Saturday, June 25, 2022

Worst Hand of Spades Ever

A terrible hand of Spades!

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

This post is for people who love to play the card game Spades. One of the fun things about Spades is being surprised by a fantastic hand of cards — a lot of aces, kings, and trump cards (spades). It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you just know you’re going to be able to make a high bid. And you’re hoping that your teammate will be able to bid nil, too.

There’s another kind of hand in Spades that is also great, although it seems like a bad one when you first think of it. You’ve got a handful of low cards — twos, threes, etc., and just one or two trump cards (or maybe no trump at all). What a terrible hand! It would take a lot of luck to win even a single trick with it. Fortunately, in this situation, you can turn your poor luck into good luck by bidding nil. With so many low cards, your nil will likely work, leading to 100 points for your team.

There are other hands of cards that can be work well for bidding nil, like when you have a void in a suit (meaning, you have no cards in one suit at all). In some cases, you can successfully bid nil even if you have some aces in your hand. Just don’t absentmindedly bid nil when you’re holding the ace of spades, or you will possibly incur the wrath of your teammate! 😅

It’s starting to sound like Spades is all sunshine and roses, isn’t it? No matter what hand you get, you’ll always figure out some way to turn it into a winner. In fact, that’s not the case. Recently, I played a game of Spades, and I was dealt the type of hand that I dread. It was filled with middle cards — the Jack, the 10, the 9. If I tried to bid nil, I would probably get set. And if I bid one? That would very likely get set as well. I was second to bid, so I didn’t know what kind of hand my partner had, and all I could do was bid one,and hope they could cover my bid if I didn’t make it. You can run the hand history to see how it went. You can read about the hand history feature in another one of my blog posts if you’d like to see how it works. Long story short — the total bid wound up being 12, and I thought the opponents might set us. We got lucky, though!

Can you think of an even worse hand of Spades than the one I described here? If so, please leave a comment. And thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

An Exciting Game of Double Deck Pinochle

Double run in the final hand!

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

A few months ago, I received an email from a Double Deck Pinochle player, “Tigre”, who plays the game at World of Card Games. He’d had a fun game to report. I asked him if it would be okay to share it, and he said yes… so here it is.

This game was a rated (or ranked) game, so there was probably an extra touch of pressure on everyone involved! 😃

It sounded like my favorite sort of game. There was a struggle in which one team would pull ahead, and then fall behind, back and forth, throughout the game.

In the next to last hand, the score had gotten to 499–460, with Tigre’s team at 460. Every single point that had been made counted. If the opponents had taken just one extra point anywhere during the game, it would have been over by now. As fate would have it, an extra hand would be played to decide the winners.

In the last hand, the initial bid was made by Tigre’s right-hand opponent. That person started the bid at 50. In Double Deck Pinochle, a bid of 50 is a “captaincy” bid or “take” bid. It tells the teammate, “I want to declare the trump suit (aka make trump). Let me know if you have any good meld.”

Tigre must have been disappointed with having to pass. His hand was not strong enough to make a bid. His opponent on the left bid 51, a pretty clear signal that this person wanted to make trump. It was not looking good — both opponents must have had good hands with a decent chance of winning the game if they were able to call the trump suit.

Tigre’s teammate responded with a bid of 65! Was she bluffing? No way to tell. The next opponent would have to bid 70 to challenge this bid, but that did not happen. Tigre’s teammate made trump! When meld was displayed, it turned out that she had a double run (see the screenshot above), meaning a very strong hand with great meld — 162 meld, in fact, just fantastic! To make things even more interesting, one of the opponents also had a run in the trump suit.

Tigre wrote me that even with that fantastic meld for his team, he knew that the game wasn’t decided until the hand had progressed. In the end, though, his team did win the game!

The games I love the most are the ones where there’s a huge battle and you never know what will happen until the last card is played. What do you think? Would you prefer an easy win, or do you love the struggle too?

For anyone who is curious to know even more details of that last hand, here’s the hand history. You’ll need to visit Power Pinochle’s hand animator tool, and copy and paste the hand history into their form to see each round of cards as it was played. Have fun with it!

