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Best of Alan Krigman
Everything You Should Know about Baccarat, and More4 November 2003
By Alan Krigman
Bets on Player are expected to win 44.62 percent of all hands, lose 45.86 percent, and push the other 9.52 percent; they pay even money. Those on Banker flip wins and losses while pushing at the same rate; they win slightly more than they lose so casinos get rich by deducting a commission from the payouts, effectively setting return in most joints at $0.95 on the dollar. The house's bite is about 1 percent either way. Similar chances and edges mean these bets are interchangeable for most practical purposes.
Ties win 9.52 percent and lose the remaining 90.48 percent; payout is 8-to-1.
The edge here roars in at about 14 percent, a usurious amount considering that
8-to-1 isn't exactly spectacular. This is accordingly a real sucker bet, best
Solid citizens frequently try to make gambling more esoteric than the elementary exercise it is. To do so, some make up stuff they want to be true and call it theory. Others dig below the surface and find facts that don't necessarily help them take the casinos to the cleaners, but do let them brandish a certain aura of authority compared to the clods who haven't a clue about cards.
One detail that does help bettors follow the game is the way hands are tallied.
It's from zero through nine. Tens and pictures equal zero, aces through nines
their face values. When a total exceeds nine, subtract 10 to return to the scoring
range. A five and an eight therefore rank as three (five plus eight is 13, minus
10 is three). Similarly, five, eight, and nine rank as two. Another illuminating
tidbit is that the dealer begins by giving Player and Banker two cards each,
then follows strict rules to stand or to draw once more for either or both.
You can get an impressively confusing chart from the casino showing these rules.
But learning them, as Oscar Wilde might cynically have said, is like knowing
the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The data confirm, as you might guess, that low totals are always underdogs. Hands don't reach a 50-50 chance of winning until they get to a count of seven. It's also engaging to note that Player does better than Banker with high point values, and conversely with low finishes. How can you use this insight? There's this way, snidely cited by the celebrated songster, Sumner A Ingmark:
No knowledge so worthless that no one will want it,