What Card should I Lead? page 1

Help me understand what card to lead

One of the first questions new players frequently ask is 'having the first play, what card should I lead?' There are many different factors involved. Let's take a look at some common situations.

Opponents bid and I have first lead

Usually the best starting lead is a singleton ace (an ace with no other cards in that suit). An ace with one other card in that suit (doubleton ace) should be your second choice, if not next suit (the shortened suit which is the same color as the trump suit). Playing a doubleton ace in next suit, or an ace in a suit where you have two or more additional cards, means there are at most three cards remaining in that suit. It will likely be trumped, probably by the bidder. If you wait, you may be able to make these aces good after a round of trump has been played.

With no good ace to play, try setting up a king for use later in the hand. This is done by leading the low card from a King - X combination. You are hoping for the ace to fall. While not guaranteed, this strategy may work and is worth a try. Even in a junk hand, it's important to try and use every card to your advantage.

If you don't have any of the above, the best lead seems to be the smallest non-trump card from your shortest suit. This is based on my experience and worth a try. No matter what you end up leading, keep in mind you're trying to lead a suit that your opponents won't able to trump.

In general it is not a good idea to lead the right when your opponents call. In fact most of the time it is not wise to lead any trump when they call. This only serves to take trump out of your partner's hand and helps your opponents to make their bid. There are a few unique circumstances where a trump lead may be correct. There is a link at the bottom with more information.

This is good time to mention that one should never lead the suit that was turned down. The most likely reason it was turned down is that your opponents didn't have any or many of that suit. If you hold an ace in the turned down suit, it is best to wait till later in the hand to play it.

If the dealer picks up and you hold three trump, lead the middle trump, not your smallest. You don't want to lead a small trump as this may allow the bidder to take the trick using their small trump. You are trying to force out their large trump, which could leave you in a position to control trump latter on. Many times this is the only way to set them up for a euchre, as there is a chance that you hold more trump then the bidder does.

My partner bid and I have first lead

If your partner declared trump and you hold the right or left bower, this should be your first lead. This tells your partner where it is, and informs them how to play the rest of their hand. If you hold both bars (bowers), only play the right. Do not play both, as this may clear out all trump and leave the opposition holding the boss aces.

If you do not hold a bower, lead a small trump. Since your partner bid, they most likely hold at least one bower. A trump lead should take out a round of trump and bring the lead straight to your partner. It will also give you partner a chance to play any aces they may hold. You will get a chance to play your aces latter in the hand. Remember, there are a total of seven trump cards, and a trump lead could remove four of them straight away. This greatly increases the chance of your team's aces winning later.

On a call from 3rd seat, a trump lead is mandatory. Often a team has been euchred because the partner did not lead trump first. If you don't have a trump to lead then lead your aces as described in the first paragraph. By leading an ace or a non-trump card you are telling your partner you don't have any trump in your hand. Now he knows the other trump could be in the oppositions' hands and he can play his hand accordingly.

I bid and have the first lead

On a bid from 1st seat, you should start by planning out how you are going to play the hand. Ask yourself: How strong is my hand? Would it be best to get trump out of the way so I can make my other cards good? Will I be able to control trump?

In a hand where you hold aces and you also hold a couple of trump plus the right bower, your best lead is normally the right. By removing trump from your opponents' hands you will increase the chances of making your aces good. When you lead the right, watch to see if your partner follows suit. If they don't, and you hold the left plus another trump, lead the left. The opposition is likely to be holding more than one trump, and you don't want them to be able use trump against you. If you partner throws off because they can't follow suit pay attention to what card they play. They may be giving you information on what suit they hold boss cards in.

On a next call, as your partner may hold a bower, many times a small trump is your best lead. This will draw out a round of trump, pass the lead to your partner, and allow them to play any aces they may hold.

