on the table and the other facedown atop it. By rotating the top card, a player can reveal suit symbols that denote her team’s score. After 5 points, flip the top card face up and rotate to reveal points 6 through 10 on the bottom card.

After scoring, rotate the dealer clockwise to start another round. Play continues until a team earns ten points.

That’s it!

There are house rules such as farmer’s hand and stealing the deal, but I’ll ignore those since I’m not trying to spark arguments 😉