The Simplicity of Baccarat, the Most Exclusive Game
Years of observation have allowed game theorists to find that of all the traditional casino games, only three offer a real chance of winning: blackjack, craps and baccarat. All the others represent such a significant house advantage that it is almost impossible to win.
By playing with a good dose of knowledge and experience, you can manage to lower the house advantage in craps to less than 2%. Blackjack, on the other hand, requires a good dose of concentration, good memory skills and the ability to keep a low profile if you use a card counting strategy to stay in the action. While baccarat… Well, baccarat is the simplest of all table games.
Baccarat: The Game
There probably isn’t an easier game to play. There are only two questions to ask for two possibilities: where and how many. The rules are absolute and the game progresses at a pace that makes it easy to understand the strategies and results. In comparison, for example, with craps, baccarat moves at a snail’s pace. It’s a bit like a coin toss, with a third possibility: a tie.
There are only three ways to place your bets: “Bank”, “Player” or “Tie”. There are no other options. Betting on Player gives a 1.23% house advantage and betting on Banker gives a 1.06% house advantage. There are also variations, but in general the game is played as follows: the 8 decks of cards are carefully shuffled by a dealer sitting in the center of an oval table with six-eight players on either side of the table.
According to the statistics, the Banker bet will win 44.8% of the time, the Player bet 44.6%, and finally, the tie only wins 9.6% of the time. If it were not for this last bet, the Banker bet would have 50.7% odds against 49.3% of the Player bet. This difference is compensated by the 5% commission usually taken by the casino on the winnings of the Banker bet. Some casinos take a 4% commission, but be aware that this is often only a short-term promotion. The commission can be paid at any time during the game. If it has not been paid before the end of the game, i.e. after the last hand has been dealt, the dealer may ask all players at the table to settle the accounts. You may also be asked to pay if you leave the table for any reason.
Baccarat is a game of rituals that come from European games such as “In the Bank” or “The Railway”. In a traditional game, there can be up to three dealers per baccarat table, each one is responsible for ‘his’ part of the table and specific functions. In most casinos, eight decks of cards are used, which make up the game’s shoe.
The object of the game is simple: you must choose your ‘side’ – the Banker or Player – and place a bet on whoever’s hand total is closest to 9. The two cards are dealt face down to the Player and the other two to the Banker in the following order: Player, Banker, Player, Banker. The Player’s cards are revealed first. The 10’s, Jacks, Queens and Kings have a value of zero. An ace counts as 1 point. If either the Banker or Player gets a total of 8 or 9, then it is a “natural”. The 9 automatically wins and the 8 wins if the total of the other hand is not a 9. If it is not, one or two additional cards are added to the original hand. However, there are special rules regarding the drawing of additional cards.
The side with the total closest to 9 wins and the dealer pays the winning bets. Remember that casinos take a 5% commission on the Banker’s winning bets. In the event of a tie, neither side wins, but if you placed your bet on the tie, you are paid 8:1. The other two bets pay 2:1. The reason for the odds is that the tie bet will win on approximately 12 hands played. A whole shoe can be played without a tie. Just as there could be 3 or 4 in a row. Taking into consideration the rules for the third card draw, the banker of course has many more options than the player, which gives him an advantage of 1.23%. This is one of the reasons why casinos take 5% commission on this bet. Again, the commissions are paid at the end of each game or even before.
Bet amounts depend mostly on the casino where you play, but as a general rule, for large tables the minimum bet is $25 and the maximum bet is $25,000. For mini-baccarat it ranges from $5 to $1,000. There are tables with other limits. Generally these tables are reserved for players who are willing to bet up to $250,000 per hand. If you want to have a thrill, check out the area reserved for these tables, you will probably see more money bet for a hand than most people win in a year.
The Third Card
The best and worst of all scenarios comes with a draw of an 8 or a 9. Of course, if you bet on that hand, you’re fine. As soon as the player, who shows his cards first, draws a 9, all the Banker can hope for is to have another 9 on his side and be tied. In this case, there are no winners, but there are no losers either. The winner here will be the player who bet on the tie. Of course, the worst thing that can happen is to have an 8 and a zero card, while the banker has a 9 and a zero card. This is called the ‘bad beat’. If there is no 8 or 9 in the first draw, the game gets a little trickier. However, this doesn’t make the game any more complicated. First of all, here is the value of the cards:
Aces are worth 1 point (and not either 1 or 11 as in blackjack). Cards from 2 to 9 have their face value. Tens, jacks, queens and kings count as zero (baccarat). The “natural” can be any combination that adds up to 8 or 9, for example: Ace + 8, 4 + 5 etc. The “natural” can be any combination that adds up to 8 or 9, for example: Ace + 8, 4 + 5 etc. If you don’t make an 8 or 9, a third card is drawn, but very strict rules apply. The following rules help to understand the game better:
Player’s side: if the total of the first two cards is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, he must draw a card, if he has 6, 7, he must stay, if he has 8, 9, he is a “natural” (nobody can have a third card).
Banker’s side: the banker stays if the player draws: 3 = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 8 4 = 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 1, 8, 9, 10 5 = 4, 5, 6, 7 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 6 = 6, 7 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 7 = the banker always stays, 8, 9 = “Natural” = the banker always stays (the player cannot have any other cards).
These rules contain one exception: if the player does not take any more cards (he remains at 6, 7), the banker must remain at 6.
In any case, one thing is very clear about these rules: the banker always has more options than the player. This translates into a 1.8% advantage when you bet on the banker, but that is also the reason why casinos take the 5% commission on your winnings when you bet on the banker. These commissions must be paid at the end of the game to the dealer at the table.
The beauty of baccarat lies in its simplicity. Again, there are only two options: which side to choose and how much to bet. Three options, if you’re considering a tie, and even four if you’re thinking you’re not going to bet at all. But there is also another feature to this game, unlike blackjack, players and dealers in baccarat get very angry very quickly and get very agitated. This is completely normal. A lot of players like this game precisely for this facet because they use it to their advantage. They prefer to wait until they see an advantage. Some wait until 10-15 hands are played in order to examine the trends. Another feature of the game is the bet amounts. In baccarat you can bet whatever you want: the minimum, the maximum or an amount in between.