Blackjack Player Game Development

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23rd Sep 2019 Computer Science Reference this

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Blackjack Player

Project Planning Portfolio

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Aim and Objectives

3. Project Background

4. Designs

5. Project Management Review

A. Each appendix should have a title

  1. Introduction

 This report will discuss the progress made on the Blackjack Player project. It contains a compilation of the background information, planning and proposed design. It will analyze the considered graphical engines available as well as the different programming languages that could be used.

1.1           Initial Brief

Blackjack Player: A program is required that can play skillful Blackjack. Blackjack is a card game in which players bet against the dealer. The program must play by the rules but also make skillful bets in order to win as much as possible. The program must not rely on an unlimited and infallible memory for cards that have been dealt.

1.2           Context

The origins of the game is actually unknown to this day. There is still no clear consensus as to where the game’s roots come from. What is known is that it came from games in France and Spain, and a more thorough briefing on the origins will be provided in the later chapters of this report.

The context of this program is to plan, design and build a BlackJack player, in which the user can improve their skills and knowledge of the game, and familiarize themselves with the basic strategy of the game without losing real money and without having to have an internet connection to play the numerous BlackJack games available online. The aforementioned basic strategy refers to the optimal decision-making plays during each round without any regard to the cards played in prior ones. This strategy will be explored more thoroughly in the Background section of the report.

  1. Aim and Objectives
     

The Aim of this project is to create a working BlackJack Player game that will help the user learn to play according to the basic strategy charts. It will provide guidance during hands to help the player make the correct betting decisions in order to win as much as possible.

The game should be user friendly and it should follow the standard Blackjack rules to provide an enjoyable gaming experience.

In order to achieve this, the objectives of the project are as follows:

  1. Research Blackjack Rules and game strategies.
  2. Research Blackjack games for different types of graphic representations and user interfaces.
  3. Draw possible layouts for the interface Menu as well as possible BlackJack tables.
  4. Implement a list of the game’s different rules for new players.
  5. Implement the successful Menu design.
  6. Implement decision making buttons for the card mechanism within the game. Such as Hit, Stand, etc.
  7. Implement one deck of 52 playing cards.
  8. Implement possibility to play with 4,6 or 8 decks of cards to emulate modern day casino rules. (optional)
  9. Successfully implement a way to add up the player’s cards and compare against the dealer.
  10. Create a payout and a bust system for the win and loss situations.
  11. Integrate the basic strategy charts into an algorithm and display the correct choice to the player when situation arises.
  12. Implement advanced techniques such as card counting, alongside basic strategy for more advanced players who want to develop a better playing edge over the dealer. (Optional)
  13. Implement multiple rule sets and create the ability for the player to change between them. (Optional)
  14. Create a “End of Round” system that clears the table of cards and chips after every round.
  15. Test the different game systems.
  16. Evaluate the test for any bugs or incorrect coding.
  1. Project Background


As mentioned in the opening chapter, the very origin of the game is unknown but it is very likely that the version of 21 or “Vingt-un” that eventually swept across Europe was preceded and probably influenced by other card games, such as the Italian “Sette e Mezzo” and the Spanish “Trente-un” (Figure.1) References to these games have been found, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The game Vingt-et-un was brought to the Americas in the 18th Century by the French colonists.

               Figure.1[1]

As the 20th Century came about, the game was still called Twenty-One. It was around that time when it started to gain popularity in Nevada, following the legalization of gambling from 1931. At that point, in order to attract players, casinos were offering a special payout of ten to one when a player made twenty-one points with the Ace of Spades and one of the black Jacks –weather it was spades or clubs, compared to the regular one to one payout. From that point on the name “BlackJack” simply stuck, despite the high payout’s removal. (Blackjack, 2018)

Despite the lengthy history of the game and it’s growing popularity, it was not until the 1950’s that the first card counters started to emerge, the most notable of was a man by the name of Jess Marcum. He was then preceded by Dr. Edward O. Thorp who, in 1962 published the called “Beat the Dealer”, providing profitable strategies to the masses.

