Monthly Archives: July 2020

Guest Post: Alternative Memory System

Editor’s Note: After a reassuring amount of consistency in the leaderboard data over the past couple weeks, it appears that once again the integrity of the data is suspect. Apparently Sunil is currently the #1 ranked player and has helpfully written another guest article with what appears to be an oversimplified memory system but perhaps its trivial ease of use will be an advantage for some.

I find myself atop the leaderboards once again, and will use this opportunity to share some more pearls of wisdom with the wodka-strategy.uk.to readership.

Previously, Jack talked about his memory system (https://wodka-strategy.uk.to/index.php/2020/06/27/memory-a-simple-system/). However, this requires maintaining multiple lists between which numbers frequently move. This is an unwieldy, and dare I say, inefficient system.

My approach requires you to only remember a single number. Firstly, we assign a different prime number to the highest three values:

  • A = 2
  • K = 3
  • Q = 5

For each of these cards in the deck, we multiply the corresponding value into a ‘memory-value’ (which starts at 1, the multiplicative identity). Since we start with four of each A, K, Q, our ‘memory-value’ starts at 2^4 * 3^4 * 5^4 = 810,000.

Whenever an A, K or Q is played, we simply divide our memory-value by 2, 3 or 5 respectively.

Similarly, if we want to know how many A, K or Qs are yet to be played, we just see how many 2, 3 or 5s are factors of the memory-value. For example, if the memory-value is 45,000 and we want a simple way to know how many Aces are in the deck we keep dividing by 2 until we hit an odd number (45,000 -> 22,500 -> 11,250 -> 5,625). We divided 3 times, and so there are three Aces still to be played.

Clearly, this is much simpler and less confusing than rembering how many Aces are still in the deck directly. In this case, rembering 3 (the number of Aces still to play) is problematic as it could get confused with other things – such as the number of Kings, or the number of points you will win with a successful Wodka. 45,000 has no chance of getting confused with other important Wodka numbers.

Furthermore, it’s easily extensible. For each additional piece of information you wish to remember, you only need to assign a unique prime.

For example, if we wish to include the 0 and the 3s, we could use:

  • A = 2
  • K = 3
  • Q = 5
  • 3 = 7
  • 0 = 11

Exercise for the reader (assuming this extended system):

The memory value is 1,980,825.

Q: Will my K win a trick?

Passing Cards Part 4: Receiving

Similar to Christmas, one of the most important aspects of passing cards is receiving them. You can get a lot of information from the cards you are passed and also use them to control information that other players can get from you. With all of these tips you should consider both sides of the equation and watch out for what information other players may intentionally or unintentionally be sending to you.

Keeping your receipts

It is generally advisable to hold onto whatever card your partner passes you for as long as is convenient. If you have multiple cards of that value and you need to choose which one to play, you should play another one as your partner will be the only person who knows you still hold the one they passed you.

For example lets imagine your partner passes you the green ace. You already hold the black ace so you now have two. If the other two aces have been played, from each opponent’s point of view anyone could have the remaining two aces. From your partners’ perspective they know you have the green ace but anyone could have the black ace. When the time comes and you want to play one to win a trick, you should play the black ace. Now your partner knows you hold the only remaining ace and therefore neither opponent can beat any kings that they play. If you had instead played the green ace your partner and opponents may all be equally unsure who holds the final ace.

You should be careful to follow this rule whenever possible as you may mislead your partner if you do not. If in the above scenario you are not holding the black ace so your only ace is the green one your partner passed you. In this case when you play the green ace your partner should correctly assume that this must mean that one of the opponents holds the black ace. While this isn’t good news, knowing this is useful information that can be used to form a strategy.

Another consideration is that if you find yourself stuck with a single card left and unable to go out by yourself, if your partner plays the eight they should be able to wish it from you if that final card is the one they originally passed you.

