Last Updated: June 2, 2018

Saigon 5 Card

Introduction

Saigon 5 Card is the English name for the game Ngau Ham, a popular casino game in Vietnam and Cambodia. For a time, it could be found at the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa, but they pulled it out. The game is hard to compare to anything else, but in the end it is a fairly simple game of chance with no skill element.

Rules

1. The game is played with a single 53-card deck, including one joker.
2. Cards are scored as follows:
• Aces = One point
• 2-10 = Pip value
• Face cards = 10 points
• Joker = 3, 6, or 9 points
3. There are three bets, as follows:
• Ante: This is the main bet, played against the dealer.
• Pot: This is a bet among the players only. The player with the best hand wins.
• Bonus: This side bet pays based on the poker value of the player's five cards.
4. After bets are made, the dealer shall deal each player and himself five cards.
5. All players and the dealer will attempt to form a three-card hand in which the total points are 10, 20, or 30. If this can be achieved, then the point value of the remaining two cards shall be the sum of the point value of the two cards, except if that total is greater than 10, then ten will be subtracted from the total. I assume this is done automatically by the dealer in the way that maximizes the value of the two-card hand.
6. If the player or dealer cannot form a three-card hand with 10, 20, or 30 points, then he is said to not "qualify."
7. For purposes of the Ante bet, the player's cards shall be compared to the dealer's cards as follows:
• Neither qualify: The Ante bet pushes.
• Player qualifies and dealer does not: Player wins.
• Player does not qualify and dealer does: Dealer wins.
• Player and dealer both qualify: The one with more points in the two-card hand wins. In the event of a tie, the Ante shall push.
8. All wins pay even money, except if the player has a two-card hand with a total of five points, then the Ante bet shall pay 1 to 2.
9. The Pot bet shall go to the player with the highest two-card hand. I do not know if the same two cards must be used as for the Ante bet or any two cards will do.
10. For purposes of the Bonus bet, the joker is partially wild. As in pai gow poker, the joker can be used to complete a straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush. Otherwise, it counts as an ace. I know of two pay tables as shown below.

Following are two known pay tables for the Bonus bet. Wins are on a "to one" basis.

Bonus Bet Pay Tables

Five-Card Hand Hard Rock Ruby Red
Five aces 5000 ?
Natural royal flush 1000 ?
Wild royal flush 250 ?
Straight flush 100 100
Four of a kind 50 80
Full house 20 60
Flush 15 40
Straight 12 30
Three of a kind 10 8
Two pair 8 4

Analysis

The following table shows my analysis of the Ante bet. The game would be perfectly balanced between the player and dealer if it were not for winning 1 to 2 on a winning total of five points. This happens 3.735% of the time. Giving up half a unit in 3.735% of hands results in a house edge of 3.735%/2 = 1.8675%, as also shown in the lower right cell of the table.

Ante Analysis

Event Pays Combinations Probability Return
Player wins, except with five points 1 1,916,880,345,224 0.390104 0.390104
Player wins with five points 0.5 183,533,732,592 0.037351 0.018675
Push 0 712,944,948,608 0.145091 0.000000
Dealer wins -1 2,100,414,077,816 0.427454 -0.427454
Total   4,913,773,104,240 1.000000 -0.018675

As for the Pot bet, although I do not know the rules completely, it is easy to see this is a non-raked player against player bet, so it has zero house edge.

The following table shows my analysis of the Seminole Hard Rock pay table for the Bonus bet. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 12.80%.

Bonus Analysis

Event Pays Combinations Probability Return
Five aces 5000 1 0.000000 0.001742
Natural royal flush 1000 4 0.000001 0.001394
Wild royal flush 250 20 0.000007 0.001742
Straight flush 100 180 0.000063 0.006272
Four of a kind 50 828 0.000289 0.014427
Full house 20 4,368 0.001522 0.030442
Flush 15 7,804 0.002719 0.040792
Straight 12 20,532 0.007155 0.085858
Three of a kind 10 63,360 0.022079 0.220791
Two pair 8 138,600 0.048298 0.386384
All other -1 2,633,988 0.917867 -0.917867
Total   2,869,685 1.000000 -0.128022

Strategy

As mentioned in the rules, I assume the player hand must be set to maximize the value of the two-card hand. However, if the player has free will, which I doubt, then I show the player should choose three or four points over five points, due to the rule of winning half only on a total of five. However, I believe it is impossible to have a situation there the best two-card hand is five point and three or four is also possible.