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Baccarat: Three Frequently Asked Questions9 October 2000
Baccarat has rigid rules for drawing or standing. What are they?
Baccarat involves two hands, Player and Banker. The winner is that finishing closer to a score of nine. Bets can also be made on Tie -- the hands finish at the same score. Each hand starts with two cards. These are tallied. Ace to nine have matching values 1 to 9; 10 through king equal 0. Scores are added up to 9, then the leading digit is dropped. For instance, 4 + 9 yields 3 rather than 13, 7 + 8 + 9 yield 4 rather than 24, and so forth.
The hands stand or draw once, based strictly on the two-card scores. The simplest case occurs when at least one initial hand is a natural -- a total of 8 or 9. Player and Banker both stand. The fly hits the ointment when neither initial hand is a natural. Player then follows a single rule: draw on totals of 0 through 5; stand otherwise. Rules for Banker are more complex:
For every thousand hands, Banker is expected to win 459 and Player 446. The other 95 are Ties, which Banker and Player push.
Banker pays 1-to-1 but casinos normally take 5 percent commission on wins. In 1,000 tries at $1 each, bettors therefore expect to win $0.95x459 = $436 and lose $446 -- $10 net deficit. The $10 is a $10/$1,000 = 1.0 percent edge based on rounds.
Player pays 1-to-1. In 1,000 tries at $1 each, bettors should
accordingly pick up $446 and drop $459 -- $13 net deficit. The $13 is a
$13/$1,000 = 1.3 percent edge based on total rounds.
Why is tie is considered a "sucker bet?"
Bet quality is generally rated in terms of edge. This is a percentage you can picture as the amount the casino theoretically earns per dollar wagered, averaged over time. Clearly, the greater the edge, the more of the money in action the casino keeps, and the less bettors -- as a group -- take home.
You may not notice the impact of edge during individual sessions. This is because inherent fluctuations in the game tend to swamp the gradual effects of edge in the short run. Still, the higher the edge, the luckier you must be to win enough rounds over the expected number to overcome it. And, the edge on Tie, 14.5 percent, far exceeds the roughly 1 percent on Banker and Player.
Why do solid citizens make this bet? Often, they just don't know how bad it is. Or, they don't care. Perhaps they focus on the 8-to-1 payoff. Maybe they perceive patterns in past hands and bet on Tie when a sense of gestalt tells them it's next in some mystical sequence. Either way, they're avoiding the advice adduced by Sumner A Ingmark, the adept advocate of advantage:
Though seeing is believing,
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