COMPUTER POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!
FROM ET FAN:
Blackjack Powersim: Free, Open Source Blackjack Simulation Software
By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XXIV #4, Fall 2005)
© 2005 Blackjack Forum
Hang onto your hats, gang: We are now entering a new era in the development of blackjack strategies. For the first time, players who are not mathematicians and computer programmers are going to be able to pursue their own ideas and do independent research on blackjack games, systems, and strategies. And I do mean research at the highest levels, courtesy of ETFan's Blackjack PowerSim free programmable blackjack simulation software.
Letís say you find a casino offering some new bonus payout, or with some new twist on the standard rules. (This is happening--what? About once a week in Vegas these days?)
Or you come up with some idea on how to camouflage your play with an unusual betting pattern or play variation, but youíre not sure how it would affect your win rate. Or you discover a game where you can track the shuffle on just one small segment of the shoe, and you wonder what this might add to your normal card counting advantage on the game. Or you're catching a glimpse of the index card about 1/3 of the time.
Iíve been getting these types of questions from players for more than two decades, and most often, I have no answer for them. Some of these questions can be answered by mathematical analyses, but this is not always the case. And if you donít have access to a computer programmer to simulate such a game, and none of the commercially available blackjack simulation software can do it, youíre stuck.
I am not a programmer and Iíve never been a programmer. In the past 25 years, Iíve tried to use a lot of the commercially available blackjack simulation software to run simulations and answer questions. Iíve also been fortunate enough to know skilled programmers who could answer questions the commercial software could not. But I always hated having to be dependent on others to test my ideas.
The Quest for Open Source Blackjack Simulation Software
When I was living in California, back when the Indian casinos couldnít offer standard casino blackjack games, I was forever calling Bill Hawkins, author of the Blackjack Subsets software, and twisting his arm to get him to analyze some of the weird promotions that kept showing up in these games. (Okay, as arm twists go, it was pretty straightforward. I paid him 10% of my winnings on the promos he analyzed for me.)
I also put Bill in touch with various California pros I knew who wanted analyses and strategies for the ďno bustĒ games, the games with jokers, the commission games, and the games where 22 was the target total instead of 21. None of the commercially available blackjack simulation software could handle these types of games. In many cases, a blackjack variation would exist in only one or two casinos, and there were dozens of different variations and one-time promos popping up.
No commercial software seller could be expected to keep up with it.
John Imming, author of the Real World Casino (RWC) and Universal Blackjack Engine (UBE) software that dominated the market for a decade up into the early 1990s, spent the last few years of his life working on a project he called the UBE Programmable Edition, a version of his blackjack simulation software that would allow users to alter payouts, rules, and game factors to analyze virtually any game or strategy that had the basic structure of casino blackjack. Imming managed to get a preliminary version together, but it was extremely limited in its applications. He complained to me that he just saw no way to accomplish a truly player-programmable sim program without divulging too much of his source code.
No programmer ever wants to divulge his source code for a commercial product because that would cut into his profits. John never stopped working on this project, and for years I got letters from players asking me if Immingís fully programmable UBE was getting closer to completion. Unfortunately, John Imming died before he ever finished the project, and no other software designer has even attempted such a monumental task since then.
ET Fan, a smart player and analyst, talented programmer, and very generous guy, has taken John Immingís vision a step further. He has not only produced programmable blackjack simulation software, which he calls Blackjack PowerSim (for Computer Power to the People), but has decided to make it available free of charge to players. (Imming is probably turning over in his grave!)
In fact, ET Fan has taken Immingís vision quite a few steps further than Imming ever dreamed of, as ET Fan is not only making his blackjack simulation software available to players free of charge, but he is providing his source code so that programmers can develop his software in directions he may not have considered, and use it to sim any conceivable blackjack variation or strategy
My correspondence with ET Fan began many years ago when I was investigating shuffle tracking strategies. There was no commercially available software that would run sims of tracking strategies. ET Fan had created his own shuffle tracking computer, and he sent me the first data I had ever seen comparing the potential tracking gains from stepladder versus R&R shuffles.
Through the years, heís been active on the Internet message boards, contributing data from his blackjack computer simulations and mathematical analyses on various technical aspects of the game. He has never written a book or attempted to sell his software, though I do know that, like Bill Hawkins, he has worked for high stakes professional blackjack players as a consultant on unusual games and strategies.
The Blackjack Powersim Project
We are calling ET Fanís latest contribution to players ďThe Blackjack PowerSim Project,Ē because it is a work in progress, and an undertaking that we will all be working on together. If youíre not a programmer, and your experience with computers is entirely limited to modern Windows and Mac point-and-click convenience, then you should expect to take a little time to adjust to the way it works. Itís actually pretty user-friendly, despite having been developed primarily for power and user-flexibility.
You do not have to be a programmer yourself to use this software. The program is already completely written. You simply have to follow ET Fanís instructions to begin using the program immediately. Without doing any programming yourself, using the Blackjack PowerSim program that you can download onto your computer right now, you can run high-speed blackjack simulations of virtually any card counting system, using any strategy indices in any game with any of dozens of common rule sets and any number of decks dealt to any level of penetration. You can use any betting spread based on your count, and you can set your starting bankroll so that you can obtain an analysis of your risk in the games you analyze.
How fast is this software? On my newer Windows XP computer, it ran a one-billion hand blackjack simulation in about 1.75 hours. Thatís just under 10 million hands per minute. That's fast. On my old, slow HP Pavilion, it runs about 3 million hands per minute. Either one is plenty fast enough to get significant results quickly.
The current default settings are set to run the Hi-Lo count, using a limited set of count-per-deck indices. To change the count system, you must go into the files where the count values and strategies are set up, and follow ET Fanís instructions for changing the variables to suit your needs. If youíre serious about blackjack, and about pursuing your own ideas for finding profit opportunities, Blackjack PowerSim is the blackjack simulation tool youíve been waiting for.
All serious players will find value in the Blackjack PowerSim Project, including those who are new to the game. As we expand the program, many of the software's users will be posting their findings in articles in future issues of Blackjack Forum. I hope all of you will follow the process we go through as we develop ways to analyze gambling opportunities because this will be an education for all of us, and it will mean more power for you.
I intend to use this software myself, and Iíve even downloaded the free XBasic software (ET Fan includes detailed instructions on how to do this) that will allow me to get deeper into the Blackjack PowerSim program files to do more advanced research by altering fundamental assumptions about the game that are based on traditional card counting systems, but have little to do with the strategies needed to beat today's games, or the new opportunities I am interested in analyzing.
I suspect that over the next year or so, this project will go into a dozen directions none of us has even dreamed of. Iím just proud to be a part of it. Weíre hoping that many of you will contribute ideas and suggestions for making the software better and easier to use.
And check back often. ETFan says there will be major expansions and upgrades to the software over time.
A full decade after John Imming first proposed to me his idea for giving players programmable blackjack simulation software, itís finally happening. ET Fan has realized a vision that had all but disappeared from my hopes.
The Blackjack PowerSim Open Source Blackjack Simulation Software Project begins, and not a moment too soon... ♠
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