Category Archives: Passing

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.

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.

Passing Cards Part 2: Partnership

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

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

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

Your partner has placed a Grand Wodka

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

You have placed a Grand Wodka

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

You are certainly going to place a Wodka

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

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

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

Your hand is average

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

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

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

Additional considerations

Card Ranking

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

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

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

Match Point

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

The red king

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

The red four

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

Summary

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

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

Passing Cards Part 1: Banned Cards

Which cards should you pass to your opponents? There are a number of things to consider, which I’ll be covering in a series of posts on the subject of passing cards.

In this first post I’ll be covering the topic of banned cards. These are cards which one should never pass to an opponent, except in the most extreme circumstances. I’ll go through each card and detail why it is or is not acceptable to pass this card.

In each case, I am strictly talking about the non-special versions of these cards. All special cards hold a significant amount of power and should likely never be passed to an opponent.

Ace

This is simple and the first card on our banned list. If you can’t see why not to pass this card you should probably consider another pastime.

King

Passing a king should also be avoided. It’s not the absolute highest card but as it can only be beaten by an ace it’s still very powerful.

Queen

Queens are also on the banned list. Thanks to the red nine there are five potential queens in any given game which increases the likelihood of a four of a kind bomb.

Jack

As the name suggests, the Jack is perhaps the most powerful card in Wodka. With the red Jack, it is possible to form a three card bomb in your initial hand, or even a two card bomb at a later stage in the game. For this reason the Jack is also on the banned list.

Ten

A bomb formed of four tens is one of the strongest four card bombs as it can be used to take one of the preceding cards, which will often be an Ace. Therefore this is also on the banned list.

Nine

Passing nines to opponents is not only acceptable but should be actively encouraged. Any player wishing to Wodka may be forced to make a difficult choice should you pass them a nine.

Eight

The red eight is currently one of the strongest cards in the game. The ability to lower the value of one of the cards in your hand is extremely powerful. The one weakness of the red eight is that you must often play your high cards prior to playing it which can leave you vulnerable to losing the trick and never regaining the lead. Having multiple eights to play as a pair or a triple reduces this risk so to prevent this the eight is also on the banned list.

Seven

This is on the banned list and I don’t think needs any explanation.

Six

Every five card straight contains a six or a ten, discounting any shenanigans caused by special cards. As players are more likely to be looking to play their low cards as part of a bigger trick, passing the six should be avoided so this is also on the banned list.

Five

Fives are acceptable to pass to opponents.

Four

The four is valued one higher than the three. See below for why this is significant. For this reason it is also on the banned list.

Three

The three is one of the worst cards to pass. Similar to the queen, thanks to the red two there are five possible threes in play. In addition the red three adds a particularly nasty edge to a bomb which can ruin many hands. For this reason the three is also on the banned list.

Two

The two is the lowest regular card and is an acceptable pass.

Summary

In summary, you should only ever pass these values to your opponents:

  • Nine
  • Five
  • Two

Circumstances when these rules can be broken will be the subject of a future post.