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Holes in the Table Drinking Strategy

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Holes in the Table is a variant of the Denial strategy in which the player uses a pitcher to gain a distinct edge against his opponent once the board has been jammed up. The idea is, that by keeping a close point score with your opponent, you can slowly use their plays against them to jam the board, force them to chug, and then gain an edge simply by chugging pieces at a higher point value than they are able to while denying them other options. Usually, a board that has been won by a Holes in the Table player looks almost checkerboarded because of all the jammed rows the player has produced.


Strategy Summary

In Holes in the Table, one's goal is not to complete rows. Rather, one should capitalize on an opponent's piece placement to prevent the creation of rows by throwing together circles of conflicting colored and shaped pieces to make a "hole". Because corners can only be surrounded on two sides, it is crucial that the player gains early control over as many of the four outside rows as possible. The opponent's use of the corner fries placement can be either beneficial or baneful, depending on how one reacts. It is always best not to try and contest a row, but rather to work on rows that can steal away any fry pieces or kegs that may threaten the player. When the foe does win rows, any of the opponent's available stains should be stolen as quickly as possible, since they provide an extra 40 point advantage and clog up the open space, which is generally more profitable than any other possible move. Losing rows is not necessarily the end of the world, but one should always prevent one's foe from gaining control of too many rows with just one hole in them: a single fry or lucky matching piece for a hole that appears on their turn can blow your entire strategy to bits.

How to Make a Solid Hole

A hole is an empty space surrounded by two or more particular pieces that, as aforementioned, have conflicting colors or shapes, or both, relative to the space in question, which will henceforth be dubbed as a "hole ring" in this guide. There are five scoring types on the continuum of how stable a hole is due to the contents of its hole ring, ranging in weakness from least effective to most effective:

no hole -> color/shape hole -> two-piece hole -> one-piece hole -> complete hole

You should make the best possible hole for the opportunity that conflicts the most enemy controlled rows, while still scoring you significant points either through drink value, stain control, or denial of pieces. Optimally, you should try and create multiple holes with a single piece. Keep in mind that the fry and keg special pieces have different rules for the sake of making holes. Additionally, you should weigh the value of completing a row you are winning versus keeping the field filled with pieces: sometimes it is better to catch up with a quick score than to end the game quickly by keeping the field closed, and sometimes it is better to force chugging upon your opponent and keep things closed. Remember, however: a fry can fill ANY hole, regardless of strength, so it is a good security measure not to leave 3-3 rows lying around that your foe can steal away with a lucky fry.

No Hole

When one piece, two or more pieces of the same color and shape, and/or fries surround a space, any piece of the appropriate color or shape can be played. Your opponent will have an extremely high chance to place further pieces, so you should place your own and conflict a hole as soon as possible.

Color/Shape Hole

A Color/Shape hole has two or more pieces surrounding it that either share the same color or the same shape, but not both. These are the weakest holes because any piece with the common trait will fill the hole, for a total of 12 out of the 36 ordinary pieces, 13, including the fry, or 14 including the fry and keg if the conflicting pieces share a color, amounting to over a 33% possibility for your opponent to attain the piece they need to fill. These holes should only be caused by your opponents plays, and should be conflicted by other colored or shaped piece as soon as possible to turn them into a two or one-piece hole.

Two-Piece Hole

A two-piece hole is any hole where only two traits conflict. For instance, a hole that has a Blue Bottle on one side, and a Red Jug on another side can only be filled with a Red Bottle or a Blue Jug, because those are the only two pieces that fit the mold. Corner holes cannot become stronger than a two-piece hole, since they only have two adjacent squares. For this reason, it is very important to fill corners and ensure control over the outer four rows quickly, so that the foe's possibilities will be limited. Additionally, it is easy to lose track of two-piece holes, leading to a false sense of security that the foe won't be able to score a row with one in it if he can simply deny them fries.

One-Piece Hole

A one-piece hole can only be fitted by a single piece. For instance, if two jugs and a bottle surround a hole, and each of the jugs has a separate color that conflicts with the bottle, then only another jug sharing the bottle's color will fit the hole. The same is true of any situation where either, but not both shape and color are conflicted twice. Much like Color/Shape holes, these are usually unwanted side-effects of the opponent's plays. While they are not nearly as dangerous to leave unsealed as color/shape holes, the chance for your opponent to draw the appropriate filling piece is still double that of a complete hole, so these should be completed if at all possible. If necessary, remove one of your opponent's non-conflicting pieces (preferably one of the most common color/shape present in the hole ring)

Complete Hole

A complete hole occurs any time that three or more conflicting colored and shaped pieces fill the hole ring, such as having a red bottle, blue jug, and green glass surrounding a space. The same situation holds true for any space in which two kegs of contradictory colors surround a square, since there is no common shape that be can be shared between them to make up for the color conflict. Keep in mind that using normal pieces, a complete hole can be accomplished with just 3 piece placements, so placing a fourth piece surrounding a complete hole is unnecessary and a waste of an action unless it also provides some other advantage relative to the situation.

In-Depth 1-On-1 Strategy

Early Game

At the beginning of a match, you will always begin play with 2 random pieces and a fry, on an empty board. Either you or your foe will go first.