This hand history for Double Deck Pinochle can be replayed using the Power Pinochle hand animator - http://www.powerpinochle.com/forum/handanimator.php Copy and paste the text below into their form and follow the instructions.

% Format "PPN 1.0"
% Site "worldofcardgames.com"
% Date "2022.01.15"
% ID "164229406412410"
% Players "N-Ju E-mr S-TH W-Ti"
% tableid "61f623d4-4177-4960-bc0b-a0c00ecc1d9d"

[GameScores "499:460"]
[Deal "E:CTTTQDKKQQJSTKKKQHAATKQJ CAKDAKQJSAAAJHAATTKKQQJJ CAKKQJJDAATTKQSATQQJJHTQ CAATKQQJJDATTJJSTTKQJHKJ"]
[Auction "S:50 51 53 65 Pass Pass Pass"]
[Contract "E 65 H"]
[Melds "31:CQDKKQQJSKQHATKQJ 162:CADAKQSAHAATTKKQQJJ 10:CKQDKQSQHQ 12:CKQJDJSKQJHJ"]
[Play "E"]
AC JC KC QC E2
AD QD TD JD E2
KC AC JC TC S3
AS JS KS JS S2
AD JD KD JD S2
AD JD KD QD S2
JC TC TC JH E2
KD TD AD QD W3
TD QD JH KD E2
AH QH KH JH E2
AH TH JH QH E2
QH KC JC KH N2
KS AS JS KS E3
QH TD QC TH N2
AH KH KC QC N3
AH KH TS QS N3
QS AS JS TS E2
[MeldScores "41:174"]
[PlayScores "19:31"]
[Result "SAVED"]
[HandScores "0:205"]

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Entrepreneur

Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

This weekend, I clicked through a long list of emails in my inbox. I’d been busy with my other job for over a week, and hadn’t had time to check email for World of Card Games in a while.

Even when I get busy, I make it a point to respond to all questions, eventually — except for the most rude ones!

But I have to admit, it wears me down.

Ninety percent of the emails that land in my inbox fall into one of two categories. The first category is the tech support email. The writer is using the site, and it doesn’t work the way that they expect. So they send me an email with a question.

In fact, I’m delighted to get these emails! This may seem odd. However, most often, the person writing to me just doesn’t realize that, in fact, World of Card Games can do what they want. I’d prefer that they write to me so that I can explain how they can use this or that feature. I hope they can use that information to have more fun playing cards just the way that they want! If someone is playing cards at World of Card Games on a regular basis, I’d hate for them to be frustrated by the experience. I always tell people that if the site doesn’t do what they want, they should go play somewhere else. And I mean it! The site is there to entertain you, and I want people to have a good time at it. If I can help by pointing out an undiscovered feature to a person with a problem, that makes me happy.

The other category of email is the one with the angry complaint. A person has become completely frustrated or angry by something that happened at the site, and they are going to blast me about it — even if there’s nothing I can do to help or it isn’t my fault. This type of person sometimes gives me business advice. They tell me that I should run the site this or that way, and if I don’t, then I’m an incompetent nincompoop. Sometimes they rant at me for being a bad software developer. After all, if the site suddenly stopped responding, it’s 100% my fault, and has nothing to do with their Internet provider, bad WiFi, or old computer…

I try not to take this category of email personally. I guess some people need to vent, and don’t understand that it’s actually extremely difficult to run a multiplayer game site — especially as a solo developer. There are no big corporate bucks behind World of Card Games. I provide the site free of charge. There is a column on the right side of the page with space for one or two ads. The ad revenue makes it possible for me to keep the site running, but it doesn’t provide me with revenue to hire staff to support or build out the site. It’s just me and it probably always will be.

When I get an angry email, it surprises me how much perfection some people expect from a free service.

I don’t often get emails from those people who are happily enjoying the site. And I don’t expect it, in fact! Why bother? Most people — including myself, I confess — don’t think to make a comment when everything is going right. In fact, you may not notice when everything is going right. It’s when things go wrong that you’re more likely to jump off your couch to register a complaint.

