A Kirkwood Community College general-interest class
taught by Mike Cal

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Oh Hell Hearts 5 Euchre 6 Euchre Pepper Spades

I started taking classes at Kirkwood in the summer of 1993. I was amazed at the classes listed in the general interest catalog: flower arrangement, basket weaving, coin collecting, dog obediance, etc. People were teaching classes about anything and everything. I met with the director of general interest classes who told me that all I had to do was submit a written proposal and, if approved, I would have a card playing class. I believed I had the training and credentials to teach such a class. In my years at the University of Iowa I certainly spent more time playing cards than studying so I felt I had a bachelor's degree in card playing. My proposal was accepted. Originally it was for six nights for one hour with one game per night. Not enough people signed up so, at the suggestion of the director, I changed it to three nights for a hour and a half with two games per night.
The first class of Lets Play Cards was held in September of 1994. Over 50 people have taken the class. A group of students, mostly from the first class still meet once a month to play cards. The following is the text I give the students.

GENERAL RULES: The most important rule in playing card games such as these is that there are NO rules set in stone. If you are ever playing cards with someone who says "that's not the correct way to play hearts" or "you can't play euchre like that" or "I only play Chicago rules" take one of your socks off and shove it in their mouth. There are no Ten Commandments for card playing. Try different rules, experiment with rules, and try not to be dogmatic. Altering rules to make a game more challenging or exciting is one of the benefits of a free society. I remember something I once said to someone "Hoyles? Hoyles? To hell with Hoyles and the horse they road in on!" My advise - play with the rules you like best.

ETIQUETTE: Dealing. There are many different ways to deal: 2-3-2-3 deal, progression dealing, backwards dealing. Thank goodness dealing one card at a time is accepted everywhere for every game.

THE CUT. After shuffling the cards the dealer will offer the cut to the player on his/her right. The cutter can cut or pass; if the cutter passes the cards are to be dealt uncut. I, however, in a breach of etiquette, would cut them anyway. The cut is essential to lose the bottom card somewhere in the deck; the bottom card is usually very visible during the shuffle.

TABLE TALK. This is the only etiquette I strictly adhere to. Part of the fun in playing cards is trying to figure out the cards everybody else has: watching how players react, do they play a card quickly or do they think and hesitate, their body language, and most important their bidding and card selection. This is spoiled by a blabber mouth. Table talk comes in two forms: signalling what you have when playing a partners game, or blabbing what someone else has in a cut-throat game. Table talk with partners is cheating, as simple as that, and in a dog-eat-dog game like Hearts there is nothing more frustrating as when you are attempting to shoot the moon and the player you passed cards to declares after getting your pass "Ooo! Looks like someone is trying to run them!" Getting together with friends to talk and play cards is fun, just don't talk about the cards your hand.

PARTNERS: Partners that play well together has less to do with that they are seasoned players as that they are a good match. Partners have to fit well together: one's weakness is the other's strength , that Ying and Yang sort of thing (usually a conservative and risky player can be good partners). Being in sync with your partner allows you to figure out what they are thinking and how they will play; some partners are always easier to read than others and some are so off the wall you can't tell what they are doing.

SKILL LEVEL: To become a good player is like anything else: it takes practice and attention. To get practice just play as often as you can or even just watching others play will do. Thinking about the game is equally important; after a hand play it again in your head and try to determine if the outcome would have been different had you played differently or ask others what you might have done. I remember when I played cards in college it seemed like we would discuss and analyze every hand. Experience carries the most weight in skill; after you have played a game for a while, you really get a feel for the game and will know what to do in certain situations.

THE GOAL: Having fun is, of course, the purpose of playing cards. It should be a challenging fun. As far as winning goes, no one likes losing, but don't let it get you down if you lose more often than you win. I would rather play an exciting, close game and lose than win in a simple blow-out. Find people who are fun to play with and that like playing; some people don't like playing cards and are usually no fun playing with. For example: I have this good friend who I would never play with because he doesn't like cards (he told me so) and it was obvious in how he plays because he doesn't pay attention to the game, plays cards at random, and doesn't care whether or not he wins.

