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.
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/
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.
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.