Prior to running World of Card Games, I wasn’t an entrepreneur. I guess you could say I was a “wantrepreneur”. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know how. I was always a full time employee, and I had trouble coming up with ideas for how to develop a profitable business, doing something that I could at least tolerate (or, heavens, maybe even enjoy!).

Once World of Card Games fell into my hands, I became a real entrepreneur. It has turned out to be a mixed bag. It’s not highly profitable. People complain. A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten is negative. There have been many times in the last few years when I’ve wondered why I keep doing it. And in fact, I’ve had to stop working full time on World of Card Games. I find I can make a better living doing other things. It’s now my side hustle, which is why it can take me a while to respond to email.

This brings me to the topic of this post. Today, I clicked on an email. The person had written the following to me:

No complaints marya just a thank you for your site. There is a occasional {should not be there} person but most are very nice people who love playing Euchre. Thank you for putting up with all of us.

At the end of the email was a little smiley face.

I practically broke down and cried. It has been a stressful week. I don’t expect emails with a simple thank you. It’s rare, and this person just blew me away with kindness. I wrote back to let this lovely person know how much I appreciated the thoughtful email.

Since I became a business owner, I’ve made an effort to give positive feedback at businesses that I frequent. In my experience, entrepreneurship is difficult and often thankless. If someone’s small business brings me joy, I want them to know about it. I encourage you to do the same. Let me be clear, this is not a request for you to send me a thankful email, although obviously I’d appreciate it 😃 But the next time you go into someone’s diner or shop, and you enjoy the experience, maybe take a moment to say thanks! Some days, a kind word can make all the difference!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

How to Find Family Members and Friends at Private Tables

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Recently, someone wrote to me with a problem. The email went like this: “I play Pinochle with my family at a private table every week. But recently, my brother and I can’t get to the same private table. My other relatives and I can be at the same table, but then when my brother tries to join, he is seated at an empty table, and can’t find us. If I leave the table, then he can get to the table with my family as expected, but then I can’t get to that table. What’s going on?”

I feel pretty bad when this happens. I hope that everyone who experiences this problem writes to me about it, so I can help, but I do wonder if there are people who just don’t think to send me a tech support email. This post will explain what’s going wrong and how to solve it. I hope anyone who searches for the answer to this type of problem will find it here.

I explained a few weeks ago that you can play at private tables at World of Card Games. Usually, people who play at private tables just want to chat amongst friends and/or family. It may not be quite as good as getting together over a card table in real life, but it’s a good substitute. And personally, I think it’s more fun than Zoom! Although, when I think about it, there’s nothing to stop you from Zooming and playing a multiplayer online card game at the same time!

Anyway — private tables have most of the features that are available at public tables. One of those features is the “dislike” button. The dislike button is a little red circle with a white x in the middle. As you can see in the screenshot below, it appears next to every person at the table (except yourself… you cannot dislike yourself!).

The dislike button is a red circle with a white x

If you click the dislike button next to a player, there’s usually no immediate effect (although in some cases it can lead to a person getting kicked from the table). But the site remembers your preference. You will not be seated with this person in the future. That’s useful to avoid people that you don’t want to play with again, for any reason. But if you click the dislike button next to one of your friends or relatives, by accident, you won’t ever see them at the site again! Not good!

This is only a problem if you don’t realize what’s happened. If you find that you can’t get seated with one of your friends or relatives, just take a moment, and look at your list of disliked players. This list appears in a panel that opens when you click on your user name in the upper right corner of the screen. I’ve got a screenshot of the list below.

Manage Likes and Dislikes at World of Card Games

Notice at the very top of the screen, you see my user name. I’m a guest — “Guest #2,163”. That user name is clickable. Clicking on it opens the panel that you see here. You want to scroll down the panel, and eventually you will come to the area that’s labeled “Manage Dislikes”. If you see someone in that list who doesn’t belong there, click the “(remove)” link. That undoes the dislike immediately, and the site will no longer keep you from sitting with that person. Problem solved!