AND HERE is one last little tid-bit to remember; if there is a player you don't like, make sure they sit on your right. Who sits on your right is the player you have the best chance to screw up. This is because most of the time they will play a card before you play your card (75% of the time - according to the law of averages). The only time they will see your card first is when you lead. Playing in front of you makes them more venerable to your plays. Ironically enough, whenever I play I try to have the best player sit to my left, which means I am most venerable to a good player and gives me a tougher challenge.


HISTORY: Oh Hell made its appearance in New York card clubs in the late 1930s but is said by some to originate from England. Oh hell is sometimes called Oh Pshaw or Blackout.
PLAY: No partners, every man for himself
CARDS USED: Entire 52 card deck used, no jokers
HAND: first hand everyone is dealt 7 cards, the next hand 6, the next 5, and so on down to 1 and then back up to 7 for a total of 13 hands
BIDDING: Simultaneous
TRUMP: Varies each hand, No bowers
WHO LEADS: Player to the left of the dealer
SCORING: 1 point for every trick won, 10 additional points if a player wins the number of tricks they specified in their bid. Example: bid 3, win 3 = 13 pts; bid 3, win 4 = 4 pts; bid 0, win 0 = 10 pts. If you miss your bid, too high or too low, you're "busted".
WINNER: Player with the most points after the 13 hands

THE DEAL AND BID: The players are dealt their cards and the top card of "the blind" (the cards that were not dealt out) is flipped over and the suit of that card is trump. The players "bid" (declaring how many tricks they will win) simultaneously by sticking out their fingers on the count of three. The goal is to have everyone bid at once. The bids are noted on the score sheet and the hand begins.
STRATEGY: This game is hard to plan for because you don't know what is out there: there is a large blind with unknown cards and you do not know the strength of your opponents' hands until after you have already bid. One bit of advice is to bid conservatively, it is easier to lose tricks than to win them. Who leads is important to remember when bidding. Many players use a strategy called "get in and get out" which means getting in the lead, winning the number of tricks bid, and then getting out (usually by leading their lowest card). Once you have screwed up your bid, "busted", try to take as many tricks as possible since they are still worth 1 pt each.
VARIATIONS: Play 13 down and 13 up for a longer game of 25 hands. I used to play Oh Hell without trump. Try having a pass every hand like in the game of hearts. I also used to play without a simultaneous bid; each player stated their bid one at a time starting with the player to the left of the dealer and the last player's bid (the dealer could not be a number such that the sum of the bids did not equal the number of tricks for that hand. The name of this game has several different callings.


HISTORY: Hearts' 18th-century ancestor was called "Reverse" because it was the reverse of many games, such as bridge, whereby players avoided winning tricks.
PLAY: Every man for himself, a real cut-throat game
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3-6, but 4 is best
CARDS USED: Entire 52 card deck, No jokers
HAND/DEAL: All the cards are dealt out, each player has 13 cards
SCORING: The number of tricks won is unimportant, it is what is in the tricks. Every heart taken is 1 point and the Queen of Spades is 13 pts. However, if a player can win all thirteen hearts and the Queen Spades that player can either subtract 26 pts from their score or add 26 pts to the score of each of the other players. This maneuver is called "running them" or "shooting the moon" or a "take all".
WINNER: If after a hand a player has 100 pts or more the game is over and the player with the lowest point total is the winner
WHO LEADS: The player who has the 2 of clubs after the pass leads to 2 clubs to start the hand.

