The A to Z of gambling!In the latest instalment of our “A to Z of Gambling” series, concerning the letter “P”, we will take a look at three popular gambling games – Poker, Punto Banco and, erm… slot machines! Read on, and all will become clear!

P is for… Poker
“Poker” is a general name for any card game involving a mixture of psychology and betting, that follows a particular five card hand hierarchy, which runs as such:

Straight Flush
Four Of A Kind
Full House
Flush
Straight
Three Of A Kind
Two Pair
One Pair
High Card

The main forms of poker are “Stud”, “Draw” and “Flop” (or “Community Card”) poker. Draw poker involves exchanging private cards in your hand with those from the deck; flop poker involves community cards (shared cards used by all players in the hand) that face up, in combination with private cards that face down; and stud poker involves a mixture of cards facing up and down, with no shared cards.

The history of poker is a matter of some debate; many believe that the game descended from a Persian game known as “As Nas”, though plenty more claim that poker’s real ancestor is either the Irish game “Poca”, or the French “Poque”. What we know for sure is that most of the forms of poker as we know them were definitely played in the early to mid 18th century and had spread across the Mississippi River area by 1800.

Poker games involving community cards are a more recent invention, probably arriving on the scene in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th century that Texas Holdem really took off, becoming the most popular form of poker. In the 1970s, with the formation of the World Series of Poker, the popularity of poker in general began to gain some momentum, but with the advent of online poker and hole card cameras turning the game into a spectator sport, the turn of the century saw poker enjoying unprecedented levels of popularity.

There are other games that may be referred to as poker too, such as Video Poker – a popular game similar to five card draw poker, but played out in the manner of a slot machine – or casino poker games played against the house, such as Pai Gow Poker or Three Card Poker, but generally the term refers to a game involving multiple opponents.

P is for… Punto Banco
Punto Banco is the most commonly played form of Baccarat in UK and US casinos. The casino acts as the banker in Punto Banco and must finish the hand according to a strict set of rules; this is in contrast with other forms of the game, where players make the drawing choices.

A standard Punto Banco game would have eight decks of cards, which are shuffled together before dealing two cards to the “Banker” (Banco) and two cards to the “Player” (Punto). Bettors then have the option to bet, choosing either the Banker, the Player or a Tie.

The object of Punto Banco is to guess which of the hands will total nine (or whichever will total closest to nine). Totals are worked out by adding the value of the two cards together and taking the last digit, so if a six and an eight are dealt, the hand is worth four (6 + 8 = 14, so 4 is the last digit and therefore the total). The totals always range between 0 and 9, with 0 being the worst (which is known as “Baccarat”). Punto Banco card values are as follows: Ace = 1; Ten – King = 0; 2 – 9 = Face value.

If either the Player or the Banker has a total of 8 or 9, then both must stand. If the Player’s total is 5 or less, than the Player must hit. If the Player stands, the Banker must hit on a total of 5 or lower. If the Player does hit, then the Banker’s next action will depend on what card is turned up.

The winning hand is the one with the highest value and if both are equal, it is a Tie. Banker bets pay out at 19/20 and Player bets pay even money. Ties pay 8/1 and any bets on Banker or Player are returned.

Punto Banco is one of the lowest house edge games to be found in the casino, with a 1.06% edge on Banker bets. Assuming an eight deck game is being used, Player bets guarantee the house 1.24%, while Tie bets represent poor value, with a 14.36% edge.

P is for… Progressive Jackpot
Progressive Jackpot slot machine games (or Progressive Slots) play just like regular slot machines, but for each individual spin played, a small amount of money will be added to a jackpot. This is usually a percentage of the machine’s guaranteed profit and most progressive jackpot slots games are “linked”, to ensure mammoth jackpot payouts.

Progressive jackpots do exist in other games, most commonly blackjack. In this particular case, the blackjack player will be given the option of placing an additional bet to qualify for a chance of winning the progressive jackpot. Depending on where the game is being played the rules will vary, but when a specific card combination is dealt, a player who is eligible to do so will win a slice of the jackpot, possibly even the whole thing.

Other forms of progressive jackpot exist under different names, for example most online poker sites have a “Bad Beat Jackpot”. If a player has a really strong hand (usually four of a kind or better) beaten, they will qualify for a large share of the progressive “Bad Beat” jackpot. It is common for the other players at the table to receive a small percentage of the bonus pool too.

Until next time, where we’ll be casting an eye over the letter “Q”, stay lucky!