King Cut-Throat Euchre - card game rules
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King Cut-Throat Euchre

A Euchre variant, contributed by Chuck Barr .


King Cut-Throat Euchre is a trick taking game for 3 or 2 players, each playing for themselves. The 3-player version is highly recommended. The first player to score 10 or more points wins.

Cards and Rank

A pack of 33 cards is used, consisting of: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 of each suit, Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts plus One Joker.

The named trump suit has 10 cards, highest to lowest as follows:

  • Joker, always the highest trump, "The Best Bower"
  • Jack #1, Jack of the trump suit, "The Right Bower"
  • Jack #2, Other Jack that's the same color as the trump suit*, "The Left Bower"
  • Ace
  • King
  • Queen
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7

There is always a trump suit, and all cards of the trump suit rank higher than any card in the other 3 suits.

The other 3 suits rank in standard order from Ace high down to 7, except the other suit same color as trump has no Jack.

* For Example, if the trump suit becomes Spades, the Jack of Clubs is considered a Spade for that hand, 3rd highest card. If the trump suit becomes Hearts, the Jack of Diamonds is considered a Heart for that hand, etc., The Left Bower does NOT behave as a member of its native suit.

Before Dealing

Before the cards are dealt the players should decide if they want to play "polite" (all cards played in tricks remain revealed). A dealer should be chosen at random. Optional rules should be discussed.

The Deal

The turn to deal rotates clockwise after each hand. The cards should be shuffled and cut. 10 cards are dealt to each player, face down, as follows:

  • A batch of 3 to each player
  • A batch of 3 to the kitty, face down to the center of table
  • A batch of 4 to each player
  • A batch of 3 to each player

If only two are playing, a phantom 3rd player should be dealt a hand. There should be no cards left over.

Naming Trump

Before each hand is played a trump suit is named. Each player discards 3 cards from the their hand and places them "outside", a face-down pile separate from the kitty. After each player confirms they have discarded and hold seven cards, the dealer flips the top card of the kitty. A flipped Joker causes a re-deal.

The player to the left of the dealer decides if they want the suit of flipped card to be named trump.

  • If they DO, the card is added to the hand of the player to their left**. The receiving player must then send one card "outside" returning their hand to 7 cards. The unseen, remaining two cards of the kitty then go "outside" as well at this time.
  • If they DO NOT choose the flipped card to be trump, they pass and the decision moves clockwise, see above.

If all players pass, dealer included, on naming the suit of the flipped card as trump, the card is moved to the bottom of the kitty, partially revealed to signify that suit can no longer be named trump. The player left of the dealer then has the option to name any of the 3 remaining suits as trump.

  • If they DO name a suit as trump, the 2 face down cards of the kitty are added to the hand of the player to their left. The receiving player must then send 2 cards "outside" returning their hand to 7 cards. The last card of the kitty joins the "outside" pile at this time, also face-down.
  • If they DO NOT name a suit as trump, they chose to pass and the decision moves clockwise, see above. If all players decline to name one of the three remaining suits as trump in this second round of naming, the cards are collected and deal moves to the left.

** Note: the kitty card(s) are always given to the player to the left of the trump maker, not to the dealer, as in normal Euchre (unless the bidder happens to be the player to dealer's right).

The Play (f,tr)

Before play begins, dealer may elect to count (not view) the cards "outside" and confirm there are 12 and they're all face down. In a two player game the 9 card "outside" pile is unused and can be collected with the dead hand if desired.

Each hand is played in 7 tricks. A trick is a single card played by each player with the highest ranking card taking/winning the trick. The winner of the trick takes it and lays it in front of them. A player who has won multiple tricks arranges them as to keep count.

Player to the left of the dealer leads any card (plays first card) and play proceeds clockwise. The other players in turn MUST follow the suit led, if able. If unable to follow suit, a player may play any card (any rank of trump in attempt to win the trick, or any rank of any other suit to concede). A trick is won by the highest trump, or if it contains no trump by the highest card of the suit led.

