Hand and Outcome Classes

This chapter introduces the hand of cards used by player and dealer. It wrestles with the problems of scoring the value of the hand in the presence of soft and hard values for aces. It also introduces a subclass of the Outcome class that can handle the more complex evaluation rules for Blackjack.

In Hand Analysis we’ll look at a number of issues related to Blackjack hands. In Payout Odds we’ll look at how the odds depend on the cards and the way the hands are resolved. In Hard and Soft Totals we’ll examine how an Ace leads to a hand having distinct hard and soft totals. This will cause us to rexamine the nature of outcomes; this is the subject of Blackjack Outcomes.

We can then design the overall Hand class. This is described in Hand Class Design. We’ll look at all of the deliverables for this chapter in Hand Deliverables.

Hand Analysis

The hand of cards is both a container for cards, but is also one dimension of the current state of the player’s playing strategy. In addition to the player’s hand, the other dimension to the strategy is the dealer’s up card.

A player may have multiple hands. The hands are resolved independently.

For each hand, a hand’s responsibilities include collecting the cards, producing a hard and soft point total and determining the appropriate payout odds.

Collecting cards is trivial. Each hand can be modeled as a bag or multiset of Card instances. A hand can’t be a Set because there can easily be duplicate cards in a multiple deck game. In an 8-deck game, there are 8 separate instances of A♠.

Determining the payout odds for a Hand object is somewhat more complex.

Payout Odds

To be compatible with other games, we’ll be creating Bet objects which are associated with Outcome instances. In Roulette, there were a profusion of Outcome instances, each with fixed odds. In Craps, there were fewer Outcome instances, some of which had odds that depended on a the current Throw object.

The player’s Hand instance must be associated with an Outcome object. The core of the game simulation is matching the Outcome object for a Bet instance and the Outcome object of a Hand instance to determine the payout.

In the case of Roulette, each Bin instance was a set of winning Outcome objects. In the case of Craps, both the Throw object and the game had a mixtures of winning, losing and unresolved Outcome object. The Bet instances were associated with Outcome instances. The Wheel, Dice. or Game objects gave us sets of winning (and losing) Outcome instances.

In Blackjack, there are relatively few distinct outcomes. And, it’s not clear how each Outcome instance associates with a Hand object.

Survey of Outcomes. To figure out how to associate a Hand object and a betting Outcome object, we’ll start by enumerating all the individual Outcome instances in this game. Note that the “Ante” bet, placed before any cards are seen, has three distinct outcomes.

  1. Insurance. This outcome pays 2:1. This is offered when the up card is an Ace. This outcome is a winner when the dealer’s hand is blackjack. (Also, the “Ante” bet will be a loser.) This outcome a loser when the dealer’s hand is not blackjack. (The Ante bet is unresolved.)

  2. Even Money. This outcome pays 1:1. This is offered in the rare case when the player’s hand is blackjack and the dealer’s up card is an Ace. If accepted, it can be looked at as a switch of the Ante bet from the original “Ante” outcome to a different “Even Money” outcome. After this change, the “Ante” bet is then resolved as a winner.

  3. Ante paying 1:1. This variation occurs when the player’s hand is less than or equal to 21 and the dealer’s hand goes over 21. This payout also occurs when the player’s hand is less than or equal to 21 and also greater than the dealer’s hand. All “Ante” outcome variants are a loser as soon as the player’s hand goes over 21. They are also a loser when the player’s hand is less than or equal to 21 and also less than the dealer’s hand. The odds depend on both player and dealer’s hand.

  4. Ante paying 3:2. This variation occurs when the player’s hand is blackjack. The odds depend on the player’s hand.

  5. Ante resolved as a push, paying 1:0. This variation occurs when the player’s hand is less than or equal to 21 and equal to the dealer’s hand. The odds depend on both player and dealer’s hand.

Problem. What kind of class is the Hand class? Is it a collection of Outcome instances? Or is it something different?

It appears that the Hand class, as a whole, is not simply associated with an Outcome object. It appears that a Hand instance must produce an Outcome object based on the hand’s total, the dealer’s total, and possibly the state of the game.

This is a change from the way the Dice class and the collection of Bin isntances work. The Bin instances were directly (and immutably) associated with Outcome objects. A Blackjack Hand, however, must do a bit of processing to determine which Outcome instance it represents.

  • A two-card hand totalling soft 21 produces a blackjack Outcome object that pays 3:2.

  • All other hands produce an Outcome object that pays 1:1 and could be resolved as a win, a loss, or a push.

Also, changes to the state of the game depend on the values of both hands, as well as the visible up card in the dealer’s hand. This makes the state of the hand part of the evolving state of the game, unlike the simple RandomEvent instances we saw in Roulette and Craps.

Forces. We have a few ways we can deal with the Hand class definition.

  • We can make the Hand class a subclass of the RandomEvent class, even though it’s clearly more complex than other events.

  • We can make the Hand class unique, unrelated to other games.

Hand is an “Event”? While a Hand object appears to be a subclass of the RandomEvent class, it jars our sensibilities. A Hand object is built up from a number of Card instances. Dealing a Card object seems more event-like.

One could rationalize calling a Hand instance an “event” by claiming that the Shoe clss is the random event generator. The act of shuffling is when the events are created. The complex event is then revealed to the player and dealer one card at a time.

It seems that we need to define a Hand class that shares a common interface with the RandomEvent class, but extends the basic concept because a hand has an evolving state until it is fully revealed.

Hand is different. While we can object to calling a Hand instance a single “event”, it’s difficult to locate a compelling reason for making the Hand class into something radically different from the Bin or Dice classes.

Hand Features. Our first design decision, then, is to define the Hand class as a kind of RandomEvent subclass. We’ll need to create several Outcome instances that can be paired with the event: Insurance, Even Money, Ante and Blackjack.

