24 standard playing cards: the 9s, 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces (cards 2 to 8 are not used)
4 players (2 teams of 2)
Euchre has a unique ranking system. For each hand, one suit is declared trump (see below). All the non-trump suits follow the traditional Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9 ranking. The trump cards rank like this:
- “Right Bower” (the Jack of the trump suit)
- “Left Bower” (the other Jack of the same color as the trump suit, ♥/♦ or ♠/♣)
The players are seated around a table so that teammates sit opposite each other and between their two opponents. Five cards are dealt to each player, using only two trips around the circle. The dealer can execute this in any way that he wants, as long as every player has five cards after two rounds of dealing. The dealer then takes the next card in the deck and turns it face up on the table.
Players then determine what the trump suit will be for the hand. Each player, starting with the one to the left of the dealer, has the option to “declare trump” by telling the dealer to pick up the face-up card (the dealer may also pick up this card to declare trump if the option comes to him). The suit of that face-up card is then the trump. The team that declares trump must capture at least three of the five tricks to win the hand. The dealer places the face-up card in his hand and discards one. If all players pass on their initial option to declare trump, the dealer turns the face-up card facedown. Each player then has a second option of declaring any other suit as trump. The dealer picks up no cards in this scenario.
“Going alone” is another option available during the bidding process. A single player with a particularly strong hand can opt to play by himself against the opposing team. This must be announced at the time the bid is declared. While this is a risky maneuver, the rewards can be great (see below).
Once one team has declared trump, the player to the left of the dealer plays the first card. Each player plays a card on his turn, and the team that plays the highest single card of the four wins the trick. Players must follow the suit that is led. (For instance, if a player leads a heart, and you only have one heart, you must play that card.) The winner of the trick then leads the next card.
Play continues like this until all five hands have been played.
The team that reaches 11 points first wins (although some people play to 10 or 15 points). Points are rewarded for the following achievements:
- Bidding team wins three or four of the five tricks = 1 point
- Bidding team wins all five tricks = 2 points
- Defending team wins three or more tricks = 2 points
- Defending team wins all five tricks = 4 points
- Bidder goes alone and wins all five tricks = 4 points
- Bidder goes alone and wins three or four tricks = 2 points
What the heck is a bower?
In euchre, the trump Jacks are called bowers. It is believed this term comes from the German word bauer which is the word for the Jack in that language.