November 6, 2002
7:50 PM   Subscribe

If you live in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky or Pennsylvania (“the Euchre belt”) Euchre might be a familiar pastime or at least well, familiar. The game is not exclusive to those areas but is most concentrated in the Midwest. It used to be one of the most popular card games the U.S. but lost out to bridge. Today the game has somewhat of a cult following in Midwest towns and especially on college campuses. It is a fast paced thinking game that combines strategy and skill with luck that can eat away hours of a person’s life. If you have never played the game I encourage you to read an introduction and try yahoo games. (I hope this is not too common to bring up, but I rarely see anyone playing online not from the states listed above.) Warning popups.
posted by Recockulous (43 comments total)
Sure enough, several years ago, while staying with a friend in Ohio, her husband attempted to teach us. Unfortunately, he wasn't particularly articulate in his explanation and I wasn't an apt student by example, and so the game never got of the ground. But Ohio is the only place I've run into it... and 1 of two times I've been there.

lost out to bridge.

Curious, that. I didn't know the life of games was a zero-sum game. But I suppose so... what with the limited time of potential players, some must fall by the wayside, or live in subculture.
posted by namespan at 7:55 PM on November 6, 2002

Euchre's okay but I liked him better as a commentator than as a player.

Oh wait, that's Uecker.

Never mind.
posted by jonmc at 8:06 PM on November 6, 2002

Euchre is still pretty big in Canada: at least my Quebec/Ontario family is full of card-sharks.
posted by maudlin at 8:07 PM on November 6, 2002

Euchre was really popular at Iowa State University about 5 years ago.

I never really got into it, however, possibly because no one in my circle of friends played it...
posted by Electric Elf at 8:10 PM on November 6, 2002

Euchre is reasonably well-known here in New Zealand. But it is much less popular than 500, which is trick-based like Euchre, but uses partners and bidding - like braindead bridge, really. I'm pleased to see that "the Antipodean variant" is an acknowledged phenomenon.

Not to mention Black Bitch, aka "Hearts". Ah, so many wasted hours at school and university...

Anyway, I prefer both those games to euchre. More potential for malice, strategy and evil. Helps if you can count cards too. Being geeky, I remember what's come out as a 4-digit hex number.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:10 PM on November 6, 2002

Yeah, there's a reason Euchre is dying. It's a fun game, mostly fun in that you feel like you're part of history (much like pinochle in that regard). It's also dying because there's nothing new to bring to it: it is what it is. Bridge evolves like an rapidly advancing organism, because it uses a full deck, partly, but mostly because any bidding game has more permutations to evolve. With bridge, everything is always new-fangled: ridiculous artifical bidding systems, advanced discarding systems. (Of course, that's why we have to fill out SAT-length convention cards and carry them with us.)

Euchre will always bring satisfaction, but then so will go fish.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:26 PM on November 6, 2002

what is this, obscure-card-game-filter!
posted by luckyclone at 8:30 PM on November 6, 2002

The best part of euchre is when you and your partner have 9 points (for those that don't know, 10 points means victory). See, at nine points, "the cow is in the barn", and you have to "milk the cow."

Then one player crosses all his fingers, except the thumbs, points the thumbs towards the table, and then proffers them for a milkin.

Good times.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:36 PM on November 6, 2002

I prefer C?t Tê or as it's known in my parts, six card. Anyone?
posted by iamck at 8:43 PM on November 6, 2002

ugh, mefi doesn't care for my vietnamese characters...
posted by iamck at 8:45 PM on November 6, 2002

I don't know if it's just my hometown or what, but it seems that the only people that play Euchre here are cokeheads.

And while I learned to play at a coke party, the only thing I remember about the rules is that they're extremely detail-oriented.

Oh, now I get it.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:48 PM on November 6, 2002

I can corroborate that euchre is pretty widespread here in Ontario.

Bridge : Euchre :: Cryptics : Crosswords
posted by transient at 9:07 PM on November 6, 2002

No way dooders. Euchre is it.
In high school, every weekend one night was spent playing bid-euchre (a widely known game on ohio college campuses) at the local Denny's until all hours of the night. My collegey friends would bring their skills and stories of competitions in which partners skeeeled some vermin. No better card game has ever been created.
I moved to Minnesota and sat in on a couple of bridge games during my luch break. I was bored after two weeks. Same bidding skills, it's just that less interesting people play it.
posted by kid_twist at 9:13 PM on November 6, 2002

Euchre is the game of the devil. My fraternity brothers used to keep me awake all night, playing it in the lounge outside my room. And now that I work as a college hall director, I see students succumbing to the cult left and right and then flunking out of school.
posted by hit-or-miss at 9:29 PM on November 6, 2002

Bridge evolves like an rapidly advancing organism, because it uses a full deck, partly, but mostly because any bidding game has more permutations to evolve.

Bid Euchre rocks the land of Hoosier, that much I can report.

