Monthly Archives: June 2020

Passing Cards Part 3: Additional Considerations

In the previous two posts we have examined some basic approaches for passing cards to opponents and your partner. In this post we shall look at some additional considerations that will really separate the mediocre Wodka players from the great players.

Bomb avoidance

A while back I was spectating a game and witnessed the player get dealt this opening hand:

Name blurred to avoid any potential embarrassment

The unnamed player ended up passing the black four and six to his opponents, and the blue nine to his partner.

At first glance this appears to be a reasonable approach. He has left himself an eight card straight plus a king and an ace.

However one potentially critical error was made in the choice of six to be passed. Passing the green six to an opponent instead of the black one would greatly reduce the likelihood of the opponent being able form a straight flush bomb. As the anonymous player his holding the green five and seven, the only way the opponent receiving the green six could get the straight flush would be with the wild seven followed by the green eight to ten. Whereas with the black six that the unidentified player chose to pass, the opponent could form a bomb multiple ways.

Left or right

Lets say you’re planning on passing a two and six to your opponents. In most cases you’ll want to pass the lower card to your right if you think you might be placing a Wodka, giving you a bigger chance of playing on it if that player leads it, and if you’re not planning on placing a Wokda you should pass the lower card to the left, giving your partner an increased chance of being led a low card should they place a Wodka.

Some scenarios where this isn’t true are if you’re giving an opponent a special card in which case this should almost always go to the right. Passing an opponent cards such as the red six or king can be good in certain scenarios, but it’s important that you know they are there and passing it to the opponent on the left could result in your partner being caught off guard. You may think you are helping your partner by passing the player to your left a king meaning the +1 effect applies to your partner, but this may also end up breaking a bomb or another important trick.

Potential versus existing strength

Consider the hand:

This hand presents an interesting conundrum. If you are passed a five you will have a nine card straight which would be a strong hand considering you have an ace and two kings.

You could choose to pass a two and a nine to your opponents, and a king to your partner. This would lead to once of two scenarios:

  • You’re passed a at least one five
    In this case you have your nine card straight and likely only one low singleton in whatever the other opponent passed you. Assuming your partner passed you something decent you can certainly consider placing a Wodka.
  • You’re not passed a five.
    In this case you’ve you’re left with your middling five card straight and four useless low cards. If you’re lucky you’ll get passed something like a three and a four in order to make consecutive pairs but this still leaves you with quite a poor hand. Placing a Wodka is likely out of the question and with the ace and a king you might be able to support your partner a bit but that would likely mean you won’t be going out at all.

Unfortunately in this case the second eventuality is much more likely. Since you don’t have any fives it’s more likely that other players have multiple fives and will choose not to pass one.

Other possible approached for cards to pass to the opponents are:

  • Pass the three and the four
  • Pass each opponent a two

The first option is perhaps the safest by getting rid of the two low singletons which aren’t part of the existing five card straight but does have the disadvantage of passing a three to an opponent.

The second option is a middle ground in terms of risk by reducing the number of low cards and still leaving the chance of an eight card straight if passed the five. However it is still likely to leave you in a poor position should you not get passed the five.

This is an example of a scenario where you will need to balance the risk vs the reward. For example if your team is on twelve points you might consider passing a two and nine since if you are passed a five you may be able to immediately get your team to 15 points. Conversely, if you’re on fourteen points it might be worth picking a safer option if all your need to do is go out.

Memory: A simple system

In my last post on memory I outlined the basics of items that should be remembered while playing out a hand. Today we’ll look at a simple system that can be used to easily retain all the essential information. If you haven’t already read the previous post it may be worth doing so for some context on why some of these items are important. https://wodka-strategy.uk.to/index.php/2020/06/18/memory-what-not-to-forget/

I’m not going to be talking about visualizing floating numbers or entering your mind palace. Whatever techniques you use to remember short term information should continue to be used. The focus of this post is a system to compress the amount of data that needs to be remembered in order to still be able to make useful conclusions about the state of the game.

Values

Four of a kind bombs

Consider the hand:

As discussed last time, from looking at your starting hand you can work out which four of a kind bombs it’s possible an opponent may be holding.

In this case those values are:

  • Twos
  • Threes
  • Fours
  • Sixes
  • Eights
  • Aces

The threes are included because despite you holding the black three, the red two can be used as a three to form the bomb. Similar consideration should be taken for the red Jack if you are only holding one Jack.

