# Discount Gambling

## Double Baccarat @ Sycuan Casino

Posted in Uncategorized by stephenhow on November 4, 2010

My local Sycuan Casino offers a unique game that’s a simplification of Pai-Gow tiles. Like the tile game, the players and the bank are dealt 4 cards each. Each hand is set into a front hand of 2 cards, and a back hand of two cards. The back hand must be greater than the front hand. Hand values are ranked by poker pairs, followed by Baccarat totals (0 thru 9). After the player hands are set, the bank turns over its hand and sets it according to “House Way”.

House Way
Hand Rule
Two Pairs Set large pair behind, small pair in front.
(Pair-Pair; never break pair).
Pair Aces Pair Aces behind (never split Aces.)
One Pair Pair behind if 5 or higher front, else
Split pair if can form (8,8), (7,9), (8,9) or (9,9), else
Pair behind.
No Pair Set (5,9) if possible, else
Set hand with highest front + back total, with minimum back – front gap.

Once all hands are set, the player or banker wins the wager if hands win/win, tie/win, or win/tie. In the case of tie/tie, the bank wins the wager. All other hands push the wager.

The player posts a minimum 1% collection before each hand. If all players push their bets, all collections are returned (“free collection”). This means in a heads-up game against the house, the player only pays the collection for a win or a loss, and gets free collection on a push.

I worked at optimizing a heads-up player strategy against the a house way bank, out of curiosity at what the house edge was. Of course, its an uphill battle against the collection (even when free for pushes), and worst, losing tie/tie. Using exhaustive combinatorics, I came up with the following near-optimal strategy (I only looked at the no-pair cases):

Hand Rule
Two Pairs Set large pair behind, small pair in front.
(Pair-Pair; never break pair).
Pair Aces Pair Aces behind (never split Aces.)
One Pair Pair behind if 5 or higher front, else
Split pair if can form (8,8), (7,9), (8,9) or (9,9), else
Pair behind.
(6,9), (7,9), (8,9), (9,9)
front + back = 14 (7,7), (6,8)
(5,9)
front + back = 10 (5,5)
(9,1)
(4,6), (3,7), (2,8)
front + back = 9 (0,9)
(1,8)
(4,5), (2,7)
front + back = 8 (0,8)
(1,7)
(3,5), (2,6)
front + back = 7 (3,4)
(0,7)
(2,5), (1,6)
front + back = 6 (2,4)
(0,6)
(1,5)
Set hand with highest front + back total, with minimum back – front gap.

This strategy simulates at -1.46% heads up against house way, when minimizing collection to 1% of the bet amount. The frequency of ties simulates at 1.12%. So even if they eliminated the bank wins tie/tie rule, you’d still lose because of collection. As an additional note, if a heads-up player also plays the same House Way as the bank, the house edge increases to 2.0%.

Overall, the head’s-up game is about as good as a free-collection Pai-Gow game. (There are a few free-collection games at the card rooms town.) However, since the casinos don’t offer free-collection Pai-Gow, the head’s-up Double Baccarat game has better odds than the Pai-Gow game, for what it’s worth.