# Betting Mechanics that lead to a showdown between two players

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Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010

Hi Everyone!

I'm not a poker player, but I really respect the emotional response that can be found in a game of poker. I figure that emotional attachment, and those experiences can be built in any game - but I'd like to understand more about how betting works in a controlled environment in order to understand how to tweak a game to get the desired results.

Since I'm a big fan of test driven development, I'm designing a game as an exercise in order to be able to tweak the game in order to improve the betting experience.

For this exercise - each player will be given a hand of cards that have either a rock, paper, or scissor on them. Each player in the game will be dealt 3 cards face up, and 2 hidden cards (they can see them, the opponents can not) to start, this is one of the elements I will tweak.

Now, conceptually, I'd like the round of betting to end up so that two players end up using their cards to play Rock, Paper, Scissors with each other. But that's not typically how a game like poker ends up with multiple people calling. The problem is that RPS doesn't work as well with multiple people - and I'd like there to be a definitive winner more often than not.

One possible solution is to have the betting round have each player bet against a specific person - and the highest pot plays out (and gets the ante/blinds - another variable for tweaking) the smaller pots split back to their respective players.

That feels a bit clunky to me, and as I said - I'm not a poker player - I'm just trying to create a decent sandbox for experimentation. I think there's a way to do this - and I may end up just using the way I just said - just was wondering if anyone else had any ideas about this or about betting games in general.

For this game I'm specifically trying to design a betting system in which you feel like you have odds for deciding how to bet, BUT you have to play your cards correctly in order to maximize that chance (if that makes sense). And in this case "correctly" also includes an element of chance.

I appreciate any thoughts and comments regarding this!

Jackhalfaprayer
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Joined: 09/29/2008
One of the simplest ways is

One of the simplest ways is to limit who is interacting with whom. This could be a secondary card play, Yellow, Red, and Blue. Each player would choose a color and lay it among their card (Face up? Face down?) and their hand would only interact with people who chose the same color. This could be made much more interesting by offering red, yellow, and blue different “pots” of money (if it ends up being a betting game) and allowing people to choose which pot they are competing for. If red has more than blue, and blue has more than yellow, and you secretly choose which pot you are going for there could be some interesting decisions and bluffing involved.

Alternately you could set it up so that 1 paper beats ALL rocks, 1 scissors beats ALL paper, and one rock beats all Scissors.
The problem with this become which resolves first, right? I mean if Jimmy’s rocks take out your first, than scissors aren’t there to destroy my paper, which resolves last destroying Jimmy’s rocks. HA HA I WIN!
How to settle this? I’d say have it be something people pay for. I buy the right for rocks to resolve first for 5\$. I bid 6\$ for scissors (you say)! 7\$ for rocks (I say) 8\$ for paper (says Nancy)! I’ll pitch in 2 dollars for Jack’s bid for rocks, bringing the total bid to 9, says Peter (my 7+ Peter’s 2).

The more complex way is to introduce more cards that make it so there is one clear winner. This becomes really hard and cumbersome.
http://thefuntimesguide.com/images/blogs/rockpaperscissors.jpg
But some fun (serious) options here are:
God: beats everything (except the following…).
The Problem of Evil: Loses to everything but God.

I think the real question is: How do you resolve RPS where each player has a hand of cards that are all active simultaneously? You talk about open and closed cards and a final resolution, but I imagine ever if there were a final two players who were the clear winners how would you determine which one won if each had 5 cards in a mixture of rock paper and scissors?
Pick them all up and then have each player (knowing what his opponent’s hand is comprised of) pick a single card, play face down, reveal simultaneously, and resolve seems the obvious option. Are there others?
Finally. What would such a game achieve that poker does not? It could be argued that, for a gambling game in which multiple players are bluffing to determine who has the strongest combination of cards and in which some information about those cards is open and some is not, Poker is already doing this quite well.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Ok to clarify - Cards are

Ok to clarify -

Cards are dealt 2 face down, and 3 face up. There is betting of some kind that I would like to eventually be down to just 2 players. <-- this is the mechanic I need help with - I had one suggestion I posted, but I feel is slightly clunky and could be improved upon.

