Las Vegas Stories

A Secret Golf Course, The World Series of Poker and a Lesson 007 Should Learn

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If you had an infinite amount of money and, more important, the casinos didn't impose a limit on how much you could bet, a "betting system" might theoretically work. So, too, would "pyramid" and "ponzi" schemes or any other endeavor that relies on a constantly replenished supply of funds and dull-witted participants.
"Foolproof" betting systems, alas, are primarily utilized by fools.
The last person you would think a fool is that suave fellow James Bond. But while watching a 007 marathon on television recently, I was not so sure.
When he's not bedding a panoply of exotic beauties and foiling the world's most pernicious criminals, Bond, as you might recall, enjoys the game of punto banco, otherwise known as baccarat. And he appears to be quite good at it, too, possessing a highly refined ability to draw "nine" when his opponent pulls an "eight." Watch enough James Bond movies and you'll see him win many hundreds of thousands of francs--always, of course, in a perfectly pressed tuxedo, with a crowd of approving onlookers witnessing his triumphs.
I don't begrudge Bond his terrific record. He is, after all, our gallant hero. But, James, baccarat?
Despite the high-society glamour of the game, baccarat is the one casino activity that most resembles picking "heads" or "tails" on the flip of a penny. The house deals two hands: "player" and "bank." The hand with a point total closest to nine (picture cards are worth zero) is best. Gamblers bet on the hand they think will win.
That's it. That's the extent of the decision making involved.Based on how the rules are set up, after commissions the house has a 2 to 3 percent edge over the bettor. The shoe cannot be counted effectively; the cards cannot be bluffed, and, as we know, there's not a "betting system" in the world that can beat it. In other words, a losing proposition completely immune to skill, style or good looks.
Wouldn't Bond be better off playing poker? For that matter, wouldn't anybody?
Michael Konik is the gambling columnist for Cigar Aficionado.
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