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© 2000-2014   Gérard P. Michon, Ph.D.

Casino Card Games

The only way to win in a casino is to own one.
Steve Wynn   (2009
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Related articles on this site:

Related Links (Outside this Site)

Baccarat  by  Michael Schackleford.
Blackjack Calculator  by  Jörg Bewersdorff  (2002).
Accessories:   Chip Sliders (Sept. 2013)
Casino Night Rentals:   D & E Casino (Greater L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas)
Wikipedia :   Baccarat

Videos:   How to PLAY Baccarat   |   How to DEAL Mini-Baccarat


Casino Card Games

(2013-09-03)   Gaming Chips :  Jetons & Plaques
See also:  Poker chips.
Green $25 casino chip (MGM Grand)

Before they gamble, in most cases, casino patrons are expected to trade their money for casino currency  (called checks or marks by the pros)  consisting either of round disks  (jetons or  gaming chips)  or rectangular plaques  (sometimes called  bricks  for the top denominations).

This "play money" is very effective at separating gamblers from their actual money before they lose it.  It's also easier to manipulate for the casino.

The standard casino chips are flat disks with a diameter commonly identified as 39 mm or  19/16''  (which translates into 39.6875 mm, if you must know).  The diameter is best specified as  1.55'' = 39.37 mm, known far and wide as  39.4 mm  (9 chips span almost 14 inches).
 Barney, the purple dinosaur
Barney, the dinosaur, has entertained preschoolers since 1992.  The $500   purple  gaming chip is named after him...

Within a given casino, the chips are color-coded according to their denominations.  There's no universal color-code but the table below comes close to it.  Chip manufacturers respect it, at least for the most common denominations  (1,5,25,50,100,500)  with the possible exception of the $1 chip, which isn't always white.  Most experienced dealers would nevertheless understand a "color change" request for "whites and reds" even if they work at a place where the $1 chips aren't white...

Semi-Standard Color Code for Casino Checks   (round chips = jetons)
Value and NicknameDominant Color and Nickname
10(Dime)Dark Blue 
100 BlackLicorice
500 PurpleBarney
1000 YellowBanana
5000 WatermelonMelon
10 000 OrangePumpkin

 Flamingo Snapper (toy)  Today (2013) "snapper" is a very popular nickname for the  $2.50  chip.  The word "flamingo" is rarely used, if ever, but it might explain the etymology of that more popular nickname, because of the close association of the two words:  A  flamingo snapper  is a popular toy consisting of a stick with the head of a  pink  flamingo whose large beak can snap shut to grab small objects as the children pretend the bird is eating.

Another possibilty is that the chip is named after the  red snapper, which is  pink.  Finally, a blackjack is also dubbed a  snapper  for one of two reasons which may combine into yet another explanation for the name of the chip:

  • With cards dealt face down, you'd  snap  a blackjack face up.
  • A $1 bet is paid off with a  $2.50  snapper  if you have a blackjack.

 Snapper chip ($2.50) in the Nile Club line (ceramic). The Las Vegas Flamingo casino was indirectly named after the bird, not the chip:  Flamingo  was the nickname of the infamous long-legged girlfriend of mobster Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947) who financed the construction of the original building in 1946.

Poker games that use  $2.50  as small blind make extensive use of the chip  (such games are thus known as  pink games ).  Currently, only one line of home-use poker chips accomodates that tradition:  The  Nile Club  ceramic chips  (see picture at right).

Formerly, some major casinos  (including  Caesars Palace )  had  brown-colored 5000 jetons  (appropriately nicknamed "chocolate-chips" or "chocolates").  This was discontinued, in part, because professional cheaters could take advantage of the lack of contrast with the widespread  red $5 nickels  in a "past-posting" cheating move where winning bets of three nickels ($15) were replaced by two nickels with a chocolate chip at the bottom ($5010).  That risky move was infamously improved upon in 1995, with great "success", by two professional cheats  (Richard Marcus  and  Pat Mallery)  as explained in a recent  video documentary.  Marcus named the new move  Savannah, after his favorite Reno stripper.  It consisted of carefully tucking a chocolate chip under three nickels and substituting that with four nickels only if the bet lost.  Surveillance scrutiny for many $20 losses isn't nearly as intense as it is for a single $5015 winning bet.  With the Savannah move, the latter is perfectly legitimate and can resist any investigation of video surveillance records.  The elimination of chocolate chips made Savannah moves more difficult to execute, especially since casino personnel are now very aware of the scheme.

