Discount Gambling

Lucky 9 @ Harrah’s Rincon

Posted in baccarat by stephenhow on July 29, 2012

There’s a new game Lucky 9 at my nearby Harrah’s Rincon that’s a hybrid between baccarat and blackjack. It plays like simplified blackjack, where you can only hit once, and hand totals are between 0-9. Like blackjack, you start with two cards, and the dealer exposes their top card. Like baccarat, hand values are equal to the last digit of the sum of the cards. The best hand is a Lucky 9, which is a two card 9 without a face/ten. It ties a Natural 9 (two card 9 w/ face/ten), but otherwise pays 3:2. However, Lucky 9’s after splits only pay even-money, and push against all dealer 9’s. The house edge of the game is 1.18%.

Probably, the only point of playing this game would be to see how confused the dealer gets when resolving hands involving Lucky 9, especially after split, or against a dealer Natural 9. I’m sure they’ll probably let you hit some hands after splits too. And people will think you’re crazy for standing on 5’s and 6’s.


The rules for Lucky 9 are as follows:

  1. Bets are placed before the hand is dealt.
  2. Player and dealer each receive 2 cards; the dealer upcard is exposed.
  3. The player may split pairs (up to 3 times) by matching the initial wager. Split hands receive only one card.
  4. The player may hit any non-split hand once, or stand.
  5. After the players action is complete, the dealer turns up his hole card.
  6. The dealer hits once on totals of less than 5.
  7. A non-split Lucky 9 (2-card 9 w/o 0-value card) pays 3:2, except for pushes against a dealer 2-card 9.
  8. A dealer Lucky 9 beats a player 3-card 9.
  9. All other player 9’s vs. dealer 9’s push.
  10. The player automatically loses with a total of 0, 1, or 2.
  11. Otherwise, wagers are resolved by comparing hand point totals.

Basic Strategy

I put the rules into my blackjack analyzer, and came up with a house edge of 1.18%, and the following auto-generated strategy:

Hand Dealer Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2-Card Totals
6-9 S S S S S S S S S S
5 S S S S H H H H S S
0-4 H H H H H H H H H H
10-10 P P H H H H H H P P
9-9 S S S S S S S S S S
8-8 S S S S S P S S S S
7-7 P P P P P P H H P P
6-6 P P P P P H H H P P
5-5 P P P P H H H H P P
4-4 S S S S S S S S S S
3-3 S S S S S S S S S S
2-2 H H H H H H H H H H

The EORs for the game are extremely low compared to blackjack. There’s no value in counting this game.

Lucky 9 Bonus

The Lucky 9 Bonus is a side bet on your first 2 cards and the dealer upcard. The bet pays for various 3-card totals of 9, as listed in the paytable below. The house edge for this side bet is 13.1%. The EORs (sensitivities to card removal) are too low, and the initial house edge is too high, to make the side bet very countable. An ideal counter (using perfect knowledge of shoe composition) will find +EV betting opportunities about 2.7% of the time, with an average +10.8% EV/bet.

Hand Payout Combinations Probability Return
Suited 3-3-3 200 224 0.000019 0.003761
Suited 2-3-4 100 2,048 0.000172 0.017193
Any 3-3-3 50 4,736 0.000398 0.019879
Any 2-3-4 40 30,720 0.002579 0.103155
Suited 9 Total 30 70,144 0.005888 0.176653
Other 9 Total 5 1,070,592 0.089874 0.449369
nothing -1 10,733,696 0.901071 -0.901071
Total 11,912,160 1.000000 -0.131061

14 Responses

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  1. Tom Mc said, on July 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Played it last week. Very hard game to win at in my opinion.
    I play Mississippi Stud most of the time.
    Let’s just say I am sticking to MS.
    The lucky 9 has a very fast turnover and I never saw more than two players on the table at one time.
    They even shut it down in the middle of the afternoon for about an hour or so.
    It replaced a UTH table which I think was a big mistake.
    They should have another MS table.
    Nuff of my rambling.

