Fabulous 4 Baccarat & Double Up Blackjack -- June 10, 2017


Fabulous 4 Baccarat

If you didn't already know, table game revenue per dealer hour is down just about everywhere, and it keeps getting worse. Two problems casino management see with baccarat is that the house edge is too low and the 5% commission slows down the game. To fix both problems, various forms of commission free baccarat have come along, paying the full 1 to 1 on most Banker wins, but paying 1 to 2 or pushing some uncommon Banker wins.

The latest entry into this collection of commission-free baccarat games is Fabulous 4 Baccarat, which can be found at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The Banker bet pushes on a winning total of four and pays 2 to 1 for a winning total of 1. A beginner might think these two rules offset and the player doesn't have to pay the commission on all the other wins, so a net benefit right? Nope. The Banker will win with 4 once every 30.6 hands. However, the player will win with a total of 1 only once every 205.8 hands. So, as usual, the casino takes back more than the give. Yes, not paying the 5% commission helps the player, on average it will save the player one unit every 47.5 hands. All things considered, these rule changes push the house edge from 1.06% to 1.55%. There are similar rule changes on the Player bet. The bottom line there is an increase in house edge from 1.24% to 1.60%. The new side bets are a lot worse, as follows:
  • Banker Fabulous 4: 15.03%
  • Player Fabulous 4: 12.09%
  • Fabulous Pair: 11.33%
The casino has the advantage when taking in all things in consideration; however, it isn't so fabulous for the player. As a rule of thumb, when in doubt between playing a standard known game or a variant of it -- choose the original game. Looking at it from the casino's point of view, this seems like a clever way to disguise the higher house edge and tempt the player with more side bets. It won't surprise me if the game accomplishes what it was designed for -- to make more money than regular baccarat.



Double Up Blackjack

Casinos will try almost anything to get rid of old-fashioned 3-2 paying blackjack. It's a much-loved game by players but not very profitable for the casino due to a very low house edge and players becoming more skilled at it. Of course, the trick is to replace it with something else the players like equally or better. The latest entry to the long list of blackjack variants is Double Up Blackjack.

The humdinger to Double Up Blackjack is that the player can double and NOT take a third card, which they call Doubling Up. It can be a powerful option with high totals of 19 or 20. However, nothing is truly for free in the casino. Here they put a twist on the push-22 rule seen in many successful blackjack variants. Instead of the dealer pushing on 22, he pushes on 16, including soft 16. In regular blackjack, there is a 61.5% chance of busting by hitting a 16. Here, instead of taking that hit, the dealer will push all wagers still on the table, except the player will still win with 21. Also, the player loses on ties with the Double Up bets, but will still push the original wager. He also can't Double Up on a blackjack.

All things considered, with an optimal strategy for this game, I get a low house edge of 0.33%. This is an exception to the general rule about variants being worse than the original game. 0.33% is better than most sets of blackjack rules. However, the strategy is a lot different than conventional blackjack. I've heard that most players are absolutely butchering the strategy, especially in Doubling Up on low totals, resulting in the game being very profitable, perhaps too profitable, for the casinos. If the players get beaten up too badly, it is not good for the game as they are likely to badmouth it and not return.

Double Up Blackjack can be found in casinos in the UK, Oklahoma, and Colorado. If you live near a game, I'd certainly recommend learning the strategy, which can be found on my site and give it a try. I hope to see more of this game as it is something different and offers an excellent value.

Until next week, may the odds be in your favor.