3.1 Problem Context

BlackJack, equally well known as Twenty-One is one of the most played tabletop games in casinos around the world. Out of all the casino games, it is the only one that gives the player an opportunity to have an advantage over the house, given that the player is skilled enough to make the correct decisions or by counting cards, unlike games that are heavily reliant on random chance such as roulette or slots. It is a fast paced game, which is quite easy to learn by anyone as the rules are pretty straight forward. The game is played with one or more decks consisting of 52 cards each, the number of decks depending on the casino rules. Each card in the deck corresponds to a value, as follows:

  • Numbered cards with a face value between 2 and 10 have the value of the number on the card.
  •  Picture cards, meaning Jacks, Queens and Kings all have the value 10.
  • Aces are the only card that can have two values and can represent either a 1 or 11.

At the start of each round, the player must place a bet, which consists of placing an amount of chips onto the table. This signals to the dealer that the player has entered the round.

The player also has the option to place more chips onto the table as a separate hand and play both of them at the same time. Once all bets have been made, the round will start and the dealer will deal 2 cards to each player face down and then 2 cards to himself, one of these being placed face up for the players to see.

The cards that have been dealt determine the player’s next step, and depending on the casino rules, there are about 6 available choices, and those are: Hit, Stand, Double Down, Split, Surrender and Insurance. Out of these 6, only four are available at the beginning of the round, before the player is dealt another card. Furthermore, as Insurance is generally not an optimal strategy for a skilled blackjack player, this choice will be unavailable in this project. The remaining five will be explained in greater detail in the following sections.


“But why do we need those strategies?” you might be wondering. That is because, Blackjack incorporates a “House Edge”. This “House Edge” refers to the statistical advantage that the house has over the player in any Casino game. In BlackJack, it comes from the fact that players always have to draw cards first until they either bust, hit 21 or choose to stand of their own accord. If they bust — meaning going over 21, they automatically lose the wagered money regardless if the dealer also busts in the same round.

     Figure.2[2]

As you can see from Figure.2 the initial house edge in blackjack is about 8 percent, assuming the player mimicked the dealer’s playing rules and played in the same manner that he did.

The 3 to 2 bonus refers to the extra money the player would receive on winning the round by getting dealt a natural Blackjack, meaning an Ace and a 10 value Card. Statistically, this should occur roughly about once in every 21 hands.

This, along with the proper strategy effectively reduce the house advantage to less than 1% which makes BlackJack one of the most favorable games you could play in a casino. (Tamburin, 2018)

Now that I have explained the basis of how to play blackjack, it is time to get into the actual choices you have as a player. In order build a successful Blackjack Player and to understand the basic strategy, you have to first understand the choices you get while playing. Below are the five choices that are going to be implemented :

Hit

Is one of the basic choices of the game. Without it the game cannot function. It is the way in which the player asks for another card for the dealer. He can do this as much as he wants as long as he has not gone over 21.

Stand

Stand is the second basic choice on which the game is built. It is used when the player doesn’t wish to take anymore cards.

Split

This is one of the options that can only be used at the start of the round. Splitting can be done when the player is dealt two cars of the same value, for example 8/8. In this case, the player can choose to split them into two hands. These hands must have the same bet. The cards are separated and the dealer draws another card on each of them and the player can play the two newly created hands in one turn. This move however comes with some restrictions. For example picture cards –cards with the value of 10 such as Kings or Queens, cannot be split but a pair of 10s can. Further Doubling or splitting of the new hands may be prohibited and blackjacks after a split are counted as non-blackjack 21 when comparing with the dealer’s hand. Also, most of the times, two aces cannot be split.

Surrender

Another option that can only be used at the start of the round. It allows the player to forfeit the hand immediately with an automatic loss of half the original bet. In most venues, players can surrender their initial two-card hand only after the dealer has checked his cards and ascertained that he doesn’t have a blackjack (known as late surrender). Once a player draws a card, the surrender option is no longer available. If the dealer has a blackjack hand, then surrender is not available. (Tamburin, 2018)

Double Down

Is the last playing option that will be presented. This choice allows the player to double the initial bet but in return receive only one draw card. The rule in most casinos for this is that you are only able to double down before you draw a card.

Usually, when playing the game in a casino, in the rules placed at the table, you will be able to see how many decks are used in the game at said table. The problem with the number of decks is the direct correlation to the percentage of the “house edge”. The lower number of decks used in a game leads to a increasing likelihood that the player will have the edge and be able to predict the chances of getting the cards he requires.

In today’s world, in the unlikely case where at a casino, Blackjack is played with only one deck, the casino might tighten the rules in order to increase it’s advantage. Hence, it is more likely that at such tables they wouldn’t allow doubling or splitting and pay the player less than 3:2 for a winning blackjack.

