In 2009, I made it my mission to visit every casino in the Las Vegas area and to take note of the proprietary table games and side bets they offered. One side bet (Lucky Lucky) in particular caught my eye, both because I had never seen it before and that it was now wide-spread. I decided to contact the distributors of the game and quickly got to know the young entrepreneurs. They were highly motivated and extremely excited about the rising popularity of their side bet. It was clear that their game and their company were undergoing the type of success that few in the industry realize.
As we got to know each other, they understood that I was in a position to evaluate their game for advantage play. Very informally they asked me if I thought their bet could be beaten. This company didn’t hire me to do a thorough job and they got what they paid for. I did some preliminary work and after some consideration I stated that the bet could be beaten in theory, but in practice I felt it was safe. I sent them a spread sheet that they could use to do their own investigations. This company then asked me to speak with a couple of their prospective clients to give my reassuring opinion.
Over the last 3 years, this wager has matured in the market. It still has widespread placement, but is no longer the rising star of the industry. About six months ago I heard that a casino was having an issue with the bet and some advantage players. This caught my attention, but I thought the casino was just overly concerned about what I passed off as normal variance. A few months later, I heard about another casino with an issue. When a casino contacted me about a month ago and asked me if the bet was vulnerable to card counting, I asked for payment to do the analysis. Their response to the quote for my services was silence, crickets. I later learned they backed off the player in question. Even though this casino did not consider it worth their while to pay me a reasonable fee to do this important work, I thought it was finally time to take a close look on my own and do the hard mathematical analysis.
What I found astounded me. This side bet could be crushed using a very simple card counting system. It was an enormous black hole for the house. The player could make the bet with an average edge of over 5%, and the bet could profitably be made on about 28% of the player’s blackjack hands. A decent player at a fast game who was playing at a game with a table maximum of $100 could earn well over $300 per hour playing against this bet. I was so startled and concerned that I immediately contacted another mathematician to confirm my findings. Yes, I was right.
I wish I could say that based on my findings and suggestions, this issue has been fixed or that I have reasonable recommendations to salvage it. But that’s not the case. This bet is everywhere and it is probably being crushed everywhere. It is an absolute bonanza.
I have been preaching for some time that there is a new world of game security having to do with proprietary table games and side bets. Unfortunately, the solution requires companies do work that may subvert their flagship products. Because of this, most new games go unanalyzed for advantage play. Because of this, I can’t name the game or the company.
Before you install any new game, you must ask your game suppliers to tell you everything they know and all the work they have done to investigate advantage play for that game. Ask them to tell you every instance they know where their game was beaten. Ask them if they have invested in a full mathematical analysis of potential advantage play issues. Don’t be satisfied with easy answers. If they say there are no problems, that’s a big red flag that it’s time to look for another game.