THE DEAL AND PASS: All the cards are dealt out and every player has 13 cards. The players then pass 3 cards to another player and receive 3 cards. The first hand the players pass to the left, the next hand they pass across, then to the right, and on the fourth hand there is no pass and it is a "hold hand". This passing is repeated throughout the game. After the pass the player with the 2 clubs leads that card. As far as leading goes, any card may be led after the first trick, however, a heart may not be led in a hand until someone has taken some points (either won a heart or the Queen Spades in their tricks).
STRATEGY: Winning a few hearts here and there isn't that damaging but try like hell not to take the Queen. 3 or 4 hands eating the Queen and you are done for. Avoid the Queen by leading spades less than the Queen (this is sometimes called "looking for" or "hunting" the Queen) this will draw the Queen out. Being "void" in a suit always helps, so if after a deal you only have 2 or 3 of a suit, pass those cards, then you will be able to play any card you want when someone leads your void suit. A simple passing strategy is to pass high clubs and diamonds and never pass low hearts or spades.
STRATEGY TO SHOOT THE MOON: You really have to be dealt strong cards to make a good run. Too many 2s, 3s, and 4s will make a run extremely difficult. Having low or medium hearts in your hand without the larger hearts makes running nearly impossible. Anonymity is of utmost importance. If you start leading aces and kings (especially spades) or begin taking all the tricks the other players will deduce that you are running and try to stop you. If you are going to run, try to save the Queen for last, that way if you don't make it someone else might get stuck with her.
VARIATION: "Turbo Hearts" or "Omnibus Hearts" is where the Jack of Diamonds is worth minus 10 pts and the 10 of clubs is worth x2 adds a delightful twist to the game. Many people play with the "gentlemen's rule" which means no points may be given on the first trick; I don't play this rule because I don't think the first trick should be any different then the rest. Many people also play with the insane rule that if a player's score lands on 102 pts, that player's score goes back to 0; this is nuts because it rewards the worst player. Try playing with Diamonds trump, it makes the game very odd. People sometimes pass differently: left, right, across, hold; I pass L,A,R,H such that who you pass to goes in a circle. There is the variation where the fourth pass is not a hold but instead you pass one card to each other player. That's fun and makes for some variety. I have seen a rule where the player to the left of the dealer leads, not the 2 of clubs.
If you play with other than 4 players the cards will not come out evenly to all the players so you will have to uses a blind. A variation: instead of using a blind the 2's and 3's of diamonds and spades are discarded so that everyone has an even number of cards. Example: 5 players, discard 2Di and 2Sp so each player has 10 cards. 3 players, discard 2Di, 3Di and 2Sp so each player has 17 cards. If you have a lot of people, 6-7, try playing "Cancellation Hearts" with two decks. If the twin of the winning card is played then they cancel each other out and the next highest wins. Example: 10Di lead, then 5Di, JackDi, KingDi, 8Di, KingDi, and 3Di; the Kings cancel each other and the Jack wins the trick.
A variations regarding betting: the three losing player pay their score at a penny per point to the winner which usually comes out to $2-$3. One scoring version has no recorded, tabulated score; instead the players put in an ante before each hand and any player that does not get a point wins the ante. If more than one player is pointless they equally split the ante. If all players get points ("painted" with hears) then the ante remains to be increased by the next hand's ante.

(Buck Euchre)

HISTORY: 5-Card Euchre originated among Pennsylvania Dutch prior to 1864. Eucher stemmed from the "Triumph" family af card games. Euchre gave rise to the game Five Hundred. Versions of Eucher in other countries have different names: Ecarte (France), Spoil Five (Ireland), and Nap or Napoleon (England). In these "Triumph" family of card games the trump-maker or trump-caller must get 3 of the 5 tricks.
BOWER HISTORY: The term bower comes from the German word "bauer" which means farmer or peasant. Peasants, in the eyes of royalty, were scoundrels, rogues, and rascals therefore a bower might sometimes be called a "knave of trumps". Knaves are dishonest swindlers and tricksters. A low trump card will always steal a trick from the high face card.
PLAY: Partners, 2 on 2
CARDS USED: 9 thru Ace, a deck of 24 cards
HAND/DEAL: 5 cards are dealt to each player, the top card of the "blind" (the 4 cards left over) is flipped over and placed on top of the blind
TRUMP: Varies, if suit of the blind card flipped over is not called, then another suit may be called or "No Trump". In Euchre trump has bowers.
BIDDING: The bidding team must win 3 of the 5 tricks or are "set". If a player bids "Alone" (that player's partner does not play) he has to win all 5 tricks or is "set", short for "set back".
WHO LEADS: The player to left of dealer
SCORING: If the bidding team wins 3 or 4 tricks they get 1 point, if they get all 5 they get 2 pts. If the bidding team only gets 1 or 2 tricks they are "set" and the opposing team gets 2 pts. If the bidding team fails to get any tricks they are "super-set" and the opposing team gets 4 pts. A player that goes "Alone" must get all 5 tricks for 4 pts. or is "set".
WINNERS: The first team to reach 15 points

