Author Archives: Jack

Wodka Halloween Spooktacular 2020

Yesterday alongside Pawntoe4 I hosted the Wodka Halloween Spooktacular 2020. This was an invitiational event with four of the top players* battling it out in a 3 game round robin format.

*based on availability

The event was a lot of fun with some great displays of Wodka prowess. The vod can be found below.

Guest Post: Deciding Whether to Wodka

Editor’s Note: Pawntoe4 seems to be the current top ranked player and has kindly written this guest post. Although I’m sure this particular ordering of the ranking is to be short-lived, it is very gratifying to see the responsibilities of the top spot being taken seriously.

To Wodka or not to Wodka, that is the question. As one of the major forms of skill expression in the game named after this action, choosing when to Wodka is critical to being a tidy and considerate player, leaving as few points on the table as possible. With a relatively high WEES and placing significantly more Wodkas per game than any other player, I feel moderately qualified to discuss this aspect of the game. However, for advice on when to Grand Wodka tann is the expert, and if you are part of the accredited Never Wodka Club this question has a much shorter article to answer it: Don’t.

The System

Hands in Wodka can be sub-divided into four broad categories called Starters, Winners, Play-Ons and Greys.

Starter: A common set with a low value that requires you to start the trick to play, but is also likely to be beaten.

Winner: A common set that is likely to win the round.

Play-On: A set with a shape that is unlikely to be led by another player, but is similarly unlikely to be beaten. Will usually be played as a Starter and win the trick.

Greys: A common set of middling value that could be played on preceding low card(s).
To explain some of the terminology within the above definitions, common sets are singles, doubles, triples and two consecutive pairs. Low cards tend to be lower than 9, and middling cards from 9 to Queen.

There is an art to the Wodka, but at its most basic if you have only one or two Greys with more Winners than Starters, it is often a good idea to Wodka. That’s pretty much it for how I decide, but we can go into a bit more detail with the red specials in order of how much I consider them before declaring.

Specials

3: This card is the bane of all Wodkas. If you have it in your own hand and want to Wodka, it is good for removing one Starter and thus acts as an artificial Winner. The ability of this to ruin someone else’s hand is largely wasted as you will be wanting to keep control as much as possible and the opponents will likely have a lot of cards when you want to play it, increasing the chances it fits into an existing set (or makes a more complex set or even a bomb), as well as needing to stop both opposing players going out and potentially mis-targeting the real threat to your Wodka. However, if it is against you, you can count on opponents going out of their way to burden you with an LSC late in the round when you cannot fit it into another trick or play around it properly. They can ace any trick you have to lead with an LSC and play it right after. They will also be fully aware of the value of the card you’re sitting on and can improve their own guesses about the shapes of sets you have left based on this and play around them once they gain control. If you don’t have this card, the number of Winners you need to comfortably declare a Wodka goes up by 1.

J: The pair J is one of the strongest cards in the game, simply because of its propensity to create bombs. Single Js are not bad cards and are likely to be passed to partners, and since there are 5 Js available this significantly increases the chances of a 4 or 5 J bomb. Additionally the special Queen, when paired with another Queen and getting rid of the higher end cards, can also artificially create a Jack, increasing the likelihood of a Jack bomb further. Ideally you would have seen (having passed or been passed) at least one J to lower the possibility that the enemy team has a Jack bomb, and ideally two.

8: In a worst-case scenario this card can sabotage a bomb or steal an Ace late in the round, so should be played around with care. Like the 3, this card is much better against a Wodka than in the Wodka’ing players hand, as you will want to get rid of your cards early and will find it harder to sabotage an enemy player effectively (as well as the sabotage being less important as either can go out to win). The 8 can be played around by keeping at least a card in the same suit as e.g. your Aces for as long as possible, so it is dependent on the hand how much of an issue this card could be.

Small Additional Caveats

There are a number of other things that can affect your Wodka decision but are most of the time minor compared to the basics above.

