For side bettors, can luck be a lady?

Jan 23, 2006 4:50 AM

Table game sidebets can be rough on your bankroll. You generally have a choice between a full-wager sidebet (i.e. a $5 minimum) that pays in the mid 90% or some that require only a $1 wager, with a payback that plunges to around 80% or less.

The irony is that you’ll actually lose less with the $1 wager, but at the same time, the odds of walking away a winner can be very slim with this type of sidebet. It will frequently become jackpot or bust.

Let’s take a look at one of these $1 sidebets for blackjack. Lucky Ladies by Galaxy Gaming is one of the most popular blackjack sidebets in the casino. If you’re dealt any type of 20, you win. It’s that simple. Depending on the make-up of the 20, you can win a progressively higher payout. There is one set of payouts for a single-deck game and two different paytables for a multi-deck game. For today, I’ll be focusing on the better paying multi-deck version. In this version, the payouts are as follows:

Winning Hand Pays

Queen of Hearts Pair
w/Dealer BJ 1000

Queen of Hearts Pair 200

Matched 20 (Suited Pair) 25

Suited 20 10

Any other 20 4

The exact payback of the paytable shown above is dependent on the number of decks being used. Since the likelihood of the top hands are much harder to hit with fewer decks, the impact to the payback is significant. With two decks, the payback is 75.06%. With four decks, the payback 80.54%. With six decks, the payback is a whopping 82.36%. The downside to this pattern is the fact that the blackjack game itself has a payback that will go UP as the number of decks goes down. If, however, you are betting on Lucky Ladies, this advantage will evaporate due to the sidebet.

Walking away a winner is going to be very difficult in this game. As common as a ”˜20’ sounds, they actually only show up a little more often than 10% of the time. In Lucky Ladies, the ”˜any other 20’ will account for 76% of all the winning hands. The ”˜Suited 20’ will account for a little less than 20% of the hands. The Jackpot hand will show up about once every 68,000 hands on a 6-deck game and once every 115,000 hands in a 2-deck game. That makes these hands far more rare than a video poker royal flush.

Besides having a very low payback to begin with, a large percentage (8.3%) of the payback is a result of the two most rare hands. This leads to a game with very high volatility. This means that if you walk away a winner, it’s very likely that it will be because you hit one of these hands. If you don’t hit one of them, then you’re likely to lose and you will lose big frequently.

A computer simulation of 100,000 sessions of 100 hands each shows us what to expect from Lucky Ladies. The most important piece of information we learn is that the player will wind up a loser in over 80% of these sessions. Nearly 29% of the sessions will wind up with a net loss of between 61 and 100 units (a payback of less than 40%!). In one session, the player even wound up winning zero units back; not a single winning hand in 100 deals.

On the other side of the ledger, 10.4% of the sessions wound up winning between 1 and 20 units. An additional 3.8% wound up winning of between 21 and 40 units. About 2.5% of the sessions wound up with big wins of greater than 150 units.

My problem with sidebets such as this one is that you start with a game of blackjack paying 99% or more, and you add to it a game like Lucky Ladies paying only 82-83%. The end result is a game that has a higher element of luck to it, and thus an overall lower payback then the original game of blackjack. If you’re one of the lucky few to hit one of the big hands, you’ll be happy that you played. For the majority of the rest of the players, your chances of walking away a winner are too small for my taste.