A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. Tell me something about the tie bet in baccarat. It seems to me that there must be some cards that make ties more likely, and that if you count cards there must be situations where the tie becomes a good bet.
Do you have any tips on when to play the tie bet?
A. Most casinos pay 8-1 on tie bets when the dealer and banker hands have the same value. That’s a 14.36 percent house edge, and it is much too high to overcome.
Both the late mathematician Peter Griffin and John May have written that it might be possible to get an edge on ties at the very end of a shoe. May wrote that when the end of a shoe is rich in even-value cards — 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 — ties are more likely because two even values yield even values.
Eliot Jacobson, who long has explored advantage play in his AP Heat blog, did an analysis that basically confirmed May’s findings. You can find Jacobson’s report at 888Casino.com.
If the count is right with seven cards remaining in the shoe, you could have an edge on ties. However, the opportunity is limited by a typical 14-card cut in eight-deck baccarat shows. Essentially, there is no practical way to get an edge on the tie bet at an 8-1 return.
The situation is different if the casino pays 9-1 on ties with a house edge of 4.84 percent — only about a third of the house edge at 8-1. Jacobson found bettors using a specialized count could get an edge on ties while betting on 2.269 percent of hands. He details the method and the counting system in the link above.
However, casinos with the 9-1 payoff are rare. I’ve never seen one.
Q. My friend likes to use put bets in craps. He says that if you take at least 5x odds, it’s better than pass plus odds. Can you explain?
A. Your friend is a little confused. When the point is 6 or 8, if you back a put bet with 5x odds, the house edge is the same 1.52 percent as a place bet on either of those numbers. If you back a put bet on the other point numbers with 4x odds, the house edges are the same as the place bets on those numbers — 4 percent on 5 or 9 and 6.67 percent on 4 or 10.
With more odds, the house edge on the put-plus-odds combo drops below the edges on place bets.
However, the put/odds combos do not drop below edge edges on pass/odds combo. If you bet on pass and back with 3x, 4x, 5x odds — approximating the odds of backing put with 4x or 5x odds — the house edge is 0.37 percent.
The put bet is a much weaker starting point than a pass bet. For the uninitiated, a put bet is a wager on the pass line made after a point is established. You can choose to put only the frequently rolled 6 and 8, but you lose the opportunity presented by the comeout roll, where there are eight ways to win and only four ways to lose.
The result is that before taking odds, the house edge on a put bet on 6 or 8 is 9.1 percent, and the edges are 20 percent on 5 or 9 and 33.3 percent on 4 or 10.
The edge on pass before odds is 1.41 percent.
If you’re bankrolled to take enough odds, put bets can be a viable alternative to place bets, but they can’t beat the house edge on pass plus equivalent odds.