  • The red 9, Q and K can make strong sets, require you to play your hand in a specific way, or leave you in a tricky position later, respectively.
  • You ideally want your starters and winners to be the same trick type so you keep control.
  • There is always the risk of bombs and absurd hands to ruin your Wodka, which comes down to luck mostly.
  • The more exotic common shapes, being triples and two consecutive pairs, have much more variance on what counts as a winning hand as it is less likely that people will have these tricks.
  • Saying this, the chances that other people have the same trick shapes as you are higher than you would usually expect as a result of passing. If you keep consecutive pairs it is more likely other people have also kept consecutive pairs, and if you have been dealt a straight it is more likely other people have also. This often leads to rounds which are dominated by one of triples, consecutive pairs, or straights and don’t feature many of the other complex trick types.
  • After playing a fair amount, instincts develop on when to Wodka and when not to, so some apparently questionable decisions may be discounted if the player is experienced. This will be relevant below.
  • You may also be able to tell the strength of other player’s hands from the way they pass cards or play before you have to declare.
  • This can also be considered before passing to decide whether you are likely to be able to Wodka yourself and as such affects your passing to your partner.
  • This article is in no way applicable to any shuffle, generate or different hand size modes or to games including the green specials suit.

The Wodka Invitational

The first Wodka Invitational happened on the 20th September between the top 4 Wodka players in the world, being in order tann, Jack, myself and kobbo. Each possible partnership was played over the course of 3 games with ultimate winner being kobbo with myself and Jack as joint 2nd place. The first round was myself and Jack against kobbo and tann. With 4 Wodkas declared by myself and 2 by Jack over the course of the 6 rounds, these are good example hands to show the above considerations in practice at the highest levels of play. I’ll be colour-coding all of the sets in my post-passing hands in the first Wodka Invitational first round and giving an assessment and the outcome.

Key:
Starter: Yellow
Winner: White
Grey: Grey
Play-On: Purple

Round 1

3 Starters and 3 Winners, will be left on a low card if not able to play a Starter as a Grey and the 3J is not that likely to come up (and can be beaten by triple Q). Not a Wodka hand. Jack Wodka’s and wins and I come 4th (with a bad misplay at the end, I should have come 2nd for a 4 point swing compared to what happened).

Round 2

This hand is complete garbage with no redeeming features, but I managed to come first (no Wodka) because of the highly unlikely initial play. Tann started a pairs round which I played pair J on and won the trick (which is very unlikely to happen unless people are playing defensively to see whether anyone Wodka’s). I then could play 8 – Q straight demoting my 5 to give me consecutive triples. In any other order this hand easily comes 4th.

Round 3

6 Starters, 6 Winners and a Grey. Despite having all the Aces and two Kings, this hand is still dodgy and I would have lost if an opponent had a bomb. I Wodka’d and came 1st through many very slow singles rounds, made sketchier as the red Ace gave me the red 8, both an LSC and likely to net me another.

Round 4

3 Starters, 3 Winners and a Play-On. This hand feels very good but is vulnerable to a bomb no matter which way you play it. I opted for the most elegant approach, which was to play 8 – A straight out of the gate, demoting my 7 into a 6 to give me the immediate 2 – 6 straight with the red 3 passing my last 3. I was promptly bombed and failed to go out at all. The only quad bombs possible are 6 or Js (and I was bombed by 4Js), and there is a higher probability of an enemy blue or green straight flush since I can see none of them below J. I still think these were all still relatively unlikely, especially since I had one of the Js. The sequence trip 3 passing the 4 to my partner, followed by playing an Ace on a coming singles round, followed by my Play-On and then the demoted black 5 is still vulnerable to a bomb after the Ace or straight and leaving me with no winners to get control back, however there are the slim chances that 1) someone is a pair and triple gamer and can just go out immediately from my triple 3 starter with nothing to be done about it or 2) someone leads a 6 or 7 card straight for me to beat and go out even after getting bombed. This isn’t a particularly attractive situation anyway and it was probably best to not Wodka here. To make matters worse, my partner attempted to counter-Wodka to retrieve some points and the enemy team went out 1-2, meaning a 6-point swing. Disaster.

Round 5

Here I have 3 Starters, 2 Greys and 5 Winners, clearly a hand to Wodka with. The red 9 becomes a Queen and means any pairs or triples rounds I have at least 2 winners for. This hand is very flexible, red 3 and bomb-proof and can guarantee wins with every type of common set, and even five card straights with 10 – A. I came 1st this hand.

