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Lightning Blackjack is a blackjack variant by Evolution Gaming, a provider of live dealer games for Internet casinos. It could be loosely described as a blackjack version of Ultimate X Poker, where a win in one hand earns a multiplier in the next hand.
Lightning Blackjack is based on conventional blackjack, with the following specifics:
- Eight decks of cards.
- Cards shuffled after about four decks are dealt.
- Dealer stands on soft 17.
- Dealer peeks at hole card for blackjack with an ace up only.
- Blackjack pays 3 to 2.
- Player may double on any initial two cards.
- Player may split once only.
- Split aces get one card each.
- Double after split not allowed.
- Surrender not allowed.
- No side bets.
Following are the rules that pertain to the multiplier feature.
- In addition to the main bet, the player must pay a fee equal to the main bet, known as the Lightning Fee.
- The Lightning Fee is never returned.
- If the player wins, then a multiplier will be earned for the subsequent hand.
- The multipliers are random and depend on the winning player total. A table below shows some known multiplier values.
- If the player splits and wins at least one hand, then he will earn a multiplier.
- If the player splits and wins both hands, then the higher winning total will be used to assign a multiplier for the next hand.
- If the player earns a multiplier and increases his bet, then the multiplier will apply only to the portion of the new bet up to the amount bet on the previous hand in which the multiplier was earned. For example, if the player bets $10 and earns a multiplier and then bets $50 on the next hand, the multiplier will apply to only $10 of that $50 bet.
- If the player doubles with an earned multiplier, then the multiplier will apply to the entire win.
- If the player splits with an earned multiplier, then the multiplier will apply to both new hands.
The following is a table of known multipliers, based on a sampling of 19 hands only. The game rules state a 25x multiplier is possible, but since it was not observed in my sampling, I am not including it.
|Winning Total||Possible Multipliers||Sample Average|
|17 or less||2||2.00|
Before considering the Lightning Fee or any multipliers, I get a house edge of 0.72%. This is 0.62% from my house edge calculator, putting in that the dealer peeks for blackjack. Then I add 0.10% from my effect of rule variations.
The web site Live Casino Comparer, which I like, quotes an overall return to player of 99.56%, based on the initial wager only. For example, if the player bet $100 on the main wager, with another $100 matching Lightning Fee, he could expect to get back $199.56.
The figure above is likely based on optimal strategy, which would reflect not just the player cards and dealer card, but also the current multiplier. Some initial analysis has shown a very unconventional strategy with a large multiplier, making such plays as doubling on 5 or 12 and splitting tens.
As of this writing (November 11, 2021) I have not worked out such a strategy yet. However, I have simulated the game using the appropriate basic strategy for the base game and the average multipliers shown above.
The following table shows the possible winning totals, the probability of achieving that win various ways, average multiplier (to the best of my knowledge), and contribution to the overall average. The probability of winning by splitting shows the higher of the two totals in the case of two wins after a split. The lower right cell shows an average multiplier of 2.609481. Please bear in mind that no multiplier is actually a multiplier of 1.
Expected Multiplier Table
|Winning 12 to 17||0.087270||0.017277||0.002697||0.107243||2.000000||0.214487|
The next table shows the various pertinent win/loss outcomes per hand, the probability of each, units won and units lost (before considering the Lightning fee), the overall win after the average multiplier shown above and the product of the probability and the win. The lower right cell shows an overall win of 0.823675.
Expected Return Table
|Dealer blackjack loss||0.045266||0||1||-1.000000||-0.045266|
|Split -- win both||0.008090||2||0||5.218961||0.042222|
|Split -- win one, tie one||0.000755||1||0||2.609481||0.001971|
|Split -- win one, lose one||0.003756||1||1||1.609481||0.006045|
|Split -- tie both||0.000294||0||0||0.000000||0.000000|
|Split -- lose one, tie one||0.001775||0||1||-1.000000||-0.001775|
|Split -- lose both||0.006573||0||2||-2.000000||-0.013145|
That win of 0.823675 units is BEFORE considering the Lightning fee. The Lightning fee is one unit. Thus the overall expected win per hand is 0.823675 - 1.0 = -0.176325. In other words, the player can expect to lose 17.63% of his original bet per hand. You might call the house edge 17.63% the house edge based on the original bet. If you divide by 2, then you could say the house edge based on the total amount initiall bet, including the Lightning fee is 8.82%.
Disclaimer: I want to emphasize the above figures are based on conventional basic strategy, which is not appropriate for Lightning Blackjack. Evolution, the makers of the game, claim a house edge of 0.44%, based on the original wager. I do not dispute this and highly respect Evolution and trust the figure to be accurate. However, it is based on an unknown optimal strategy that, as far as I know, is known only to Evolution. I also want to emphasize my average multipliers are based on a very small sampling of 19 hands. It is very diffuclt for US players to play this game and I am limited to the hands shown in the YouTube video mentioned in the external links section below.
My bottom line is I would not play this game, at least for large bets, until a proper strategy is published. I may do so and I may not.
This analysis was conducted by a random simulation of 81,639,701,116 hands.
- Discussion about Lightning Blackjack in my forum at Wizard of Vegas.
- Live Casino Comparer has a good page on the game.
- YouTube has a video about the game.
Written by:Michael Shackleford