Tying up loose ends

In a similar vein to holding onto the card passed to you by your partner, you should get rid of cards passed to your by your opponents as soon as is feasible. Opponents knowing you are holding a specific low card is incredible useful for them and should be avoided.

It is also incredibly suspicious to play a different card of the same value while holding the one you are passed. For example if you are passed the green six which completes a straight flush bomb, and then you lead the black six this should make your opponents question why you held onto the green card. If it’s early enough into a hand this may prevent them from placing a Wodka that they may have otherwise placed if they hadn’t worked out that you were holding a bomb.

Even if you’re not holding a bomb playing the other six will alert them that something up. After you play the black six they will know that you could have played it as a pair so you must have something else like a straight planned.

Of course the logic of getting rid of these cards as fast as possible isn’t universally applicable. You shouldn’t break up the flow of your hand just for the sake of playing the cards you were passed, but if the time comes to dump a low card and there are no other factors to consider this is when you should be getting rid of these cards.

One advanced exception to this rule can be to attempt to trick an opponent into thinking you are holding a bomb. For example if they pass you a two and you now have three twos, holding onto them until the fourth two is played may convince them that you have all four and force them to play safer than they otherwise would. Naturally this is also a risk as holding onto three twos when you had the opportunity to play them may end up hurting you if you are unable to ever play them.

Return policy

If you have the red three a great consideration is to return the card you were passed to an opponent. For example if they passed you a two and you didn’t originally pass a two to them, it’s relatively unlikely they have another two and at worst you’ll be giving them a pair if your partner passed them a two during the passing phase.

Signals of intent

You can generally read into the intention of your partner based on the card they passed you. Some of these are obvious such as the if they pass you the red four they are likely planning on placing a Wokda whereas others are a little more ambiguous. Receiving the zero from them likely either means they are planning on placing a Wodka but don’t want the additional risk of the zero, or it could just be that their hand is so bad they want to give you the chance to go out with it.

The previous post on passing to your partner goes into this in more detail and you can often use that information to reverse engineer information on the strength of your partners hand. https://wodka-strategy.uk.to/index.php/2020/06/23/passing-cards-part-2-partnership/

Trojan horse

Sometimes you will receive an unusually high or powerful card from an opponent. This should normally be treated with great suspicion as it generally means either:

  • They have no low cards
  • All their low cards fit nicely into tricks which they do not wish to break up

Either one is a recipe for a strong hand so if you do receive a high card from an opponent you assume they do have a strong hand and adjust your play accordingly. For example don’t waste your high cards before they commit to placing a Wodka or not.

Summary

In summary, there is a lot you can learn from what you are passed, as well as what others can learn from how you play knowing what they passed you. It is important to maximize the amount of information you share with your partner while minimizing the information you grant to your opponents.

Are the rankings rigged?

There are have been two instances recently where I have suspiciously found myself not at the top of the rankings according to the Kangaroo API. Thankfully on the official leaderboard hosted on this very site I have added ranking integrity checks to prevent this false information from being distributed.

However if we look at ranking history we can see this questionable data that appears to confirm that there were some periods where another player actually did have a higher rank than me:

How could this be?

Is it possible that another player genuinely played better than me?

There must be another explanation…

If we delve into the winrates we see something very curious. Obviously I have the highest winrate by a significant martin, but if that’s the case how is it that some players can supposedly at times catch up or even surpass my rank?

Delving into the head to head winrates highlights the bias even more:

Let’s take the player tann as an example. Not only do I have positive winrate against this player, but I have a more positive winrate than them vs every other active player bar one.

Yet somehow on 30th June the ranking system deemed it appropriate to give this person a higher rank that me.

Looking at the change in ranking per game reveals the sabotage. Up until that date, my rank increased by an average of 13.2 per win, and dropped by 19.3 per loss. However for tann, the average increase per win was an astonishing 15.8 and the average decrease was only 14.1 per loss!

Based on these figures I need to maintain a dominant 59% winrate just to stay at my current ranking. Whereas tann needs only a meager 47%.

