Buck Euchre / Dirty Clubs

Introduction

Buck Euchre, also known as Cut-throat Euchre or Dirty Clubs, is a North American Euchre variation in which everyone plays for themselves. As in games of the Rams group, there is a penalty for any individual who wins no tricks. There seem to be several different versions of Buck Euchre. This page first describes one for four players played in Ohio, USA, based on a contribution from Ed Eby, then the game of Dirty Clubs, based on a contribution from Rik. Finally a three player version from Indiana is explained, using information from Natty Bumppo's Columbus Book of Euchre. Clearly other combinations of the rules given here are possible.

Cards and Deal

There are four players, each playing for themselves. A a 24 card deck is used, consisting of A-K-Q-J-10-9 in each of the four standard suits. As in Euchre, the trump suit ranks differently from the others. The top trump is the jack of the trump suit (right bower), second is the other jack of the same colour (left bower), and then follow the other cards of the trump suit: ace, king, queen, ten, nine. The other suits rank normally from high to low: A-K-Q-(J)-10-9. If there are no trumps, all suits rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9.

The first dealer is chosen at random, and thereafter the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. The dealer deals a hand of five card face-down to each player, dealing the cards two or three at a time, in two rounds. The next card card is turned to indicate the proposed trump suit.

Bidding and Dropping Out

If the turned up card is a club, then clubs are automatically trump. There is no bidding or dropping out and everyone must take at least one trick to avoid penalty.

If the turned up card is not a club, the trump is determined as in Euchre. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player has an opportunity to order up the turned card, confirming that suit as trumps. If it is ordered up the dealer takes it and discards a card face-down. If the first three pass, the dealer can take the turned up card, confirming its suit as trumps, or turn it down. If the dealer turns it down then each player in turn has the chance to name a trump suit different from that of the turned card.

As soon as a player orders up the trump, or the dealer takes the trump, or a player names a trump suit, that player (the trump maker) is committed to try to win at least three tricks. Now each of the other players in turn, starting with the player to the trump maker's left, must say whether they will stay in or drop out. Anyone who stays in must take at least one trick or suffer a penalty. If you drop out you avoid the risk of a penalty for taking no tricks, but since you are not playing you have no opportunity to score for tricks taken.

If the turned trump is not ordered up and not taken by the dealer, and no one names trump on the second round of bidding, then the hand is played without trumps and there is no opportunity to drop out. Each player must take at least one trick or suffer a penalty.

The Play

The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. When there are trumps, the left bower (the other jack of the same colour as trumps) counts for all purposes as belonging to the trump suit. A trick is won by the best trump in it, or if no trumps are played, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

Scoring

Everyone starts with 25 points and the first player to reach or pass zero wins. At the end of the play, each player subtracts one point for each trick that they win, except that:

  • if you make trumps and are set (euchred), failing to win at least three tricks, you cannot subtract anything for the tricks you take but instead you must add five points to your score;
  • if you stay in (not having made trumps) and take no tricks you must add five points to your score.

Players who dropped out neither add not subtract any points.

If anyone manages to take all five tricks, they immediately win the entire game. If this does not happen, more hands are played until someone reaches or passes zero. If two or more players get to or past zero on the same hand the player who goes furthest below zero wins. If they have the same score, it is a tie.

Variations

Jack Thomson describes a version of the above game in which no one may drop out for three consecutive hands. If you stay out for two consecutive hands, then on the next hand you must stay in and take a trick or suffer the penalty.

Dirty Clubs

This is similar to the Buck Euchre game described above except for the following.

Everyone starts with 20 points rather than 25.

If the turned card is not a club, there is a single round of bidding. Starting to the left of the dealer, each player bids the number of tricks they would be prepared to win if allowed to name trumps. The minimum bid is one, and each player in turn must either bid higher than the highest bid so far or pass. After the bidding, the high bidder names trumps or specifies that there will be no trumps, and is allowed to take the turned up card and discard one card from hand face down. The bidder can exchange the up-card even if it is not a trump, and clubs can be called trump even if they are not turned up.

Starting to the left of the bidder, each of the other players chooses to stay in or drop out, and then the play and scoring proceed as in Buck Euchre described above.

It is possible to play Dirty Clubs with more than four people by adding extra low cards to the pack - eights, sevens and so on, as needed.

Three Player Buck Euchre

In the three player Columbus version of Buck Euchre, four hands are still dealt, but no card is turned up. Three of the hands belong to the players and the fourth is a spare hand, called the widow. Each player in turn, having looked at their own hand, has an opportunity to exchange it for the face-down widow, if no one else has already done so. The player to dealer's right has the first opportunity to exchange, then the dealer, and finally the player to dealer's left.

The bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer and goes round the table clockwise as many times as necessary. A bid is the number of tricks the player offers to win if allowed to choose trumps, but no suit is mentioned as part of the bid. The lowest possible bid is "one". It is legal to bid more than five as a sacrifice. Each number bid must be higher than the previous one. If you do not wish to bid higher you can pass, and this does not prevent you from bidding in future if the turn comes around to you again. When two players in succession have passed, the third player (the highest bidder) names the trump suit or announces that there are no trumps. Then each of the other players in turn announces whether they will play or drop out.

Each player starts with just 15 points. The scoring is the same as in the other versions: you subtract a point for each trick that you win, except that a bidder who fails to win at least the number of tricks bid, and any other player who stays in and takes no tricks, must add five points. In this version, winning five tricks just allows you to subtract five points, not win the whole game.

The aim is to reach or pass zero. A player whose score is five points or less is not allowed to drop out, but must play every hand. If two or even all three players get to zero in the same hand, the winner is the one whose score is most negative.

Bid Euchre 102

Under the title Bid Euchre 102, Natty Bumppo has published a four-player variation of the above where players are allowed to exchange some of their cards with some or all of the four undealt cards.

Software

Malcolm Bain's CardsFun publishes a Buck Euchre program for Windows. A free trial version is available.