At this point you should memorize this list. It’s only six values long so should be easy enough to remember. You’ve likely memorized multiple phone numbers which are almost twice as long so this should be achievable. You can also choose to drop the aces from this list as you should always be specifically counting aces anyway.

Whenever one of these cards is played, you can mentally cross that value off this list, as you know that bomb will no longer be possible.

Triples

In the previous most, I mentioned that due to the red ace introducing a random card, you should keep track of triples that your opponent may be able to create a bomb with. The standard red ace has now been updated so it it won’t create a duplicate of an existing card, but there is still value in keeping track of triples since bombs can still be created with the red queen.

It is especially important you keep track of triples if you have any in your hand. For example here you have three fives. If played right at the start, there’s a good chance someone might beat it. But you you are able to wait until higher triples have been played you can get rid of them for free if you’re able to regain the lead.

In addition to the values of which there are possible bombs, the possible triples are:

  • Sevens
  • Nines
  • Tens
  • Jacks

Again, this consists of only four values so should be easy enough to remember.

Whenever you remove an item from the list of possible bombs, it will need to be added to this list.

Pairs

Similar to the above, you can also choose to track potential pairs. With the above hand you know the additional possible pairs are only:

  • Queens
  • Kings

Singletons

Finally we are left with the cards where an opponent can only have a singleton:

  • Five

If the bring this all together, we have a thirteen value sequence to rememember:

2,3,4,6,8,A,7,9,10,J,Q,K,5

From this we can work out what cards our opponents can have, or perhaps more usefully, what cards they cannot have. Keeping track of this and mentally moving values down the sequence throughout a hand can result in you being able to work out exactly what card and opponent is holding in a one on one scenario.

Suits

Similarly, you can keep track of suits. In most cases this is only important if you are holding the red eight. For this you can start by subtracting the number of each card of that suit in your hand from thirteen, or fourteen in the case of red.

So with the hand:

Green: 10
Blue: 11
Black: 11
Red: 8

Or you can choose to only remember this as a list of four values in order of the suit ranking:

10, 11, 11, 8

Whenever a card from each suit is played, just subtract that from the value for that suit.

Bringing it all together

If you combine this information with the value information you can get some incredible utility from the red eight. For example I was playing a game recently where I knew a bomb of four nines was still possible, and we’d not yet seen the blue ace. I also knew that there were only two blue cards which were unaccounted for which meant if I were to wish a blue card from my opponent the possibilities were:

  • They pass me an ace
  • They pass me a nine, breaking their bomb
  • They pass me a nine, but didn’t have a bomb as other players have the other nines
  • They had neither and pass me nothing

In this case all of these scenarios are great. Even where I don’t get passed the nine or I do but it didn’t break a bomb, I’ve now confirmed that player doesn’t have a bomb which at the time was all I needed to know in order to go out.

Summary

In summary, there is a lot of information to remember during a hand and it can seem a bit overwhelming. This is one example of a system to reduce the number of things to be remembered, but still be able to make draw complex conclusions about which cards the other players are holding.

The Unforgettable Zero

One of the, if not the most important special card is the red zero.

+1 point if played as your last card

This is the only card in the game which has the ability to grant an extra point and therefore should never be forgotten.

There are a few possible usages for the zero which I will look at today.

Basic tactics

The only card the zero can be played on top of is the red six. This means most of the time when you are intending to go out with the zero, you will want to save a strong trick as the penultimate thing that you play. Of course bombs are ideal, followed by aces and then by difficult to beat tricks such as long straights or strings of consecutive pairs. This will give you the best chance of being able to win the trick allowing you to lead with the zero and scoring that extra point.

It’s almost never a good idea to pass the zero to an opponent during the passing phase. The one scenario where I would encourage this is if your opponent has placed a Grand Wodka and they are already within five points of winning. In this instance the extra point won’t help them but having the zero will make it harder for them to go out.

A mini Wodka

If you are dealt the zero in your opening thirteen cards, and your hand doesn’t look like it will be sufficiently good to place a Wodka, but you think you might be able to go out with the zero you can choose to treat it somewhat like a Wodka in terms of your passing strategy. In other words, consider keeping back an ace that you might otherwise pass to your partner if you think it will enable you to go out with the zero.

The ultimate stopper

The zero is unique in that it can almost never be played in combination with another card. If you know someone is holding the zero and you have a bomb, you can with a high amount of certainty screw them over by waiting until they have just that card left and playing your bomb.

This isn’t an unbeatable strategy as there are still a few ways they might be able to play the zero or otherwise go out. Someone may wish it from them with the eight, play the six or pass them a higher card with the three.