Round 6

This hand has potentially 5 Starters, 1 Grey and 3 Winners, far from a solid hand. For the reasons given above the special 3 and 8 are also much weaker while Wodka’ing yourself, but are extremely strong in support of your partner’s Wodka as you can wait and see who to disrupt. Jack Wodka’d and made it, and I came 2nd to finish a very close game 17 – 12 (which was 13 – 12 to us at the beginning of the round).

Conclusion

The above is a simple heuristic of how to decide which hands are worth risking a Wodka. On the rare occasions I have put enough effort in to use it and count cards (usually only needing to count to 5 as seen in the examples) I have found it to be a useful way to retroactively convince myself I didn’t do anything wrong when I fail my Wodkas.
If you have any suggestions or improvements to this system, I suggest you keep them to yourself so that you can climb the ranks with your strategic advantage. I know I am.

Evaluating Wodka Statistics

Like many card games that start with a randomized deal, there is a great deal of luck involved. Even a master such as myself cannot expect to win every hand as sometimes I simply won’t have the cards. Much of the skill in this game comes from making the most of the cards you are dealt.

This generally means maximizing the numbers of points you can gain on any given hand. Of course this starts with ensuring you are able to go out, but a key way to increase your points is to correctly place a Wodka or even a Grand Wodka.

Getting dealt all the aces plus an additional bomb is a great stroke of luck, but if all you do is secure a single point for going out, it is a missed opportunity as you likely could have gotten more points with a Wodka. In this article we’ll be looking at the Wodka Effectiveness Evaluation Score (WEES) for each of the players who have played more than 100 games in order to identify any patterns that may indicate point being left on the table or other bad habits.

PlayerWEES
Jack0.6653958095
Sunil0.429907215
Pawntoe40.3945576599
kobbo0.2714275
Almouse0.2419340323
tann0.03846273077

WEES

The WEES is calculated from the number of Wodkas and Grand Wodkas placed per game played, along with the average success rate. It is the average number of additional points per game that player secures by succeeding Wodkas and Grand Wodkas.

For example, with my current stats:

Jack

Games Played252
Wodkas Placed214
Wodka Success Rate66.8224
Wodkas per Game0.8492063492
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.5674600635
Wodkas Failed per Game0.2817462857
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.5714275556
Grand Wodkas Placed74
Grand Wodka Success Rate54
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.2936507937
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.1585714286
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.1350793651
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Grame0.09396825397
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.6653958095

This is probably as close to optimal as realistically possible. I have a positive success rate with both regular and grand Wodkas, and a relatively high number of Grand Wodkas placed per game. This clearly means I am excellent at evaluating when a hand is sufficiently strong to place a Grand Wodka. I don’t have the highest success rate or frequency for either regular or Grand Wodkas, but all four stats are consistently good across the board resulting in the highest WEES by a significant margin.

Sunil

Games Played214
Wodkas Placed166
Wodka Success Rate62.0482
Wodkas per Game0.7757009346
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.4813084673
Wodkas Failed per Game0.2943924673
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.373832
Grand Wodkas Placed27
Grand Wodka Success Rate55.5556
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.1261682243
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.07009351402
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.05607471028
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Grame0.05607521495
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.429907215

Sunil actually has a higher Grand Wodka success rate than I do. However when we look at the Grand Wodkas per game it’s at only half the rate at which I place them. From this we can learn that although Sunil does a good job of only placing winning Grand Wodkas, he is likely too conservative in doing so and is only placing a Grand Wodka with an overwhelmingly strong hand. Therefore he is missing out on points he could be getting with slightly lesser hand. This would likely reduce his Grand Wodka success rate slightly, but the average points per game could be increased.

Pawntoe4

Games Played147
Wodkas Placed145
Wodka Success Rate62.7586
Wodkas per Game0.9863945578
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.619047415
Wodkas Failed per Game0.3673471429
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.5034005442
Grand Wodkas Placed46
Grand Wodka Success Rate45.6522
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.3129251701
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.1428572245
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.1700679456
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Grame-0.1088428844
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.3945576599

Pawntoe4 has the highest number of Wodkas per game with nearly one and also a relatively high number of Grand Wodkas per game. Unfortunately in both cases the success rates are a little bit low meaning that this player is likely placing Wodkas with hands which are slightly too weak. I’m not sure if this player has a system for determining when it is acceptable to Wodka but if so, perhaps it should be re-evaluated.

