In this blog post I covered the basics of advantage play against the Lucky Pairs (LP) baccarat side bet. In the most common variation of LP, the player can wager that either the next Player or Banker hand will be a pair. A winning wager pays 11-to-1. With eight decks, the off-the-top house edge is 10.361%. Advantage play is not lucrative or easy for this bet. However, in the AP's favor, many Asian casinos allow fairly large wagers (\$500 or more) on LP.

It is straight-forward to write down the mathematical formula for the house edge for LP based on the number of each rank that remain in the shoe. The "Targets and Weights" method I developed for counting LP was based on this formula. I showed that with a cut card at 14 cards, the AP could earn about 0.329 units per shoe by betting on both the Player and Banker pair whenever the formula indicates an edge. If the AP was able to use the exact formula for the edge, he could earn 0.375 units per shoe. In practice, the exact formula is too complicated to use on the fly. However, using an electronic device for this calculation would make it quite trivial.

A team of at least eight individuals has been targeting LP at casinos using a customized cell-phone application. This team won a substantial amount from one casino before the casino figured out what they were doing. The cell-phone application gave the exact house edge based on the composition of the shoe at any given point. Team members would sit at various baccarat tables using this device, and then call in a “big player” whenever the application indicated an edge. I was told that these cell-phones are Chinese in origin, and that they can be purchased for the equivalent of about \$200 apiece.

Here is a picture of this cell-phone, with a blow-up of the screen. I was told that the Chinese characters mean (from left to right): SETTING, 6 DECKS, 8 DECKS, and EXCHANGE.

From what I understand, it was fairly easy to spot the cheating -- one team member didn't play the LP bet for two shoes, then on the third shoe she placed five LP bets, winning three of them. The team consisted of eight individuals, with two players using the app to evaluate shoes, and six players ready to jump in with maximum LP bets. Having been caught cheating, these players are going to have a few years in a small room to consider the difference between advantage play and cheating.

I was told that this blog made surveillance aware that such a play was even possible. Good going guys!

Tradition is an important part of casino procedures for a variety of games. When the tradition leads to advantage play or cheating, it may be time to make a change. In the case of the casino where this cheating happened, the solution they found was easy. They moved the cut card back to 26 cards.

Received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. Eliot has been a Professor of both Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from academia in 2009. Eliot Jacobson