Card Counting Commision Free Baccarat Variations
There are two common commission free variations of the basic game of baccarat. Each leaves the drawing rules unchanged. Each pays winning Player bets even money, maintaining a house edge of 1.2351% on winning Player bets (assuming an eight-deck shoe). The key feature of these variations is that each has a payout reduction for a distinguished winning Banker bet. This payout reduction substitutes for taking a commission. The upside is a faster game with fewer payout errors.
When considering card counting this type of commission free variation, it’s clear that there is no additional vulnerability for Player wagers. After all, nothing has changed about the Player bets. As for card counting Banker bets, there is a new possibility to consider for each variation. In ordinary baccarat, if no commission is collected on winning Banker bets, then the player would have a 1.2351% edge over the house on Banker bets. The key is to try to find opportunities to realize a portion of that edge.
Recall that in traditional baccarat, the house edge for winning Banker bets is 1.0579%.
Commission Free Variation #1:
- A Banker winning total of six pays 1-to-2.
- House edge for Banker bets: 1.4581%.
Variation #1 yields a house edge on Banker bets that is 37.8% higher than in traditional baccarat. This variation is widespread throughout Asia and other jurisdictions worldwide. The downside is that smart players know that the house edge on Banker bets is higher, so these players avoid tables with this rule. Empty tables are never a good thing. However, in some casinos this commission free variation represents the majority of low/medium-limit tables and generates considerably higher profits than ordinary baccarat at the same limits.
In Variation #1, a Banker winning total of six cannot occur without a draw by the Player hand. A shoe rich in 7’s, 8’s and 9’s does not produce as many drawing hands. Moreover, if any one of these cards is drawn, then the total cannot be six. On the other hand, the edge to be overcome by counting is nearly 40% higher than ordinary baccarat. A would-be card counter has a mountain to climb.
I developed the card counting system (0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, -3, -2, -1, 0) based on an examination of the EORs for the Banker bet. It has a reasonably good betting correlation of 0.951. I simulated one hundred million (100,000,000) eight-deck shoes using this system to make Banker bets. The results of this simulation are as follows:
Card Counting Variation #1, Eight-Deck Shoe
- Trigger true count: +47
- Bet frequency: 0.0067%
- Average edge: 0.5618%
- Win in units per 100 hands: 0.000038
That’s about 0.4 cents per 100 hands with $100 wagers. Ordinary baccarat is about five times as profitable to card count as this variation. No more advantage play analysis needs to be done here. The conclusion is that Variation #1 cannot be card counted for profit.
This does not mean that counting Variation #1 has no value. Using the system above, if the player only makes Banker bets when the true count is +1 or higher, then the house edge on Banker bets will be reduced from 1.4581% to about 1.27%. A true count of +1 or higher occurs on about 34.1% of the hands. By following this strategy, the player will reduce the overall edge on the Banker bets he makes by about 13.0%.
Commission Free Variation #2:
- A Banker winning three card total of seven is a push.
- House edge for Banker bets: 1.0161%.
Variation #2 has been known as “EZ Baccarat” for the last 20 years. This variation was formerly patented and could only be offered under license from DEQ (see this post). The patent expired on September 8, 2013, so casinos are now free to offer this variation without paying a licensing fee.
The downside to the casino of using this variation is that the house edge for Banker bets is less than for traditional baccarat. However, the minor decrease in house edge is more than made up for by the increased game pace and a decrease in the payout error-rate. A popular side bet usually accompanies this variation as well. Now that this variation is public domain, it will be interesting to see if it quickly expands.
In Variation #2, if the shoe is rich in 8’s and 9’s, then naturals are more likely to occur. In this case, the hand is less likely to reach a third card so that the commission free event is less likely to occur. I developed the card counting system (0, 1, 1, 2, 0, 0, 0, -2, -2, 0) based on an examination of the EORs for the Banker bet in Variation #2. It has a very good betting correlation of 0.981. The fact that both 8’s and 9’s have an index of -2 in this system is consistent with the intuition about wanting more naturals.
I simulated one hundred million (100,000,000) eight-deck shoes using this card counting system to play Banker bets against Variation #2. The result of this simulation is that a very small advantage can be gained over the Banker bet in this variation. Here are the key numbers:
Card Counting Variation #2, Eight-Deck Shoe
- Trigger true count: +18
- Bet frequency: 0.330%
- Average edge: 0.246%
- Win in units per 100 hands: 0.00081
These numbers are not likely to attract any advantage play. On the other hand, the win rate is about four times that of card counting traditional baccarat. Saying that this variation is “four times as countable as ordinary baccarat” may instill fear in the ignorant, but it is a paper tiger. Fear not.
At present, I am not aware of any commission-free variant of baccarat that has more than a minimal card counting vulnerability. However, this safety declaration does not extend to baccarat variants. When the rules of the game are changed in any significant way, all sorts of things can go very wrong.
As usual, be cautious but don’t be stupid.