In this situation, you will want to make sure that all the players in your group of friends and family have not disliked each other. I recommend that people who play at private tables actively “like” each other when they first get together. To “like” a player, click the yellow star to the right of the person. That yellow star is shown in the first screenshot, too. Once you “like” a player, the “dislike” button goes away. This keeps you from accidentally clicking it in the future.

I hope you all have fun playing free multiplayer cards online at World of Card Games with your family and friends. And if you’re ever feeling a bit bored, but can’t get a game going with friends, don’t forget that you can play against the computer, as well. It’s almost as good as Solitaire… or maybe even better. 😉

Saturday, May 28, 2022

How to be a Good Teammate in Spades

I see bags in someone’s future…

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

The card game Spades is a team game. Despite that, I still see people playing it as if they’re going it alone. At least, that’s what it looks like to me. I sometimes question my own strategy: am I doing things that make me a bad partner? I don’t think so… but then, you can never be sure, can you?

This got me thinking, and I wrote up a list of 10 dos and don’ts that I think will help to make you a good partner in Spades. Leave a comment if you have any ideas of your own.

  1. Do use chat in a friendly way.

Many times, I’ve seen this brief conversation in chat: One person says “Tx” (translation: “Thanks”) to their partner for saving the bid. The other person says “team game” or “it’s a team game”. It’s a friendly exchange. This type of chat can go a long way in cementing a partnership. Of course, it’s kind of a no-brainer. You don’t need to say “thanks”, since it’s in your teammate’s own interests to make sure that your bid is covered. If you lose, they’ll lose too. But that doesn’t matter. It’s an acknowledgement that you saw what they did and appreciate it. I think it’s a rare personality that doesn’t warm to a friendly comment.

2. Don’t tell your partner how to play.

Some people may be scratching their heads here. If you don’t tell them how to play, how will they know what your brilliant strategy is? I’ve seen people instruct their partners to bag the opponents, or play low cards to set the opponent’s nil. Doing this is usually considered rude, and is known as “table talk” in card games. If you know that everyone at the table is okay with table talk, then feel free to disregard this rule. If you feel your partner is making tactical mistakes, then instructing them (or cursing at them) right in the middle of the game is not friendly. You are more likely to upset your partner than transmit wisdom, and playing with a teammate who’s upset with you is not likely to lead to a win. If you must have a strategy discussion, consider a post-game chat. You certainly have the option of avoiding someone whose strategy conflicts with yours in the future (you can use the “dislike” feature at World of Card Games to do this).

3. Do try to read your partner’s mind.

Now I hear you saying “But Marya, it’s not possible to read someone’s mind!”. Of course that’s true, but you can use the clues that you see at the table as the game goes on to get an idea about how your partner plays. If you see that your partner never leads with spades, hand after hand, that may mean they think it’s bad to lead with spades, and they may get upset with you if you do that. If you see your partner tends to bid risky nils, then you probably don’t want to lead with a low spade when they’ve bid nil, if you have a choice — you might flush out their one high spade. You get the idea. Pay attention to the signals that your partner is sending you by the way that they play their cards. You can adjust your behavior in some cases, and that can lead to more wins for your team.

4. Don’t hurl abusive chats at anyone at the table.

If your partner is a polite person, making angry comments at anyone at the table may very likely upset them, leading to poor gameplay. Just don’t do it. The card table is a public place. If you think it’s okay to curse at people in public, please get some therapy.

5. Don’t throw the game.

This one seems obvious. Throwing the game is a fast way to get out of an unpleasant situation for you, perhaps, but it completely blows your credibility. If you’re prone to throwing games, don’t be surprised if it becomes progressively more difficult to get a game going as time goes by. No one likes a sore loser.

