Saturday, February 21, 2009

Euchre, Bowers, and Trumps

Ok, I love my card-playing friends. We eat delicious food, laugh a lot, drink a lot, (pink champagne is the women's favorite drink right now), laugh some more and then we sit down to play poker and Euchre on most Friday nights. I have played maybe 10 rounds of cards in my life. My friends used to play every Friday night for years and my husband is from Michigan (one of the Euchre capitals of the US). Euchre is big in the midwest. Also called Ecarte or knock euchre, supposedly derived from a game called juckerspeil, this game is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Who knew?

Poke is a group of games with similar rules. You have Texan Holdem, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, Follow the Bitch, and on and on. Although I need my cheat sheet (because I have played poker 2 times in my life) I seem to get poker. I think I understand the gambling part, raising when you think you have a good hand until everybody starts to argue about how to do it and then I am, of course, lost. But, I get poker and even left last night with a tidy pile of change. I must admit, however, that I seem to hate to lose. Not a good quality in a game like poker. With a hand you have little control over you bid and play the game. It's a lot of luck and some strategizing and you are definitely going to lose about half the time. Experience with card-playing, I see, is immensely helpful. I generally think of poker as fun, mostly when I'm winning,of course, but even when not, I enjoy the strategizing, the betting, the socializing, and how you have to do the best you can with the hand you are dealt, kind of like in life.

Euchre, on the other hand, is a trick-taking card game and very different from poker. OK, already we have some unfamiliar buzz words I get completely focused on while I'm trying to play the game (and that's a problem because people want to play that game QUICKLY)...trick-taking I think on. What does that mean? A round of play is a trick and you want to take all the cards in each round. Why they don't just say that I will never know. One thing I learned last night as I fumbled around trying to learn Euchre is that there is a whole lingo everybody else who plays cards knows. I felt like a French woman sitting in a German cafe, eager to order a bratwurst, yet all that came out of my mouth was, "Je parle francais regrette seulement." I just wasn't speaking the language. Once, when I looked at my husband quizically after just having been "ordered" by him to pick up the card, he tried to give me helpful advice, "Just short-suit yourself." I think, shorten my suit? If I shorten, whatever that means, can I also lengthen my suit? What would that look like? And why is my husband "ordering" me? The words capture me as I try to figure out what they mean. When I finally ask, "Whatever do you mean?" My husband patiently tells me, talking as slowly as you would to a very challenged 5 year old, that I want to discard in such a way that I have as few suits in my hand as possible. I am sure my friends are rolling their eyes and thinking, "THIS woman has a Ph.D?" Ah, yes but in psychology, trick-taking card games weren't part of the curriculum, especially not Eucher. My husband goes on, "Shorten your suit so you can use a trump card to overide an ace and take the trick." What's a trump card, I wonder? And, why do I want to override an ace? I get so focused on the lingo (tricks, trumps, left and right bowers, and the ins and outs of ordering), listening to EVERYBODY who had advice for me (you fumble or don't move at lightening speed and everybody gives you loud, sometimes biting advice within the millisecond) that I forget, oh yah, right, I am playing with a partner. To make the game all the more challenging for my novice-playing self, my generally sweet and kind partner who is my husband (in Friday night competitive mode) started honking at me about "trumping his ace" after I lay down a well-thought out but clearly wrong card. "Sorry," I tell him. In another play, when I lay down the left bower which is trump suit (see, I'm getting it), accidentally, there's no going back, my friends happily take the round although I plead with them to let me take up the card, "I'm just learning." "To bad," I'm told as they scoop up the trick and earn a point. My husband is an excellent Euchre player so we won the game by 1 point, with no help, I am sure from me!

I am sure I will learn how to play Eucher in time. I am nothing if I am not persistent. It's not a game I consider much fun at this point, but it is a challenge,and I love playing with my friends. I think I just need to move at my own pace, think carefully about bowers, trumps, aces and remember I have a partner. Play the suit or try to trump the trick and take losing with a grain of salt! I feel like an off suit nine longing to be a right bower (see, I do know what I'm talking about).

1 comment:

  1. OH MY GOD! I'm laughing my a$$ off! I remember my mom and dad trying to teach Joe how to play. It's genetic I'm telling you! Too funny!