Bpauk Daeng – Thailand’s Gambling Game
I swear I’ve never played this game because gambling is illegal in Thailand. :-)
Bpauk Daeng is a Thai gambling game that is very popular here in Thailand. It’s somewhat like Baccarat but with a Thai flavor. I was unable to find much in the way of information on the game so I thought I would do a write-up for any other farangs who find themselves getting invited to join a game.
Whoever suggests playing usually wants to be the dealer/banker (or what the Thais call The King) for the game. I haven’t done the math but the dealer/banker has a slight edge on the players that I will explain later.
Before each hand is dealt players must declare a bet amount. In most of the games I’ve seen played in bars and in private homes the stakes range from around 20 baht (0.60 USD) to around 100 baht ($3 USD) per hand. Normally the money should be on the table but when played in a public place usually the money gets exchanged at the end of the hand so there’s no cash sitting on the table.
I’m not sure if it’s a rule of the game but most of the time I see the game dealt counter-clockwise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody deal clockwise from the dealer position.
Players are dealt two cards face down, one at a time just like in hold’em. I assume it is the dealer’s discretion since I’ve seen it played both ways, but the dealer CAN deal burn cards face up. I asked about this and was told that it’s done when the dealer feels unlucky and is trying to mess up the order of the cards.
Players then sum up the total of their cards.
A = 1 point
2 – 10 = 2 – 10 points accordingly
K, Q, J = 10 points
Just like in baccarat, you drop the tens when adding up the total. So, if your cards total 10, you would drop the tens and have zero. Or if your cards totaled 15, you drop the tens and have 5 points.
Any player who has an 8 or 9 turns their hand up and they cannot draw any cards.
At this point if the dealer has Bpauk Bpet (Bpet is Thai for 8) or Bpauk Gao (Gao is Thai for 9) the dealer will ask everyone to open their hands. If the player can beat the dealer (8 vs. 9) they are paid. If they match the dealer it’s a push. Otherwise the dealer wins and all players surrender their bets to the dealer.
If the dealer doesn’t have Bpauk Bpet or Bpauk Gao play continues with the dealer asking each player if they would like an additional card. Each player is allowed to draw 1 card if they choose. You are not obligated to take a card unless you have a hand total under 4.
Both the players and the dealer must draw on any hand under 4. There is no option to stay on a point total of 1, 2, or 3. However, if after the third card the player (or the dealer) has a total of 1, 2, or 3 that is their score since no player can be dealt more than 3 cards.
After dealing drawing cards to all of the players the dealer MAY decide to ask all hands that have drawn a third card to open their hands before deciding whether or not to draw themselves. Players that stayed put on two cards do not have to open their hand.
If the dealer asks the players to open the dealer then turns over their cards and winning hands are paid, equal hands push, and losing hands pay the dealer.
After the dealer has made their decision to draw a card all hands are opened up and bets are settled accordingly.
Payouts and Special Hands
The normal payout is 1:1. If you bet 20 baht and you beat the dealer the dealer pays you 20 baht. However there are some special hands that payout more than 1:1. Keep in mind that if the dealer gets these hands the players must pay the dealer at the same odds.
Pairs, flushes, sets, and a K, Q, J straight pay out as follows.
Two card flush: 2:1
Three card flush: 3:1
K, Q, J straight: 6:1
However, with the exception of the K, Q, J straight, your hand must still win. For instance, if you have pair of fives or three tens your point total is zero. If the dealer has a score higher than zero you still lose the hand and lose your original bet.
Where it becomes interesting if when the dealer hits a hand. For instance, if the dealer was dealt 333 for a total of 9 points then everybody with a point score lower than 9 must pay the dealer 3:1. As an example, if you bet 20 baht you would owe the dealer 60 baht.
The House (Banker) Edge
Like I said, I haven’t done the math but I’m assuming the dealer’s edge comes from the fact that if they make a two card 8 or 9 other players aren’t allowed to draw but if the players make 8 or 9 on two cards the dealer can still draw to a push or a win.
Looking at the odds for baccarat it seems that the dealer holds a 1.286% advantage when playing baccarat with no house commission and one deck. But there are so many little variances I’m not really sure you can use the baccarat odds here.
One of the things I find entertaining about this game is that it’s not a casino game where the casino has figured out the optimal strategy and puts that into the game’s rules (i.e. dealer must stand on 17 in blackjack). That means that the dealer may be playing horribly and someone playing optimal strategy can clean up against a bad dealer. And considering there’s always booze involved when this game is being played you can pretty much count on bad play.
There’s also the issue of the Thai reliance on luck. I’ve seen people draw on a 33 hoping to make a set . So they’re taking a 24:1 flyer on the hopes of getting paid out 3:1.
All in all, even though the house holds an advantage I think if one simply draws on anything under 6 and stays on 6 or better they’re playing pretty much an optimal strategy and can actually beat the house. Of course, if you’re playing against a dealer who knows how to play optimal strategy then you’re just gambling.
And remember, I’ve never actually played this game because, you know, gambling is illegal here. :-)