“The following table illustrates the mathematical effect on the house edge of the number of decks, by considering games with various deck counts under the following rule set: double after split allowed, resplit to four hands allowed, no hitting split aces, no surrender, double on any two cards, original bets only lost on dealer blackjack, dealer hits soft 17, and cut-card used. The increase in house edge per unit increase in the number of decks is most dramatic when comparing the single deck game to the two-deck game, and becomes progressively smaller as more decks are added.” (Anon., n.d.)

[3]

             Figure.3

3.2 Comparison of Technologies

As shown so far, Blackjack is a easy to learn but hard to master kind of game. It requires a lot of skill, patience and large amounts of practice. It is a game in which many different strategies have been discovered and used all with varying degrees of success.

Regardless, the one that is most widely used is the one previously mentioned. It is widely called the “basic strategy” which boils down to a chart made by following a few simple rules and it looks something like this

       Figure.4[4]

For this project this will be the main playing strategy implemented, as it the one regarded as the most new player friendly, making it perfect for the target users of the game.

The available technologies in which the project could be created in are numerous. This list includes Open GL, Windows Forms, Unity and DirectX, which are the four I have considered for this project.

DirectX is a collection of API’s that is present on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. It’s main use is for multimedia applications, videos and games. It allows for input, has networking capabilities and sound. However, due to it’s advanced nature and the fact that It does not support any cross platform it is unlikely I will be writing the game in this. This is mainly because I would like to have some degree of portability for expansion after the project’s completion.

Windows Forms within C# is one of the other options. I’ve used this before for coursework purposes last year so there is a degree of familiarity. It is rather simple so it might be best to use keep as a backup.

Unity is my preferred choice for this. It’s engine provides support for about 20 platforms. The applications developed can easily be shared across PC, mobile and web platforms. It supports high quality audio and visual effects that are adaptable on a large range of screen resolutions and devices without compromise to the image quality. A big plus is also the fact that it provides very easy to understand documentation for those like me who have never worked with it. This makes it a very attractive way to challenge myself and learn some new skills. Another major plus is how easy debugging is within the engine because all game variables are displayed during gameplay testing which speeds up the process greatly.

The only big inconvenience I have found so far while working with it is that free assets for the project have been much scarcer than first anticipated which will translate into graphics that are less impressive than first envisaged.

  1. Designs

  4.1 Systems Design

 The biggest challenge for this project will be to implement a working guidance system, creating an algorithm that looks at your hand and at the dealer’s face up card and looks up the correct play according to the basic strategy chart and informing the player on the action that he should take. The system shall not make decisions for the player but merely inform him about the course he should take. It will need to be designed in such a way to interact with all other systems.  Ideally the system will be able to calculate the actual probabilities that said action would result in a winning hand with at least 80% confidence.

 

  1. Project Management Review

The project in it’s current state is quite bit behind the initial time plan in terms of progress, especially because the initial plan was not quite comprehensive enough. A new more comprehensive one has been provided in the Appendix below which will hopefully adjust for the wasted time.

The deviation was due to unexpected personal issues and steps have been taken to hopefully further reduce risks of such further delays. I will also be looking to put more hours of my free time per week into the project going forward, which by my calculations should be able to make up for it in the end.

  1.  Initial Time plan
  2. Revised Time plan(Below)

University Calendar Weeks

#

Task Name

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

1

Initial report

D

2

Initial Algorithm research

3

 Design test cases and Class Diagrams

4

Implement prototype program

5

Testing

6

Interim report

D

7

Final Report

D

References

  • Anon., n.d. Wikipedia-Blackjack. [Online]
    Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackjack
  • Blackjack, H. o., 2018. History of BlackJack. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.casinoreviews.co.uk/blackjack/history/
  • Fogel, D., 2004. Evolving strategies in Blackjack. [Online]
    Available at: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/1331064
  • Tamburin, H., 2018. How to play Blackjack. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.888casino.com/blog/blackjack-strategy-guide/how-to-play-blackjack

[1] https://www.casinoreviews.co.uk/blackjack/history/

[2] https://www.888casino.com/blog/blackjack-strategy-guide/how-to-play-blackjack

[3] Wikipedia-Blackjack. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackjack

[4]  https://www.blackjackreview.com/wp/encyclopedia/multiple-deck/

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