The 2 players still in the running pick up their cards, and then one at a time, I pick a card put it face down, you pick a card and put it face down, we flip the cards simultaneously and the winner gets 1 point, ties are 0 points, highest points after the 5 cards wins the pot (along with the antes/blinds). On a split/push you split the pot and deal a new hand just like in poker.

So I'd like to avoid having multiple people playing RPS against each other - as it gets messy as you said about what beats what. Though, if I treat it like suits, and assign values to each of the cards (like Rock - 1, Rock - 2 etc) then I could use those as a multi-player resolution mechanic which might work out nicely like you said - and allow for a simple winner. That is definitely something to test!

If that explanation doesn't make sense please direct me so I can clarify :-)

Jackhalfaprayer
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Joined: 09/29/2008
Could you just require there

Could you just require there be only two players at the showdown? Make it so raises are automotaic and continue untill all but two players remain.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Yup, that is another option!

Yup, that is another option! I thought that solution would have been complicated - but it sounds really easy now that you've said it - I'll have to figure out the repercussions - and what happens if no one WANTS to raise. As I said I'm not a poker player so I don't know all the nuances.

So it looks like I've got 3 ways to do it now - should be enough for initial testing with the mechanics. Thanks!! I welcome more ideas of course :-)

heavydisking
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Joined: 01/06/2011
re:

I am a poker player, and I think you need to reconsider your game. In poker, there are clearly determined ranks of hands, such that when a showdown occurs, one player wins and the other loses, period. This means that the only way to win is either a) have the actual best hand or b) bluff and get everyone else to fold. The bidding rounds narrow the field because players figure out they won't be able to win through either of those methods. If I know I'm not going to win, I won't put any more of my hard earned money into the pot.

From what I understand of your game description, players would be betting for the right to play RPS against one other player. That is, once all the betting is done, there is still a game of RPS to be played, rather than the best hand winning. The very nature of RPS means that there is no such thing as the "best hand". This would be a very difficult thing to wager on, because you never be confident in your chances of winning.

Basically, the only thing that you are betting on is your own ability to win an RPS match. This is a very different wager than "who has the best hand". How do you know when to fold?

Speaking of folding, this brings up one other issue (which is common to all free forms of poker): Why would anyone EVER fold? If my money is not at stake, I might as well just play every hand. That takes the bluffing element completely out of the game.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but I am trying to make it clear that I don't think your idea is very feasible. Don't worry though, every game idea I've had so far has proven unfeasible. Keep thinking and eventually the right ideas will come together. :)

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Sorry - I should be more

Sorry - I should be more clear

There would be a deck of cards, with lets say 18 rocks, 18 scissors, and 18 papers

You would be dealt 4 face up cards, and 3 cards in your hand. Some combination of cards would be dealt face up to you - and some would be dealt hidden. like 7 card stud.

What determines a good hand changes based on what your opponent has - if He's showing 4 papers up and I have 3 scissors in my hand, and another 1 on the table - I know my hand is strong against his.

I've actually gotten a change to play this out - where its finished up round robin style - the last raiser plays their card first, then going around the table in betting order, each player has to play a card that beats the previously played card - last person to play a card takes the pot.

So there is skill in knowing whether your hand is good, and skill in remember the other persons cards well enough in order to play your cards in the right order so you beat them - so there is a lot of information to determine whether you should stay in or fold.

The game needs a lot more testing - and I'm not going over all of the different mechanics - but its not just playing RPS against someone - you have a hand of cards with RPS things on them - and you have to use only those cards in order to determine the winner.

heavydisking
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Joined: 01/06/2011
Yamahako wrote:Sorry - I

Yamahako wrote:
Sorry - I should be more clear

There would be a deck of cards, with lets say 18 rocks, 18 scissors, and 18 papers

You would be dealt 4 face up cards, and 3 cards in your hand. Some combination of cards would be dealt face up to you - and some would be dealt hidden. like 7 card stud.

What determines a good hand changes based on what your opponent has - if He's showing 4 papers up and I have 3 scissors in my hand, and another 1 on the table - I know my hand is strong against his.

I've actually gotten a change to play this out - where its finished up round robin style - the last raiser plays their card first, then going around the table in betting order, each player has to play a card that beats the previously played card - last person to play a card takes the pot.

So there is skill in knowing whether your hand is good, and skill in remember the other persons cards well enough in order to play your cards in the right order so you beat them - so there is a lot of information to determine whether you should stay in or fold.