Kobbo

Games Played112
Wodkas Placed78
Wodka Success Rate73.0769
Wodkas per Game0.6964285714
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.5089284107
Wodkas Failed per Game0.1875001607
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.6428565
Grand Wodkas Placed14
Grand Wodka Success Rate12.8571
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.125
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.016071375
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.108928625
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Gaame-0.371429
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.2714275

Kobbo has the highest success rate for regular Wodkas as well as the highest net points from Wodkas per game. She does also have a very low number of Grand Wodkas per game which suggests that strong hands which could have been a successful Grand Wodka are instead being left to be completed as a regular Wodka, resulting in a smaller number of points gained.

Almouse

Games Played124
Wodkas Placed103
Wodka Success Rate65.0485
Wodkas per Game0.8306451613
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.5403222177
Wodkas Failed per Game0.2903229435
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.4999985484
Grand Wodkas Placed40
Grand Wodka Success Rate40
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.3225806452
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.1290322581
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.1935483871
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Grame-0.2580645161
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.2419340323

As the founder of the “Never Wodka Club” you would expect Almouse to have a low number of Wodkas per game but strangely thgis is not the case. His stats for regular Wodkas are actually very similar to my own so I have no criticisms there. However he does have a rather disastrous success rate with Grand Wodkas so perhaps he should instead be joining the “Never Grand Wodka Club”.

Tann

Games Played208
Wodkas Placed122
Wodka Success Rate60.6557
Wodkas per Game0.5865384615
Wodkas Succeeded per Game0.3557690096
Wodkas Failed per Game0.2307694519
Net points from Wodkas per Game0.2499991154
Grand Wodkas Placed163
Grand Wodka Success Rate46.6258
Grand Wodkas Per Game0.7836538462
Grand Wodkas Succeeded Per Game0.365384875
Grand Wodkas Failed Per Game0.4182689712
Net Points from Grand Wodkas per Grame-0.2115363846
Combined Net Points (WEES)0.03846273077

Tann has an unusual approach to this game which is to apparently Grand Wodka any time the initial eight cards look remotely promising. This has resulted in a Grand Wodkas per game double that of any other player but unfortunately this hasn’t translated into success with a very negative net points from Grand Wodkas per game. Because Tann places such a high proportion of Grand Wodkas that means far fewer hands can be a regular Wodka resulting in a low number of Wodkas per game. Even those have the lowest success rate of all the players analysed here so perhaps Tann simply likes the look of red circles.

Summary

In summary, there is a delicate balance when choosing to place a Wodka or a Grand Wodka and these stats clearly show that despite what may sometimes be shown on the unofficial rankings or by merely looking at Wodka success rates, I am undoubtedly the best at striking that balance.

Guest Post: Card counting – the inferior strategy?

Editor’s Note:  It’s been a full month since the last ranking anomaly but once again the Kangaroo data is showing an improbable ordering of players. It is suggesting that Kobbo is currently the top ranked player and she is the author of this guest article. Here at wodka-strategy.uk.to we recommend using the stats page for an accurate ranking of players until the leaderboard data can be corrected.

As a veteran Wodkan, I have honed my strategy over tens of games. I have now taken my rightful place at #1 after many underhand dealings and/or scheming to keep my greatness in check. Unfortunately for my enemies; “Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design” (Palpatine, 1980).

By the end of this masterclass, you will be able to take any hand and turn it into a game-changer just like a #1 Wodka professional.

To properly understand the hand assessment skills of professional players, we’ll turn to a representative hand and go through how to evaluate it.

Bombs and Aces #1

This hand may seem weak initially because of the number of low cards, and only 2 Aces with which to win tricks. However, the revelation comes when you fully understand the game and all the tools available to you. Unbeknownst to many Wodka beginners, the “good connection” icon in the bottom right corner not only signifies that you are still connected to the considerably taxed Wodka servers (which occasionally suffer power outages due to Russian interference), but you can also disable your good connection in order to rearrange your hand offline. I use this technique here to move the green 3 to the left to reveal what I had secretly suspected – a 6 card straight flush bomb.

