Category Archives: Teamwork

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.

Being a Team Player

A common type of mistake made by low ranked players (below 1600) is that they do not properly work with their partner. In today’s post I shall go through some frequent scenarios that often lead to misplays when supporting a partner who has placed a Wodka.

Priority

In every hand at some point you will need to determine if either you or your partner has the priority for going out. Sometimes this will be very obvious, such as if one of you has placed a Grand Wodka. At other times this will be less clear and you may not be able to determine this until one of you is already close to going out.

As a general rule of thumb, you should prioritize your partner going out if:

  • They have placed a Grand Wodka or a Wodka
  • An opponent has placed a Grand Wodka or a Wodka and you do not think you will be able to stop them
  • You think your hand is sufficiently bad enough you may not be able to go out at all

Once you have determined that you are playing the role of support, there are some common pitfalls to avoid.

Playing too many cards

Consider the hand:

This is a solid looking hand – a two to nine straight, followed by ten / Jack consecutive pairs plus an ace.

Now imagine that your partner is going first and has placed a Wodka, and leads with a low consecutive pair, which you pass on but the final opponent plays a middling consecutive pair, which you are then able to beat with your tens and Jacks to win the trick.

This leaves you with your two to nine straight and the ace. If you play the full straight you’l likely be able to go out right away which will be a mistake considering your partner has placed a Wodka.

Even if you play only a seven card straight allowing you to follow up by lead the two or the nine, this will leave you with only an ace and you won’t be able to support your partner at all. If leave yourself with only an ace and then an opponent plays a king as their penultimate card, you won’t be able to beat it without causing the Wodka to fail.

In this scenario the correct thing to do would be to play either the two or the nine instead of the straight. This will still leave you in a solid scenario for when it is time for you to attempt to go out as you will be able to play the ace and then go out with the remaining straight, but it also gives you the flexibility of being able to play your ace if you discover that it will be the only way to allow your partner to complete their Wodka.

Holding onto too much power

If your partner has placed a Wokda this will usually mean they have a strong hand but they may not be able to build a plan to go out without knowing where the other cards are. For example they may avoid leading their singleton two if they don’t know where the red three is. By playing the red three to either strengthen their hand or weaken the hand of an opponent, you also get the additional benefit of conveying the information to your partner that they don’t need to worry about the red three.

Another scenario where it may be useful to play a power card when your partner has placed a Wodka is if you are holding the last unseen ace. In this situation your partner may be holding kings but not be aware that they are effectively the highest value cards in play. This might lead to them not taking tricks that they otherwise would have been able to win for fear of getting trumped by the ace. In this scenario you should also attempt to use the ace usefully by beating a high card from an opponent, but don’t feel the need to sit around waiting for the exact perfect moment.

Do not lead into their weaknesses

If you do win a trick, avoid leading shapes of tricks that they will not be able to play on. For example consecutive triples are an unusual shape so it is unlikely they will be able to play on it. Although also unlikely, there is a greater chance that an opponent will have consecutive triples in which case all your will have done is pass the lead to an opponent.

Also consider what shapes your partner has previously passed on. If they have passed on low triples, do not lead a triple as they likely either don’t have one, or are choosing not to break one up in order to keep another trick. Likewise with pairs. The safest thing to play in order to pass the lead back to your partner is usually a singleton card. When doing so consider the possibility of an opponent playing the special three, four or six so consider playing at least a 6 in order to prevent this if those cards have not yet been played.

No good reason to play

If you don’t have a specific reason to play a card, you should likely pass. For example if an opponents leads with a six, you should likely pass as there is no danger of a special three, four or six being played as playing a card will reduce the likelihood your partner will get to dump a low card.

Summary

In summary, avoid falling into these traps while supporting your partner. Other teamwork tips for other scenarios will follow in a future post.