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Lucky Ladies Side Bet

Dear Mark,
I have a question that perhaps you have answered, and if you have, I apologize for asking again. Our local casino has on the blackjack felt "Lucky Ladies". This is a side bet where you are hoping for a natural 20 on the first two cards. If you get it, you get a 4-1 payback; the paybacks go up depending on whether the cards are suited or not (9-1 if they are) all the way up to 125-1 if you get two Queens of Hearts.

Knowing that casinos are NOT ATM machines, this bet is clearly to the house's favor. My question is, just how MUCH in the house's favor are these bets? And yes, I was actually dealt the elusive Queens of Hearts, as was my fiancée, but no; we did not have any money on that bet.
- David T.

Lucky Ladies is an optional proposition bet found on the game of Blackjack. The basic proposition is whether or not the player's first two cards total twenty. Additional bonuses are paid if the player's first two cards equaling twenty are also suited (e.g. Ace of Hearts and Nine of Hearts), or matched, (e.g. two identical cards such as two Jacks of Spades). There is also a special bonus if the player's first two cards are both the Queen of Hearts; the "Lucky Ladies." A top prize is awarded if the player's Queen of Hearts pair occurs at the same time that the dealer has a blackjack.

I generally, David, give every wager the casino offers a whirl, once, even if the house edge is excessive. I deem it a professional service to future questions like yours. Soooo, one night a while back I decided to throw down a buck on the Lucky Ladies. First card out; the Queen of Hearts. And my second card.? Wouldn't you know it, the dealer pitches me a second Queen of Hearts! I just won $125 on a dollar bet that I really shouldn't be making in the first place. But it gets better. The dealer's up card was an Ace. Still following me, David? If the dealer has a ten, Jack, Queen or King in the hole, I win $1,000.

BANG! The Greek goddess of war, Athena, the Queen of Spades appeared, arm-in-arm with Gorpus, the patron saint of left-handed married men, giving me a thousand dollar payday.

The casino advantage on the Lucky Ladies proposition wager is depends on the number of decks are used and the paytable, which varies from casino to casino. It can be anywhere from 16.73% to over 38%. The game I played on had six decks and paid the following for each combination:

  • Queen of Hearts pair w/dealer blackjack: 1000 to 1
  • Queen of Hearts pair: 125 to 1
  • Matched 20: 19 to 1
  • Suited 20: 9 to 1
  • Any 20: 4 to 1

The casino advantage with six decks and this paytable was 24.71%, but, thanks to the only armed Queen in the deck, along with her unreliable pal, I'm $1,000 to the plus side on a wager that it's tough for me to bad mouth. I still shall, but in a whisper.

Dear Mark,
What does the expression mean: "Don't tap on the aquarium?"
- John R.

"Don't tap on the aquarium" is catchphrase, spoken by one player to another, meaning do not give lessons or advice that would enlighten the fish. And the fish, John, are terrible players who tend to give away lots and lots of money. Fish make the game profitable for the other players at the table. For those of us who play, nothing, but nothing beats playing in a fishpond.

There is an old poker adage though, which holds that if you can't spot the fish at your table, you're probably it.

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