A Hand object will produce an appropriate Outcome object based on the hand’s structure, the game state, and the dealer’s hand. Generally, each Hand object will produce a simple Ante outcome as a winner or loser. Sometimes a Hand object will produce a Blackjack outcome.

Sometimes the Player and Blackjack Game will collaborate to add an Insurance or Even Money Outcome object to the Hand.

Hard and Soft Totals

Our second design problem is to calculate the point value of the hand. Because of aces, hands can have two different point totals. If there are no aces, the total is hard. When there is an Ace, there are two totals: the hard total uses an Ace as 1, the soft total uses an Ace as 11.

We note that only one ace will participate in this hard total vs. soft total decision-making. If two aces contribute soft values, the hand is at least 22 points. Therefore, we need to note the presence of at most one ace to use the soft value of 11, all other cards will contribute their hard values to the hand’s total value.

The presence of an Ace means finding at most one card with a card.hardValue != card.sotfValue.

A Hand object has a two internal point totals:

  • Hard. All hands have a hard total. This is the total of the hard values of all of the Card instances.

  • Soft. When a hand has at least one Ace, the soft total is computed as the hard total of all cards except the Ace, plus the soft value of the Ace.

The final point total for a hand, then, has two options. When the soft total when is 21 or less, the soft total applies. WHen the soft total is over 21, the hard total applies.

This leads us to a number of algorithms within the Hand class to locate and isolate one card with different hard and soft values.

Blackjack Outcomes

As a final design decision, we need to consider creating any subclasses of the Outcome class to handle the variable odds for the “Ante” bet. We don’t need a subclass for the “Insurance” or “Even Money” outcomes, because the base Outcome class does everything we need.

The notable complication here is that there are three different odds. If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand and is blackjack, the odds are 3:2. If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand, but is not blackjack, the odds are 1:1. If the player’s hand equals the dealer’s hand, the result is a push; something like 1:0 odds where you get your money back.

It doesn’t seem like new subclasses of the Outcome class are necessary. We simply have some alternative Outcome instances that can be produced by a Hand.

The player can only create one of four basic Bet instances.

  • The “Ante” bet that starts play. This is assumed to be 1:1 until game conditions change this to 3:2 or a push. This is the essential Outcome object for the player’s primary Bet instance.

  • The “Insurance” and “Event Money” bets. One of these may also be active after the first cards are dealt.

    For the insurance Outcome object to be active, the dealer must be showing an Ace and the player’s hand is not 21. The player is offered and accepts by creating an insurance Bet object.

    For even money Outcome object to be active, the dealer must be showing an Ace and the player’s hand is 21. The player is offered and accepts by creating an even money Bet object.

    These are resolved before further cards are dealt. If the dealer does not have 21, these bets are lost. If the dealer has 21, these bets win, but the Ante bet is a loss.

  • The “Double Down” bet. This is generally offered at any time. It can be looked at as an an additional amount added to the “ante” bet and a modification to game play. The player creates this Bet object, changing the course of play: only a single card can be dealt when this bet is made.

Objects. It seems simplest to create a few common Outcome instances: Ante, Insurance, Even Money and Double Down.

The Table object will then have to combine a Double-Down Bet object’s amount into the Ante Bet object’s amount.

Hand Class Design

class Hand

Hand contains a collection of individual Card instances, and determines the two point values for the hand.



Holds the collection of individiual Card instances of this hand.


Hand.__init__(self, *card: Card=None) → None

card (Card) – cards to add

Creates an empty hand. The Hard.cards variable is initialized to an empty sequence.

If card values are provided, then use the add() method to add these cards to the hand.


Hand.hard(self) → int

Returns the hard total of all cards in the hand.

Hand.soft(self) → int

Does the soft-total computation.

  1. Partition the cards into two collections:

    • Ace. This collection has at most one Ace. For this card, card.softValue != card.hardValue. If there’s no card here, the value is zero. If there’s a card here, the value is the soft value of the one-and-only Card instance.

    • Non-Ace. This collection has all the cards except for the card in the Ace collection. If there is no Ace, this collection is all the cards. The value is the hard total of all cards.

  2. Return the sum of the values for each collection, Ace plus Non-Ace.

Hand.add(self, card: Card) → None

card (Card) – A card to hadd

Add this card to the Hand.cards list.

Hand.value(self) → int

Computes the final total of this hand.

If there are any aces, and the soft total is 21 or less, this will be the soft total. If there are no aces, or the soft total is over 21, this will be the hard total.

Hand.size(self) → int

Returns the number of cards in the hand, the size of the List.

Hand.blackjack(self) → bool

Returns true if this hand has a size of two and a value of 21.

Hand.busted(self) → bool

Returns true if this hand a value over 21.

Hand.__iter__(self) → Iterator[Card]

Returns an iterator over the cards of the List.

Hand.__str__(self) → str

Displays the content of the hand as a String with all of the card names.

Hand Deliverables

There are six deliverables for this exercise.

  • The HandTotal class hierarchy: HandTotal, HandHardTotal, HandSoftTotal.

  • A unit test for each of these classes.

  • The Hand class.

  • A class which performs a unit tests of the Hand class. The unit test should create several instances of Card, FaceCard and AceCard, and add these to instances of Hand, to create various point totals.

  • The Card and AceCard modifications required to set the appropriate values in a Hand

  • A set of unit tests for assembling a hand and changing the total object in use to correctly compute hard or soft totals for the hand.

Looking Forward

The Cards and Hands are essential elements for the game of Blackjack. Following the pattern of previous games, the next chapter will look at the implementation of a table to hold the player’s Bet objects. An interesting part of this is the a player’s hand can be split, leading to multiple hands, each of which has multiple active bets.