    Good job as always Steve.

    • stephenhow said, on July 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Yeah, I tried it last night. It’s pretty pointless. It’s like mini-blackjack — few options, and little excitement. The dealers, the pit-boss, and I all agreed the game needs something more. There should be some sort of double-down. I guess I’d get rid of the Lucky 9, and allow the player to double-down on certain totals.

      Anyway, hope you’re hitting enough quads on Mississippi Stud! I tried playing a little at Pala last night, but it’s just no fun when people don’t share cards. I flash mine, but no one reciprocates 😦 GL Tom!


      • Tom Mc said, on July 31, 2012 at 11:10 am

        Hi Steve,

        I will be at harrah’s tommorow if your around. You know where I will be.

    • Agatha said, on July 31, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Why would a casino took away the well understood money-making UTH for the unknown Lucky 9? Casinos typically don’t do this, almost never. Let’s guess why.

      (1) Too many players play UTH correctly and the house hold has gone down. I know one Northern CA casino used to have 32% hold.
      (2) Shuffle Master charges a lot for UTH. Lucky 9 could be free for 3 or 6 months at least.

      What else? Very very unusual…

      • Tom Mc said, on August 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

        I was at Harrah’s yesterday. I thought they took out one of the UTH tables but found out they moved it to another pit.

        I was at Mississippi stud and UTH from 10 AM untill 8 PM. MS is right across fomy Lucky 9.
        I never saw more than one or two players at a time there and they left in a hurry.
        Word is out that it sucks and is probably on it’s way out. Even the table game supervisors can see that.

      • stephenhow said, on August 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

        Yeah, this game sucks. I’ll usually play *anything*, and for long sessions,if it’s interesting. When I played Lucky 9, I got killed re-splitting 10’s and either drawing crap, or otherwise losing to the dealer. I got stuck 15 bets, and when I got it down to just -2 bets, I quit. There’s no point playing the game. The dealer said that Baccarat players won’t touch it. They don’t like the idea of choosing to draw or not.

        Oh, I looked at an optimal strategy for the Tie bet. If they paid 8:1, then it’d be beatable by about 3%, using a strategy optimized for ties. That’s why they only pay 7:1, so the best you can do is minimize the house edge at about 8%.

  2. Agatha said, on July 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    What is EOR? Is it House Edge? What is EOR for blackjack?

    • CK said, on July 31, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      EoR is “Effect of Removal” and measures how sensitive the game is to specific card values being removed from the deck.

      FWIW, Harrah’s signed a 3 year deal for all 35 of their casinos, so it seems they are betting on it.

      • Agatha said, on August 2, 2012 at 10:21 am

        “Harrah’s signed a 3 year deal for all 35 of their casinos, so it seems they are betting on it” would be a miracle.

        Harrah’s Director of Table Game told me he has 42 games waiting to be put on now. FWIW, Lucky 9 is not on the list. It is hard to even have one table in CZR property and Lucky 9 is great to accomplish this. BUT, CZR never made any bet. My bet is like Tom Mc’s prediction – on the way out.

  3. CK said, on August 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

    FYI, I based my comment on Harrah’s signing a deal on a post made by the game’s inventor in this thread:

  4. Agatha said, on August 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Congra to the inventor. BUT, bear in mind, a casino can take out any game at any time with recourse. If his postings are correct, I only wish him the best!!!

  5. Agatha said, on August 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Congra to the inventor. BUT, bear in mind, a casino can take out any game at any time WOTHOUT any recourse. If his postings are correct, I only wish him the best!!!

  6. Bob Dancer said, on October 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    counting quarter units is tricky for some. Multiplying all numbers (including starting count) by 4 and the quarter units disappear.

  7. Tom Mc said, on October 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Harrah’s yanked that game. Not even the most inexperianced gambler would stay at that table. UTH is back at that spot.

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