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Professional Dragon Hunters

Will card counters flock to a new baccarat bet to get an advantage?

Professional Dragon Hunters

On the Friday before G2E, Dr. Elliot Jacobson published a short paper at www.wizardofodds.com, which illustrated how a card counter could theoretically exploit the Dragon 7 wager on EZ Baccarat and win a quarter of a betting unit per hour.

By the time the show was in full swing, the article had convinced a number of table game operators that the Dragon 7 wager was so dangerous that the now-popular EZ Baccarat side bet should be modified or removed.  

This is a perfect example of how a little bit of (published) information can be a dangerous thing. The reality is that offering players EZ Baccarat—with the Dragon 7 wager—is one of the easiest—and smartest—decisions a table game manager can make, for one simple reason:

Professional advantage players simply will not play EZ Baccarat and count down the Dragon 7 wager. Why? It’s one of the least profitable advantage plays a competent professional can (or will) make. 

To understand why, let’s look at the math, as proposed by Dr. Jacobson. In a perfect world, assuming that the casino were to deal a full eight-deck shoe every hour (which they don’t), if the player were to wager $100 on the side wager every time there was a slight advantage, the player could harvest a whopping $25 an hour.

And that’s if the conditions were perfect. By perfect, I mean that they would be able to sit on the game for hours on end without making a single Player or Banker wager (impossible) and that they would also be assured of getting a full 80 hands an hour (nearly impossible, as well) and have no need to tip (after hitting a $4,000 bonus—highly unlikely).

If that weren’t enough to dissuade the pros or wanna-be pros from tackling the game, in order to make that near-impossible $25 an hour, they would also have to be willing to risk a $100,000 bankroll on the high-volatility $100 wager to avoid an unacceptable risk of ruin. And then they’d have to factor in expenses (travel, lodging, etc.).

In fact, it would be much easier for a seasoned pro (or even a novice counter) to grind out an easy $25 an hour earn—with a much smaller bankroll and a limited risk of exposure—by simply playing existing blackjack games (shoes, 6/5 or Superfun, you name it), the same games they’ve been exploiting for years. Or they could play some other games/side bets that are more easily exploitable, including Caribbean Stud (which can be played at a 2.3 percent advantage on every hand with shared information and miniscule bankrolls), Mississippi Stud (at more than 3 percent) with shared information (check out www.discount-gambler.com) and Shuffle Master’s “Margin of Victory” Dragon Bonus, which can return a 10th of a betting unit each shoe with a very small risk of bankroll ruin. Yet none of these games has been assaulted by the pros; they’re just not worth the time or effort.  

There are two kinds of advantage players—those who talk about it and those that make a living at it—and I don’t know a single professional advantage player worth his salt who would even think about sitting on a game on which he would make that measly $25 an hour. But I digress.

The proof that savvy table game operators should continue to offer EZ Baccarat and the Dragon 7 wagers is indisputable; long before Dr. Jacobson released his paper, the pros were aware that game could be counted down, yet none of them played it and in virtually every instance in which an EZ Baccarat game has replaced a conventional baccarat game, the EZ game has made the casino more money.

To further clear up any confusion, check out what Jacobson himself said following the show:

“For the record, I don’t believe the Dragon is vulnerable in a significant way. The typically low house limit as well as the high variance of the wager will make it unappealing to professional players. I don’t think any changes need to be made to the game to protect it.”

Jacobson further explained, “The potential earnings are small and the volatility is enormous. It would require an immense amount of time and a huge bankroll to yield a very small long-term profit. Any casino that removes the Dragon 7 wagers from EZ Baccarat based on my article is making a mistake. No competent advantage player will attack it. Like blackjack, the fact that it can be counted in theory is more likely to draw valuable customers. However, unlike blackjack, no undue measures need to be taken to protect it. I strongly believe my analysis will help those casinos that place EZ Baccarat make more income from the game, not less.”

I’ve known about the theoretical possibilities of beating the Dragon 7 wager for almost a year, yet as a consultant for Barona casino, I have urged them to continue offering EZ Baccarat and the Dragon 7 wager—which they have, with great success.

Should table game operators fear professional Dragon hunters? The answer is no. Why? Because there aren’t any.

Max Rubin is one of eight living members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame and the award-winning author of Comp City: A Guide to Free Gambling Vacations. With nearly 40 years in the gaming industry as a casino veteran, he has designed and developed several table games as well as innovative table game tournament concepts.