Winner of a trick leads next trick.

Example 1, Spades as trump:

  • Player A leads the trick with 10 of Diamonds
  • Player B declares "I have no Diamonds" and plays 9 of trumps (Nine of Spades)
  • Player C holds 9 of Diamonds and 10 of trumps (Ten of Spades): Player C MUST play 9 of Diamonds to follow the suit led and lose the trick.

Example 2, Diamonds as trump:

  • Player A leads the trick with Jack of Hearts (the Left Bower, 3rd highest trump)
  • Player B holds Queen of Hearts and Queen of Diamonds: Player B MUST play Queen of Diamonds and lose the trick. During this hand the Jack of Hearts has become a Diamond, part of the trump suit, and the Left Bower is ranked higher than the Queen of trumps.
  • Player C holds 7 of Clubs and the Joker (the Best Bower, the highest trump & considered a Diamond for this hand): Player C MUST play the Joker and win the trick to follow led suit

Example 3, Diamonds as trump:

  • Player A leads the trick with Jack of Hearts (the Left Bower, 3rd highest trump)
  • Player B holds King of Diamonds and Ace of Diamonds: Player B will lose regardless of card played because the Left Bower ranks higher than both the King and Ace of trumps.
  • Player C holds the Joker and Jack of Diamonds, Best Bower and Right Bower: Player C will win the trick regardless card played

Example 4, Clubs as trump:

  • Player A leads the trick with 8 of Spades
  • Player B plays King of Hearts
  • Player C plays 8 of Diamonds
  • Player A wins the trick because players B and C cannot match suit and chose not to play trump.

The Showdown

The player who wins the most tricks at the end of the hand is awarded point(s). In a three player game, two players may end up taking 3 tricks, while the remaining player a single trick. This triggers the showdown: an additional hand between the two players with 3 tricks. Players "take it outside" and proceed as follows:

Acting as mediator, the player that had the single trick shuffles the "outside" pile and deals 6 cards to each remaining player. They each discard 1 reducing their hands to 5. A best 3 of 5 tricks hand ensues. Of the two players in The Showdown, the last to win a trick leads. The trump suit carries over. The player who takes more tricks wins.

Scoring during the Play with the King

Any player who takes/wins a trick by playing a King of ANY suit immediately scores 1 point. Capturing another players King does not score. For example player A does not score for taking player B's King in Example 4

Scoring at the End of a Hand

  • If there is a single player with most tricks, but not all 7 tricks, that player scores 1 point.
  • For winning all 7 tricks, the player who named trumps score 2 points.
  • If an opponent of the player who named trumps wins all 7 tricks, that player wins 3 points.
  • The only way there can be a tie for most tricks is if they are divided 3-3-1. In this case the winner of the showdown scores 1 point and the loser loses 1 point unless the loser's score is already zero, in which case it remains zero. Scores cannot become negative.

The score is typically kept by means of a 4 and a 6 from the unused part of the pack for each player. These are arranged to show a number of pips corresponding to the player's score.


A player who reaches a score of 10 points wins the game, and play ends immediately.

Optional Rules

If the players agree in advance:

  1. The Mediator may decide which player will lead in The Showdown
  2. A flipped Joker from the kitty counts as a Spade (or some other suit, as the players may agree).


Q. Do I have to lead with the trump suit?
A. No. Lead with any card.

Q. Do both players with 3 tricks score 1 point before the The Showdown starts?
A. No.

Q. If Player A has won 4 tricks and Player B has won 1 trick, can we just "throw them in"?
A. Only if all Kings have been played.

Story, Strategy and Discussion

See Chuck Barr's King Cut-Throat Euchre Blog, which is also the source of these rules.


King Cut-Throat Euchre was developed and play tested in the pacific northwest, USA., 2009-2011

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Last updated: 8th March 2011