. . . er, yeah, what kid_twist said.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:29 PM on November 6, 2002

I went to college in Michigan and there were fiends playing Euchre pretty much nonstop for four years. I successfully avoided learning how to play.
posted by goethean at 9:31 PM on November 6, 2002

euchre was the procrastination method of choice during my highschool days in Ottawa. I seem to remember a 2-player version, and a 3-player one called 'cutthroat', but I'll be damned if I can remember the rules.

Euchre: the thinking man's Asshole (the card game, that is)
posted by krunk at 9:33 PM on November 6, 2002

Minnesota and Wisconsin are Euchre states too.
posted by GaelFC at 9:50 PM on November 6, 2002

I grew up in Wisconsin, and euchre was a common enough free-period pastime. Some of my friends played it quite a bit. I hadn't known it, my family being from Chicago (which seems to have been just far enough away), but I did try to pick it up from them. Unfortunately, the disconnect between one lousy player and lots of good players discouraged me and I never really got even halfway decent at it. Today, I'd have a hard time even explaining the outline.
posted by dhartung at 10:24 PM on November 6, 2002

The problem with euchre is it always degrades to who cheats the best. It is too easy to put a bower in your partner's hand. Everyone who denies they cheat at euchre are the worst cheaters as well (in my experience).

I much prefer Hearts as a game that is easy to teach and fun to play. We played it a lot when we went curling because we would have a couple of hours between games sometimes and needed something to do. BTW I'm in southern ontario.
posted by rjeschmi at 10:43 PM on November 6, 2002

Dirty Nasty Filthy Hearts (Da Nasty Fix)
- not your grandmas euchre
posted by stbalbach at 11:10 PM on November 6, 2002

oops..scroll down for Da Nasty Fix
posted by stbalbach at 11:25 PM on November 6, 2002

Grew up in Ohio and it's one of the few things I miss from there here in California. The great thing about Euchre is that the rules and the strategy are so simple (and yes, I agree , so is cheating), one can play it at nearly any level of intoxication.
posted by greasepig at 12:16 AM on November 7, 2002

We used to play buck a point after high school every day in Iowa. Beer money for the weekend. Everyone cheated, but I was the best at dealing loners to my partner or myself, depending on where the guy to my right cut the deck. Easy money.

In college, Tuesday nights were euchre tourney nights at the local bar, $2 pitchers while you played, and $300 to the champs at the end of the night. Oh, the parties we threw with those winnings...
posted by David Dark at 12:51 AM on November 7, 2002

i never understood the euchre culture but every time i'm with people from the midwest they almost greet each other with some sort of euchre greeting. you're from ohio? you must play euchre! as a californian living in texas i just don't understand.

my friend from michigan set up a euchre night amongs midwestern transplants living in austin a few years ago. the transplants loved it but had little success getting non-midwesterners to play.
posted by birdherder at 3:05 AM on November 7, 2002

In high school, the progression of card games (from earliest played to last played) was:

Bloody Knuckles - Grade 9 pain infliction
Asshole - fun to say, fun to play
Hearts - a real memory tester
Euchre - first strategy game
Bridge - the grand daddy of them all
Poker - first time we played for money

As soon as you made the leap to the next game, you abandoned the previous one. People at work hold a euchre tournament once a year in the lunch room. I play because one of my co-workers needs a partner, but I'm insanely bored with the simple nature of the game.
posted by grum@work at 4:23 AM on November 7, 2002

Growing up in central Illinois, we played Euchre all the time. In college we played Spades more often. Which didn't make sense because it was more complex and we were usually more intoxicated.

birdherder, i've yet to meet anyone in Austin who plays...
posted by jbelshaw at 4:55 AM on November 7, 2002

I went to a redneck high school in Ohio, and wanted to comment on two minor differences in the way we played from some of the comments here. For example, when a team had 9 points we were said to be "in the barn" but usually would don our barn hats, either placing the scorecards behind the scorekeeper's ears, or by sporting an empty carton of Natural Light as a chapeau.
Also, we invariably pronounced "bower" as "bar." I had thought that bar was the proper term but eventually learned that it was a redneck dipthong of bower.
Finally, I know more than one person who learned about divorce when the split of some couple or another broke up their parents' long standing Euchre night.
posted by putzface_dickman at 4:58 AM on November 7, 2002

Does no one play Pitch anymore? We used to convert Euchre players since Pitch almost the same game, using the whole deck. Now I'm just waiting for someone to convert me to bridge. Gateway games, I guess.
posted by yerfatma at 5:03 AM on November 7, 2002

Asshole...the only card game I know of that you can have 10 people play at once.
posted by CrazyJub at 5:05 AM on November 7, 2002

Little hand or big hand?

You have to pick up on showing, to be successful. I think that is the tough part, reading the cards during the game. It can be fun when you play with 5 and you pick up a different partner each hand.

