Baccarat and Chemin de Fer
The Casino Gamblers Guide by Allan N. Wilson

The rules may look involved, but they stem from simple considerations. It is reasonable for the player to want to draw if he has a greater chance of raising his total than of lowering it. Consider an initial total of 7, for example. Two draw cards will improve this hand (ace and 2) four cards will leave it unchanged (10, J, Q, K) and seven cards will make it worse (3 through 9). Clearly, the player should stand on 7. A similar argument applies to 6, where the odds of improvement/no change/deprovement are in the ratio 3:4:6.

For a total of 5, these odds would appear to be 4:4:5, suggesting that the player stand. However, gross odds no longer serve to tell the story. It must now be borne in mind that the banker definitely does not have a two card total of 8 or 9 (for, if he had, he would already have turned those hands over), and this fact exerts a strong compensation. So, in Baccarat, the player is required to draw to 5. In Chemin de Fer, this draw is optional and leads to various interesting strategies. When the player's hand is worth 4 or less, in either game, he is more likely to do better, and therefore draws in all these cases.

To sum up, the player stands on 6 or 7, and draws on 5 or less. Now, if the banker were to follow the identical rules, the game would be "symmetrical" and neither side would have an advantage. To provide an edge for the banker, certain alterations are made so that the banker's choice depends on the player's draw card. As we have seen, the mere fact that the player has drawn gives a clue to the player's original two card total, and hence an indication of his final total. Accordingly, it is easy to work out, for any given case, whether it is to the banker's advantage to draw or to stand.

Take for example the case where the banker's two card total is 3, and the player has drawn an 8. With a low total like 3, it might seem reasonable to expect the banker to draw. But it turns out that the banker is better off if he stands. If he draws, he has a 6.3 percent advantage, but if he stands, he has a 6.7 percent edge. Supporting calculations are shown in Table 13-2. The crux of the explanation lies in the fact that, in just standing pat on his 3, the banker will beat the player more often than not. The banker's hand requires improvement only when the player's total is 8 or 9, but the banker must then draw 5 or 6 to accomplish any good. Since the chance of so doing is relatively slight, the possible gain is overcome by the chance of the banker getting a worse hand than he had to begin with, and thereby losing to a player total that he would otherwise have beaten.

On the other hand, where the banker's total is 3, and the player has drawn anything but 8, the banker is better off if he draws. In all such cases he has a greater advantage, or at least a lesser disadvantage (money wise, this amounts to the same thing).

Rules for Baccarat

Value Held Action
1-2-3-4-5-10 Draws a card
6-7 Stands
8-9 Turns cards over

Value Held Draws when giving Does not draw when giving
3 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-10 * 8
4 2-3-4-5-6-7 * 1-8-9-10
5 4-5-6-7 * 1-2-3-8-9-10
6 * 6-7 1-2-3-4-5-8-9-10
7 Stands  
8-9 Turns cards over  
10-1-2 Draws a card  

Picture cards and 10s count zero

Note: * = show departures from the "symmetrical" game

In Baccarat, the play in all situations is clearly spelled out by the rules. There are no options for either player or banker. In Chemin de Fer, however, certain options exist. These relatively minor variations constitute the only difference in the playing of the hands in the two games. The options will be mentioned later.
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