Casino games include a number of bets that should never be made. The house edge is so much higher than other bets on the same game that these are bets to avoid.
Two prime examples are the tie bet in baccarat and the five-number bet in roulette. In baccarat, you have a fighting chance to win if you bet on banker (house edge: 1.06 percent) or player (1.24 percent), so why would you undermine your bankroll by betting on ties (14.36 percent).
At double-zero roulette, the house edge is 5.26 percent on every bet except the 7.89 on the five-number combination 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. There are ways to get 5.26 on the same numbers. Two ways that work are betting each as a single number, or 0-00 as a split and 1-2-3 as a street.
There’s no reason to settle for 7.89 when you can get the same numbers for 5.26.
I rarely hear from anyone who chooses the five-number bet. Back in snail-mail days, one fellow wrote to say the bet included the digits of his and his wife’s birthdays and that it felt lucky to him.
My arithmetic wasn’t going to dissuade him, and I wished him good fortune.
I do have hopes of convincing a baccarat player who contacted me on Facebook to say I was missing the point on tie bets.
“I’ll agree, it’s a lousy bet taken by itself,” he wrote. “But it’s great in combinations if they’ll let you bet tie along with banker and player.
“I like $20 on banker or player and $5 on tie. If banker wins, I win the big bet and lose the little one. But if tie wins, I get paid 8-1 on $5, and I still keep the big bet since banker and player push on ties.”
The reality is less rosy.
Per 1 million hands, banker wins about 458,597 times, player 446,247 and tie 95,156 times.
Player bets pay even money. Banker bets pay 19-20, once you account for the 5 percent commission you must pay on winners.
In a strict banker vs. player situation, if you bet on banker, a $20 bettor collects $8,713,313 on the banker winners and loses $8,924,940 on the player wins. No money changes hands on the ties, so you show a net loss of $211,627 per $20 million wagered.
If you bet on player instead, you collect $8,824,940 on the player wins and lose $9,177,940 on the banker wins for a net loss of $253,000 — a little more that if you bet banker, as expected with baner having a lower house edge.
What if you bet tie at the same time? That additional bet means you put an additional $5 million at risk over the course of 1 million hands. On the 95,156 winners, you collect $3,806,240 in winnings and keep the $475,780 you bet on the winners. That leaves you with $4,282,020 of your $5 million in tie bets, a net loss of $717,980.
Now, instead of an overall loss of $212,627 on banker, the loss soars to $930,617 on banker plus tie. Instead of $253,000 on player, it’s $970,980 on banker plus tie.
We’ve worked with very large numbers here to get the percentages right, but the message is the same at smaller numbers. Per $2,000 in banker bets, the average loss is $21 instead of more than $200,000, but that zooms past $93 if you add $500 in tie bets.
Baccarat ties are terrible bets on their own and equally awful in combination with much better bets.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).