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Best Bets II

There are some excellent bets in the casinos, though even the best bets have house edges

By Frank Scoblete


There are good bets in the casino. There are bad bets in the casino. And there are plenty of so-so bets in the casino.

There are good games in the casino that have some of these good bets and there are bad games in the casino that don’t have many or any good bets. And there are so-so games in the casino that are (let’s be frank here) like taking your boring cousin to the prom.

It is up to you to choose which games to play and how to play them, but always keep in mind that the lower the house edge, the better it is for the player. And let me add another extremely important element in selecting which game to play and how to play it: the slower the game, the better it is for the player; the faster the game, the better it is for the casino.

In short, more decisions are good for the casino. Fewer decisions are good for the player.

What do you want? Here it is. You want a slower game with a lower house edge. That combination will give you a decent shot to win your session.


Traditional baccarat is rapidly disappearing from the casino scene. It was a staple game for high rollers in those exclusive high-roller rooms in generally upscale casinos. I loved the game back then.

The house edges on two of the three bets are wonderfully low. You have the player bet that comes in with a 1.24 percent house edge and you have the banker bet that comes in with an edge of 1.06 percent. The banker actually wins more than 50 percent of the hands but the house must take a five percent commission to establish its small edge on this bet. Wow!

You also have the tie bet that comes in with an edge of about 10 percent. I know I don’t have to tell you that the tie bet will tie your bankroll up in knots.

The traditional baccarat game is slow, really, really slow, maybe 40 hands an hour. Players actually get to deal the cards too. If you can afford the table minimums you will be playing a good game.

The betting is just like flipping a coin. While there are hitting and standing options, none of these are in the players’ purview as such decisions are at blackjack. They are automatic.


Mini-baccarat is now the most overwhelmingly played version of baccarat. The rules are the same. The bets are the same. The house edges are the same. The bets can be markedly lower than the traditional game. All this is good.

The table is smaller, usually about blackjack size or slightly larger.

All good. Very good.

And then this horrible thing happens: The speed of the game is close to the speed of light. You can play upward (easily upward) of 150 decisions per hour. Compare that to about 40 decisions at the traditional game.

The dealer does all the dealing and the dealer’s goal is to get in as many hands as possible. If you can play this version of the game slowly that is good. Get the number of decisions somewhere in the 60 range and that should be okay. Otherwise, speed kills bankrolls in a maxi-way in mini-bac.


Pai Gow Poker is a great game. It’s fun. You have decisions to make versus the dealer.  And the game is leisurely, too. It also has plenty of ties. A tie is the second-best thing to a win.

The game has a decent house edge of about 2.6 percent—and remember, the game is leisurely so that edge is not cutting you too deeply. You’ll find that you don’t feel all emotionally twisted when you play this game. Most Pai Gow Poker players are more of the relaxed kind.


Face Up Pai Gow Poker is an even better game than the original one. It comes in with a house edge of just under two percent. In this version, you know the hand the dealer has and you try to beat it. Setting the hands now becomes the focus on how to beat the dealer’s known hand. This is different than the original game where you don’t know what the dealer’s hand is and you do a generic hand-setting scheme.

I find this game to be a thrill. Although you are playing against the dealer, other players don’t know your cards and really don’t care how you play your hands. You won’t find the annoying “experts” that you occasionally find at blackjack tables. The “experts” usually give very, very bad advice. But they are good at annoying other players.

In Pai Gow everyone gets his or her hand and then there will be a shuffle. The cards you have can’t be played during that round again. The next round is the next round out of the automatic shuffler.

It’s a good game to play and I recommend it highly.


All the best in and out of the casinos!


Frank Scoblete’s website is His books are available from, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.

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