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Gambling: Big Time Baccarat

Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Don Johnson, Mar/Apr 02

(continued from page 2)

"I spent years trying to figure out the game," he allows. "At the beginning I would win a little but lose a lot. Then I discovered a way to play that is far easier than counting cards. It is situational, but it is also predicated on the simultaneous occurrence of different events." Pressed for details, François sharply replies, "I refuse to elaborate on this. It took me years to figure out. You can do the same thing if you want."

A couple nights later, in the high-limit room of the Palms Casino, I tell high-roller host Jimmy Tipton about François. Jimmy comes off as a fun-loving Jim Belushi type, and he takes care of his players real well. He's a guy's guy, always picking up tabs, stirring action. Hearing about François, though, he has to laugh. "They all have strategies," he says. "We send limos for guys with systems and strategies. We love 'em."

It is difficult to argue with Jimmy's skepticism as two Chinese men sit at the far end of the table, shouting, "Monkey! Monkey!" at the dealer, using the nickname for baccarat's no-value picture cards. One of them started with $700 in chips, worked it up to $5,000, and is now removing a wad of hundreds from his pocket so that he can buy more chips. A buddy of mine named Art Cruz, an early Oracle employee, is sketching out algorithms, trying to predict the outcomes of cards that lack memory. The Chinese guys gab among themselves, cards are kissed and coiled, thousands of dollars swim from one end of the table to the other. A cocktail waitress brings doubles of 18-year-old Macallan. Cigar smoke curls toward the ceiling and a sense of impending fortune resonates around the baccarat oval. Maybe for the casino, maybe for the players. Stab your pen through a card and find out.


Michael Kaplan writes frequently about gambling for Cigar Aficionado.


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