Bombs and Aces #2

Tip : always check the colours of your straight to see if you have a bomb. Chances are, you do. The 10-A bomb makes this hand a possible Wodka. The only difficulty here is playing the weakest card of the game – the red 8. Luckily in this game I had passed the green A to my partner, so I could use the red 8 to wish it back. Of course I used LOG to check this, as I do not commit aces, kings or red cards to memory.

Bombs and Aces #3

The special A introduces too much variability and there is no clear way to play the red Q without diminishing your chances of winning. Additionally there is only one Jack bomb which is easily beat. A common mistake is to try to attempt to Wodka, turning the red 9 into a Queen, and then attempting to demote it to a double J so that your bomb is strong enough to beat the inevitable 5 card red straight flush. However the 9 counterintuitively “stays a 9” – another example the many ways the house rigs the system. This is a never-wodka hand – you’ll get a 2nd or 3rd finish at best.

Straight #1

(pre-receiving passed cards)

This is to remind you even the champs sometimes get absolutely dire luck. Archetypal never-wodka hand.

2 Bombs #1

(player’s identities covered for their own protection)

This hand may not be strong enough to wodka but it can be a great supporting hand. Here I have 2 bombs which I use to beat any opponent aces (as well as pass them the 4). I can then play a nice low 9/double J depending on what I think my partner can play on.

2 Bombs #2

(player’s identities covered for legal reasons)

This was the hand I needed to compete with a grand wodka. As you can see I have some flexibility. I was able to play my 5J bomb, then double Q to create a new 9 bomb with the 10 I kept, or to simply play the special Queen to create a stronger bomb in case I suspected a big straight flush would come out. As I do not commit any cards played to memory I didn’t know all the 7s were accounted for, meaning that a 6 card 2 – 7 straight flush was off the table. I trusted my instincts and played the double bomb route without calculating that the 6J bomb was unnecessary, which saved me mental space to brainstorm cutting-edge Wodka memes. As always, I predicted right and was able to go out first.

Green Hand #1

This hand is full of greens, the worst colour and food group. The fact that these are playable at all speaks to the antiquated nature of the game. However before you instantly pass, many greens lined up in Wodka inexplicably can beat some tricks. Here, like many strands of straw the sheer quantity of greens made this hand wodkable. As much as I detest this mechanic, the quickest way to fight corruption is through systematic change that can only be achieved from the top.

Finally, if you (rarely) get dealt mediocre hands, you must know and be confident in the art of bluffing. If an opponent has wodka’d the best play is take control, empty your hand as much as possible and then rely on your Champion Luck to carry the day. This draws attention away from your partner who can try to go out first (so you get all the pass-3 and wishy-8 flack) as well as stressing opponents out while you relax and scroll through Yahoo Images on your second monitor. This increases the chance of them misplaying as well as taking most decision making out of your own hands, creating well needed relaxation time before meme-creation.

Shuffle Mode : the Great Conspiracy

The new shuffle system implemented suspiciously at the height of my rise was undeniably a targeted attack by colluding players.

Unfortunately for my adversaries, this just pressured me to creating an even more ironclad system, resulting in the hand you see played below.

Although the new system makes it difficult to even wodka, I had to prove it could be done. Bravely grand wodka’ing during this mode, I was able to use the A to pick up another J, and so had a 6 bomb and a passy J bomb at the ready.

Concluding Remarks

Hopefully you have now learnt the skills to become a Wodka champion. Titles like youngest Wodka champion in history, 1st Wodka champion with a sibling in the top 3 and Wodka champion in <100 games follow naturally. With the precise manoeuvres set out above you do not have to use any mental effort remembering high cards as they are all dealt to your hand. Similarly, it is unimportant if other players have bombs because you will be able to counter with your own. This leaves you free to paint, exercise or garden during other player’s turns.

New gametype: Shuffle Mode

There’s a hot new mode taking the Wodka scene by storm. In this mode all the red specials are randomized every hand so that the effects can be assigned to any value of red card.

At the time of writing, there is also a new effect which reverses the direction of play until the end of the trick.

