A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. My two brothers and I have gone to casinos together for years. My older brother is always looking for an angle. My younger brother and I are always trying to tell him it won't work and we should stick to our usuals.
This time it's baccarat with a bad idea that he won't let go. We don't play baccarat. We play craps and sometimes blackjack. But he's trying to sell us on the three of us going to the same table and each betting something different. One would bet banker, one would bet player and one would bet ties. That way we'd always win one bet, and we'd win big when ties came in and paid 8-1.
Younger brother is the practical one in the family, and he tried to tell older brother that the player and banker basically cancel each other out. If you're going to do that, you might as well just bet ties. I added that on any hand that wasn't a tie, you were guaranteed to lose two of three bets. We'd be assuring ourselves of losing money most of the time.
He countered that on the ties, player and banker would both push so we'd be getting all of that sweet 8-1.
Younger brother knows it won't work. I know it won't work. Could you give some numbers ?
A. When banker (1.06 percent house edge) wins, player (1.24 percent loses), and vice versa. So younger brother is correct. Older brother's scheme relies on ties, with a 14.4 percent house edge. Letting the worst bet at the table carry the load is not ideal.
Let's use a 1,000-hand example to illustrate. Assume each of you bets $20 per hand, with $20 on banker, $20 on player and $20 on ties. That figure is chosen so the commission on winning banker bets is an even $1. Whenever banker wins, you'll lose player and ties. When player wins, you'll lose banker and ties. On ties, you'll win the tie bet and push on the other two.
In an average 1,000 hands, the total at risk for the three of you is $60,000. With average results and some rounding, banker wins 459 times, player wins 446 and tie wins 95.
On each banker win, you keep your $20 bet and get $19 in winnings once the commission is deducted. Over 459 wins, that comes to $17,901.
On each player win, you keep your $20 bet and get $20 in winnings. With 446 wins, that totals $17,840.
On each tie, you keep your $20 bet and win $160. The 95 ties in our example bring that total to $17,100.
Also on each tie, you keep $20 in banker wagers and $20 in player wagers. Multiply by 95 ties and you get back $3,800 in pushes -- $1,900 for banker and $1,900 for player.
The total on your side of the table after all hands are completed is $56, 741. The house edge on the combination is 5.43 percent, with the rounding. It would be a little higher with more hands in the sample since the best bet, banker, was rounded up from 458.597 hands and the worst bet, the tie, was rounded down from 95.156.
Even with the 8-1 payoffs, the tie bet brings you the least return of the three. When you add the bets kept on pushes to the totals on banker and player, you can see the large majority of losses come from the tie bet older brother wants to spotlight.