Domino Euchre... and more

Written by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Euchre was the most popular family card game in America during much of the 19th century. It’s the game for which the Joker was invented, probably by the Pennsylvania Dutch. "Euchre" means Joker.

People who had religious restrictions about playing cards -- quite common in 19th century America -- played Domino Euchre. It's an easy but fun partnership game for four players. Hands are quick, at only five tricks each, so if you’re dealt a poor one you have but a minute or two to wait until you get another.

The game is simple, yet it has its subtleties. Players’ strategies often change as one team approaches the game point across hands. These shifts give the game a certain appeal. We've included this game on this website primarily because of its historical importance: it's interesting to try a game Americans played 150 years ago.

This page includes rules for a fun variation called Call-Ace Domino Euchre, as well as the rules for the standard playing card version of Euchre.

Goal: To win the game by being first to accumulate 5 points across as many hands as necessary.

Players and Equipment: You can play Domino Euchre as two or three individuals, but the game is by far best as a four-player partnership game. Use a standard 6-6 set of dominoes. If you aren’t familiar with the tiles, see our quick introduction.

Deal: Appoint one player “dealer” and shuffle all dominoes face-down. The dealer rotates clockwise in subsequent hands. Each player takes 5 tiles into his hand.

Suits: Each domino is potentially a member of either of two suits, as shown in the table.

Suit:‹––high     Members     low––›
6's 6-6   6-5   6-4   6-3   6-2   6-1   6-0
5's 5-5   5-6   5-4   5-3   5-2   5-1   5-0
4's 4-4   4-6   4-5   4-3   4-2   4-1   4-0
3's 3-3   3-6   3-5   3-4   3-2   3-1   3-0
2's 2-2   2-6   2-5   2-4   2-3   2-1   2-0
1's 1-1   1-6   1-5   1-4   1-3   1-2   1-0
0's (or Blanks) 0-0   0-6   0-5   0-4   0-3   0-2   0-1

Note that there is no "Doubles Suit" as in some trick-taking domino games.

Bidding: The dealer now turns one of the remaining unused dominoes face-up. The higher number on this tile is the proposed trump suit. If the turn-up is a doublet, the single number on its face is the proposed trump suit.

The player to the left of the dealer may either:

  • Pass
  • Accept the proposed trump as the trump suit
  • Accept the proposed trump as the trump suit and say “I play alone”

If the player passes, the same opportunity passes to the next player (clockwise).

This process continues until either a player has accepted the proposed trump suit, or all four players have passed.

If all four players pass without anyone accepting the trump suit, the opportunity to make trump passes around a second time. This time each player may either:

  • Pass
  • State any suit (other than the initial proposed trump suit), that he will play with as the trump suit
  • State any suit (other than the initial proposed trump suit), that he will play with alone as the trump suit

If no one accepts a trump suit after two times around the table, the hand is thrown in, and the next person in clockwise rotation becomes the “dealer.”

The Trump Suit: The trump suit is one tile longer than any other suit. Its highest tile is the doublet of that suit, and its second highest tile is the next lower doublet. For example, if 5 is the trump suit, the 4-4 is the second-highest trump. From highest to lowest, the 5-suit trump tiles rank like this:

5-5     4-4     5-6     5-4     5-3     5-2     5-1     5-0

The highest trump is called the right bower. The second-highest trump is called the left bower. If 5 suit is trump, these tiles are the 5-5 and 4-4, respectively.

In the case where the Blank suit is trump, the 6-6 becomes the left bower. So when blanks are trump, the trump tiles rank like this:

0-0     6-6     0-6     0-5     0-4     0-3     0-2     0-1

All tiles in the trump suit are considered only members of the trump suit for the duration of the hand (even though singlets have another suit number on their face).

Play: If the bidder won a bid to play alone, his partner lays his tiles face-down. Neither that player nor his dominoes have any further role in the hand. Whether played alone or not, the bid winner leads a tile to the first trick.

All players must follow suit to the first tile led to a trick. For any non-trump tile lead, the higher number on the first tile to a trick determines the suit for that trick. Leading the 6-4, for example, means leading a 6-suit tile. Any trump lead means that the suit to follow is the trump suit.

If you can not follow the suit led, you may play any tile you like.

If any trump tile(s) are played to a trick, the highest trump played wins the trick. Otherwise the highest tile of the suit led wins the trick.

The winner of each trick takes the tiles and places them face-down at his side prior to the next trick. He then leads any tile to the next trick.

Scoring: If the side who won the bid wins 3 or 4 tricks, they made their bid. They win 1 point. If they win all 5 tricks, they win 2 points. If they don’t win at least 3 tricks, their opponents win 2 points.

Point scores are the same when a player plays alone, except that if he wins all 5 tricks, he wins 4 points.

Strategy: Skill in bidding is important in Euchre. Remember the special role of the left bower when reviewing your hand. The third and fourth players in bidding will want to be quite confident in their hands before making trump, as their partners have already suggested weakness by passing. Playing alone is only advantageous if you can win all five tricks (see Scoring above). Only play alone when you have a “slam” hand.

