It’s Time to Prohibit Smart Phones at the Baccarat Table By Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D. July 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm For gaming revenue, worldwide, no casino game comes close to baccarat. As new casinos are built and new jurisdictions open, there is increasing competition for premium baccarat players. In a buyer’s market, these players have the leverage to dictate liberal game conditions and substantial financial incentives. Taken together with the advent of smart phone technology, there are new possibilities for premium baccarat players to get the edge over the casinos. In baccarat, the house advantage for the Banker, Player, and Tie bets change each round, as cards are dealt from the shoe. Table games management has long understood that the changes in the house edge are too small to create a meaningful issue for game protection. In other words, card counting does not work as a strategy to beat baccarat. However, there is now a smart phone app that gives the exact house edge for Banker, Player, and Tie bets for each round. By always playing the wager (Banker, Player, or Tie) with the smallest house edge, a player can significantly reduce the overall house edge he faces. The house edge is further reduced when the player is given a financial incentive for his play. The most common incentive used to lure premium baccarat players is a “rolling chip” program. Effectively, the player is given cash back based on the total volume of his play, regardless of his final result. Rolling chip programs operate much like a “cash for points” program for slots: the net effect is to lower the house edge by returning a fraction of the theoretical win earned from the player. The final step to beat the house is for a player to get liberal game conditions. These include having odds on the Tie bet that pay 9-to-1 (the usual is 8-to-1) and a cut card placed deep into the shoe. Though most casinos do not offer these conditions to their mass-market players, requests from high-rollers are often accommodated. For example, suppose a player uses the smart phone app mentioned above, is given a 1% rolling chip rebate, and finds liberal game conditions similar to those in the previous paragraph. With this combination, the player can easily beat the house. In fact, there are many casinos that provide their premium players with rolling chip rebates and game conditions much better than this. In addition, there are casinos where premium players have the opportunity to play remotely by phone, where the player can make use of technological tools in a more discrete setting. When I recently published an article on this topic on my blog (APHeat.net), a director of surveillance wrote to me, saying in part: The APP you mentioned has been on the market for almost a year and I was one of the first people to discover it and realize the potential of using technology like this to help the players beat the house … I have looked for other ways of using the latest technology in a stealth way, using a team of players acting in a group for one reason only – to get the edge over the house in a way that is not suspicious, and even more, in a way that is not discoverable … Rolling chip programs aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they are going to become more generous in the future. Likewise, top-tier players who request liberal game conditions will continue to be granted their requests. Game protection for blackjack has long included a prohibition on using devices at the table. As baccarat expands and the competition grows for top-tier players, it may be time for baccarat game protection to include a prohibition on the use of technology. Game protection should not be an exercise in looking in the rear-view mirror.