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Baccarat Ties That Bind

10 December 2012

By John Grochowski

One of the first things baccarat players learn if they take the odds of the game at all seriously is that the tie bet is one to avoid. The bet on banker is one of the best bets in the house with a house edge of 1.06 percent, and the bet on player isn’t far behind, with a house edge of 1.24 percent.

But ties? Those who are tempted to chase the 8-1 payoff spot the house a whopping 14.4 percent. To translate from percent into plain old dollars and cents, that means the house keeps $1.06 per $100 wagered on banker and $1.24 on player. Then the house take soars to just over $14.35 on ties.

I picture an accountant rubbing hands in glee every time a stack of chips covers the tie spot.

There’s nothing you can do to change those numbers. Baccarat players are far better off sticking to the banker vs. player guessing game than taking even the occasional flyer on tie bets.

But what if the payoff structure were changed? What if instead of paying 8-1, some generous casino decided to pay 9-1 on ties?

A reader who identified himself only as Rick from Colorado said he’d come across a 9-1 payoff, and wondered if it was worthwhile. He didn’t say where he’d found it, and hasn’t answered after I requested the information when I emailed him the information on the percentages. A few regimes ago, Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas offered that payoff, and on the wizardofodds.com site, Michael Shackelford reports that it’s been spotted at an online casino.

The Wizard of Odds site also had the information on how the bigger payoff changes the house edge. In an eight-deck game --- standard for baccarat --- a 9-1 payoff reduces the house edge on ties to 4.8 percent. That’s much better than 14.4 percent, but it’s still not my idea of a good bet. There are many better bets in the casino, and at baccarat, banker and player remain the way to go.

Banker hands win more often than they lose, and win about 45.9 percent of all hands. The house makes its money on banker by changing a 5 percent commission on winning bets. That leads to the 1.06 percent house edge. In about three decades of playing in casinos, I’ve sometimes seen games with only a 4 percent commission. That reduces the house edge to about 0.6 percent --- about the same as a blackjack basic strategy player gets in a six-deck game where the dealer hits soft 17.

There’s no need to charge a commission on player bets. Player wins about 44.6 percent of all hands, or 49.3 percent of hands that are played to a decision. If you’re betting banker or player, ties are a push.

That leaves about 9.5 percent of baccarat hands ending in ties, meaning the chances of a tie hand are about 1 in 10.526. Expressed as odds, that’s a 9.526-1 shot. For the tie bet to be a break-even proposition, that’s what it would have to pay.

Of course, no casino is going to do that, nor is one likely to keep the house edge on a tie to a bare minimum by rounding to a 9.5-1 payoff. Casinos make their money by paying less than true odds on winning bets.

ANOTHER BAC OPTION: The first week in November seemed to be my week for baccarat questions via email. I can go months at a time without anyone raising a baccarat issue, so I was mildly surprised when Brenda’s email arrived two days after Nick’s.

She’d seen a game with a pairs bet. You could bet either on a banker pair or a player pair, and it paid 11-1. The odds on the first two cards being a pair are the same for banker as they are on player, so it doesn’t matter which side of this bet you play. About 1 in 13.5 combinations out of an eight-deck shoe is a pair, so if the bet paid at true odds, it would pay 12.5-1.

Checking the Wizard of Odds data once again --- the most comprehensive source I know for odds, probabilities and game strategies --- the 11-1 payoff, leads to an 11.25 percent house edge. Just as with the tie bet, the best play is to steer clear.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

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