Enter Lucky 8’s, a new game that does bear base similarities to Three Card Poker and Pai Gow Poker, but adds several layers of innovation to create an exciting product that’s heavy on player participation without ever becoming taxing.
And good news for New Jersey gamblers: The game has been approved by state regulators.
Here’s an overview of the product, along with our take on whether this is a game worth playing.
Breaking down Lucky’s 8
Those familiar with the betting structure of other raise or fold games should have a slight leg up going in. But even for seasoned carnival game connoisseurs, there will be a learning curve. Skip the NJ casino forums and follow along with our explanation of how the game works.
At the beginning of a round, players will place an ante wager. Then, each player and the dealer will be dealt eight cards — and yes, you did read that right.
Here’s where the first gameplay quirk comes into play: The dealer does not deal from a traditional 52 card deck. Instead, the cards nine – king cards have been removed, leaving only ace – eight.
If that weren’t strange enough, Lucky 8’s is a double deck game, and each deck has one Joker — for a total of 66 cards. The Joker acts as a partial wild card, similar to how it functions in Pai Gow Poker. Only in this instance, the Joker only counts as an eight.
Once players receive their hand, they can opt to fold, thus forfeiting their ante wager, or raise, by placing a wager equal to the ante amount in the In to Win circle. This decision should be based on a player’s hand strength.
It’s here, during the hand evaluation process, that Lucky 8’s takes a turn for the crazy.
The winning condition of the game is to have more natural eights and/or Jokers, and additive combinations of eight, than the dealer. There are a couple of caveats, however:
- The dealer needs to have at least one natural eight or Joker to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify (and the player doesn’t fold), the ante is paid 1:1 and the In to Win bet pushes. In this instance, dealers do not set their hands.
- If the player has more eights than the dealer, the player is paid on both the ante and In to Win bets.
- If the dealer and player have the same number of eights, the one with the fewer discards wins. Winning player bets are paid on both the ante and In to Win wagers.
- In the rare case that the dealer and the player have the same number of eights and discards, the player loses both the ante and In to Win bets.
A word on side cards: Cards that cannot be used to construct an eight must be set aside — these are known as side cards or discards. Players are advised to construct hands so that they minimize the number of side cards.
A hand example
Player A is dealt 8, Joker, 6, 5, 3, ace, 7, 4.
The player will probably want to play this hand, as it contains a natural eight and a wild card.
A third eight can be made by adding 5 + 3, ace + 7, or 3 + ace + 4. In this instance, the player should go for 3 + ace + 4, and set aside the 6, 5, and 4 in order to minimize side cards.
The optional Lucky 8’s bonus wager
As is the case with both Pai Gow and Three Card Poker, there is an optional side bet that returns progressively higher payouts based on the number of natural eights and/or Jokers in a player’s hand.
One of the allowed pay tables as follows:
- No 8’s: Loss
- One 8: Loss
- Two 8’s: 1:1
- Three 8’s: 2:1
- Four 8’s: 5:1
- Five 8’s: 40:1
- Six 8’s: 250:1
- Seven 8’s: 500:1
- Eight 8’s (Six natural 8’s and two Jokers): 1,000:1
Better pay tables exist that pay out more on rare hands. One aggressive table pays out 200,000:1 at the top-end, which has a significant impact on both the house edge, and of course, volatility.
Crazy game that’s not crazy to play
Lucky 8’s will most likely resonate with players who like to be active participants, and who don’t mind doing a bit of simple math. It may also sit well with Pai Gow Poker players looking for similar offerings that aren’t quite as slow, yet still relaxed.
From a value hunting perspective, Lucky 8’s is a solid bet.
The house edge of 2.03 percent is still higher than it is for the very best Atlantic City tables games (blackjack, craps, baccarat), but lower than most other carnival games, including Three Card Poker.
One word of caution: Unless you’re playing purely for entertainment value, steer clear of the optional side wager. That pay table listed above owns a hefty house edge of 10.66 percent, and the house advantage for even the best tables comes in at around 9 percent.