Patience can be key

If you’re in the scenario where your hand consists of a couple winners and the zero, consider waiting until there aren’t any possible bombs left before trying to go out with the zero.

For example, if you have a pair of aces and the zero, but you’ve been counting Jacks and haven’t seen any, it may be worth waiting until you’ve seen two jacks before playing your aces. Otherwise you fall into the trap mentioned above and be bombed out to be left with only the zero.

Of course you can’t wait too long and risk letting your opponents go out, but if you still fear a bomb consider winning a singleton trick with one ace, leading the zero and going out with the final ace. Not getting the extra point from the zero isn’t ideal, but at least it leaves you less vulnerable to getting bombed.

Stealing the extra point

Sometimes you may suspect an opponent who is close to going out is holding the zero and you may not be able to stop them. In this instance if you have the eight you can use it to attempt to steal the zero from them. If this means you can go out with it after they do then great, but even if not at least you can prevent them from getting the extra point.

Summary

In summary, although a relatively simple card, the zero in incredibly important to remember and there are a number important considerations to to keep in mind to play properly around the zero.

Guest Post: Evaluating the specials

Editor’s note: Due to an irregularity with the leaderboard, another player was temporarily ranked #1 so shall be featured in this guest post. Hopefully the regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.

In a previous post (https://wodka-strategy.uk.to/index.php/2020/06/17/passing-cards-part-1-banned-cards/) the former #1 posits that all the special cards hold a certain amount of power and one should avoid passing them to your opponents. But exactly how much power do the specials hold, and when can they be passed to your opponents?

In this short guest post, I want to go through the red specials and evaluate them briefly.

Two

Can be a 2 or a 3

The special two is a very flexible card, and usually helps a player get rid of other low cards. With the special two, you are “protected” against being passed a single 2 or 3, as you’ll be able to play them together. It can help you create bombs, but wary opponents are unlikely to pass you the cards you need.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Three

Give a card to another player

The special three is similar in power level to an Ace. It lets you get rid of another low card you don’t want, and you can try and screw over an opponent’s Wodka with it. It is one of the strongest cards in the game.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Four

Skip the next player’s turn

This four is strong, especially in combination with a “combo” trick (like a long straight) as one of the two opponents doesn’t get the chance to beat it. It’s often helpful for aiding your partner in going out. In the endgame, it is a guaranteed trick-winner.

This can be passed to an opponent if absolutely necessary. If you do, however, it’s important to take any Grand Wodkas into account. If I’ve Grand Wodka’d, I’d pass it left. If my partner has, I’d pass it right. This way, the Grand Wodka’d player always gets the opportunity to play.

Five

Can be a 5 or a 5 and a 6

The special five increases the chance of a straight flush bomb considerably.

This can be passed to an opponent if you do your due diligence. For example, when holding other low red cards, then it is fairly safe to pass. For example, if I am holding the red four and the red 8, I know a red straight flush bomb with the red 5 is not possible and I can pass it away safely.

Six

The next trick must be of lower value

The special six is a very interesting card, especially during the end game.

This can be passed to the right opponent so long as you remember to keep a low single or pair to play on top of it.

Seven

You go first. Counts as all suits.

The seven is strong for two reasons:

• It lets you go first
• It provides protection against the wishing eight

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Eight

Wish for a suit from another player. They must give you a matching card if able.

The wishing eight is a very skill-testing card. To an experienced player, it can be brutal for they will often be able to wish for a critical card.

This should certainly never be passed to an experienced opponent, and extreme caution should accompany its passing to opponents of all levels.

Nine

If you placed a Grand Wodka/Wodka, counts as a Queen/King

The special 9 is an interesting card. Passing it to an opponent is a psychological gambit which can goad a player into making a Wodka.

This can be passed to an opponent if you think they are likely to make a Wodka they can’t fulfil. Make sure to think of that player’s track record before passing it.

Ten

Take a card from the previous trick for you or your partner

The special 10 can allow a player to fill in gaps in their hand, or even create bombs. However, one should not fall into the trap of waiting too long to snap up the perfect card. The 10-bomb is probably the strongest bomb in the game because of this card.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Jack

Counts as a pair of Jacks

The special Jack is part of the most common bomb in the game. Although it can technical be a disadvantage (as it can’t be played alone or in straights), it’s almost always better than a regular Jack.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Queen

Subtract 1 from the value of the highest card in your hand

The special Queen, when played well, can improve a hand. It can create bombs or pairs, and sometimes it can nullify the downside of the special Ace.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

King

Add 1 to the value of the highest card in the next player’s hand

The special King is a dangerous card to play.

