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Understanding the Ups and Downs of Baccarat7 October 2003
In baccarat, bettors can put their money on Player hoping to win 1-to-1, or Banker to get 1-to-1 minus that annoying 5 percent commission. There's also an 8-to-1 payoff wager on Tie. But Tie gives the house an exorbitant edge and 8-to-1 isn't exactly a ticket to Easy Street; sophisticated gamblers accordingly tend to avoid it altogether, or at most to bet it on the side at a lower level than they're risking simultaneously on Player or Banker.
Most casinos spread baccarat in standard as well as mini versions. The standard
game generally has higher minimum bets, uses a larger table with more dealers,
lets bettors handle the cards, and proceeds at half the pace or less. But the
structure is the same in either case. On a round-by-round basis, chances of
winning or losing, and of getting ahead or behind by varying degrees, are therefore
Say you bet the same amount on every round, keeping to Player or Banker. Further, assume you stick it out for two hours despite your bankroll fluctuations during that period. On the upside, your chances exceed 20 percent of finishing with a profit over 10 times your bet, and 7 percent of ending above 20 units. On the downside, the probabilities are about 32 percent of losing 10 units or more, and 15 percent of falling below 20 times your bet. At $25 a shot, you're talking $250 and $500. Projections are slightly more optimistic if you bet only on Banker and conversely on Player. But for two hours of action, Player-Banker differences aren't enough to argue, let alone justify fist fights in the aisles with nit-pickers who can cite the sixth decimal place.
A common mistake made in predicting bankroll swings is to consider only where
fortunes are apt to be after a session of some stated duration. The reality
is that most solid citizens have loss limits and quit when they scrape the bottom
of either their fiscal or emotional barrels. Flat betting on Banker or Player,
the chance is about 60 percent of hitting a 10-unit pain barrier before completing
250 rounds, and 28 percent of dropping into a chasm 20 units deep prior to finishing
this much play.
Compared with flat $25 bets, chances of finishing after two hours above $250 and $500 using the progression increase from 20 to 28 and 7 to 15 percent, respectively. Negative swings are also more radical, with the probabilities of completing two-hour sessions worse than $250 and $500 in the hole rising from 32 to 38 and 15 to 23 percent, respectively. The likelihood of busting at $250 and $500 before completing 250 hands with the hypothetical progression as opposed to the $25 equivalent average flat bet goes up, too -- from 60 to 70 and 28 to 40 percent, respectively.
In addition to offering an opportunity for a long session at an elegant casino classic on a modest bankroll, with a good shot at a small profit and bets anyone can learn to make in a shake, baccarat has another big plus. Snob appeal. You'll impress your friends by telling them it's your game. To get the full effect, though, be sure to drop the final "t" when you pronounce it. For, as Sumner A Ingmark reminded readers of his remarkable rhymes:
To raise yourself above the rabble,
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