The game needs a lot more testing - and I'm not going over all of the different mechanics - but its not just playing RPS against someone - you have a hand of cards with RPS things on them - and you have to use only those cards in order to determine the winner.

I still feel like this is very problematic due to there being no objective "best" hand. I understand a little better how you can determine the "quality" of your hand, but the RPS nature of it makes so arbitrary.

In your example, what if there is another player who is showing 4 rocks? which one of the three would fold first? What if two players each have 4 scissors? I think that nearly every hand would be impossible to judge its value until sufficient other players have folded. But again, I can't see any reason to fold ever.

Moreover, if the showdown is determined by playing a single card in turn, you really would only need to worry about your neighbor to the right.

It may be possible to have a showdown between 2 players, where you just count how many of each type both have and determine the winner that way:

Suppose: I have 2 rock, 4 scissor, and 1 paper. You have 2 rock, 3 scissor, and 2 paper.

Then, my 2 R lose to your 3 S. Your 2 R lose to my 4 S. My 4 S beats your 2 P. Your 3 S beats my 1 P. My 1 P loses to your 2 R. Your 2 P beats my 2 R. So therefore you win.

I just see something like this as being too difficult to really read as a player.

And again, what incentive does anyone ever have to fold? If I'm playing 7 stud and one opponent has 4 aces face up, unless I've got a straight flush I'm going to fold. Actually, I would have folded way earlier in the hand. But if I look around the table and see these hands: 2R,1S,1P; 3R,1P; 4S; 1R,1S,2P. How do I know who is winning?

RPS by definition means that nothing has intrinsic value- only in relation to what the other player has. That can be a very fun mechanic, but I feel pretty strongly that it does not fit this situation.

What are players wagering in this game? Money? VPs? Some other in-game resource? What is the penalty for not folding?

One more thing: Your mechanic of going around the circle playing one card each until someone cannot "beat" the top card could be pretty fun in an LCR kind of way. I would just remove the betting aspect of it, deal the cards out, and let people play. Actually, if it was a more complicated RPS system (more than 3 options) this could turn into a very fun, strategic game. I just don't see betting/folding as a useful mechanic to go along with it.

jekow
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Joined: 01/31/2011
.

I think what you'll end up with is something akin to Checkers vs. Chess.

Checkers has 1 or (2?) unique pieces
Chess has 6 unique pieces

Poker has 52 unique elements or pieces to the game.
Rps has 3 unique elements or pieces to the game.

I think you'll end up with 1 of 2 scenarios during play. Either players will have NO clue what other players hold...or players will know with CERTAINTY what other players hold.
Neither scenario is good for use with a betting mechanic in my opinion.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Yeah I'm really dumbing the

Yeah I'm really dumbing the game down for simplicity in explanation...

I might as well detail the entire game since I'm pretty far along in testing

The game is called Qi, and its a betting game based on the Elements of Fung Shui

There are 5 kinds of cards + 4 special cards

Metal - which beats Wood and Earth
Wood - which beats Earth and Water
Earth - which beats Water and Fire
Water - which beats Fire and Metal
Fire - which beats Metal and Wood

Jade Dragon - which beats everything, but loses to everything
Dark Tortoise - which beats everything, but loses to everything
Red Phoenix - which beats everything, but loses to everything
White Tiger - which beats everything, but loses to everything

The game is dealt like 7 card stud (this worked out in play way better than 5 card stud which I originally posted)

Hands are more robust than the RPS game I was talking about - however its play is fairly simple still - which is what I wanted. It took about 10 hands in each of the 2 tables I've run so far with this for the people to start to get a handle on what hands were worth betting on. You learn faster when to fold, than when to stay. The play is the same as I stated before - last person to raise is the first person to play.

The first person to play is at a disadvantage in one respect - he or she loses if everyone can continue to play since they will be out of cards first. If you can't play a card you fold - last person to play takes the pot. The "special cards" power level changes depending on where you are sitting - you don't want them to be the last card in your hand unless you are the last player - however they are a safety net which keeps you in the game if you couldn't otherwise play.

You can manipulate what cards get played against you with judicious use of one of the two possible win cards in your hand - there is a high order strategic element to which cards to play when - and an important memory element on what do all of your opponents have - because as was noted earlier - if someone folds the game now shifts gears and your hand quality may have changed.

