BlackJack Trainer

Please note: this is a test version of some trainer software I’m writing, it’s missing some animations and features. This is also just for fun – no money is wagered/changes hands. There’s a virtual account balance to play with. This web version only works properly on desktop browsers (not mobile) – a mobile version will come soon.

BlackJack is a game where the player wagers an amount and then tries to draw cards (hit) to get a score as close to 21 as possible (picture cards count as 10 and aces count as 1 or 10), but without going higher. The player “stands” to stop drawing cards when they think they would go over. If the player scores over 21, they are “bust” and automatically lose. If the player stands on a score under 21, the dealer then draws cards. The one with the highest value not more than 21 wins. If the dealer busts and the player has not busted, the player wins. If the player and dealer achieve the same score, the round is “pushed” (returning the bet to the player. A kind of draw). The exception to these rules is that if the player or dealer score 21 on their first hand, it beats another 21. It is known as Blackjack. This is an automatic win for the party that has it, unless the other party also has it.

Typically players play poorly – giving a house edge of about 4-6%. However, there is a strategy for playing BlackJack that drastically improves your chances. This does not win in itself, but reduces the edge to around 0.5%. You’d lose slowly. Card counters practice a method of knowing when the probability is in their favour, tipping the edge to the player’s favour. The idea behind this software is to allow people to learn basic strategy and even practice counting if they like, by simulating the game and adding a little bit of modern technological wizardry.

A word on the interface. I’d recommend you either expand to full screen mode, or click on the eye icon at the top of the software to change the view to a closeup view. That icon toggles between regular and closeup view. To the right you can mute/unmute sound with the speaker icon.

The next icon to the right is special. If you toggle this, it goes from a person to a book to indicated it has entered a learning mode. This mode uses a learning method known as spaced repetition to help you learn basic strategy. When you make a wrong choice, it will tell you what the correct choice is and then secretly re-arrange cards dealt in the background to make you come across this combination at ever increasing intervals (provided you get it right, if you get it wrong it’ll be soon again). This helps you quickly learn the patterns you don’t know, but keep in mind it does mean that dealt cards aren’t quite random.

To play a game you’d first enter your bet amount with the chips (you can reset it to 0 with the cross icon, but you must bet something to start the game), then click the Deal button. Once the cards are dealt you will see buttons for the various options as appropriate (Hit, Stand, Double, Split). If the dealer has an Ace as a first card, the software simulates the insurance bet that is everywhere. This is probably a handy point to point out the other features of this software simulation:

It plays 8 deck BlackJack, with a cutting card at halfway. It simulates European Blackjack (no peeking for BlackJack on dealer 10). BlackJack pays 3:2. Insurance pays 2:1. The player may double down on any value but only for the first two cards. The player may split – once. Where the player splits aces only one card is drawn to each, then there is no BlackJack (it scores simply 21). These rules are chosen because they’re the most common.

There’s an unmissable big graph at the top right. This is for the experts/data geeks. This charts your progress for the session. The green line is your bank balance. The yellow line represents the expected value based on the first two cards and the dealer up card. Another way of looking at this is this is what you would expect to win on average based on the hand originally dealt. If the green line is above the yellow line then you are almost certainly temporarily lucky (or the dealer is unlucky, depending on your perspective). If the green line is lower than the yellow line then you’re either making mistakes or you need to throw a coin in a wishing well, find a four leaf clover, or do something else to improve your luck. On the PC/Mac native version there’s an orange line that shows the expected value of from the shoe when you click “deal”. That’s a more precise measure, but the web version doesn’t seem to display it (I think because of resources).

Finally, If you lose your shirt, or anything else, after training with this – I’m not responsible. It’s on you. Whilst you can statistically win at BlackJack, knowing if you are good enough to do so is not easy as it’s a high variance game. Long enough in this software will teach you that you will experience losing runs that can be significant.

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