Click on the screenshot below to run my shoe-by-shoe simulator for counting the EZ-Baccarat Dragon-7 side bet:
I’ve been playing the EZ-Baccarat lately, because it’s really easy to count for the 40-to-1 Dragon-7 side bet, and it gets pretty exciting when you’re betting for big payouts at the end of a shoe (each $10 pays out $400). I’m still a baccarat newbie, but I’m starting to appreciate the drama of the game. Most people record notation of the hands, and they all study the hand history displayed on the monitor. They’re looking for long runs of Banker or Player wins. On a Banker run, they increase their bets, and everyone makes a lot of money, and all are happy. When the Player is on a winning run, they wait until they think it’s impossible for the Player to win yet another hand. Then they bet big on the Banker. If the Player wins again, everyone is outraged, and they bet even more to win back their money. It gets pretty dramatic, especially when the Player wins yet again. People don’t think like this on blackjack, probably because there’s no hand history display, and because you can’t bet on the dealer. Baccarat is a very dangerous game that feeds off of people’s natural instincts to see patterns in nature.
Anyways, I don’t care at all about Player/Banker, I’m just tracking the Dragon-7 count, and waiting for the opportunity to bet it. Mostly, this comes at the end of the shoe, so I make minimum Player or Banker bets just to feel a part of the table. Overall, betting $10 Banker/Player every hand will cost an average $8/shoe. I make $10+ dragon bets when the count is good, so I’ll win back at least $5.30/shoe of that on average. Overall, it’s very cheap entertainment.
I use the baccarat recording cards provided by the casino to track the dragon. Everyone uses the cards in Landscape orientation, and draws red and blue circles. I turn the card 90° and write down the +/- running count for each hand. I use the unbalanced Dragon-7 count, starting the RC at -32, and updating it for every card seen, including the burn. When the RC is greater than 0, I bet the dragon on the next hand.
My Flash game simulates one shoe at a time, showing the unbalanced running count (RC) that I record on the baccarat cards. I indicate the outcome of +EV dragon bets with green for wins, and red for losses. When a dragon occurs while not betting, I note the “miss” in yellow. For example, in the screenshot above, 83 hands were played in the shoe, and 3 dragons hit (hands #41, #67, and #69). The count wasn’t good enough to bet on the first dragon, which we missed (yellow). The RC was > 0 for almost all of the hands from #61 – #75. We hit the dragon on hand #67 when the count was +7, and on hand #69 when the count was +8.
Play around with the simulator if you’re thinking about trying to make a profit at the bet. While it’s probably the best +EV game you’ll ever find (easiest to implement, and most average profit per shoe), the game is very slow at a full table. In order to try to make money, you’d need to get heads up with a dealer, which can yield up to 3 shoes an hour (optimal). Needless to say, the swings are huge, due to the nature of the 40-to-1 payout. However, (2 shoes/hr)($100 dragon bets)(0.53 profit/shoe) = $100 profit/hr looks pretty attractive.
I recently saw the Instant-18 blackjack side bet, and I thought it was funny. It’s an even-money side bet that plays against the dealer as a hand of value 18. Hence, the name “Instant-18″. You put up a bet, and it’s an 18. It has a 2.036% house edge for a 6-deck shoe, but it’s still kind of interesting. It’s an optional side bet where (typically) you can bet an amount less than or equal to your main blackjack bet. Of course, I had to see if this bet was countable.
This looked promising, so I checked out the EORs for the bet:
From the EORs, I made a simple count system, where Aces are +3, Sevens are -2, and Deuces are -1. Then I plotted the EVs of the main and side bet vs. the true count:
Unfortunately, when the count for the side bet gets good (true count >= 4), the main bet is -EV. However, for a good enough count (true count >= 7), the combination of (main bet + side bet) is +EV. Also, for a bad enough count (true count <= -3), them main bet is +EV.
So, by itself, the Instant-18 side bet gets good (true count >= 4) about 7.8% of the time, with an average return of +1.53%.
Of course, you can’t just bet the side bet when it gets good. You have to have a main bet to bet the side bet. If you bet both when the combination gets good (true count >= 7), or just the main bet for true count <= -3, and Wong all others, you'll bet 13.9% of the time with an average EV of +0.47%.
As usual, these things are interesting, but not practical.