And tarots is similar to euchre too.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:32 AM on November 7, 2002

Here in Cornwall it's an old persons game played in retirement homes and obscure pubs, sometimes for meat.
posted by lerrup at 5:44 AM on November 7, 2002

I remember as a kid on holidays my big southern Indiana/Illinois family would gather round the dining room where the cards would break out and the euchre would begin. I grew up in the deep south though and as euchre was one of the few games I knew how to play I'd ask around if anyone wanted to play, sadly most people just looked like I was insane and had just asked if I could sleep with their mom, so alas no euchre for me. It was fun to watch the masters of cheating, my great-grandfather or great aunts, very strict religious people, but not above cheating at euchre, now just my dad and my aunt know how to cheat right, sad how we've lost that in the family!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:25 AM on November 7, 2002

For two straight years in a Michigan State University dorm we would play euchre every single evening, Sunday through Wednesday (we were otherwise occupied Thursday through Saturday nights). Over the course of those two years many things were broken, at least two good friendships were destroyed, and accusations (and denials) of cheating were a daily occurrence. The best part of all was the standing rule that if a team got "skunked" (lost 10-0), they were obligated to run around the outside of the dorm wearing nothing but their "unmentionables." Remember, it gets pretty cold in Michigan during the winter.

Good times. Good times.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:46 AM on November 7, 2002

One other note ... it's very hard to learn euchre just by watching experienced players. Quite often after only two or three out of five hands are played, suddenly (seemingly out of the blue), one player will toss down their remaining cards and everyone else will throw their cards in the middle of the pile. When you're trying to learn, all you can say is "wha..?"
posted by pardonyou? at 6:49 AM on November 7, 2002

I grew up playing Euchre as well, in Indiana. In college I lived in a house with several other guys, and Euchre was played pretty much every night. (No single person would play every night, but there were enough people in the house between residents & friends & girlfriends that there were always four available for Euchre.)

I can't see the incentive to cheat at Euchre (unless maybe you're playing for money, which we never did). If you're cheating at Euchre you're taking the game too seriously. Well, except for stealing the deal, but we didn't consider that cheating, we thought of it as part of the game.

Asshole...the only card game I know of that you can have 10 people play at once.

Actually, if you're looking for a serious card game for a large group of people, I can recommend Double-Deck Cancellation Hearts. (Playing with 2 decks is good for 6-8 people; I've never played with more than 8 people but I imagine it generalizes well to more, possibly using 3 decks instead of 2.)

Anyway, it's just like hearts, with the following exceptions. You use two full decks. If two people tie for the highest card of the suit led, those two cards cancel and the next highest card of the suit led takes the trick. If two people have also tied for the second-highest card, the next one takes it, and so forth.

If all cards of the suit led cancel, then the cards stay on the table, and the next trick is played, with the same person who led on the previous trick leading. The person who takes that trick also takes the cards from the previous trick. If all cards of the suit led on the final trick of the hand cancel, it stays on the table and points are counted for that hand without including the cards on the table. Those cards are then not shuffled into the deck for the next hand, and whoever takes the first trick of the next hand also takes the cards from the last trick of the last hand.

It sounds simple, but actually adds a whole new level of complexity to the strategy involved.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2002

Euchre: Bridge for people who aren't playing with a full deck.
posted by straight at 7:52 AM on November 7, 2002

When my parents come from Indiana each year, I have to teach my wife the rules so we can get a game together.

I always win, even when she's my partner. I'm just that good.
posted by donpardo at 8:01 AM on November 7, 2002

Is your wife travelling backwards through time, unable to recall basic card rules? Those people who can't retain card rules make me CRAZY. Divorce her! I tell ya, my ex was like that, and boy am I glad to happily play cards without him.

Double Deck Cancellation Hearts sounds totally excellent. Perfect for 4 a.m. insanity.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2002

I specifically *refused* to learn euchre while in college in Ohio. There were always more satisfying games to play, like strip poker.
posted by me3dia at 8:29 AM on November 7, 2002

Pitch seems to be popular around Syracuse, NY. I don't know how to play, but lots of bars host pitch leagues.

I vaguely remember being shown how to play Euchre when I lived in PA. I also vaguely remember another card game that was played by three people while waiting for the fourth to show up for Bridge or Euchre. Anybody know what game that would be?
posted by maurice at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2002

You could always play strip euchre!

My family is one of those loud, haughty midwestern families you hate to see come into a restaurant you are eating/working in. Bragging rights are of utmost importance and when euchre itself was mastered by the family the skill was to then see who could cheat the best (worst?) rather than move on to other games. Its funny though, they will turn off the cheating to help new people learn or for friendly games with non-family members.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2002

Cheating is integral to euchre, particularly partner signaling. If you play with a usual partner and *DON'T* know the majority of his/her hand within a few seconds of the deal, you're not playing the game right. After the bid, the play is mechanical.

A group of expatriate midwesterners (including myself) have brought the Word of the Church of Euchre to our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, but these rain-soaked, too-polite people can't seem to get the hang of playing for keeps....
posted by dragstroke at 9:10 AM on November 7, 2002

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