Unusually for such a high card, I think it is sometimes acceptable to pass to an opponent. It can be useful to pass it left, if you also pass a King to your partner. You can also pass it right, so long as you remember to take it into consideration. If playing it creates a Tsar, that can leave your opponents in a very tricky spot.

Ace

Draw a card from the deck

The special Ace is an unusual card. You’ll usually want to play it as early as you can so you can factor the extra card into your hand and so you can use the information it gives you. Although it’s weaker than an Ace, it still lets you lead a trick. It can be rated similarly in power level to the special 7.

This should never be passed to an opponent.

Walkthrough Wednesday #1

One of the best ways to learn can be from watching a master at work. With that in mind I thought it would be a useful feature to go through a hand I’ve recently played and explain my thought processes.

Opening Deal

My first eight cards are promising with the three of a kind Jacks plus the red three but there is still too much risk to place a Grand Wodka.

Passing

The next 5 cards set my hand up really nicely. Consecutive pairs with the red three, a triple eight including the wish and of course the bomb of four Jacks. This does leave me with only three unmentioned cards, two of which are the highest cards in my hand.

At this stage I’m thinking that this is a possible Wodka but not yet guaranteed. The bomb is of course great but it’s only a single winner and winning with the other tricks aren’t assured.

I considered two possible approaches to passing:

  1. Pass the green and blue eights to my opponents and the red eight to my partner.
    This would leave me with only one unaccounted low singleton and the red eight on my partner could be helpful.
  2. Pass the seven and queen to my opponents and the king to my partner.
    This leaves me with only the tricks previously described but obviously passing a queen to an opponent is an unusual move. This approach also keeps the possibility of being passed the fourth eight to create a second bomb.

In this instance I decided to go with the second option. In most scenarios where you are considering placing a Wodka you would pass the lower of the two cards to the right. However in this case I decided the pass the queen to the right since if that player was going first, I’d rather them be less likely to have multiple sevens as after passing I may be able to unload a card on a single seven.

I was passed a four, five and an ace from my partner:

From this I think that my partner likely isn’t considering placing a Wodka and I have a pretty good shot. Neither the consecutive pairs or triple eights are guaranteed winners though so I do need to see how the hand plays out. Additionally I don’t want to get a low card with the red eight to ruin my day.

The Play

My partner goes first and leads with a five card straight:

This goes round and they follow up with a singleton eight on which the player to my right plays a nine.

At this point if I place a Wodka and beat it with my ace, I am reliant on several things going my way:

  • Either my consecutive pairs or triple eights goes unbeaten
  • Nobody else has a bomb
  • I don’t get something bad with the red eight

The odds on this don’t look great so I pass. Everyone else also passes and the player to my right leads a singleton four.

This is the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for so I place a Wodka and play the five.

The player to my left plays a seven on which my partner plays a nine.

I choose to pass as while I’m in a better position than before I’m still reliant on two out of the three things above going my way.

The player to my left plays the red ace which I’m not too concerned about as it’s likely they’ll immediately be able to combo out having just been given a new card into their hand.

They then lead a pair three onto which my partner plays a pair six with the red six.

I could choose to play either my pair twos or threes but as I can play them both at once later and it looks like my partner will likely win this trick I choose to pass.

My partner leads a pair seven including the red seven which leaves him on just three cards. At this point he likely can’t offer me any more support but I do know as he’s no longer holding the red seven he is a potential wish target if I want to attempt to not get a card.

The player to my right plays a pair ten on which I pass. This is starting to get a little worrying as they have nine cards left but I figure with a bomb it’s probably safe to let it through.

He follows up with a pair six which I also pass on.

Playing a pair eight wouldn’t have been productive as it wouldn’t lower the number of tricks required to for me to go out and could have been beaten. At this point from my counting of cards I knew there were still two aces, three kings and four queens out there, not counting the blue king my partner was still holding.

The player to my right leads a five which I choose the play my ace on.

Given the suspicious lack of queens played so far I am worried about a four of a kind bomb of queens but since the person I passed a queen to has only six cards left I know I can’t wait any longer. Thankfully my ace isn’t bombed and I can lead the triple eight.

Now from counting blue cards I know the only two which aren’t either in my hand or my partners hand are the Jack and the queen so I wish a blue card from the player to my right. This is because if he has a bomb of queens he will either be forced to break it, or will give me my fifth Jack with which I can beat his bomb. At this point this is the only possible bomb my opponents could have so I know with this wish I have fulfilled two out the three criteria that needed to be done in order for me to go out first.

