Game
general

Euchre – A Michigan Game

Item:

R: Euchre, in fact, uses a subset of a deck of cards.  It only uses cards 9 through Ace, or I guess Ace then 9 through King.  But ah, you play.. by.. ah, it’s like- it’s like Hearts or Spades where there’s the trump suit.  But uh, when you play, oh and everybody, uh uh, there’s- has five cards in their hand, and you do five different tricks where everybody plays down one card.  I’m sure it’s similar to Peaknuckle, and Hearts, Spades, other ones.  One of the suits is trump, and the way that that suit becomes trump is very Euchre way of making it, I think.  Maybe it’s similar to Peaknuckle.  One of the weird things about Euchre is that the Jacks, are the highest cards in the game.  Usually, in a game of cards, either the Aces are the lowest or the Aces are the highest and then Kings are the highest or the second highest.  But in Euchre, the Jack of trump is the highest card and the Jack of the same color off suit of trump is the second highest card, so there’s that extra thing to remember.  Ah, and thereafter all the other cards of the trump follow as you would expect: Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9.  Then you keep track of your score on the five cards.  First team to get ten points wins.  You get one point if you take a majority of tricks in a hand.  Two points if you take all the tricks in the hand, or you take the majority of tricks in the hand but the other team called trump.  You get, ah, four points if you go alone and you let your partner not do anything at all.  You get eight points if you go alone when the, ah, other team called trump. And you win still, because you Euchre’d them.  To “Euchre” someone means to beat them when they called trump.  But.. ‘cause when they call trump, they get the advantage of being able to pick up an extra trump card, or they get the advantage of knowing what’s in their hand should be better toward that trump.  If they called trump, and you still beat them, they were fools!  They made a terrible mistake and misread their hands.

Q: Sorry, could you explain trump again?

R: Trump is a system in cards where that suit mysteriously beats the other suits for no particular reason.  It’s like, it’s like white supremacy, there’s no real good reason for it, but for some reason white people beat other people at things.  In Euchre, every time you play a new hand, ah, you.. every hand, the trump gets redecided.  The trump is a suit of cards.  So, in one hand it might be spades, the next hand it might be hearts, and somebody who’s brave and thinks they could do well with that trump calls that trump.  Usually what happens is the dealer deals out cards, and then the dealer flips over one of the remaining four cards, ‘cause you don’t deal out four of the cards, otherwise people would be able to count cards and you don’t want that.  So, flip over one of the cards, that card is up for grabs as the trump suit.  The person to the left of the dealer goes first and says either they want to pass, or they ask the dealer to pick up that card.  If they ask the dealer to pick up that card, that suit become trump, the dealer puts that card in their hand and puts a different card down on the table, face down and puts those and the other cards to the side.  That’s how trump is decided. But if nobody tells the dealer to pick it up including the dealer doesn’t want the card they flipped over, they don’t want that card to be trump, the dealer flips that card over and then you go in the circle, and from the left of the dealer around, you can choose any suit as trump, except for the one you flipped over.  If nobody picks it, then the dealer is screwed.  It’s a move called screw the dealer, and the dealer has to pick the trump.   Even if they have no chance of winning with anything.  You play in pairs, the dealer is one member of the pair.  It’s a four-person game, and uh, the dealer rotates around.  You rotate the dealer around in the circle.

 

Context:

I picked up Euchre while hanging out with a group of friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about games from our childhoods or where we grew up.  Two members of this group were from Michigan, but one of them did not know the game, explaining how she’s had people assume she knew the game because she was from Michigan.  She talked about how if someone knows the game Euchre, and knows that someone else is from Michigan, it’s a good possibility that the person knows how to play it.  She also explained that you would pick the game up from family or friends in a social setting.  The other informant did not entirely grow up in Michigan, but did know how to play and explained the game in great detail above.

 

Analysis:

Euchre is a prominent example of how a particular piece of knowledge is tied to a certain locale, in this case, the state of Michigan.  It is also an example of how something like a game shared from person to person amongst a group creates or reinforces a certain identity.  Euchre serves as a very obvious identifier of who comes from Michigan.  The significance of the relationship between Euchre and Michigan is evidenced by how the female informant explained that everyone assumes she knows the game because she’s from Michigan.  She does, in fact, know of the game, but she does not know how to play.  To some others from the state, it may seem like she is not truly a Michiganian.  Since Euchre is primarily a Michigan thing, learning it may also be a method of assimilating into the state culture.  In the case of the male informant, he actually lived in Maryland before moving to Michigan.  As such, he turned from an outsider to an insider by learning how to play, becoming a Michiganian himself.  There appear to be no rules about sharing Euchre outside of Michigan, alluding towards openness in the state culture because there is not any exclusivity.  In this particular case, the informant’s willingness to share the game with others outside of Michigan allowed them to partake in the state’s culture when they otherwise would not have had a chance to.

 

Additional Informant Information:

The data of the male informant, ‘R’, who explained the gameplay of Euchre is in the section above the item.  The same information is provided for the other informant below.

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age 29; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew

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