A History of Classic & Modern Card Games

Other columns by Joe Andrews:
The Game of Euchre
Euchre is a classic card game which is currently enjoying a revival. It is easy to learn, fun to play, and requires about twenty minutes for a typical game. The balance of luck and skill provides players of all abilities the reason to think they can win consistently. Best of all, you can be social as you talk about each hand, congratulating your opponents or your partner!

During the 18th and 19th centuries, versions of Euchre that differ slightly from the modern game were very popular in Europe. John McLeod of London, England, is a leading card game authority who maintains the website www.pagat.com, a treasure trove of information on all card games. He documents that Euchre originated from the Alsatian game Jucker. Other card historians, including Catherine Perry Hargrave, state that Euchre evolved from the French game Ecarté, 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 signify the act of trumping when void of a neutral or side 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 legend Charles Goren and the great Bridge writer George Coffin, both claimed that the game of Euchre was popularized by the Pennsylvania Dutch. One piece of evidence supporting this theory is the term "bower" which is pronounced similarly as the German word Bauer, meaning "farmer" (like the “pawn" in chess). John Scarne, the author of The Encyclopedia of Card Games, insisted that Euchre was introduced by the French in Louisiana and later travelled with the settlers along the Mississippi River to the northern states.

Around 1850, jokers were first added to playing-card decks in the U.S. for specific use in the game of Euchre. Today, the joker is no longer used in the game of Euchre practiced by most U.S. players, but is still serves as the highest trump in a British variation.

Approximately 150 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. Forty years later, it was eclipsed by Bridge. The United States Playing Card Company tried to sustain Euchre with custom decks of cards.

However, the Bridge craze could not be contained. During the 1930s and '40s, Contract Bridge was all the rage. Pioneers like Charles Goren, Oswald Jacoby and Fred Sheinwold promoted tournaments and the American Contract Bridge League grew rapidly in membership. Other games meanwhile, also began to gain fans at Euchre's expense. These activities included Spades (see GAMES Magazine Issue - December 1999), Canasta (a huge hit from 1948 to 1955) and Bid Whist. Nonetheless, Euchre still retains a strong regional following in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, upstate New York and western Pennsylvania. Retirement communities such as The Villages (Orlando, FL), also have legions of devotees. Finally, it should be noted that much of Ontario, Canada (especially near Detroit) has become a mecca for Euchre players, with many local leagues and clubs.

The appeal of Euchre is the ease of learning this game, as well as the amount of time its requires to play the standard ten point match!

Oh yes, Euchre (played with Jokers) also has a loyal fanbase in Great Britain!

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