How to Play Baccarat:
Are you looking for a game with a low house edge and easy to play? If so baccarat may be an ideal game for you. The house edge on the best bet is only 1.07% and playing is almost as simple as betting on the toss of a coin.
Procedure Of Play
Baccarat is played in a snooty roped off area to separate itself from the other games. The players are usually very well dressed and the table minimums are often high. The regular baccarat table is about the size of a craps table with 3 casino dealers and up to 12 or 14 players. Each player, including the player dealing, may still bet on either the player or the banker but it is customary for the dealer to bet on the banker.
The deal will rotate around the table, much like the dice rotate around the craps table. If a player does not want to deal they may pass the shoe to the next player. The same person will keep dealing as long as the banker keeps winning. The person dealing will put two cards, face down, tucked under the shoe, and give the player with the greatest bet on the player the other two cards, face down. This player then looks at the cards and then gives them back to the player who is dealing. Then the player who is dealing will turn over the cards and one of the casino dealers will announce the totals. Depending on the totals the dealer may then instruct the person dealing the cards to deal a third card. Finally the dealers will pay winning wagers and collect losing ones out of the dealer’s tray. The player who actually deals is not assuming any financial responsibility of the other players bets, unlike pai gow, and is just turning over cards.
The Rules of Baccarat
- Baccarat is played with eight decks of cards. Each numbered card less than ten is worth its face value, aces are worth 1, and tens and face cards are worth 0. The suit does not matter.
Play begins by all players betting either on the ‘player’, ‘banker’, or a tie. I put player and banker in quotes because that is the correct terminology but they do not necessarily represent the dealer or the actual players.
After all bets are down the dealer gives two cards each to the player and the banker. The score of the hand is the right digit of the total of the cards. For example if the two cards were an 8 and 7, then the total would be 15, and the score would be a 5. The scores will always range from 0 to 9 and it is impossible to bust.
A third card may or may not be dealt to either or both the player and the dealer depending on the following rules.
- If either the player or the banker has a total of an 8 or a 9 they both stand. This rule overrides all other rules.
If the player’s total is 5 or less then the player hits, otherwise the player stands.
If the player stands, then the banker hits on a total of 5 or less. If the player does hit then use the chart below to determine if the banker hits (H) or stands (S).
ScorePlayer’s Third Card
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 97 S S S S S S S S S S6 S S S S S S H H S S5 S S S S H H H H S S4 S S H H H H H H S S3 H H H H H H H H S H2 H H H H H H H H H H1 H H H H H H H H H H0 H H H H H H H H H H
The score of the player and dealer are compared, the winner is the one which is greater. Winning bets on the banker pay 19 to 20 (or even money less a 5% commission), winning bets on the player pay 1 to 1, winning bets on a tie pay either 8 to 1 or 9 to 1, depending on where you play. Regardless of whether the tie pays 8:1 or 9:1 it is a very bad bet and should be avoided.
You may wonder how the dealer collects the 5% commission on winning banker bets. If they did so every hand it would involve a lot of change and slow down the game. To avoid this during the course of play the dealer will pay even money to winning banker bets and consider the 5% an IOU. As the dealer plays through an eight deck shoe he/she will keep track of the commissions every player owes. At the end of the shoe or when a player wants to leave midshoe the dealer will collect on the commissions. Make sure you don’t run out of money with outstanding commissions.
Real Time Gaming online casinos offer a sixdeck baccarat game. This makes the odds on the banker bet better, and the odds on the player and tie bets worse. Following is a probability table for six decks.
Every baccarat table will have plenty of scorecards and pencils for the players to keep track of the outcome of every hand. Most players will do so religiously and carefully analyze their card for trends as the winning hand switches back and forth from the banker to player. This is a big waste of time! The smart player will bet on the banker every time and leave the scorecards alone.
Where to Play Baccarat
Baccarat is becoming a hard game to find. In Las Vegas only the largest casinos generally offer the game. Of the four megacasinos at the intersection of Tropicana and the Strip (MGM Grand, New York New York, the Excalibur, and the Tropicana) only the MGM Grand offers the game. In downtown Las Vegas only the Golden Nugget offers the game and only on weekend evenings. Many places that do offer the game only deal it at night (the Luxor and Hard Rock for example).
The table minimum is usually very high. During my last Vegas trip I inquired about the minimums at the MGM Grand: one table was $500, one was $1000, and another was a private game. A sign at the baccarat room at the Stardust indicates they have a $25 minimum game (nights only) which is the least I have ever seen. I believe the Las Vegas Hilton has a $100 minimum.
Are the baccarat minimums too high for you? Then you may want to try minibaccarat. The rules and house edge are the same but the minimum is usually only $5 or $10. Unlike regular baccarat with its player participation and unique decorum minibaccarat is played at a blackjack size table where the dealer controls everything. The pace of minibaccarat is very fast, it would not surprise me if more were bet per hour at a $10 minibaccarat table than a $25 regular baccarat table. Without the atmosphere of the big baccarat table it is my opinion that minibaccarat loses its charm and is reduced to a redundant and boring game. It is not surprising to me that minibaccarat is one of the least popular table games in any casino.
Commission Free Baccarat
The Atlantic City Hilton offers a version of the banker bet in baccarat which pays even money but only wins 1:2 odds on a winning total of 6. The house edge on the banker bet is 1.623%. As usual gimmicks do not pay as well as the regular game, and this game is no exception.
A combinatorial analysis using eight decks was used for this baccarat analysis. All other sources I have seen use an infinite deck assumption which leads to an incorrect house edge of 1.06%, 1.23%, and 14.18% on the banker, player, tie bet respectively. Some sources indicate the the banker and player house edge to be 1.17% and 1.36% respectively. These higher statistics ignore ties, which is not how I define the house edge. However if ties were ignorred these house edges in an eight deck game should be 1.19% and 1.35% on the banker and player bet respectively.