6. Do cover your partner.

As a general rule, if the sum of all bids for the hand is 11 (with a maximum of 13), then one team may start thinking about setting the other team. Given that’s the case, you may want to think about taking an extra trick or two at any point during the hand. This can lead to bag accumulation, true. But it can also save your team from getting set. You will have to suss out how your partner feels about bags (see Rule 3). Some people are quite good at taking exactly the number of tricks that they bid. You might be one of those people! But I think that’s actually a pretty rare skill. Even if you’re quite good at counting cards, your partner may not be, and taking an extra trick is usually better than getting set.

7. Don’t assume your partner is against you.

There are cases when the rules of the game require your partner to play a card that’s not in your team’s best interests. For example, suppose you bid nil. Now your partner is leading, and to your surprise, they lead with the two of diamonds! I’ve seen this happen, and the nil-bidder will start cursing at their partner, assuming the worst. But it turned out that their partner had no choice. Spades had not yet been broken, and the only card they had left to play was that lonely, low card. The solution? First, don’t curse at people at the table (Rule 4)! Second, don’t make assumptions about what people are doing, at least until the hand is finished, and you can see what choices they had. You might want to collect the hand history to verify what they did, too.

8. Don’t take your partner’s tricks.

This especially applies if the bid is 11 or more, or if it looks like your team might get set. I’ve been baffled at this behavior more than once when the bid was 13, and it was imperative that our team make our bid. In one example, I was the second person to play a card, and I’d managed to capture a trick with a low card… only to find that my teammate trumped the trick! They were the last person to play, so they could have saved a spade and let me take the trick instead. Being a polite person, I just keep my trap shut. I chalk it up to newbie behavior or distraction. Please try not to do this!

9. Don’t let your partner take bag after bag after bag.

I know I said not to take your partner’s tricks in rule 9. But here’s an exception. Suppose the total bid is low, 8 or 9. There are four or five bags out there, and someone is definitely going to take them. Suppose I’m long in clubs, and I’m leading. I have no choice but to play one club after another, and dagnabbit, the opponents have no clubs. I’ll play club after club, and the opponents merrily discard their high cards to dump tricks, while I collect bag … after bag … after bag. Meantime, my partner starts bagging me, too, by discarding their non-trump cards! I do not understand this behavior. If it’s pretty clear that your partner is just getting bagged, help them out by trumping in with your highest spade, and then try to escape the lead yourself with a low card.

10. Do graciously forgive mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. Did your partner play a bad card? The most likely explanation is that they got distracted, or accidentally played the wrong card. Yes, some people are trolls, and will deliberately do things to annoy you. Most people are just trying to have a fun game of cards, and want to win. If your partner does something wrong, please consider that we’re all human and we make mistakes. Forgive and forget.

If you’ve got any rules of your own, or if you disagree with mine, please leave a comment! And if you want to play solo, give Solitaire a try. That can be a fun game too, but personally, I prefer multiplayer Spades for the teamplay!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

How to be seated at a new card game every time at World of Card Games

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

This week, I got an email from someone who had recently started playing cards at World of Card Games. The person was upset! When he clicked on the big Spades image to play a game, he’d very often be seated at a game that was already in progress. And worse, his team was losing, and the game was about to end.

That’s not fair, he said. It was a problem. But the real problem was that he didn’t realize that this situation was entirely under his control.

When you visit World of Card Games for the first time, and click on a game “button”, you don’t get taken to a game table immediately. Instead, you will see a dialog that looks like the screenshot below.

You can exclude games in progress at World of Card Games

In this example screenshot, the person just clicked on the Spades button. The dialog reads: How would you like to play “Spades”? And it gives you a few simple Options.

  • Play against the computer (with “robots”)
  • Play against people, with “robots” allowed
  • Exclude Games in Progress
  • Remember this choice (you can change ALL settings later by using the ‘Options’ button)

There are two buttons below these choices: “Go to table” and “Cancel”. Hopefully, it is obvious what they mean. If you click the “Go to table” button, you will be seated at a table with your selected Options applied.

In the example screenshot above, the “Exclude Games in Progress” checkbox is checked. If you click the “Go to table” button at this point, you’ll be taken to a table where the game has not yet started. And since you’ve got “Play against the computer” selected, your game will be against robots, and no people will be allowed at your table. If you want your Options to be saved, check the “Remember this choice” checkbox before clicking the “Go to table” button. Otherwise, you’ll see this dialog every time you click a game button.

