Euchre Variations – It’s Not Cheating If It’s Part of the Rules

All is fair in love and Euchre.

Euchre is a trump based card game thought to be a derivation of the French card game Ecarte, popularized by the early settlers of Pennsylvania. Since then it has spread to country and worldwide popularity, although it is played most frequently in the Midwestern United States. Euchre is played only with cards nine (9) and higher, resulting in a twenty-four (24) card deck. Euchre places two (2) teams of two (2) persons each against each other, each trying to be the first team to ten (10) points. Trump rotates each hand, along with the deal. It is a fast paced, ever changing game that has so many variations that you would be hard pressed to find two Euchre games that play by the same rules.

Some such variations incorporate rules that otherwise might be perceived from an outsider’s perspective as outright cheating. This article will discuss a few of these variations to show just how fun a game can be with some creativity and open-mindedness.

Stacking the Deck

In Euchre each hand of five (5) cards is dealt in only two (2) rounds, typically dealing clockwise starting with the player to the left of the dealer and dealing two (2) or three (3) cards to each player in the first round and the remaining three (3) or two (2) cards in the second round. This is different than many games where only one (1) card is dealt at a time. This presents a unique opportunity to “stack the deck” and give you or your partner the best cards in the deck (being Jacks and Aces in Euchre).

Although typically frowned upon, some circles consider it perfectly acceptable to stack the deck as long as certain guidelines are met. One typical example is that as long as you offer a player on the other team the right to cut the deck then stacking is tolerated. This means that after shuffling the cards the dealer must present the shuffled cards to a player on the opposing team, who may then split (or “cut”) the deck in two. This is done to prevent stacking the deck.

However, some savvy deck-stackers will anticipate a cut and incorporate that into their shuffling or stacking. Onestrategy to counter this is to cut the deck unusually thick or thin or to simply defer your right to cut the deck (done by simply knocking your hand on top of the shuffled deck).

Stealing the Deal

As with many games, there is a distinct advantage to dealing in Euchre. This is because after the cards are dealt out the dealer will flip over the top card of the remaining undealt cards (there are 24 cards in a euchre deck but only 20 will be dealt to the four players). This card (the “Up Card”) is flipped over for determining Trump. If any player wants the suit of the Up Card to be trump, they must tell the dealer to pick the card up. The dealer then will pick up the card and discard the least desirable card in their hand, thus vastly improving their hand for that particular round.

The strong benefit to dealing has led some circles to incorporate “stealing the deal.” Stealing the deal can be accomplished in many ways, depending on which rules each circle plays under. Some circles again require you to offer a cut to the other team and then either begin dealing the cards out or deal both rounds and flip up the Up Card. Other variations typically incorporate some of the above factors. This move will benefit the team stealing the deal and punish the other team for not paying adequate attention. Either way it is a fun way to mix things up and reward the sneaky and savvy Euchre players.

Renege

Euchre, like many card games, requires each player to follow suit. This means that after the first player to act plays a particular card, each subsequent player must play a card of the same suit as the suit of the card that was led if they hold a card of that suit in their hand. However, there is a strong incentive to not follow that rule if your team stands to lose the round if you follow suit, so many players will instead represent that they do not have a card in that suit and instead use a trump card to win the hand. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally, this is referred to as “reneging” or a “renege.”

Generally speaking this is against the rules in Euchre, but as with many situations in life it isn’t cheating unless you get caught. Depending on the penalties for reneging, it is worth the risk in many players’ eyes. For example, consider the situation where your team stands to lose two (2) points to the other team because you called trump and will not take the necessary three (3) out of five (5) tricks if you follow suit and lose the hand. If the penalty for reneging is only forfeiting the two (2) points for that particular round, it might be good strategy to take the risk and renege (where you will be able to gain the necessary tricks to gain one (1) point).

That covers just a few of the many variations of the card game of Euchre. The countless variations are what make Euchre such an enjoyable game as the rules are constantly changing. Some variations are more wholesome but rules that reward the cunning can be even more fun.

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