By Joe Andrews, author of "The Complete Win At Euchre"
Other columns by Joe Andrews:
The History of Euchre
Euchre is a classic card game that is currently enjoying a revival.
Its simplicity and speed make it attractive to card players who have
limited time, and its balance of luck and skill gives both novices
and experienced players reason to think they can win! Unlike Spades,
Hearts, Bridge, Whist, Cribbage, (to name a few) which have a nice
clear lineage, Euchre is a card game that features has a murky and
disputed history. My research revealed at least ten sources, and
more confusion regarding the explanation about the origin of this
game. The "historians" discussed in this section represent some of
the outstanding card game authorities of all time. I leave it up to
the readers to draw their own conclusions.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, versions of
Euchre that differ slightly from the modern game, were very popular
in Europe. John McLeod of London, England, card game expert and
connoisseur, maintains the website www.pagat.com, a treasure trove
of information on all card games. David Parlatt, an esteemed
authority on card game history, attributes the roots of Euchre to
the Alsatian game, Jucker. Other card historians, including
Catherine Perry Hargrave, argue that Euchre evolved from the French
game 'cart', a descendant of the Spanish game triumph. An early
version played in England and France during the mid-1700s was called
"ruff," a term still used by Bridge and Spades players to mean the
act of trumping when void in the suit led.
Euchre was modernized and brought to America during the
Napoleonic era, although controversy persists as to how and with
whom it arrived. Renowned Bridge expert, Charles Goren, and the
great Bridge author George Coffin, both claimed that Euchre was
popularized by the Pennsylvania Dutch. One piece of evidence
supporting this theory is that the Euchre term "bower" is similar to
the German word "Bauer", meaning "farmer" (as well as "pawn" in
chess, incidentally). However, both Hargreave and John Scarne, the
noted poker expert and author of The Encyclopedia of Card Games, are
of the opinion that Euchre was introduced by the French in
Louisiana, and later traveled up the Mississippi River to the
northern states. - And on it goes!
Around 1850, jokers were first added to playing-card decks in
the U.S. for specifically for use in the game of Euchre. Today, a
joker is no longer used in the form of Euchre practiced by most U.S.
players, but it still serves as the highest trump in the British
version of Euchre.
A little over 100 years ago, when the popularity of Whist was
fading and Poker was somewhat limited to riverboats and the Old
West, Euchre was the most popular card game in the United States. A
few decades later, it was eclipsed by Bridge. The United States
Playing Card Company (Bicycle cards) tried to sustain Euchre in the
1920's and 30's with specially prepared decks of of custom cards and
by creating games with rules based on those of Euchre. During the
1930s and '40s, contract Bridge was all the rage. Pioneers like
Goren, Oswald Jacoby, and Fred Sheinwold promoted tournaments, and
the American Contract Bridge League grew rapidly in membership. The
recent aging of the Bridge population has resulted in a decline for
Bridge. Other games, meanwhile, also began to gain fans at Euchre's
expense. These included Spades (the # 1 partnership card in the
U.S., Canasta (a huge craze from 1948 to 1955), and Bid Whist. The
last 20 years has also seen the popularity of the World Series of
Poker. Nonetheless, Euchre still has retained a core following. It
is a game which is easy to learn, fun to play, and a good challenge.
Today, Euchre is played "live", primarily in the midwest
(most notably in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois,) as well as
western Ontrario, Canada, and in the Florida and Arizona retirement
communities. It is also, an "on line" favorite. The growth of Safe
Harbor Games provides a nice haven for devotees of this game.
Today, Euchre still has legions of loyal fans around the
country, and thousands of new players.
Try it - you'll like it!
PS - Check out my Euchre book - a guide for players of all
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