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Baccarat shouldn't be monotonous, so say readers

17 January 2005

Dear Mark,
Since the Banker bet in Baccarat is slightly more favorable than the Player hand, what are your thoughts about sitting at the game and continually making Banker bets? Also, what do you think of tracking play by using a scorecard? Larry L.

Yes, Larry, the Banker hand is a bit more likely to win than the player hand, and for that reason the house takes a 5% commission on winning Banker wagers. Even in spite of the added commission, the house edge is still lower with a Banker wager at 1.06%, opposed to 1.24% on Player bets. Therefore, if the house edge is lower on a Banker wager, you should bet it every time, right? Yes, Larry, mathematically you should, but according to some readers of this column, their take is different. When in a past column I advocated just betting the Banker hand and dismissed scorecards figuring the numbers support the Banker bet as the statistically better wager, even if the difference is ever so slight, many readers wrote in describing that form of gaming action as just plain BORING, enough of them for me to take note to what they're saying. Does anybody really want to sit down at a baccarat table and bet the Banker hand all night long, trading the fun of gambling for a minuscule statistical gain? Probably not. There is a "fun factor" to guessing, and betting consistently on the Banker hand is akin to watching paint dry. So, with both wagers having such a low casino advantage, you really can't go wrong betting either way.

As for scorecard use, most casinos do offer Baccarat players a scorecard for tracking the Player and Banker wins. Many Baccarat players believe various methods of tracking Player-Banker patterns predict future outcomes. Unfortunately, there is no statistical basis for the notion of finding predictable patterns in a shoe of well-shuffled cards.

Nevertheless, even if there is no advantage to doing so, keeping score does add some excitement (once again, that fun factor) to the game of baccarat, and lately even I started the practice of jotting B-B-B-P-B-P-P-B's on a baccarat scorecard, wearing my patented omniscience grin and pretending that scribbling P's and B's makes me all the more clairvoyant.

Dear Mark,
Would a Q-K-A-2-3 ever be considered a straight in poker? Melvin H.

In a straight, the ace can rank either high or low, depending on the card sequence. The ace is low in the sequence A-2-3-4-5 and high in the sequence 10-J-Q-K-A. You cannot use the ace to wrap a higher sequence with a lower one, as in your example.

Dear Mark,
If two players have a full house, how is the winning hand decided? Is the player with the highest pair the winner, or does the winner have the highest three-of-a-kind? John B.

For starters, John, let's break down the full house hand; a three-of-a-kind and one pair. Three-of-a-kind is three cards of the same rank, such as three kings. The higher-ranking three cards always win against another three-of-a-kind hand. Three aces would be the highest obtainable three-of-a-kind hand; three deuces the lowest. One pair is any two cards of the same rank, two kings for example. The hand with the higher-ranking pair always wins against another hand of one pair. If both hands have the exact same pair, the highest-ranking unmatched card in the hand determines the winner. If the highest-ranking unmatched cards tie, the next highest-ranking unmatched cards are compared, and so on, and so on.

As to your question, the full house (again, three of a kind and one pair) with the highest-ranking three of a kind wins against the other full house.

Gambling quote of the week: "The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling." Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.