Alternate Rules: These rules are standard from original 19th century sources. But there are many rules variations for the card game Euchre you might try with the domino game. Some play a game to 7 points instead of 5. Most play that the lead to the first trick is by the player to the dealer’s left. If played alone, the lead to the first trick would be the player to the bid winner’s left. Thus, the bid winner may or may not be the person leading to the first trick. A few change the scoring for playing alone such that the bid winner scores 2 points for winning 3 or 4 tricks (instead of 1). Many play that the dealer may exercise the privilege of taking the turn-up into his hand if the proposed trump as accepted by the bid winner (in exchange for any other tile in his hand). A few play that the bid winner has this option.

Sources: From the entry for “Domino Euchre” in Hoyle’s Standard Games, by Laird and Lee, 1908. Also appears in the Everything Games Book, by Fitzsimmons and Liflander, 1996.

Call-Ace Domino Euchre

This variant changes the above rules of Domino Euchre by eliminating fixed partnerships. Instead, prior to leading to the first trick, the bid winner declares another suit that will determine who his partner is for the hand.

The suit he declares cannot be the trump suit or the suit from which the left bower comes. For example, if the trump suit is 5, the bid winner must pick some suit other than the 5’s or 4’s suits. Whoever holds the doublet of the "partner suit" becomes the declarer's partner for the hand.

No one responds to the bid winner’s declaration of who his partner is. Instead, players must figure it out for themselves during the play of the hand.

The result is that the holder of the partner tile knows that he is the bid winner’s partner, but no one else does -- including the bid winner -- until this tile surfaces during play.

Another possibility is that the bid winner is playing alone because he himself holds the partner tile. No one will no this but the bid winner.

A third possibility is that the partner tile is one of the several tiles not in play for the hand. In this case the bid winner will be playing alone but will not know it!

Scores are kept individually in Call Ace. The points won by each partnership in each hand are awarded to both members of the partnership. The first player to win 5 points across hands is the Game winner.

Call Ace increases the “luck factor” in Euchre, but it also increases the fun factor. Try it for a change after you’ve tired of standard Euchre. The game works as well for five players as four.

Euchre (with playing cards)

Euchre was the most popular family card game in America during the mid- and late- 19th century. Here are standard rules for this simple but entertaining card game.

Players, Cards and Deal: This is a four-player partnership game. Partners should sit across from one another. Use a 24 card deck (you can create this by removing all cards below the 9 from a standard 52-card deck). Deal 5 cards to each player, and turn one card up to indicate the suggested trump suit.

Trump Rank: From highest to lowest, cards in the trump suit rank:   Jack of Trump, Jack of the same color, A, K, Q, 10, 9.

Example: If spades are trump, the rank of the trumps is:

Jack of Spades, Jack of Clubs, K, Q, 10, 9.

Note the Jack of Clubs is considered a spade for the duration of the hand.

Non-Trump Rank: From highest to lowest, cards in the three non-trump suits rank: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9.

Bidding: Starting with the player to the dealer's left, each player in turn can either accept the suit of the turned up card as the trump suit for the hand, or say “pass”. If no player accepts the turned up suit as trump, the players go round a second time and say if there is any suit they want to play as trump. If everyone passes in this second round, the hand is tossed in and the player to the left of the dealer deals everyone a new hand.

As soon as any player accepts a trump suit, the bidding round halts. That player will lead to the first trick. The player can also optionally announce “I play alone”, in which case his partner places his hand face-down on the table. That player and his cards take no further part in play.

If the turn-up card suit was accepted as trump, the Dealer may optionally take it into his hand and discard any card face-down.

Play: The bid winner leads any card he likes to the first trick. Each player around the table in turn plays a card to the trick. Players must follow suit if possible, otherwise they can play any card.

Each trick is won by the highest trump, if any are played. Otherwise the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The trick winner places the four cards from the trick face-down at his side and leads any card he likes to the next trick.

Scoring: After all five tricks are played, points are awarded for the hand as follows:

  • Bid winners win 3 or 4 tricks = 1 point
  • Bid winners win all 5 tricks = 2 points
  • Bid winner plays alone and wins 3 or 4 tricks = 1 point
  • Bid winner plays alone and wins all 5 tricks = 4 points
  • Bid winners fail to win at least 3 tricks = 2 points to their opponents

Game: Game is won by the first partnership to 7 points across as many hands as necessary.

Variations: There are many rules variations for Euchre. Some play with 32 cards, for example, which means they use all cards down to the 7's from the standard 52-card deck. Some play that Game is 10 or 11 points, instead of 7. The version called Hasenpfeffer (or "Pepper"), reduces the luck factor by dealing out all 24 cards (6 to each player). It features a slightly different bidding system. There are also Euchre versions for different numbers of players.

Sources: The rules we've provided here can be found in any number of game books, for example, David Parlett's Oxford A-Z of Card Games.

License: Copyright © 2023 by H. Fosdick.      HOME