He passes me a queen which means I now know I can go out without worry.

Everyone passes on the eights so I simply follow up with the consecutive fours passing away the four.

This is beaten by consecutive nines and tens by the player to my left who picks up the red three.

At this point I know there can’t be any other bombs out there so I can safely play mine and go out with the queen.

Summary

This has been a look at some of the thought processes that go into passing and choosing when to, and when not to play, along with saving the eight until a moment where I knew it could only benefit me.

Passing Cards Part 2: Partnership

Mastering the passing phase is an essential step on the journey to becoming a champion Wodka player. Last week we covered the banned cards that should never be passed to an opponent and this week we shall cover basic approaches for passing cards to your partner.

You must first evaluate which person on your team is going to have priority for going out. Broadly this will fall into one of six categories:

  • Your partner has placed a Grand Wodka
  • You have placed a grand Wodka
  • Your hand is sufficiently good that you are certain you will place a Wodka no matter what you are passed
  • Your hand is is good enough to consider placing a Wodka if you are passed something good
  • Your hand is average
  • Your hand is bad enough that it is unlikely you will go out at all

Your partner has placed a Grand Wodka

In this scenario you should almost always pass your partner your best card, perhaps unless it breaks a bomb.

You have placed a Grand Wodka

Here you should pass your partner whatever card will give you the best chance of going out. Successfully completing a Grand Wodka is worth sufficiently many points that it usually won’t matter if your partner is able to go out or not.

You are certainly going to place a Wodka

You can treat this scenario the same as if you’ve already placed a Grand Wodka.

You have a hand that you might place a Wodka with if passing goes well

In this scenario you should pass the best card under an ace you can pass without breaking your hand. This likely won’t be an ace but if you have pair queens and a singleton king you should pass away the king as if you do place a Wodka the queens are more likely to win a trick than the king.

Your hand is average

Here you should the best card you can afford to without making it impossible for you to go out. If you have an ace this will usually be a good card to pass but if that will leave you in an impossible position consider passing your next best card.

Your hand is so bad you won’t ever go out

In this instance you should pass the best card you have. Alternatively you can pass your partner the zero since you know you won’t be able to cash it in.

Additional considerations

Card Ranking

When considering which card is the best card in your hand this order will generally be:

  1. Aces
  2. Red three
  3. Red seven
  4. Red double Jack*
  5. Red queen
  6. Non-red Jack*
  7. Remaining cards in descending order

*Passing a Jack should only be considered so highly when you have just the one jack card in your hand. In this scenario there are still three possible Jack cards of which your partner only needs two of in order to have a four of a kind Jack bomb.

Match Point

You will need to adjust the above strategies if the opposing team are close enough to 15 points that both you and your partner absolutely must go out. For example if your team have 9 points and you have placed a Grand Wodka while your opponents are on 14 points, you should pass your partner the best card you think you can afford to without ruining your chance to go out first.

The red king

If you have placed a Grand Wodka or are likely to place a Wodka, you should consider passing the red king to your partner unless you have a play to play it where giving an opponent the Tsar wouldn’t cause you a problem, such as if you pay to play it as a pair king.

The red four

If you have placed a Grand Wodka or are going to place a Wodka, pass the red four to your partner if you think you are likely to have a singleton to play on it. If you do this, remember that you’ve done this while playing your cards so you don’t leave yourself in a position where your partner expends a high card to win a trick in order to lead the four and then you need to pass on it such as if you don’t want to break your pair kings.

Summary

In summary, which card you should pass your partner will depend on how you think the hand is going to play out. The goal is to maximize the amount of points your team can obtain so if you are only going to be able to get a single point yourself, attempt to strengthen your partners hand as much as possible to increase the chance of them being able to get more than one point via a Wodka.

Next week on passing we will look at some advanced scenarios.

The Build-A-Bomb Trap

The topic today focuses on a scenario I have encountered a few times where it can be easy to mistakenly overvalue a hand due it having a bomb you can build using the red queen.

Consider the hand:

At first glance this looks like a fairly solid hand. You have the red seven so you get to lead, along with an ace and two triples, one of which has a good chance of winning. To top it off you can build a four of a kind bomb by using the queen to turn the five into a four.

From that narrative it sounds like this should be a very doable Wodka. You have only two low singletons one of which you can lead with right away thanks to the seven. With all the winners in your hand plus the bomb you might expect to go out first.