Guidelines to help get you started

As your skill level advances, you may want to try out different strategies. Plan out your hand and try to make it work for you. Only experience will teach you the best lead in any given hand. Remember, there are four things to take into consideration to determine your lead: Who made trump? What is trump? What is your position at the table? What cards do you hold in your hand? Your position and who made trump are the most important.

It may also be a good idea to occasionally change the way you lead. You don't want your opponents to be able to predict what your lead will be. Some people suggest switching between colors when you are in the lead. So if black was just led, lead red, and vice-versa. When you have that option, it's worth a try.

Normally one should not lead trump on the opponents call. Improper leading of trump generally results in helping them making a point. While there are some circumstances where this lead may be correct and possibly the only way to set a team up for a euchre, new players should avoid leading trump.

In particular, it is worth asking yourself
the following questions:

Should I try and pull trump?
Should I lead a loser and hope my partner can trump it?
What suit was turned down?
Do I play my Ace now or wait until the end?

Each decision could mean the success or failure of the hand. There is little opportunity to recover from a mistake. Remember, this is a partnership game, so try to play into your partners hand when possible. Try different types of leads. Through practice, you will learn what works best.

4th trick leads

There are those players who think that once they get to the 4th trick and make their point, nothing else matters. They just toss out a random card to get the hand over. The truth is that the correct play here can make the difference between 1 and 2 points. There are even some hands when the correct lead could mean saving their team from being euchred. Knowing what card to play on the 4th lead is such an important part of a player's euchre strategy that I have dedicated an entire section to it.

Suggested Further Reading:

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

What Card should I Lead? page 2
The proper use of a double lead

What card should I Lead - 4th trick? Pg 1
Why is the fourth lead so important?

What card should I Lead - 4th trick? Pg 2
The reward for a correct play is extra points

What card should I Lead - 4th trick? Pg 3
Sometimes a trump lead on the 4th trick is correct

What card should I Lead - 4th trick? Pg 4
There is a rare third type of hand - 3rd lead

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 1
Until you learn when is the correct time

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 2
example, cards properly played

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 3
example, cards NOT properly played

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 4
Until you learn when is the correct time

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 5
Unless you hold 2 trump, 2 green aces

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 6
Unless you hold 1 trump, 2 green aces

NEVER lead trump on defense, page 7
A combination of three techniques are used

Defending against a 'lone' call - 1
Use the proper lead to stop call

To keep the 'What to lead' comment section manageable, posts of general interest and older than 6 months
have been moved to their own page.

Here's what our viewers are saying

5 comments so far

My brothers-in-law tried teaching me euchre this weekend, and I have the basics in mind, but, they gt kind of mad at me for this: if it's my lead and I have 9/Q/A of the trump suit, why *shouldn't* I lead with the 9? Wouldn't sacrificing that 9 to draw out the bowers make my Q and A stronger?

Posted by Rob  on Monday, 08.1.16 @ 07:07am| #3665

To give an answer I would need more information. Who made trump, what position are you, was it the first lead of the hand.

but let's assume you're in 1st and your partner just named trump. Then I would agree a trump lead is best.


Posted by Don  on Monday, 08.1.16 @ 11:11am| #3666

Don's right, position and who made it is everything. Assuming your 1st.
1 if you made trump and play your 9 the opposing team can now use a smaller trump card (Q) to steal a trick. Or sees your partner play a K or Bower and the 4th player trumps higher.
2 if you did not make trump youve now sucked not only you small trump but whatever you partner had. If you partner has 1 trump they could be useless now. If they have 2 trump your team went from 5 trump to 2 now.

Posted by Josh  on Wednesday, 02.1.17 @ 09:58am| #3760

Here's an app that will help determine what your odds are...


Posted by EuchreMaster  on Saturday, 07.8.17 @ 07:15am| #3849

I want to print this but don't know how-we have a euchre group in fla of 16-20 and more wanting to learn! Need rules and suggestions

Posted by Shirley passafume  on Monday, 10.9.17 @ 15:38pm| #3886

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