Bacon (card game)
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|Alternative names||American Euchre|
|Playing time||15 min.|
Bacon, sometimes called American Euchre, is a trick-taking card game which resembles a simplified version of Euchre. It differs from Euchre in that it uses a full 52-card Anglo-American deck, has a slightly modified scoring system and trump selection system, uses a normalized card ordering to make it easier to learn, and adds the aspect of permission. It originated in the mid-to-late 1900s and is somewhat popular in the Eastern United States. It is one of the simpler trick-taking games and is a good game for introducing the concept of trumps to inexperienced players.
The object of Bacon is to be the first player to reach a predetermined threshold of points, usually 10 or 15. Players work together with their partner, who sits across from them, to collect more tricks than their opponents. In each hand, the team that wins the majority of the 5 tricks receives 1 point, or 2 if all 5 tricks are won. The score received by a team is doubled if they were not the team to declare trump or if one of the team members won the tricks "alone" (see below).
At the beginning of a hand, the dealer deals 5 cards to each player and deals a single card face up in the center. The trump selection process is colloquially called the auction, though it does not actually involve bidding as in some other games, such as bridge.
During the trump selection process, each player in turn is offered the suit of the face-up card as trump, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. When a player is offered the card, he may choose to either pass and thus offer the card to the next player, or declare the suit as trump, usually by stating "pick it up". When a player declares, the player to his left draws the face-up card (which is now a member of the trump suit) into his hand, discards a card to reduce his hand total to 5, and begins the hand by leading the first trick. The player who draws the trump card into his hand is not on the same team as the declarer, giving a slight disadvantage to the declaring team, though not enough to outweigh the advantage of declaring trump.
When a player declares, if he has a particularly good hand, he may choose to "go alone". This player believes he will be able to win all of the tricks without the help of his partner, thus dismissing his partner from the hand. The risk of going alone is no different than the risk of declaring normally, though it may be easier for opponents to win more tricks, while the reward of winning all of the tricks is double the reward when playing with a partner.
When a player chooses to declare a suit as trump, his partner may deny him permission to do so. When this occurs, trump selection continues as though the declaring player has passed. A player should only deny his partner permission to declare a suit as trump if he has very few or none of the declared suit and believes his partner is relying on his having some cards of the declared suit. After a trump has been declared, a player may also refuse his partner permission to go alone. A player should only do this if he believes that his partner is greatly overestimating his hand. In general, it is very rare that a player denies his partner permission.
Follow-up offers and acquitting
If no player chooses to declare the face-up card as trump, the card is removed from the game and another card is dealt face-up in the center as a follow-up offer or just a follow-up, which is once again offered to each player, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. If four cards go by and no player has declared it trump, the hand is acquitted and a new hand is dealt.
The team that declared trump is known as the declaring team, while the other team is known as the defending team, or more simply the defense. If a player chose to go alone, he is known as a loner. Although it is the goal of both teams to win the majority (3 or more) of the 5 tricks, the defending team receives more points for doing so (as they are at a disadvantage for not declaring the trump suit).
The leader of the first trick is the player left of the declarer, who drew the trump card into his hand; the leader of each subsequent trick is the winner of the previous one. The leader of a trick may play any card from their hand, and the suit of the played card becomes the lead suit. Going clockwise, each player must play a card of the lead suit from their hand, or a card of any other suit if they have none of the lead suit. If any card of the trump suit is played during a trick, the player of the highest trump card wins the trick. Otherwise, the player of the highest card of the lead suit wins the trick.
A hand usually ends when all five tricks have been played, but can be ended earlier by throwing in or TRAMing. If after the fourth trick one team has won 3 tricks and the other has won 1, the result of the hand is already decided and the final hand need not be played, so the players throw in their cards to the center, and the score of the hand is calculated. Note that players should not throw in as soon as 3 tricks have been won by a single team, as it is still possible for that team to win all 5 hands, which would alter the result. Throwing in is done only to speed up the game, and does not have any effect on the outcome.
A player may TRAM if he has only trump cards in his hand, and believes they are all higher than any other trump card held by another player. He does so by revealing his hand and declaring "the rest are mine". If he is correct and no other player has a higher trump than him, he wins all of the unplayed tricks (this would be true if the tricks were played out anyway). However, if an opponent has in his hand a trump card of a higher value than one of the cards in the TRAMing player's hand, the player has made a false TRAM, and all the remaining tricks go to the opposing team as a penalty. Players should only TRAM when they know they have the highest trumps (for example, if they have the Ace and Queen, and the King has already been played). TRAMing is done only to speed up the game, and does not have any effect on the outcome (unless it was a false TRAM).
If the declaring team wins 3 or 4 tricks, which is the "expected" result, they receive 1 point. If the declaring team wins all 5 tricks, they receive 2 points. If the defending team or a loner win 3 or 4 tricks, they receive 2 points. If the defending team or a loner win all 5 tricks, they receive 4 points. A score of 1 point is known as a completion, a score of 2 points is known as a double completion, and a score of 4 points is known as a bacon. Occasionally, a variation on this naming is used in which a score of 2 points is known as a bacon while a score of 4 points is known as a double bacon. Bacon scoring is summarized in the table below.
|3 or 4 tricks||5 tricks|
|Declaring||1 point||2 points|
|Loner||2 points||4 points|
|Defense||2 points||4 points|
The first team to reach a predetermined threshold of points, usually 10 or 15, is the winner.
Though Bacon is mostly standardized to the above rules, there are many regional variants that should be mentioned.
Borrowing from standard Euchre, this variation makes Jacks the highest in the order of cards, just above Ace. Unlike in Euchre, however, the left bower remains its original suit and is not considered a trump.
Some people play Bacon with the standard Euchre deck of 24 cards, but using all the rules of Bacon instead. Many people who play with this variation actually believe that they are playing Euchre and do not know the real rules of Euchre.
Bacon can be played with a 53 or 54 card deck including one or two jokers (as long as one of the jokers is noticeably more colorful or has a more fanciful design than the other). In this variation, jokers are considered to be the highest trump, and will beat any other card in a trick. If both jokers are played in a single trick, the more colorful or fanciful one wins the trick. If a joker is turned face up in the center as an offer during the trump selection process, a player may state "pick it up" and declare any suit they choose as trump, with the downside that they have given the highest trump in the game to their opponent.
There are several regional variations on scoring methods, though the above method is by far the most widely used. Some common variations are listed below, and any number of them can be used simultaneously.
- A loner who wins 3 or 4 tricks wins 2 points.
- A loner who wins 3 tricks wins 1 point, a loner who wins 4 tricks wins 2 points.
- A declaring team that wins all 5 tricks wins 3 points.
- A team receives a point for every two collected in a trick (this adds a new gameplay element).