Our Woodpecker Rules

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Rank of Cards

A pack of 24 cards is used consisting of A K Q J 10 9 in each of the four suits: hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs.

The trump suit has 7 cards ranking from highest to lowest as follows:

Right Bower (the jack of the trump suit)
Left Bower (the other jack of the same color as the trump suit)

The other suits have 5 or 6 cards ranking as normal: A K Q (J) 10 9.

Note that Left counts for all purposes as belonging to the trump suit. For example if hearts are trumps, the jack of diamonds is a heart not a diamond. It can be played to a heart lead and if it is led, hearts must be followed.

The word Bower comes from the German Bauer, which means farmer or peasant and is also a word for Jack.

The Deal

The first dealer is selected at random. The turn to deal then rotates clockwise throughout the game. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right may either cut or "bump" - that is, knock the cards to indicate that they should be dealt as they are, without cutting.

Five cards are dealt to each player in two rounds. The dealer deals clockwise, giving each player a packet of two or three cards in any order - any player who was dealt two in the first round gets three in the second and vice versa.

The dealer then turns the next card in the pack face up. This up-card is used as a basis for selecting the trump suit. The remaining three cards are left face-down and are not used.

Making trump

This process determines the trump suit and which team are the makers - that is the team which undertakes to win three tricks. First each player in turn, beginning with the player to the dealer's left, has the option of accepting up-card's suit as the trump suit or passing. Specifically:

  • The player to dealer's left may either pass or say "I order it up"
  • If the first player passes, the dealer's partner may either pass or say "I order it up"
  • If the first two players pass, the player to dealer's right may either pass or say "I order it up"
  • If all three other players pass, the dealer may either take up the up-card, saying "Trump", or pass by saying "over" and turning the up-card face-down.

If  ordered up or if dealer decides to take it up, the suit of the up-card becomes trump; the dealer adds the up-card to her hand and discards a card face-down.

If all four players pass, the up-card is turned face-down, and there is a second round in which players have the option to make any suit trump, other than the suit of the up-card. Again the player to dealer's left speaks first and may either pass again or name a suit. If the first player passes the second may name a suit or pass, and so on. If all four players pass a second time the cards are thrown in and the next player deals.

Note that the trump making process ends as soon as someone accepts or makes trump (rather than passing). That player's side are the makers and the other side are the defenders.

Stick the Dealer (also known as "Screw the dealer"). In this variation the dealer cannot pass a second time when naming the trump suit. On the second round, if the first three players pass, the dealer must name a suit. This variation is often played when playing time is constrained.

Going Alone

After trump has been made, but before the first lead, any player may announce that they are playing alone. The partner of a lone player puts her cards face-down and takes no part in the play.

The Play

If all four players are in the game, the play begins with the player to the dealer's left leading to the first trick. If one player is playing alone, the person to that player's left leads first. If two players are playing alone, the defender leads.

Any card may be led, and each player in clockwise order must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led if possible. A player who cannot follow suit may play any card.

Remember that, for purposes of following suit, Right and the Left Bower are considered to belong to the trump suit and not to any other suit.

The trick is won by whoever played the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of each trick leads to the next one.


If all four players are playing then the scores are as follows:

  • If the makers win 3 or 4 tricks they score one point.
  • If the makers win all 5 tricks they score two points.
  • If the makers take fewer than three tricks they are said to be euchred, and the defenders score two points.

If a member of the makers' team is playing alone and wins all 5 tricks, the team scores 4 points instead of 2 - otherwise the scores are as above.

The game is normally played to 10 points - that is, the team who first reach 10 or more points over several deals win the game. It is usual for each team to keep score using a spare 3 and 2 from the pack (as these cards are not used in the game). The cards are arranged on the table so that the number of pips showing shows the team's current score.


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