The problem with this scenario is that we can’t count on a bomb created by the red queen before it has been made unless we have a guaranteed route to be able to create it.

In this scenario there isn’t a guaranteed route to create the bomb. Suppose we lead with the green six. If we plan on taking that trick with the ace that will mean if we play the triple queen the seven will be lowered by one instead of the five that we need to create the bomb. If we lead the seven after winning the trick with the ace that will free up the five to be selected by the red queen but there is no guarantee we will ever get the opportunity to play the three queens.

An alternative play would be to lead the six and then not take the trick with the ace. If you are able to offload your seven onto a singleton led by someone else and then win with the ace you can immediately play the triple queen or create the bomb. This is probably more likely to be successful but if you have placed a Wodka by this point there is no guarantee your opponents will ever let you play on a singleton seven, especially considering you have many of the lower cards in your hand.

Comparing this hand to a hypothetical starting hand where the only difference is that the queen has already been used to change the five into a four:

You can see that this is a much stronger hand and even has some bomb resilience.

With this hand you could lead the triple two into triple queen, followed by the six, leaving us with with just an ace, seven and the bomb. While not unbeatable this is a much stronger narrative compared to the first and where the only difference was that we had to create the bomb using the queen.

Summary

In summary, when evaluating the strength of a hand where you can create a bomb using the red queen, take care to ensure that you can guarantee being able to create the bomb before placing a risky Wodka.

Wishful Thinking

An old favorite card has returned into the standard set of specials. The new special eight allows you to wish for one card from one other player by selecting a suit and they must pass you a card of that suit if they have one. This is an incredibly powerful ability in the right hands such as an experienced Wodka veteran like myself. Even in the brief time that this card has been back in the game I have seen numerous questionable plays with it so below I shall outline a number of good uses of this ability and what do if targeted by wish.

The interface while using the eight

Wish immunity

Before going to different uses of the eight, we must first consider the power of the red seven as it counts as all suits. Any wishes made against the player with the red seven can always result in you being handed the seven. Conveniently we will usually know if anyone is holding the seven in their hand as they will have been the player who went first so all we need to do is remember if they have played it or not.

If you have the red seven in your hand don’t have a specific reason to play it early, consider holding onto it so you can always pass it should a wish be attempted.

Fishing for Aces

The most obvious way to use the eight is to attempt to force an opponent to give you an ace or another high card. At the most basic level, this involves keeping track of which high cards have been played and asking for one that is still going to be in someone’s hand. Attempting to force an opponent to give you a high card is generally much more effective later in the hand while they are holding fewer cards. Attempting to do this early will likely result in them giving you an unwanted low card.

Additionally you should consider the number of cards in each suit that have been played. For example if you suspect a player may have one of two kings, wish for the one which they are less likely to have lower card of the same suit in their hand.

Counterplay

If you are holding onto a high card such as an ace, attempt to keep a low card of the same suit which you can pass instead of ace. For example if you are leading and your three remaining cards are:

You should lead the green three as if an opponent plays the red eight and wishes a black card from you, you’ll be able to pass them the two instead of the ace. If you led with the two, you would be forced to pass the ace and then likely wouldn’t be able to go out.

Completing bombs

If you are missing single low card to construct a bomb, it can be tempting to wish for it from an opponent. For example, if you have the red, green and blue five, you can choose to wish for a black card from an opponent in the hope they will pass you their black five. This is can work well against inexperienced players but to a skilled skilled opponent can it can be quite obvious this is what you are attempting to do.

Counterplay

If an opponent wishes a card from you out of the blue while you still have a large number of cards in your hand you should be suspicious that they may be hoping you pass them the “obvious” singleton low card in your hand. You should consider passing them a different card that you know won’t complete a bomb for them.

A final card

If someone has only a single card in your hand you can wish this from them, forcing them to go out. Generally you’ll want to do this to help out your partner if you are worried they might have been left with a singleton low card.

You can also do this for against an opponent if their partner has placed a Wodka. Although this will give the opponent a point for going out, your team will get the points for the Wokda failing.

Counterplay

If your partner has placed a Wodka, be sure not to leave yourself on only a single card as this makes your vulnerable to being wished out of the game.

Hoping to miss

There will be some circumstances where you don’t want a card. For example if you play a bomb of eights and have one other card in your hand, you might not want to receive a card which could potentially prevent you from going out. In this scenario recall how many of each card have been played and wish for that suit from a player with few cards left in their hand.

Counterplay

Consider keeping a low card of each suit in your hand so you are always able to pass it to an opponent should they wish something from you.