Clearly the developer of the Kangaroo platform has is deliberately deflating my ranking for currently unknown nefarious reasons. On the official leaderboard on this site I have added a dynamic weighting to the X axis scale in order to more accurately represent skill differentials. Hopefully in future the Kangaroo platform will be updated to remove the current bias against skilled players.

Walkthrough Wednesday #2

Continuing in our series highlighting hands played from expert players, this week we are again showcasing a hand played by me.

I think this is an interesting game because while I do have a good hand, it ends up being very close and it’s also a good example of when not to use bomb consisting of high cards if they could be better used individually in order to win more tricks.

Opening Deal

At this stage is it important to consider that the score is currently 10 to 12 in favour of my opponents. This is a prime scenario for considering placing a Grand Wodka since succeeding will get us to 15 points and while losing will guarantee a loss, losing this hand without placing a grand Wokda will likely also lead to a loss as well.

With that in mind, and considering with the red nine after placing a Grand Wodka I will have four kings, I place the bet.

Passing

The rest of the deal is also kind to me and I’m left with a great looking hand:

It’s certainly not unbeatable depending on what I get passed since most of my high cards are tried up in the bomb.

I decide the pass a two to each opponent and the three to my partner. In other circumstances you might look at this hand and think about passing the three and five to opponents, and the queen to my partner, which would leave me with a pair of twos, Jacks and aces plus the bomb, but given the Grand Wodka and the scoreline, my primary objective is to ensure I’m not giving an opponent a bomb so I split up my low pair. Additionally the three is the card I can pass to my partner to maximize the chance of them having a bomb to support me.

I receive the zero, a four and a king leaving me with the starting hand:

This is a very promising hand but I am concerned about bombs. Based on what I can see and was passed, I need to be concered about four of a kind bombs of:

  • Threes
  • Sixes
  • Sevens
  • Eights
  • Tens

I’m also looking out for potential pairs higher than my Jacks, which can only been queens and aces given that I hold all the kings.

The other concern is that my hand is blocking very few straight flush bombs so I do need to be watching out for those.

Thankfully my five kings can beat most bombs so even if we do see one I may have some counterplay.

The Play

The player to my left starts and leads with a singleton two.

My partner passes and the player to my right raises it to a seven.

This is good as it rules out a bomb of four sevens and as a middle value card it blocks out many black straight flush bombs.

I play my queen since knowing I’ve got all the kings I’ll either win with it or an opponent will need to use up an ace.

The player to my left beats this with the red ace on which everyone passes. I don’t want to use my bomb yet as I’m holding onto it to use as a counterbomb. Additionally I don’t want to play the red king until I’ve seen the last ace as giving an opponent the tsar could be a disaster.

They then lead the red four on which the player to my right plays an eight.

It seems unlikely I’m going to be gifted an opportunity to dump the four or five so I beat this with my first ace.

Nobody bombs this so I’m able to lead and I choose the play the pair Jack. We’ve now seen one ace so I know there can’t be a pair of aces but this is still a gamble as a pair queen is possible.

Unfortunately this is beaten by the player to my right with a pair queen.

They follow up with a pair two.

My partner beats this with a pair four however the player to my right beats this with a pair five.

At this stage they only have five cards left but bombing will leave me in a poor position as I’ll still have three low singletons:

I pass and my partner beats it with a pair nine.

Alarmingly the player to my right beats this with a bomb of sixes leaving them on only one card.

Unfortunately this is one of the bombs I cannot beat so I am forced to pass. We’ve not yet seen any threes and I did pass one to my partner so all I can do is hope they might have it. Luckily they do and they pass a card to the player to my right so they have now have two cards.

My partner leads with a ten.

The player to my right beats this with a Jack bringing him down to just one card again.

I assume this isn’t the card my partner passed him so hopefully they’ve now just got a low card. The red six was in his bomb and the red four has also been played which is positive. I do still have some low singletons so there will be singleton rounds but hopefully my partner is able to always raise it to something higher since they should know what the opponent is holding.

