Sunday, April 21

Michigan Gaming: Part 1 - "Yooker"

Erica Brandon - April 21, 2013

If you were raised in or around Illi-Michi-Indianaganois, chances are your family plays a lot of games.  You see - in the cold months of October through April, we play indoors!  Crazy, right?  We play ping pong in our basements, card games on actual card tables, and quite often invent our own games involving various pieces of sport equipment, old toys, and camping equipment that cluttered our basement and garage. 

But today I’d like to tell you about one of the most beloved games of this spectacular region:  Euchre. 

For those of you who have only spoken this word, I’m speaking of “Yooker” (rolling my eyes as I type that).  Euchre is a strategic 4 person card-game that uses a “Euchre deck” consisting only of cards 9 through Ace.  Veteran players know that it also require the fives, sixes, and/or fours for scorekeeping. 

There are many versions of the game, including the traditional version where each person is dealt five cards, and there are also less popular versions like “Bid Euchre” and “Hasenpfeffer” (which includes a joker!).  While these spinoffs can be fun to indulge in from time to time, most players stick to the traditional play style and will frown, sigh, groan, roll their eyes, or leave the room entirely to avoid any deviation from their beloved five-card Euchre.

The beauty and the bane of Euchre is that it’s played with partners who sit across from each other.  Notoriously good partner combinations are: siblings, grandparents, and father/daughter.  If you are playing against one of these teams beware! 

  • Siblings:  They invariably cheat.  Siblings almost always have some sort of communication system worked out that involves holding their cards a certain way, pointing out the window and saying “Oh look, a cardinal!” and showing each other their cards, or working key words into the conversation such as “How do you feel about clubbing seals?”, “I actually like clubbing seals, I’ve done it 3 times this week.  Maybe 4.” 
    • WARNING:  Do not get within 5 feet of a euchre game that consists entirely of siblings unless you bear homemade cookies.  You can expect unspoken gratitude for the offering of the cookies in the form of an empty plate.  Do not expect any other acknowledgement of your presence.
  •  Grandparents: These unassuming elders are stealthy and extremely experienced.  No one keeps a straight face like they do.  They will calmly play out the hand while discussing the laundry that’s sitting in the dryer, or who is going to host thanksgiving this year, while raking in every single trick on a suit they didn’t order up – finishing the hand with a wink and smile.
  • Father/daughter:  This adorable combo can always be counted as a contender.  Dad always wants his girl to succeed and will graciously throw off and let her take tricks all day long.  She, on the other hand, is always eager to show off the subtle skills of the game that Dad taught her back in grade school.  This is the case for the entirety of their lives.  Deep down, they don’t care if they win or lose – it’s all about time together.  Because of this they usually win.

Alternately there are partner combinations that require special consideration, such as couples, little kids, and guys in their teens/20’s.  Each of these partnerships has its own struggles and handicaps and it’s only fair that the other team acknowledge this by making some necessary adjustments.
  • Couples:  A couple who is dating or married should never be Euchre partners.  There are always larger issues at hand between these two, and those issues can be played out maliciously during a game.  This of course is unbeknownst to the opposing team that just wants to play some Euchre.  The best approach is to keep any of their offspring away from the gaming area, and to order up a round of drinks from a nearby friend or relative standing near the fridge.
    • *WARNING:  The elusive “happily married couple” should NEVER be allowed to partner in Euchre unless they have achieved the rank of Grandparent, in which case you have must relinquish any control over their behavior and focus on your own ill-behaved kids.  Two happily married couples engaging in a game of Euchre is unheard of, but could arguably be the most pure and enjoyable game experience imaginable.
  • Little kids:  It is of utmost importance that youngsters playing euchre have a positive experience.  Teaching and learning should always be a part of the gameplay when children are involved.  Refrain from such behavior such as shoving a stolen trick in their face, phrases like “Why the f*** did you play that??”, and table flipping.  Do remain positive, approachable, and consider stacking them a loaner to boost their confidence.
  • Guys in their teens/20’s:  This applies to a team consisting of two guys that are friends, and not related in anyway.  These guys are competitive, energetic, and annoying.  Quite often they will employ the tactic of being loud and unsportsmanlike to the extreme where you just want the game to end.  Of course, if you decide to throw this game for such a reason you will be forced to listen to them boast about their alleged victory for the remainder of the day, and up to a decade The best approach is to split these guys up.  Even if you have to be partners with “that guy”.

While it’s easy enough to learn the technical rules of Euchre, I guarantee that the social dynamic and etiquette will take the longest to master.  Always pick your partner thoughtfully and remember:  it’s all about winning. 


Stay tuned for the next installment of Michigan Gaming, where we will look more closely at “Creative Uses of the Ping Pong Table.”