Euchre Strategy Tip: The Safety Play

We return to the all-knowing master of card games, Joe Andrews for a brief, but informative tip on Euchre. Be sure to check out Joe’s books including The Complete Win at Spades and The Complete Win at Hearts available here.

You are playing in your local club or tavern in a regular 10-point game. The score is tied at 7-all, you are dealing, the king of spades is turned and you pick up this hand:

A J A K Q None

Three passes come to you and you yell out, “Loner!”  You are licking your chops when you see the king of spades turned! Maybe the Left is in partner’s hand, maybe the Left is in the kitty, maybe the Left is a singleton in an opponent’s hand. Maybe, maybe, maybe! Away goes the queen of diamonds and the eldest hand leads the ace of diamonds.

Your right-hand opponent follows low, and you trump with the king. Next, you try the Right. It fetches the 9 and the queen of trump. Now what? If you impulsively lead the trump ace, the hand could go down the drain, if anyone holds the Left and shifts to a club or diamond.

A real problem occurs if an opponent holds three trump, including the Left. But then — any Euchre player worth their salt is not going to pass with three trump, and an ace or K-Q neutral suit on the side. However, there are those individuals who love to use the “bushwhacker” strategy of laying low with a three-card trump suit! Let’s get back to the hand in question.

Firstly, assume there are no bushwhackers out there. Win the first trick by trumping with the king of spades. Then lead the Right. If the Left appears, you are home free for a cool 4 points! If, instead, both opps follow with low trump, now shift to the Ace of Hearts. It would be a serious error if you prematurely pushed the Ace of Spades and it lost to the Left.

Let’s assume your high Heart wins your third trick. Now you can lead your last trump. There is also a slight risk here (a remote worst-case scenario)  that your right-hand opponent will trump your first heart lead with the 10 of spades and lead a club or diamond through to your left-hand opponent’s left bower. You must hope that partner had at least one trump, or that a trump was buried in the kitty.

A final comment is in order. If you are losing by more than 2 points toward the end of the game or if the opponents are threatening to win the game, you must take the risk and hope that the Left is buried or in partner’s hand.

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