I now choose to beat this with a the red nine.

The player to my left beats this with the back ace.

At this point I’ve now seen all the aces so I know my kings can no longer be beaten as there are no more possible bombs. Therefore all I just need to regain control and hope the player to my right isn’t able to go out. I need to save two winners to cancel out my singleton four and five so I can play up to three kings regaining control which means I can’t use my bomb. This means I’m now only worried about large tricks like consecutive pairs or straights.

They lead consecutive triples including the red eight. This is scary since they can wish away the last card of the player to my right but thankfully they guess incorrectly and no cards exchange hands.

This is followed up with a single five which both my partner and the opponent to my right pass on.

This means I now know I’m almost certain to win so I can beat this with my last ace.

I lead my five on which the play to my left plays a nine.

This passes round to me and I beat this with a king, which officially breaks up my bomb.

I then lead my four.

Surprisingly everyone passes so I can lead my remaining triple kings followed by the zero to secure the win.

Guest Post: Psychological Profiling

Editor’s Note: Thanks to the second leaderboard anomaly in as many weeks, it’s time for another guest post which this time has been authored by tann. I am beginning to suspect ranking sabotage is afoot and this will be presented in full once the integrity of the leaderboard data has been restored.

Due to an unprecedented streak of luck, I am somehow the #1 ranked wodka player on the planet. Luckily there is an aspect of Wodka strategy that has been ignored by the previous champion; studying the psyche your partners and opponents. As the most prolific wodka player, I feel qualified to speak on this matter.

tann

Part of the raw creative force behind Wodka. He wodkas more frequently than other player. Games with this player in are likely to be short and explosive. Remains a threat when losing heavily due to his consecutive grand wodkas specialty. Surprisingly for his ranking, he does not count cards and often gets surprised by the 4th ace.

As he is the most likely player to wodka, it is worth passing him the special 9 just to upgrade your collective strength.

Jack

A perfect card-counting, insightful strategic master; Jack is the real champion of Wodka. Legend has it that only a queen can consistently beat him. His only known weakness is luck. If you are playing a game with him, you’d better hope he’s your partner.

You may have thought Jack’s special card would be the double jack, but with his card-counting expertise he is the player best placed to make use of special 8s. If you are his partner, you should consider passing him this card.

sunil

sunil is the god of wodka. He created Kangaroo, the very rules of wodka itself shift according to his whims. He is a skilled, perceptive player and a dangerous opponent.

sunil believes in the power of threes and that you should never pass them to opponents. He loves nothing more than to be proven right by receiving a bomb of threes during passing. For this reason, I recommend passing him the special 2 should the opportunity present itself.

Pawntoe4

Pawntoe is a strong analytical player. He is a patient partner and is able to count cards effectively. Loves to try for a hand with a huge straight. He has one weakness:

He is terrified of this card. He doesn’t like wodka-ing unless he knows exactly where it is. If you want to support him as a partner, you should give him this card or play it early. If you want to ruin his day, use the special 3 to give him a low card towards the end of a round.

Faby

Faby is a loyal and supportive partner. Always ready with a bomb in your time of need.

Faby knows how to help when you’ve placed a dubious wodka but it’s easier for him if he has the right tool for the job!

fireblt

fireblt is quite as explosive as his name suggests. He has a preference for hands containing many consecutive pairs and triples. You cannot count on winning with any of these tricks winning when this powerful player is in the game, even if he is your partner.

For this reason, he is the player best able to make use of the special 10. He will likely have more consecutive pairs and triples than other players and will be more likely to make a bomb or fill in a gap with this card.

Almouse

Almouse is a strong player and has been known to be ranked as highly as 2nd. He has fallen on hard times recently but I feel sure that things will improve for him soon.

A fiend with the special Q. Every time he plays one, you should assume he has made a second bomb.