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.

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