Each cards beats about 40% of all other cards (since you can't play a metal on a metal for example) and there are only 10 of each element card in the deck - so you can also count cards to eliminate possible cards in someone's hand.

The stuff we are discussing now are - if this was packaged and sold how many chips would we need to include - and what would play better ante or blinds. These are things I don't know and will need to test.

When I have some basic art - I can attack the deck for people to test out if they are interested. I personally haven't designed a game that had so much emotion involved before - when playing for a big pot it can get intense when you can have, or not have the card you need to take it.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Just to add some of the

Just to add some of the strategy:

We discovered that certain pairs of cards are incredibly powerful for example:
Metal + Earth is a very strong hand to have - this pair can beat Wood, Earth, Water and Fire - but it is completely ineffective against Metal. If an opponent has a strong power pair (or a double power pair) and doesn't see an metal on the table, he or she may bet the pot up - since they can deal with a lot of stuff and their hand can go long. But if you're sitting on a decent amount of metal in your hidden cards - you can snipe the pot from them.

One of the first things to do when evaluating positions is try and identify people with power-pairs (what we call them anyway). If you don't have their weakness, then you will have a very weak hand against them, if you're swimming in their weakness they have no chance against your hand. If they are following you - you can get them to fold easily with a few plays.

Another thing that can be a good hand is having cards that are really strong against a certain pair of elements that a person following you has - for example the person down from you is strong in wood and earth, but you have a lot of metal. Assuming they aren't playing poorly, they should be able to deal with some metal in their hidden cards. However, maybe they can't handle 4 metal cards, so continuously (as possible) throwing metal at them, can force them into a situation they can't contend with regardless of how good their hand is.

Knowing when you have a good hand is a lot harder than knowing you have a bad hand. If you aren't in the above situation, its a reasonable time to get out of the hand. Since you are theoretically betting money, you wouldn't want to waste money on a hand you were uncertain of. A lot of hands can be played out of - especially if your opponent is new to the game and doesn't understand all of the ways you can 'force' an opponent to play a game into your hands - however its not a certainty. Hence the gambling aspect of it.

drktron
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Joined: 07/18/2010
First of all I love the

First of all I love the theme. This sounds really cool. Im not sure I understand your betting mechanic. If the last one to raise is the first to play what is my motivation to raise since I'm at a disadvantage? Also when and how often are bets occuring?

Random thought that just popped in my head: what if instead of chips to bet you assigned a qi value to each card. Each player has their own deck (of equal total value) that they draw and play from. The card you play is also your bet. The winner of the hand claims all the cards played and sets them aside. So if I feel I have a strong hand I might play my 5 qi earth instead of my 2 qi earth. End the game when the deck runs out. Highest qi wins.

Anyway just a thought. I really like your game so far.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
Each card does have a value -

Each card does have a value - 1-10, and A for the specials - they don't do anything right now though it was just so I could test out a lot of possible games.

The way we've been doing betting is 2 face up, 1 face down - BET; 1 face up - BET; 1 face up 1 face down - BET

We still aren't sure whether Blinds, or Ante is the best way to start out the round - blinds give at least 2 more people incentive to stay in the game, but ante gets the pot bigger to start...

Your playing out of the game is definitely worth testing - and intrigues me. I designed the game because I wanted to make a game that could play alongside poker in the same manner - but require some skill in making a good hand good. That doesn't mean the deck itself wouldn't be good for a lot of other games. The benefit of presenting it as a game without betting is you can sell it without chips then - which makes it cheaper to produce (and what people who like to play poker games don't have a nice set of chips they like to use anyway).

To test the version you are describing - and to keep it to a single deck - I think I'd make it like Hearts, where you are trying to take tricks:

Eg: I lead with Metal, which means that people can only play cards that beat metal that round, or a higher metal card. If you can't play a valid card, you put a card from your hand face down - highest value card takes the trick. Tally points after the last round to determine the winner (or play to a certain value - like 500 or something). This would make it more like a normal card game with a twist.

The deck can also play like a normal poker deck - though it has 5 suits, and the special cards play as wilds (or as 1s or 11s in a straight). I haven't gone through to math to figure out if that changes where a flush should lie in the ranking of hands.