The one static effect is that the red seven always goes first. It will also have another randomized effect and the effect counts as all suits is added into the pool to be assigned.

Passing

Much of the conventional wisdom around passing needs to be thrown out the window with the random assignment of specials. Most of the entries in my previous article on banned cards that you should not pass to opponents are based on the effect on that value of red card. For example, passing a three to an opponent is generally a bad idea since with the red two also being playable as a three, there are effectively five threes in the deck so passing one is more likely to give away a bomb.

However there are still some concepts we can still use. For example rule for not passing sevens to your opponents still applies for the same obvious reasons.

Instead of focusing on the values of the cards, we need to instead evaluate the relative power of the effects. In general this can be split into five categories:

Very Positive

  • +1 Point if played as your last card
  • N or N+1
  • Give a card to another player
  • Wish for a suit from another player
  • Counts as a pair
  • Skip the next player

Slightly Positive

  • N or N & N+1
  • Counts as all suits
  • -1 to your highest card

Situational

  • The following set must be lower
  • N+3 if Wodka, N+4 if Grand Wodka
  • Take a card from the previous set

Negative

  • Draw the undealt card
  • +1 to the next player’s highest card

Might as well not exist

  • Uno reverse

Looking at the effects categorized in this manner, we can determine that the very positive effects should not be passed to opponents, and also can be strong cards to pass to your partner. The exception to this is with the zero, as a pair zero or zero / 1 still aren’t great cards.

The slightly positive cards only work out in certain hands so don’t make great candidates for passing to your partner, and although not ideal, can be passed to opponents if there are no other options.

The situational cards are where things become interesting. The strength of these effect depends greatly on the values they are assigned to.

The following set must be lower

This effect gets strong as the value of card it’s assigned to lowers. A zero with this effect is only beatable with a bomb. Having pair twos or threes with this is also very strong. Whereas on an ace this effect becomes negative. It’s still an ace and probably not the best choice to pass to an opponent, but similarly it likely shouldn’t be passed to a partner who has placed a Grand Wodka.

N+3 if Wodka, N+4 if Grand Wodka

This effect ranges from slightly positive on a low card to very positive on a high card. On a Jack or higher this becomes extremely strong as when placing a Wokda this becomes an ace or better. On low cards it is still situationally useful as it can give someone the opportunity to build a bomb with it.

Take a card from the previous set

This effect is powerful on high cards and especially aces, but becomes less and less useful on lower values.

The negative effects when paired with low values are actively bad cards and are good choices to pass to opponents. On high cards such as kings or aces they become more situational so shouldn’t be passed away.

The Wishing Minefield

As mentioned above, there is now potential for some very bad red cards. In the normal game mode a popular tactic for less advanced players to is always wish a red card from an opponent as this tends to be most impactful if you’re not able to work out what is in the targets hand.

This is now only be done if the negative effects have already been played, or you know where they are. Otherwise you might be passed a zero that also grants you an extra random card!

It’s also worth considering that the player who goes first doesn’t necessarily have the card with counts as all suits so you may want to wait that one out too.

Patience with -1 to your highest card

This effect becomes much more interesting in this gamemode since if you have it in your hand, you often won’t know what effects you’ll get should you use this to lower your other red cards.

One approach with this is to save it along with your other red cards to see what values some of the other effects are assigned to. This strategy generally won’t allow you to go out first as it does involve not playing your hand early, but if it allows you to get an extra point by getting that effect on your last card, it can be worth it.

Placing a Wokda or Grand Wodka

Now that some truly terrible cards can exist, placing a Grand Wodka is a much riskier affair. Whist in the normal game you might be passed the zero which is usually a nuisance, in this gamemode there’s a good chance you’ll be passed at least one card which actively makes your hand worse.

The sanctity of aces has also been broken which is something to consider. If you have a hand which might normally be borderline for placing a Wodka, it’s worth determining if another play may have a bonus ace or tsar from the N or N+1 or N+3 if Wodka effects.

Summary

There’s a lot of new things to think about with the shuffle gamemode. The random assignment of the effects on the red cards does make the game less predictable which perhaps benefits less skilled players although it certainly doesn’t remove all skill from the game.

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.