dave yarwood
4Clojure Problem #178 - Revised


April 6, 2014


I got some great feedback on my last post and decided to re-work my solution a bit. I think this turned out much nicer.

The main things I improved:

  • My first solution involved “predicates” (technically they may not have been true predicates, since they returned a keyword or nil, instead of true or false) for each possible hand within one big let binding, and then at the end I removed all the nil values and returned the first possible hand in the list. This was fairly readable, but there were two problems:
    1. The code could be more concise if I didn’t have to wrap each “predicate” in an if statement to either return the keyword or nil. Using when instead would help to some extent (since it returns either a value or nil), but a better solution altogether came from the other problem, which was that
    2. Wrapping all of my “predicates” in a let binding forces them all to be evaluated, even if we may only need to evaluate a handful of them. Using or or cond instead allows you to take advantage of short-circuiting and stop evaluating once you reach a predicate that is met, which is better from a performance standpoint. Since the first possibility we check for (i.e. the highest ranking possible hand) is a straight flush, I decided to include the predicates flush? and straight? in my let binding and then refer to them in the main part of my code within a cond statement.
  • It turns out that my previous definition of the flush? predicate, (= 1 (count (set suits))), could be simplified to (apply = suits), thanks to = being a variable-arity function in Clojure.
  • My first solution repeated this piece of code an awful lot: (some (fn [[r num]] (>= num n)) (frequencies ranks)). This was a classic opportunity to apply the DRY principle, so I added a rank-freqs symbol to my let binding. To make it easier to use, I defined it as (sort (vals (frequencies ranks))), so that the value of rank-freqs is always [2 3] for a full house, for instance.

Without further ado, here is my revised solution for Clojure Problem #178:

(fn best-hand [card-strings]
  (let [card-parser (fn [[s r]]
                      (let [suit ({\S :spade, \H :heart, 
                                   \D :diamond, \C :club} s)
                            rank (if (> (Character/digit r 10) -1)
                                   (- (Character/digit r 10) 2)
                                   ({\T 8, \J 9, 
                                     \Q 10, \K 11, \A 12} r))]
                        {:suit suit, :rank rank}))
        cards (map card-parser card-strings)
        suits (map :suit cards)
        ranks (map :rank cards)
        rank-freqs (sort (vals (frequencies ranks)))
        (apply = suits) 
        (let [aces-high (sort ranks)
              aces-low (sort (replace {12 -1} ranks))]
            (= aces-high (take 5 (iterate inc (first aces-high))))
            (= aces-low  (take 5 (iterate inc (first aces-low))))))]
      (and flush? straight?) :straight-flush
      (= rank-freqs [1 4])   :four-of-a-kind
      (= rank-freqs [2 3])   :full-house
      flush?                 :flush
      straight?              :straight
      (some #{3} rank-freqs) :three-of-a-kind
      (= rank-freqs [1 2 2]) :two-pair
      (some #{2} rank-freqs) :pair
      :else                  :high-card)))