Asking for a gift from your partner

If you’re not looking for any specific cards from your opponents, you can ask your partner to give you a gift. In this case select a suit that has high cards remaining and they may choose to pass one to you.

Another variant of this to consider is if you and your partner pass each other the same value of card during the passing phase. If your partner has not yet played the card you passed them, wishing for a card of that suit from them should be an indication you want that card back.

Summary

In summary, there are a number of different ways the new eight can be used and you should be considering it even when you don’t have it in your hand. Keep appropriate fodder cards in your hand to prevent being forced to pass a card you don’t want to and when a wish is targeted against you in an unusual situation, consider what the wishing player is looking for so you don’t give them what they want unnecessarily.

Being a Team Player

A common type of mistake made by low ranked players (below 1600) is that they do not properly work with their partner. In today’s post I shall go through some frequent scenarios that often lead to misplays when supporting a partner who has placed a Wodka.

Priority

In every hand at some point you will need to determine if either you or your partner has the priority for going out. Sometimes this will be very obvious, such as if one of you has placed a Grand Wodka. At other times this will be less clear and you may not be able to determine this until one of you is already close to going out.

As a general rule of thumb, you should prioritize your partner going out if:

  • They have placed a Grand Wodka or a Wodka
  • An opponent has placed a Grand Wodka or a Wodka and you do not think you will be able to stop them
  • You think your hand is sufficiently bad enough you may not be able to go out at all

Once you have determined that you are playing the role of support, there are some common pitfalls to avoid.

Playing too many cards

Consider the hand:

This is a solid looking hand – a two to nine straight, followed by ten / Jack consecutive pairs plus an ace.

Now imagine that your partner is going first and has placed a Wodka, and leads with a low consecutive pair, which you pass on but the final opponent plays a middling consecutive pair, which you are then able to beat with your tens and Jacks to win the trick.

This leaves you with your two to nine straight and the ace. If you play the full straight you’l likely be able to go out right away which will be a mistake considering your partner has placed a Wodka.

Even if you play only a seven card straight allowing you to follow up by lead the two or the nine, this will leave you with only an ace and you won’t be able to support your partner at all. If leave yourself with only an ace and then an opponent plays a king as their penultimate card, you won’t be able to beat it without causing the Wodka to fail.

In this scenario the correct thing to do would be to play either the two or the nine instead of the straight. This will still leave you in a solid scenario for when it is time for you to attempt to go out as you will be able to play the ace and then go out with the remaining straight, but it also gives you the flexibility of being able to play your ace if you discover that it will be the only way to allow your partner to complete their Wodka.

Holding onto too much power

If your partner has placed a Wokda this will usually mean they have a strong hand but they may not be able to build a plan to go out without knowing where the other cards are. For example they may avoid leading their singleton two if they don’t know where the red three is. By playing the red three to either strengthen their hand or weaken the hand of an opponent, you also get the additional benefit of conveying the information to your partner that they don’t need to worry about the red three.

Another scenario where it may be useful to play a power card when your partner has placed a Wodka is if you are holding the last unseen ace. In this situation your partner may be holding kings but not be aware that they are effectively the highest value cards in play. This might lead to them not taking tricks that they otherwise would have been able to win for fear of getting trumped by the ace. In this scenario you should also attempt to use the ace usefully by beating a high card from an opponent, but don’t feel the need to sit around waiting for the exact perfect moment.

Do not lead into their weaknesses

If you do win a trick, avoid leading shapes of tricks that they will not be able to play on. For example consecutive triples are an unusual shape so it is unlikely they will be able to play on it. Although also unlikely, there is a greater chance that an opponent will have consecutive triples in which case all your will have done is pass the lead to an opponent.

Also consider what shapes your partner has previously passed on. If they have passed on low triples, do not lead a triple as they likely either don’t have one, or are choosing not to break one up in order to keep another trick. Likewise with pairs. The safest thing to play in order to pass the lead back to your partner is usually a singleton card. When doing so consider the possibility of an opponent playing the special three, four or six so consider playing at least a 6 in order to prevent this if those cards have not yet been played.

No good reason to play

If you don’t have a specific reason to play a card, you should likely pass. For example if an opponents leads with a six, you should likely pass as there is no danger of a special three, four or six being played as playing a card will reduce the likelihood your partner will get to dump a low card.

Summary

In summary, avoid falling into these traps while supporting your partner. Other teamwork tips for other scenarios will follow in a future post.