The above color code for round checks is also used for the background of the signs which indicate table limits  (the color corresponds to the smallest chip that can be played by itself).  For example, on craps tables, red signs indicate a   $5 to $500 limit   and green signs advertise a   $25 to $1000 limit .  This color-coding isn't always respected and it's not applicable to limits that do not correspond to widely avaible chip denominations.  I'm told that casinos in Connecticut use yellow and orange, respectively, for $10 and $15 tables.

On their main floors, casinos have little or no use for tokens beyond  $10,000  since they rarely allow any bet above  $25,000, if ever.  In secluded salons however, they can accomodate the needs of high-rollers with oversized  baccarat chips  (43 mm or more in diameter)  which are issued in larger denominations, exclusively for baccarat.  This is part of the mystique and decorum engineered around that game to attract very large bets.

Among the legendary jetons with the highest cash denominations is the $100,000 Baccarat Chip manufactured by  Paulson  (part of  Gaming Partners International  GPIC)  for the  Paris Las Vegas  casino.  It's sky blue with three bluish triple radial stripes; and a white insert bearing a microdot.

10,000,000 plaque of the London Club at Aladdin   Rectangular gaming plaques or  bricks  are for the highest denominations.  The record was set by plaques for  $10,000,000 which were introduced, as a publicity stunt, in the  London Club at the Aladdin  when the  Aladdin Resort & Casino  (now called  Planet Hollywood)  reopened,  on August 17, 2000.  Their  other  plaques were:  $5 million, $1 million, $500,000 and $100,000.

Chip Denominations and Colors  (Forum, Las Vegas)   |   The Color of Casino Chips  by  Bill Burton.
Chip Nicknames  by  Dan Michalski  (Forum, 2007).   |   Illinois Gaming Board Regulations
All-Chips.com  (Ricky)   |   Old Vegas Chips  (Pete & Amanda Rizzo)
Wikipedia :   Casino token   |   Casino chip collecting
Chips manufacturers :   ASM (1912)   |   PGI   |   Sun-Fly   |   Paulson (GPI)
The Blue Chip Company manufacturing assets were acquired by GPI in June 2013.

(2013-08-23)   The House Edge
What's the house advantage?

If the average amount you receive for wagering one unit is  1-x,  then  x  is the  house edge  (also called  house advantage ).

For successive bets, the house advantage depends critically of the so-called  money management  strategy of the player.  However, there's no way to turn a positive house edge into a positive one...

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Rational Decision Making:  Why it's foolish to gamble unless you're willing to pay for the entertainment.
Kelly Criterion (1956):  Betting scheme of an advantage player with logarithmic utility.
John Larry Kelly, Jr. (1923-1965)

(2013-09-02)   Faro   (bucking the tiger)  in the Old West.
Top banking game in the US, from 1825 to 1915.

It survived in Nevada until 1985.

Betting on a card that has already appeared three times entails  no  casino edge.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

In the faro layout, there are 13 spots where a  flat  bet can be placed on a single card, 19 spots where a bet staddles two adjacent cards, 1 apot to bet on three cards  (6,7,8)  and 5 ways to bet on four cards at once.

A bet wagered on several cards is decided in its entirety when one of the covered card wins or loses.  If  the winning and losing cards are different and are both covered, the bet is returned to the punter.  (If a  split  occurs, half the bet is lost).

The bet called "High Card" pays even money when the winning card is higher than the losing card  (on Faro, the ace is the losing card).

Faro,  king of gambling games in the Old West   |   Faro Rules  (Bicycle® Cards)
Wichita Faro™  by  Sean Gleeson © 2004-2007   |   Play online
Wikipedia :   Faro

(2013-08-23)   Baccarat   ( Punto-Banco )

Two hands are dealt according to fixed rules.  One of them is called the player's hand  (punto)  the other is the banker's hand  (banco).

The value of a baccarat hand is obtained by adding the face values of the cards  modulo 10  (which is a fancy way of saying that only the least significant digit of the ordinary sum is retained).  An ace is worth 1 and a 10 is worth 0.  The picture cards  (K.Q.J)  are also worth 0.

Initially, two cards are drawn to both sides  (facing the dealer, the player's hand is to the left and the dealer's hand is to the right).  If either hand is a "natural"  (i.e., the player shows a total of 8 or 9 and/or the banker has 8 or 9)  then no more cards are drawn and the bets are settled with the two-card totals.

Fifth-Card Rule :

The player's hand receives a third and final card when it shows a total of 5 or less.  Otherwise (when the player shows 6 or 7) an extra card is attributed to the banker instead, according to the same rule  (the banker thus receives a third and final card if holds 5 or less).

