My local Barona Casino offers the Royal Match blackjack side bet which pays 75-to-1 when you’re dealt a suited K-Q on your first two cards, and 2-1 for any other suited hand. Normally, the house edge is 4.06% for this side bet, but as readers of this blog know by now, sucker bets are often countable. Using a simple true K-Q count, the bet yields an average 5.4% player edge.
I always play this bet for $1, and get really excited when I hit it for $75. The last time I hit it, I decided to analyze it’s countability.
I first looked at the bet’s distributions of EVs at the last hand of the shoe. This would show me if there was any potential for a counting scheme. I’d see how often and how strongly the bet went +EV. Here’s what it looks like with one deck remaining:
I could tell from the graph that the bet was exploitable. So I calculated the average profit per shoe, assuming heads-up play with the dealer. This theoretical limit comes out to a profit of +0.504 bets/shoe. That’s a really good profit rate (compare to the Dragon-7 profit rate of 0.54 bets/shoe). That means a player betting a fixed amount on the Royal Match will net an average profit equal to half his bet per shoe, when heads up with the dealer. On a per bet basis, the average Royal Match bet EV is +5.9%, assuming perfect knowledge of the dealt cards.
I then looked for a simple (practical) counting scheme that would capture most of the theoretical edge. As it worked out, the second idea that came to mind happened to be very effective. A simple true count of excess Kings and Queens yields about +0.43/shoe (85% of the theoretical edge):
trueCount = (8*decksDealt - countedKingsAndQueens)/decksRemaining
where decksDealt and decksRemaining are floating-point numbers.
Note that you should bet the Royal Match when the true count is >= 0.8.
In heads-up play, you’ll get an average of 8.0 bets/shoe, with an average bet EV of +5.4%. The scheme is very comparable with the highly profitable Dragon-7 counting scheme (EV +0.54/shoe), but it’s much faster, and has much lower variance.
So if you don’t find me at the full-exposure Mississippi Stud game, look for me in the i-Table pit counting the Royal Match.