Memory: What not to forget

During games of Wokda I am often asked what I remember about which cards have been played and how I can possibly know that my opponent is holding triple eights. The how will have to be topic of a future post but today I shall be going through some of the basics of what you should be keeping track of during a hand of Wokda.

Aces

As the highest standard value of card, the Ace holds a lot of power and being able to account for all the aces is important. For example, if you know that two aces have been played and you hold the other two, this assures you of two things:

  1. If you play a king on a singleton trick nobody will be able to beat it without a bomb.
  2. If you lead a singleton trick, you are guaranteed to be able to eventually be able to play your own ace and win the trick, barring any bombs or a couple of cases involving special cards.

Being aware of these scenarios will enable you get rid of any low single cards in your hand without having to fear an opponent will steal the trick and immediately go out with a long straight. There are of course bombs to consider and tracking the possibility of bombs will be covered later.

Kings

Although not as high as an ace, it is still important to keep track of how many kings have been played. Once the aces have been exhausted then kings will hold the same power as aces. Additionally, it can be helpful to know when an opponent likely does have a king if you are holding an ace. In this circumstance you may be able to play a lower card such as a queen which you wouldn’t normally expect to win with but if they think you are holding the ace they may choose to pass instead beating it with their king.

Finally, if someone plays a king at an unusual time, this can be an indicator that they are holding the red eight and are looking to clear the way in order for a queen to be lowered into bomb of four Jacks. You should therefore now attempt to prevent that player from ever getting the opportunity to play the red eight. Avoid playing singleton cards lower than this.

This logic can be applied to all values of card below the king too, but there is a significant diminishing return below this value so I would recommend sticking with aces and kings for the moment.

Special Cards

Some of the special cards can be particularly meddlesome so it is key that you pay attention to which ones have been played and how that might interfere with your play. In particular:

  • Zero
  • Three
  • Four
  • Six
  • Seven
  • Ten
  • Jack

For example in the scenario mentioned earlier where you hold all the remaining aces, leading with a singleton two may leave you vulnerable to an opponent playing the three to pass you an unwanted card, or the four to skip your turn resulting in you losing the trick despite holding the only ace.

Possible Bombs

It’s always worth being aware of any bombs your opponents could have. This may sound like a daunting tasks but it’s often surprisingly simple. Consider the follow starting hand:

In this scenario, the potential four of a kind bombs that the opponents may already have are:

  • Threes
  • Sevens
  • Jacks

All other four of a kind bombs have already been blocked. You simply need to observe when one of each of these is played and then you will know that bomb is no longer possible. In the case of threes and Jacks, two must be played to account for the special cards that increase the number of these available.

It is also worth considering what bombs may be created using either the red ace or eight. Unless you hold both of these cards, or they have been played by your partner, you must also consider the values for which you have only one blocker. These are:

  • Twos
  • Fours
  • Fives
  • Sixes
  • Nines
  • Tens
  • Aces

Aces can immediately be crossed off the list as a n additional ace can’t be created with the red ace or eight. For each of the others you must keep track until at least one has been played as there is the potential an opponent could have a surprise bomb. Additionally, instead of discounting the cards from the first list, once a single card has been played, that value should be added to the second list in order to continue to keep track.

You should also consider straight flush bombs. With this hand there are only a limited number of these possible:

  • Green nine to king
  • Green ten to ace
  • Blue three to seven
  • Blue four to eight
  • Blue five to nine
  • Blue six to ten
  • Blue seven to Jack
  • Black two to six
  • Black three to seven
  • Almost any red five card straight using either the red five or red queen.

In this scenario you can select just six cards that once seen, will block all possible straight flush bombs. For example although there are five possible blue straight flushes of length five or more, all of them must contain a blue seven, or the red seven.

Therefore in order to know that there are no possible straight flush bombs in play, you only need to watch out for:

  • Any green card from ten to king
  • Blue or red seven
  • Any black card from three to six
  • Red five and queen

Once those have been played you no longer need to worry about a straight flush bomb, except from a player who has played the red ace.

Confirmed cards

You should also remember which cards you have passed to each player. For the card you have passed to your partner, you can consider this as if it were in your own hand the majority of the considerations above.

For the cards you passed to your opponents, you should remember these until they have been played as they are a confirmed card that exists in their hand, unless changed by the red three, eight or king.

The same is true for the red seven, and any cards picked up by the ten. These should also be remembered.

Summary

In summary, these are the basic things that you should be keeping track of during a hand in order to ensure you have the information available to able to make optimal decisions while playing.

How to approach remembering all of this information will be the subject of a future post.