Sixth-Card Rule :

When the player did receive an extra card as prescribed above, the rule which attributes or denies a final card to the banker is more intricate.  It depends on the banker's current total and also on the player's third card:

Sixth-Card Hitting Rules
Player's Third Card
 0  1  2  3  4   5  6  7  8  9 
6        HH  
5     H HHH  
4   HHH HHH  

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

House-Edge for Baccarat

(2013-08-27)   EZ Baccarat(™).  The  Dragon-7  and  Panda-8  side-bets.
The  Dragon Bet  pays 40 to 1 when Banker wins with a 3-card total of 7.
The  Panda Bet  pays 25 to 1 when Player wins with a 3-card total of 8.

In classical  Punto-Banco, the statistical bias in favor of the banker's hand is offset by the 5% "commission" the casino takes on winning banker wagers.

That commission can be a source of confusion for beginning baccarat players.  It also entails time-comsuming and error-prone bookeeping tasks for the dealers.  Some variants of Baccarat exist which eliminate the need for commissions by replacing some banker wins by a push  (paying 0 to 1 instead of 1 to 1 to whoever placed a wager on the banker's hand).

The most popular of those  "No-Commision Baccarat"  games is dubbed  EZ-Baccarat.  The rules of EZ-Baccarat are the same as the rules of baccarat,  except in the special case where the banker would normally win with a three-card total of  7.  In that special case, a bet on banker is a push in EZ-baccarat, not a win.  This is the sole source of income for the house, as no commission are paid in EZ Baccarat.

The Dragon-7 Bet

From the very inception of EZ-baccarat, an "insurance" bet was devised which allows one to benefit when the aforementioned special case occurs.  It pays 40 to 1 and is called the  dragon bet  (or dragon-7).  The average house-edge on that bet is 7.6%.

The Panda-8 Bet

This is a side-bet which, unlike the dragon bet, is not tied to the structure of the main rules of EZ Baccarat.  The panda bet is simply the bet that the player hand wins with a three-card total of 8.  It pays 25 to 1 and the average house-edge is 10.2%.

The Panda bet is a later addition to the EZ-Baccarat layout, targeting Chinese players for whom the number 8 is considered especially lucky in games of chance  (it sounds like the word for wealth or prosperity).  By contrast, the number  4  is considered unlucky because it sounds like the Chinese word for "death".  This is why, incidentally, the seven positions at many mini-baccarat tables are numbered from 1 to lucky-8,  skipping  unlucky 4.

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Variants of Commission-Free Baccarat  by  by  Michael Shackleford
Card Counting the Dragon-7 Side Bet in EZ Baccarat  by  Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.
Card Counting the Panda-8 Side Bet in EZ Baccarat  by  Michael Shackleford.
DEQ Systems Corp.  claims ownership of the locutions  "EZ Baccarat", "Dragon 7" and "Panda 8".

(2013-08-27)   Caribbean Stud®   /   Casino Stud Poker
Call if you have A,K,J,8,3 or better.

You can either fold (and forfeit your ante) or  call  by placing an additional wager equal to twice your ante.

A better way to look at the whole process is that you're actually betting three units and are given the opportunity to surrender if your hand is too weak, by forfeiting one third of your total wager  (the fact that two third of your wager remain in your pocket at all times when you fold is immaterial, because if you did not have that money in your pocket, you'd be unable to raise and would always foolishly lose your ante).

If the dealer doesn't  qualify  (with A,K or better)  you win even money on your ante (only) and keep your call bet.

If the dealer qualifies and beats your hand, you lose both wagers.

If the dealer qualifies but doesn't beat your hand, you win even money on your ante and get rewarded for your call bet if you hold a pair or better:

  • Pair:  1 to 1
  • Two Pairs:  2 to 1
  • Three of a Kind:  3 to 1
  • Straight:  4 to 1
  • Flush:  5 to 1
  • Full House:  7 to 1
  • Four of a Kind:  20 to 1
  • Straight Flush:  50 to 1
  • Royal Flush:  100 to 1

The optimal strategy doesn't depend at all on the payout schedule.

The dealer shows one of his five cards.  This gives away a tiny bit of information which could influence the player's decision  (in a complicated way)  but only marginally so.  As a first approximation, let's assume that the player turns a blind eye to the dealer's up card.  What would be the player's optimal strategy if all the dealer's cards were face-down?

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Caribbean Stud Poker Optimal Strategy  by  Michael Shackleford, ASA.
Video :   Caribbean Stud Poker (promotonal video / game rules)

(2013-09-22)   Three-Card Poker

 Come back later, we're
 still working on this one...

Three-Card Poker  by  Michael Schackleford [ video tutorial ]

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