DEAL AND BID: The cards are dealt out with each player getting 5 cards. The top of the card of the blind is flipped over. In the first round of bidding, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, any player may call the suit of the blind card trump. If this is done the dealer may exchange that blind card with one in his hand, guaranteeing him at least on trump card (this is called "ordering up" the dealer). If someone does order up the dealer then play begins with player to left of dealer leading the hand. The team that calls trump must win 3 of the 5 tricks or is "set".
If all 4 players pass the blind card is placed face down and then there is a round of an open bid. In this round a player may call trump of any suit (except for the suit of the blind card) or "No trump". If the first 3 players "pass" (do not call trump) then the dealer must call trump. Once trump is called play begins with the player to the left of the dealer leading the hand and the team that calls trump must win 3 of the 5 tricks or is "set".
STRATEGY: Most people rely on the idea that their partner is always good to win at least 1 trick; this is not always true, if you bid don't rely on your partner. Off-suit aces will not usually win a trick if you have three cards of that same suit. Remember the dealer gets a free trump card if he is "ordered up", however, you will have a slight advantage of "ordering up" the dealer if he sits on your left. If you lead, and no one "orders up" the dealer in the first round, and you have three of one suit (with ace, king, and another) you have a definite 3 bid.
Variations: One rule says that if an "Alone" player gets 3 or 4 tricks and not 5, he does not get "set" but in turn only receives 1 point (I think this is a lousy rule since it takes away the risk of going "Alone"). Another bad variation that only wastes time is the rule that if trump is not called in the second round of bidding the cards are thrown in and the hand re-dealt. Many people do not play 5 Card Euchre with the "No trump" option. In 3-hand Euchre or "cut throat" the trump caller goes it alone against the other 2 players.

(Bid Euchre)

PLAY: Partners, 2 on 2
CARDS USED: 9 thru Ace, a deck of 24 cards
HAND/DEAL: All the cards are dealt out, each player has 6 cards
TRUMP: Varies, the players call it; trump has bowers, "No trump" may be called also.
BIDDING: There is only 1 round of bidding; when bidding a player says a number and the trump desired. If the next player in line cannot say a number higher he must pass. A bid of 6 may be surpassed by a bid of "Alone". In an "Alone" that player must get all 6 tricks and his partner does not play.
SCORING: If the bidding team wins at least their bid they get 1 point, if they win all 6 they get 2 pts. If they fail to reach their bid they are "set" and the opposing team gets 2 pts. If the opposing team wins all 6 it is a "super-set" and they get 4 pts. Winning all 6 tricks in an "Alone" will get 4 pts. Failing to win all 6 in an "Alone" is a "set".
WHO LEADS: The player to the left of the dealer.

DEAL AND BID: All the cards are dealt out with each player having 6 cards. The bid only goes around once and a bid consists of a number and the trump desired (example: "two hearts" of "three spades" or "four No trump"). The player that has made the highest declaration has won the bid for their team, this means that team must win at least that number of tricks or is "set" and the trump is what was said with the bid. Example: a bid of "five diamonds" means the bidding team must win at least 5 of the 6 tricks and diamonds are trump. Play begins after the one round of bidding with the player to the left of the dealer leading.
STRATEGY: A bid of 4 is the mainstay bid; if you have a 3-bid hand, bid 4 and hope your partner will win 1 trick (this is called "bidding for your partner"); by bidding 4 your opponent must bid 5 or more and a 5 bid is fairly difficult. If you have a run in one suit and you lead that hand, you could have a good "No Trump" 4 bid. Wherever you are the first person to bid, always bid at least 1 of something, even if you have terrible cards. Play conservative, getting "set" several times is how most teams go about losing. If a player makes a high "No trump" bid it might mean he has a run in one suit as opposed to having several aces. Never bid high against a "No trump" bid, even though you might have all the trump the opposing team probably has the off-suit covered. With a possible payoff of 4 pts., going "Alone" is usually worth the risk.
VARIATIONS: A game called Hasenpfeffer (German for hare or rabbit stew) is played identical to six-card euchre except there is a joker which is the highest trump card or best bower. Each player is dealt six cards with a one-card widow or blind. Whomever calls trump get the widow/blind to put in their hand if they so desire. Scoring variation for 5 or 6 card euchre: instead of a set being two points for the opposing team, a set may be a deduction or minus -1 for every trick the bidding team missed. Example: A team bids 4 but only gets 3 then they get -1 point. Bids 3 gets 1 then -2 points.