In the situation that you move first, your first course of action depends on your opponent's mug. If your foe uses a Pitcher as well, you will need to resort to scoring rows to get ahead of them early, so place the fry in one of the corners. This limits your opponent's options, and also blocks a corner from the very start of the game. Additionally, it gives you access to the edge of the board, where you are most vulnerable to enemy scoring and can take early measures to guard your weak points. If you are fighting a Skull, you will take the same approach, keeping in mind that any opportunity they have to play a fry is a serious disadvantage to you. If your opponent has any other type of mug, chug the fries to gain a quick 25 point lead on them, which will buy you a move later in the game.

How your opponent places the fries now is irrelevant, but if a hook is available after your opponent plays the fries, you should then hook away the fry, forcing them to allow other drinks to appreciate in score, and denying them the hook's use. If your foe is foolish, and chugs the fries themself, you are indebted to them for another free 20 point lead; chug another fry and move on until they finally decide to get smart and begin the game.

If two fries appear at the beginning of the game, and the first is yours, chug the first and allow the foe the second, just as you usually would. However, if your foe makes the first move, and you are left with the second fry, do not chug it, but instead, place it adjacent the first. Then, play your next piece perpendicular to the row the opponent dominates, so that you control an equal amount of stains.

In the situation where you play the fries first, you are at a slight field advantage, but piecewise, at a disadvantage. Your foe will have more opportunities to score a hook or gain control of an early keg. If your opponent plays the fries first, however, and a keg appears, you may chug another drink, forcing them to play a normal drink or chug the keg, forcing them a few more points behind and giving you another opportunity to gain field advantage. When you DO get the opportunity to place an early-game keg, place it perpendicular to the row your foe has started, and not in it. This way, your foe will not overwhelm you with his control of the field, and take the keg from you. If you are fortunate, your foe will not get the proper color to play on the keg, and you will be able to gain early control of the row.

If at any time your foe begins to get the field advantage in the first two rows of the game, and a hook becomes available, you may want to consider hooking the fries. However, do this only if you are losing control of both rows, because it is just as simple to hook away a piece solely found in the opponent's row to slow them down and gain back your lost ground. Above all, make every effort to complete the very first row in the game, and from there in, prevent your foe from completing rows of their own.


Special Piece Tactics


When kegs are available to you, use them with other shapes and colors to create a jam along a row you are likely to win were it to be completed. Your foe will likely waste their time and any hooks they get trying to prevent this, creating holes of their own or removing the keg altogether, which buys you a turn to take a chug or seal up another hole.


Eliminating any fries on the board is crucial, and fries should only be played on the edges to minimize an opponent's possibilities with them. Usually, if a fry cannot be cleared within the next two turns, it is more profitable to chug it, gaining an easy 45 point bonus from the pitcher while totally sobering oneself for subsequent chugging. If one is lucky enough to have chugged twice in a row and just caught a fry, one can "chain chug" and get up to five full chugs in a single go without passing out.

While you should only place them on the board with the intention of a near immediate completion, fries played by your opponent make producing holes easier, since any other piece except a keg can be played surrounding them. The fry can then be removed by a hook later, which, as a bonus, will produce a hole of its own, and leave your stain protected within it. This is an ideal use of early hooks: force your opponent to play the initial fry by chugging and gaining a 25 point lead, then hook away the fry which they build their rows off of before they have the chance to complete them.


Hooks should always be utilized on any row the enemy is threatening to win, removing the piece that will create the longest lasting hole; preferably one with three or more conflicting colors or shapes (usually surrounding a fry). If a corner fry is available to remove, however, keep in mind that it is better to leave the corners filled for as long as possible to limit the foe's options, unless they are threatening to score two perpendicular rows with the same fry as an end piece, in which case it is permissible, although risky, to

Keep in mind that in this style, chugging is only beneficial when the opponent cannot threaten the building of new rows, or when there is nothing that can be done to further prevent the opponent's scoring, so the chugging stage usually occurs later in the game when most of the opponent's opportunities have been eliminated by putting holes in rows.

Additionally, the player must be careful that he does not allow his opponent to play out too many of the same shape or color piece adjacent to one another, or else it may become difficult to jam holes.


When two or more pieces on the board can be used to fulfill the same purpose, there is nothing the player can do to stop their foe adding to rows unless he can create a jam with one of them. Also, when a piece is chugged or placed to prevent the opponent's using it, and the same piece is generated, this also interferes with the strategy, potentially wasting the player a higher scoring chug had he not attempted the denial. Furthermore, anytime multiple fries are available to play, this also gives the opponent an edge, since not only will the opponent get to play fries, but the player will have to waste a turn getting rid of the other bag as well. Furthermore, if the player cannot keep up with his foe in terms of point score, his chances of catching up are much smaller than an individual playing a different strategy, since each of his subsequent moves will bring the players closer to passing out.

Drinking Drinking
Mugs: Wooden cup | Goblet | Tankard | Pitcher | Stein | Flagon | Horn | Chalice | Skull | Cursed chalice
Strategies: Standard | Denial | Infiltrator | Fry | Builder | Short | Aggressive | High | Stain |
Holes in the Table
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