A couple of years ago I decided to take on a new AP strategy by counting the lucky lucky side bet in blackjack. It didn’t take long to figure out most of what I needed to know after searching Eliot’s website.
At first I was hoping to figure out a way to beat the side bet as well as the main game (I use hi lo) simultaneously. Keeping a side count of 6,7,8,A was ideal but too difficult so I concentrated on the 2 most valuable cards – 7 & 8. I found tracking these with the clock/chip method to be quite doable. I would then make the lucky lucky bet when the shoe was rich in 7’s and/or 8’s. The problem was I wasn’t smart enough to figure out at what richness level to start making the bet. Obviously I should have the advantage when the shoe was very rich, but what about when the 8’s were rich and 7’s neutral or various other combinations? What about the 6’s and A’s I wasn’t lucky lucky blackjack tracking? I may have bet at times without an advantage but most likely I was probably missing 80% of the opportunities. So after about 20 hours fooling around with these side counts I decided to learn a new count.
Interestingly, this would be the first time I tried a new count (and a level 2 count at that) in my 30 year love affair with the game.
Count is as follow:
2,3,10 – plus 1,
6,A – minus 1
7,8 – minus 2
4,5,9 – zero
I was quite surprised how quickly I picked it up. I stood behind a table and practiced for an hour before jumping in. The first few hours were mentally taxing, but after a while you begin to memorize the groupings and off setting pairs/groups that makes counting so much easier than non counters think it is.
The game is decent – 6 decks, blackjack pays 3 to 2 (isn’t it a sad state of affairs that I even have to mention that?) H17, DAS, ES10, re split aces, and good pen. Unfortunately most of the games in my area have a $25 max on the lucky lucky ($5 min on the regular game) that will limit my EV to about $20 /hr (at 100 hands/hr). Certainly not going to get rich on this, but for the last decade or so I have been playing mainly for fun at relatively low stakes – something to do while my wife is out of town on business.
My betting strategy is to bet 5 or 10 bucks at a true count of plus 2 and bet the max on higher counts. At plus 5 or higher I will try to get more money on the table by betting multiple spots or by betting on other player’s squares. Betting on other player’s squares certainly has its pitfalls which I won’t get into here. I also employ shuffle tracking techniques to increase betting frequency – again, I’m not smart enough to figure out how much extra EV this provides.
If I feel up to it, for the first few rounds after a shuffle I will keep both the hi lo count and the lucky lucky count (this is kind of similar to back counting 2 tables at once) if one of the counts quickly goes negative or positive I will abandon one for the other. If nothing extreme happens after a few rounds I drop the hi lo, as keeping 2 counts for an extended period is too hard on the head.
I quickly discovered that this game has huge variance, but after 32 years of playing blackjack, variance is no stranger to me. After the first 10 hours I am down almost a thousand bucks. But the positive variance in this game is absolutely thrilling as I discovered after hitting a suited 678 on a $25 bet for a $2500 payout.
So how am I doing?
After 162 hours of play I am up $4535 which should be close to my expected win (not sure of my actual EV due to the shuffle tracking effect and not tracking the extra money I try to put in play at higher counts)
1) I have hit the suited 678 that pays 100 to 1 five times – 3 times with a max bet, 1 time with 5 bucks, and thankfully only once without a bet. At 100 hands/hr you should make this hit every 58 hours or so, so I guess you could say I have been lucky lucky :).
2) I hit three unsuited 7’s (pays 50 to 1) twice, once with 5 bucks bet and once with $0. Still waiting for the elusive suited sevens that pays 200 to 1, but have seen it hit at my table twice. Once was a sweet elderly lady who had a whopping $1 on the bet. I went on to befriend her and now bet on her square when the opportunity presents itself
3) unsuited 678 (pays 30 to 1) – I didn’t keep track, but I hit it many times with and without money on it. In the long run this should come up every 4 hours or so.
What I love about this game:
1) the huge variance on the positive side!
What I hate about this game – several things:
1) the high negative variance.
2) the low maximum
3) a big hit with no money on it
4) ploppies and dealers constantly chastising you for not consistently playing the lucky lucky (it is very popular and most people play it).
5) #4 above after getting a big hit with no money on the lucky lucky. (This is one of the very few times I may get snarky with other players or the dealer)
6) the count skyrockets, the table is painted with 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s, but the cards just don’t line up for you, or the guy beside you has lucky lucky blackjack a huge hit
So am I going to return to the regular game or continue counting the lucky lucky?
It depends which side of the variance curve I’m on when you ask me.