We’ve played it in Luang Prabang, Laos, in the Nanning airport, on a boat in Halong Bay with five people, and in coffee shops in Beijing. It’s become our go-to four person card game, but it’s not something that usually graces such exotic locales as Southeast Asia and the Middle Kingdom. And yet, it’s none other than the humble midwestern trick-taking game of euchre. What’s funny about euchre is that I’d been privy to it all those years growing up in Wisconsin (only one state away from its alleged origin, Michigan, where it was transplanted by German settlers), witnessed high school kids from the midwest on mission trips from Washington D.C. to Puerto Rico play it with almost cult-like attention, and managed to never make myself sit down to learn it.
In all honesty, I’m not much for learning new things. I find it laborious to sit through the rules, because I’m always itching to get going, I’m a bit spacey so I find it tough to keep track of things, and these two coupled together result in a genuine fear that I’ll never quite get the knack of whatever’s being taught. So only when I was cornered in a coffee shop in Luang Prabang, under the peer pressure of three of my good friends did I buckle down and learn the rules to this midwestern pastime and truly discover what I’ve been missing all these years.
I’d been missing the thrill of setting the other team in the last hand, just when they thought they had things wrapped up, I’d been missing the audacity of “going alone” and the satisfying feeling of looking at a winning hand and uttering those three little words, “pick it up,” to one’s partner, I’d even been missing the miserable feeling of having to call trump on a dismal hand (which in my humble opinion is one of the great equalizers and points of the game!). But most of all, I’d been missing the table talk in between games about whatever strategy was the best, about playing the odds, about that little bit of luck. In a word, playing euchre’s not only fun, but it makes me feel smart. I’d been missing out on feeling smart! Funny what happens when you’re forced to learn new things!