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Figuring your taxes in baccarat

14 April 2006

Dear Mark,
Is there an easy way to figure out the commission in baccarat when betting the banker hand? Secondly, why do they charge a commission in the first place? David F.

Here's a nifty little trick I used to figure out the commission when I dealt the game. Divide the winning bet by two, and then scratch the zero. For instance, you make a $60 bet on the banker hand and it wins, paying even money. Half of the $60 win is $30, drop the zero, and your commission is $3.

As for why a commission, David, it's because the player hand is always played out first, causing the banker hand to win 50.7% of the time, versus the player hand at 49.3%, ties excluded.

To roadblock the gung-ho gambler from forever betting the banker hand and being in receipt of a 1.4% advantage, the casino taxes all winning banker wagers at a rate of 5%. It is due to this commission, charged on your winning wagers, that the casino holds a 1.17% edge over the banker hand, and a 1.36% advantage over all player bets, ties included.

Still, even if the casino levies a slight percentage from your winning loot, the banker and the noncommissioned player hand are two of the best bets on the casino floor. Both are fun and profitable, and isn’t that, David, what gambling should be all about?

Dear Mark,
I see the jackpot for the Mega Millions is now over 200 million. What are the odds of hitting a prize for that lottery? Jimmy K.

Was that "a" prize, Jimmy, like "just any", or the "Big Kahuna"? Either way, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are approximately one in 176 million. The odds of winning any of the Mega Millions prizes are approximately 1 in 40.

Dear Mark,
It seems the consistent recommendation in blackjack is to always split 8s. But if the dealer is showing a strong card, does it make sense to put more money on the table with the dealer in a strong position? Bill S.

I am sure, Bill, that most readers will warm to your point; it has a certain healthy smell of horse sense about it, but not quite enough. Watch closely. With two 8s against a dealer 10 card, the good common sense your momma raised you with tells you that splitting this hand just creates two losers. It probably seems that every time you've split 8s it in the past, sure, you might occasionally get two 10s, but then the damn dealer flips over his card and it's always a 10 card in the hole. But actually, what you're really doing when you split 8s is breaking up a 16, the worst possible hand you can have in blackjack.

Here's the arithmetic, Bill, based on a kazillion computer simulations of 8s against a dealer's 10. If you split 8s, you will lose $44 for every $100 wagered. If you were to just hit the hand, you would lose $51 for every $100 bet. You may not necessarily always put extra jingle in your pocket by splitting 8s, but you will lose less money over the long run if you split 'em.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: One day a chump, the next day a champion. What a difference a day makes in tournament poker. --Mike Sexton

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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.