PLAY: Partners, 2 on 2
CARDS USED: 8 thru Ace, a 28 card deck
HAND: All the cards dealt out, each player has 7 cards
BIDDING: The bid only goes around once, a minimum bid is 3, if the first three bidders pass then the dealer must call trump
TRUMP: Varies, the player that wins the bid calls the trump, trump has bowers, or No Trump may be called.
WHO LEADS: Player to left of dealer
SCORING: The team that won the bid gets the points matching their bid if they get at least that many. If they fall short, get "set" or get a "hick" of minus their bid points. If the bid team get all 7 tricks they get 10 points. The opposing team always gets 1 point for every trick they take but if they fail to win at least one trick they get a "hick" of minus -5 points. A player may go "Alone" and must get all 7 tricks for 15 points.
WINNERS: First team to 50 points wins

DEAL AND BID: The cards are dealt out and the player to the left of the dealer bids first. A bid consists of declaring only a number. The bid only goes around once. The player that has made the highest bid has won the bid for his team and his team must then win at least that number of tricks or is "set". Once the bid is won, the player that won it declares what suit is trump or calls "No Trump".
Once trump is called the opposing team may drop out (fold) and the bidding team gets an automatic 10 points. A team may want to fold if they don't think they can take a trick and to avoid getting set.
A player may bid "Alone". An Alone player plays without their partner but gets to exchange a card with their partner. The Alone player declares trump before exchanging a card with their partner. The Alone player must get all 7 trick or is set. Once the bid is over and the trump declared, the bids are noted on the score sheet and play begins.
STRATEGY: A bid of 5 is the mainstay bid, try to angle your bids accordingly; force the other team to bid 6. Avoid getting "set", playing Pepper in a bar will cost you a beer per "hick".
VARIATIONS: Player to the left of the Bidder always leads, or the Bidder always leads. Alone may be done with a bid less than all 7. "Dirty Clubs" - if clubs are called trump the opposing team may not fold out. Hundreds of different scoring variations.


PLAY: Partners, 2 on 2
CARDS USED: Entire 52 card deck, No jokers
TRUMP: Always Spades
HAND/DEAL: All the cards are dealt out, each player has 13 cards
BIDDING: Partners discuss how many tricks they can win and make a single/joint bid. If player may bids "No" their partner may still make a number/trick bid.
WHO LEADS: Player to left of dealer
SCORING: A team or player gets 10 points for every trick bid if they win at least the number of tricks bid. If they fail to get their bid they get "set" and get zero. Examples: bid 7, win 9 = 70 pts. bid 7, win 6 = 0 pts. A player that bids "No" gets 100 pts. if he doesn't win a trick. If he does win a trick, the opposing team gets 10 pts. for every trick the "No" player takes. A team may get points from one player's "No" bid and the other player's number/trick bid.
WINNERS: First team to 500 points wins

DEAL AND BID: The cards are dealt out and the teams make their bids together and the bids are noted on the score sheet. If a player bids "No" they may exchange one card (this makes it easier for the "No" player to avoid taking a trick by passing a high card away). Play begins with the player to the left of the dealer leading any card.
STRATEGY: Going "No" or "nullo" is not that not that difficult and even an average hand, or a hand with a big run of one suit (except if its a run of spades) can be played as to not win a trick. The partner of a "No" player has to watch out for his partner and make sure he doesn't take a trick. Bid as high as possible since you only get the points from the bid, not the actual tricks taken; example: bid 7, win 12 = 70 pts, not 120 pts.
VARIATIONS: Use a joker as the highest trump. No joint bidding, have the bid go around once with the second player of a team to bid makes the bid for the team.

Source: These rules are my own, a combination of what I learned from others and what I made up. Some of the "history" listed herein I got from Hoyles Rules of Games (copyright 1963) and Webster's Dictionary.

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