Why you should count trump?

For an advantage over other players

A group of us were talking euchre at one of our weekly games. Someone brought up the subject of counting trump. One player stated that they never count trump. I asked around and was very surprised to find out that many players don't count trump. The players I talked to said it was just too hard to remember.

There are a few things one should try to remember. The first and easiest to remember is what that is turned-up card was. If the card was picked up, then you will know where 1 trump is. Even if the card was turned down, it's still helpful to remember that it was. It's even more important to know how may trump are out against you. Counting trump is like any other learned skill, it comes from practice. In the trump suit there will be the six natural cards, plus the left for a total of 7 potential trump. It is best to think that all of the trump will all be out in any given hand. If by chance, one happens to be in the kitty, many times it will be obvious after a couple of cards have been played.

To be a successful euchre player, a player needs every possible tool that is available. You have an advantage when you know what cards are out against you. Counting trump allows you to guess with a fair amount of certainty what trump others hold. For example, if you bid holding three trump and your partner leads trump to you. If everyone was to follow suit then this would tell you that there is only one trump left against you. (This is explained in detail below) In many instances, it should be possible to guess who has the last trump. Much of this skill is just paying close attention to what cards are played.

How can I learn to count trump?

Start simple by remembering what the turn card is. Watch to see when this card is played as it may give you an idea of how many trump the dealer holds. From there move on to the trump suit itself. We start by counting how many trump are played in each hand. Make a mental note of this number and try to keep a running total in your head. Count only the trump that have hit the table, do not include the ones in your hand. In the above example, we talked about holding three trump. Let's go over that one more time. If on the first lead of trump, everyone follows suit, then there would be 4 trump out. Simple math will tell you 4 trump played plus the two left in your hand is 6. With a total of 7 possible trump there is one that may still be out.

This does take some practice. Don't expect to remember everything when you first start. As you get better at remembering how many trump are still out, then it is time to try and remember when the right and left bower plus the ace of trump have been played. I wouldn't worry too much about which of the smaller trump have been played as in most hands once the three top have been played, many of these will be gone also. It is enough to know if one of these smaller trump remains in play.

Once you have the trump count mastered

Now, it's time to move on to the others suits. Most times it is enough to remember if a suit has already been played. This will come in handy when trying to decide the potential of a suit being trumped. As you improve it's also helpful to remember if you hold any of the remaining boss cards in your hand. Let's say you hold a king - ten combination. Once the ace has been played your king is boss. It's much harder to remember what's played a suit that you do not hold but it is possible. By paying close attention to the cards played, you will have a better understanding of how to play out your hand.

There are very few people that can remember all 24 cards (and those that can are most likely playing Black Jack and not euchre), but by practicing every time you play, it is possible to learn to remember the top cards. The more you practice the easier it gets. You will find this gives you an advantage over the other players.

Counting trump and paying attention to what has been played go hand in hand. Look at the following example.

Table Position
Wrong lead into lone - 1

The dealer is in the North position and has turned up the jack of clubs. Bidding gets passed back and he picks it up while discarding a useless ten of spades.

Wrong lead into lone - 2

In the hopes of euchring the dealer/maker(N) East leads the nine of clubs (trump). South plays the ace, West plays the left and the maker(N) takes the trick with the right. The 4 top trump now have played.

Wrong lead into lone - 3

The maker(N) next plays the ace of hearts. East trumps in using the ten of clubs. South follows the heart lead by playing the ten and West follows suit with the nine. 5 trump have been played.

Wrong lead into lone - 3

East pulls in the trick, looking at his hand he knows there is only one trump that can't be accounted for. Because his king is now the boss trump , leading it will clear out the remaining trump.

Wrong lead into lone - 3

With all the trump accounted for, East knows his ace of diamonds is good. He leads it for the third trick and a euchre.

This hand is also an excellent example of the value of a trump lead to the opponents call when a player in first seat holds 3 trump.

Now look at this example

Wrong lead into lone - 3

This hand was played at a local progressive tournament. My partner, for this set, was one of the better players out there. I was the dealer sitting in South position and had turned up the queen of spades. West, North and East all passed. Something just didn't feel right about picking-up the spade so I also passed. West named next as trump (clubs). His first lead was the jack of clubs. North followed suit with the queen, as did East by playing the king. I, sitting in South, played the ace of clubs. 4 trump have been played. The maker has their first trick.

The maker(W) knows that he needs his partner(E) to take a trick, so he leads the nine of diamonds. Here's where my partner(N) showed his skill. The only way we had any chance of a euchre was if I could take a trick. So instead of trumping in, he throws off the queen of hearts. East follows suit with the queen of diamonds. I take the trick with the King. Now each team has 1 trick.

Now I lead back the ace of diamonds. West plays the 10 of diamonds. North throws the ace of heart away. This makes the diamond ace good. Now we have two tricks.

North, realizes that 4 trump that have been played and he still holds 2. This means there is only one trump left in the wild. It also means the maker is euchred.

Yes, I know the maker was euchred no matter what, but still, it was a brilliant play. How many players would have trump in, trying to save their ace?

Suggested Further Reading:

What Card should I Lead? page 1
Help me understand what card to lead

Our series of 10 lessons on how to play.
A Self-Study Course in Euchre

The Ten Commandments of Euchre
compiled in 2000 A.D. by Harvey Lapp

Our series of articles for the advanced player
A complete listing of our euchre articles

Why you should count trump?
For an advantage over other players

Here's what our viewers are saying

4 comments so far

The scenario you've laid out here is impossible. I think you need to recreate it - According to the current layout, Seat 2 plays a card from the dealer's hand, and Seat 3 reneges (he has a heart). Even after saying that Seat 2 plays 'his ace' (of which he has none, though I assume you mean of Hearts, even though it's in the dealer's hand), it makes the assumption that the dealer will open the next trick, despite playing a 9.

Posted by EuchreThis  on Friday, 04.26.13 @ 13:02pm| #2221

Sure, I would mess up on an article about paying attention to the cards played. oh well, I fixed it. Thanks for pointing this out...

Posted by Don  on Monday, 04.29.13 @ 09:20am| #2223

Thank. This was helpful. I'm fairly new to Euchre, and there are a lot of folks from Ohio down here in The Villages.

Posted by John  on Saturday, 05.4.13 @ 13:31pm| #2227

I have been playing euchre most of my life. I found it strange that when I was in the Air Force stationed at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota that the majority of my friends did not know how to play. I soon realized that euchre is a central USA game. I want to thank you for your tips. I am always trying to improve my game. I will be competing in a corporate challenge tournament on Monday and hope to utilize the tips I get from you to do well. Thank you for the insight.

Posted by David M Conley  on Sunday, 06.23.13 @ 10:01am| #2256

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