Domino Euchre

Introduction

This is an adaption of the card game Euchre to domino tiles, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century with players who were unwilling to use the standard 52-card pack for religious reasons. For those willing to use playing-cards, the domino version does not have much to recommend it over the original card game.

The earliest description we have seen is in the Modern Pocket Hoyle by Trumps, Dick and Fitzgerald (1868) and this text has been reprinted many times. For example the account published over 100 years later in The Everything Games Book by Fitzsimmons and Liflander (1996) is exactly the same. Unfortunately this description is incomplete and somewhat confusing. There is a better description in The Standard Hoyle published by the Excelsior Publishing House, New York in 1887 (I have only seen the third edition, from 1909), but this still leaves at least one important point unclear.

Equipment

The game uses a double six domino set. The game can be played by two, three or four people, but it is best for four.

The Deal

One player is designated as the first dealer and the deal will pass to the left after each round.

Each player receives a hand of five tiles either from the dealer or by drawing their own from the boneyard, as is their custom. Once everyone has their hands, the dealer draws one tile, called the "turn-up", from the boneyard and exposes it face up to determine trump for the round. Trump is the higher end of this tile and the tile is left exposed for the rest of the round.

The Play

In the non-trump suits the double is highest, and the remaining tiles are ranked by their suit number from 6 (high) thru blank (low). The trump suit is ordered differently, however.

  • The double of trump is called the "Right Bower" and it is the highest tile in the trump suit. (In the original card game, this was the Jack of trumps.)
  • The double of the suit one lower than trump is called the "Left Bower" and it is the second highest tile in the trump suit. If blanks are trump, then the count "goes around the corner", and the [6-6] is the Left Bower. (In the original card game, the Left Bower was the Jack of the suit of the same color as trumps.)

This means that the trump suit has eight tiles and the suit one less than trump has no double and only five tiles. For example if 4's are trump the 3-suit consists only of [3-6], [3-5], [3-2], [3-1], [3-0].

Trump tiles always count as trumps, but other tiles, if they are not doubles, can belong to one of two suits, corresponding to the two numbers on them.

The Bid

The auction begins with the player to the dealer's left and continues clockwise round to the dealer. It ends as soon as a player accepts the turned up trump suit. Until then, each player has two options which he can call:

  1. Accept the trump. In traditional Euchre terminology this is known as "Ordering Up" if an opponent of the dealer does it, "Assisting" if the dealer's partner does it, and "Taking Up" if the dealer does it. A player who accepts the trump may also add "Alone" to this bid. Playing alone means that he feels he can take enough tricks without any help from his partner (and will thereby win a bigger score for their partnership if he takes every trick). Accepting the trump ends the bidding phase and the tricking taking part of the game can now begin.
  2. Pass. This means the player does not like the trump and the bid goes to the next player.

If the first three players pass, and the dealer also does not wish to accept the trump, he discards the turned trump out of the game. Now each player in turn, beginning to dealer's left, has the opportunity to name any trump suit other than the one that was turned up. If if anyone names a trump suit that ends the auction. As in the first round, the trump maker may choose to play alone. If all pass a second time, then the entire hand is over, nobody scores any points and a new round is dealt by the next dealer.

When the turned up trump suit is accepted (whether it is ordered up, assisted or taken up), the dealer takes the turned up domino into his hand and discards one tile face down. If the turned up trump is not accepted and a different suit is made trump, the turned up tile is not picked up, and everyone plays with their original five tiles.

Tricks

As in most of these card game adapted to dominoes, the trump suit tiles must always be played as trumps and not as tiles in their other suit.

The player who made trumps plays the first tile and, if it is not a trump or a double, announces to which suit it belongs. The other players must follow suit - i.e. play a tile of the same suit as the lead - if able. For example, suppose 5's are trump and the [3-2] is led as a 3. A player holding the [6-3] and the [5-3] but no other tiles with 3's is obliged to play the [6-3] (the [5-3] is a trump, so does not belong to the 3-suit for this deal). A player who is unable to follow suit may play a trump or any other tile they wish. The trick is won by the highest tile in the suit that was led, unless a trump is played on the trick. In that case, the trick is won by the highest trump played. The winner of the trick leads the next trick.

If the trump maker chose to play alone, then his partner lays his hand face down on the table before the first trick and takes no part in the play.

Note. None of the sources we have seen actually says that the leader of a non-trump non-double nominates which suit it belongs to. An alternative interpretation is that (as in Texas 42), the tile automatically counts as belonging to the higher of its two suits when led. In any case, the other players are obliged to follow suit, even if this involves playing a tile that has the suit led on the lower end. It seems likely that Domino Euchre has died out, since there have apparently been no fresh accounts of it written in the last 100 years. Unless we can contact someone who knows for sure how it was played, or find an independent and more complete description, this detail will remain uncertain.

Scoring

The game is five points. The convention is to issue one player of each team with five chips, which are returned to their storage container as each point is scored. The winners are the first partnership to have no chips left.

If the partnership that made trumps takes all five tricks, they "make a match" and score two points. If they take three or four tricks, they "make point" and score one point. If they fail to take at least three tricks, they are "euchred" and the other partnership gets the two points.

When a player plays alone and takes all five tricks, his partnership scores four points. If he plays alone and takes three or four tricks, his partnership scores one point. When a player plays alone and fails to take three tricks, he is euchred and the other partnership scores two points.

Other web sites

Howard Fosdick has published another reconstruction of Domino Euchre and also a description of Domino Call-Ace Euchre. He prefers the interpretation in which when a non-trump tile is led, it automatically belongs to the the suit of the larger end.