Author Archives: Jack

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.

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.