At this point, I can imagine some people reading this are puzzled. They’re thinking “Marya, that’s crazy! Why don’t you just make sure that everyone gets seated at a table where the game hasn’t yet started.”

Here’s my answer. There are many people who just want to play one or two hands of a game, and then be done. Maybe they want to take a quick break from some boring task. Or they just just don’t have time to play a full game. After all, while some full games can take only 10 minutes, others can last for 40 minutes or more.

In fact, I’m one of the people who sometimes plays a hand or two. I do this for a couple of different reasons. Sometimes, I’m just taking a short break and I want to clear my head. I don’t have the time for a full game — but I want to finish a shorter game. At other times, I may have time for a longer game, and I find it interesting to get seated in the middle of a game to see if I can turn the tables and come back to win.

I’ve tried to make World of Card Games very flexible so that different people can use it in different ways, depending on their preferences. You don’t like being taken to a game that’s already started? You can fix that! If somehow you’re not seeing the dialog that I described above, you can still adjust your Options. Every game has its own Options that you can customize. Click the Options button, shown in the screenshot below.

The Options button for Spades is shown with a green ellipse around it

Clicking the Options button will open a dialog like this:

The Options dialog for Spades

Check the “Exclude Games in Progress” checkbox. Then click the OK button to save your new Options. Now you won’t be joining games right in the middle anymore. Have fun, and be nice 🙂

Saturday, May 14, 2022

You Got Disconnected

Photo by Jonathan on Unsplash

NOTICE: This post was originally posted on Medium, but has later been moved to the official World Of Card Games blog to consolidate all posts.

Recently, I had to work from a coworking space where my Internet connection was spotty, at times.

Typically, the problem would rear its ugly head as follows: I’d be in the middle of developing something, need some documentation, open a web browser, and do a search. And then I’d wait… and wait… and wait. Eventually, I’d give up, close my browser, reopen it, and then my search would quickly load up.

After a few of these incidents, I decided that slow loading meant I should just turn off the WiFi on my computer, and then turn it on again. This usually seemed faster than just waiting to reconnect, or getting timed out.

I couldn’t figure it out. What was causing this strange and annoying problem? Was the WiFi router really that bad? I expect a coworking space to have really good Internet. After all, most people who use a coworking space are doing work on the Internet. You generally don’t see stacks of books and people typing away on a typewriter at a coworking space 🙂

One day, as I waited and wondered whether I needed to reset my WiFi, I noticed the droning of a microwave in the next room over. And then it hit me — the microwave was interfering with my WiFi! It seemed quite odd, but the next few times I got disconnected, I noticed the microwave running. It wasn’t exactly a science experiment, but I’ve become convinced that microwaves can interfere with WiFi! I’m guessing it depends on the router and the microwave, but I think it has happened to me too frequently to be a coincidence… Perhaps I need to place a tinfoil hat on my computer (or on me!).

When this happened to me, it was so frustrating! And I felt a lot of empathy with any player who has been frustrated with a disconnect from World of Card Games right smack in the middle of a game.

Sometimes, people will email me complaining about getting disconnected from the site. There have definitely been times in the past when everyone playing at the site got disconnected due to a problem with the hosting service (the “hosting service” is the company that maintains the big computer that runs World of Card Games software). However, the truth is that most disconnects are due to local problems — and often the culprit is bad WiFi. According to technology writer Geoffrey Fowler at the Washington Post, “Bad Internet connections are [Americans’] №1 tech problem”.

That Washington Post article outlines some things you can try to fix your Internet connection. And there’s a follow-up article with reader fixes for WiFi problems as well. Next time you get disconnected, try some of those suggested solutions. If they don’t work, check out my blog post where I describe my own experience with game player issues.

Or, just make sure the microwave is turned off before you play 🙂 And please comment here if you find anything that helps you, since it might help someone else.