All that glitters is gold
Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven”
I was secret shopping at a casino last week, and I had to spend five hours on the floor just observing. Out of boredom I decided to back count the Dragon 7 side bet at an EZ Baccarat table (see this article). After the first few rounds, the Dragon count got quite high. Not surprisingly, there were also a lot of natural 8′s and 9′s during the first few rounds. I left the table and wandered the floor for a few minutes. When I returned I saw the scoreboard filled with naturals. It then struck me that those naturals probably involved 8s and 9s being dealt, so the count was probably still quite high. This realization lead to an intriguing possibility: if there is an abundance of naturals posted on the scoreboard, does that mean the player might have the edge? Continue reading
The Natural 9 (NAT9) side bet is the wager that the Player hand or Banker hand will be a natural 9. NAT9 is actually two different side bets, as the wager can separately be made that the Banker hand will be a natural 9 and that the Player hand will be a natural 9. Similarly, the Natural 8 (NAT8) side bet is the wager that the Player hand or Banker hand will be a natural 8. Both NAT9 and NAT8 are as old as the hills; Edward Thorp analyzed advantage play against them nearly 50 years ago (see this post) and determined that they can both be soundly defeated. In the early 1960s, in the midst of the industry-wide panic over the new army of blackjack card counters, Thorp unleashed a fresh line of attack. Nevertheless, NAT9 and NAT8 are still finding their ways into casinos worldwide. Beware! Continue reading
One of the great heroes of casino game analysis is Edward O. Thorp. He is best known for his seminal work, Beat the Dealer, originally published in 1962. Over 50 years later, it is still in the top five best-selling books on blackjack listed on Amazon. What is not so well-known is that Thorp also published a research article, with co-author William E. Walden, on beating two baccarat side bets. Their paper is A Favorable Side Bet in Nevada Baccarat (Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol 61, No. 314, pp. 313-328). The full paper is available here in pdf format. The side bets that Thorp and Walden analyze in their paper are the propositions that either the Player hand or Banker hand will be either a natural 8 or natural 9. Any casual reader of this blog will immediately recognize the high degree of countability of these wagers. Continue reading
Just over 10 years ago I published an article in the Blackjack Insider newsletter on card counting the Lucky Ladies blackjack side bet (here is a link). That was my first one. I look back on that article and can see the love I had for conducting and publishing this type of analysis. Emphasis on publishing. Good APs at the time had any number of gripes against me, nearly all of which were true. I was arrogant, had a know-it-all attitude, was a lousy AP and went around spouting profitable information to the public for no apparent reason. Not much has changed.
I wrote this article from the player’s point of view, using my monicur at the time “The Mayor.”
Here it is in full, my August, 2003 article. Continue reading
Many of the side bets I analyze on this blog are small-time opportunities that are unlikely to get much action from card counting APs. That is not the case with UR Way Egalite (URE) baccarat side bet or its first cousin, Super Pay Egalite (SPE). The ordinary tie bet allows the player to wager that the result of the hand will be a tie. The tie bet is effectively unbeatable (see this post and this post). On the other hand, URE allows the player to wager on each specific tie, with separate odds offered for a tie on each final result. By using a custom designed counting system for each of the ten possible ties, URE can be crushed (see this post). SPE is similar to URE in that it allows wagers on specific ties. In SPE the ties are grouped into five different subsets. Just like URE, dedicated counting systems can be developed for each of the five subsets of ties, allowing SPE to also be effectively crushed by advantage players. Continue reading
Every once in a while I like to take a step back and see where I am. Such is the case with card counting blackjack, baccarat and their respective side bets. In this article I am going to give summary statistics for every game and side bet I have analyzed for card counting in this blog. I hope this will give some perspective on the overall landscape of vulnerabilities. I am still finding that some in casino management obsess over small things while ignoring gaping and obvious holes in their game protection. For the most part, card counting is a very small thing. Unfortunately, some in casino management still sweat the small things. Sweat equity is often worthless. Continue reading
At G2E this year I saw a side bet that seemed very familiar to me, Dealer Bust 21 (DB21), at the TCS John Huxley booth. DB21 is yet another blackjack side bet that pays if the dealer busts. This one has a unique distinction: I was the mathematician who did the original mathematical analysis. My report would normally be confidential, but in this case the inventor, Peter Blaine, decided to post my report on his game’s website, so here it is. At the time I did this analysis (December, 2010), I was not routinely considering advantage play for games. I am therefore pleased that the results of this advantage play analysis did not expose negligence on my part. Nevertheless, DB21 is not risk-free. Continue reading
At G2E last week, I came across a baccarat side bet I had not seen before at the Galaxy Gaming booth, called “Lucky Win” (LW). The side bet can be made on either the Player hand or the Banker hand and it pays when the winning hand totals 0, 1, 2, 3, or 5. A hand total in the range 0-to-5 is unlikely to win, hence the name “Lucky Win.” Here is a copy of their rack sheet: (LW_Rack_Front, LW_Rack_Back). Imagine my surprise when I looked on the back and saw my name as a contributor to the analysis.
A long long time ago, in a casino far far away, there was a blackjack side bet called “Over/Under 13” (OU13). The player had the opportunity to wager that his two cards would total more than 13 (Over) or would total less than 13 (Under). A total of 13 lost for both wagers. These were even-money wagers, nothing fancy. Continue reading
One of my first outings as a novice blackjack card counter was to Laughlin, Nevada, in the Spring of 1997. I recall seeing a wager on a six-deck shoe game called the Super Sevens (SUP7) side bet. It paid whenever the first card dealt was a seven, with higher payouts for two or three sevens and suited hands. This was my first experience with advantage play against a side bet. I did some scratch mathematics and determined that if twenty non-7’s came out at the start of the shoe, then I had the edge. That “special” shoe finally arrived and I started making SUP7 wagers. I recall a hand when sevens were dealt around the table, missing me entirely. Continue reading