Baccarat is arguably the most popular casino game in the world.
Although it has a solid following in North American casinos it is insanely huge in many other parts of the world. In particular, the Asian gaming destination of Macau is a baccarat hotbed. In a given year, estimates suggest that as much as 90% of all gaming income for Macau casinos is derived from baccarat. In addition to its massive popularity among Asian gamblers it has always been a choice of ‘high rollers’. Not surprisingly, it has also become very popular with online gaming enthusiasts for a variety of reasons—not the least of which being that it translates very nicely to online play.
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Within the most popular variation of punto banco there are several different types of baccarat tables.
‘Big Table Baccarat’ is the table format most commonly associated with high rollers and roped off private areas of the casino. Players usually dress like they’re in a James Bond movie and to no surprise table limits are usually very high. The table itself is a little big larger than a craps table and accommodates around a dozen players with three casino dealers on duty to facilitate gameplay. The game play itself is highly formalized with the deal rotating around the table similar to the rotation of dice around a craps table. Players have the option of passing the deal if they so desire.
The more ‘egalitarian’ table format is called ‘Mini Baccarat’. The rules are identical to the aforementioned ‘Big Table Baccarat’ but since the dealer does all of the handling of cards the game moves in a much more expedient manner. The ‘mini’ table is similar in size to a blackjack table and is found in the main casino area. There is yet another variation called ‘midi baccarat’ which plays on a slightly larger table and is essentially a high roller version of ‘mini baccarat’.
At the most fundamental level, the rules of baccarat are extremely simple. During the past decade there has been a proliferation in the number of ‘side bets’ offered at many baccarat tables and these can bring about some degree of complexity. We’ll keep the focus on the basic rule set but if you’re interested in any side bets you see available the dealer will be happy to explain the rules.
In the traditional version of baccarat eight decks of cards are used though it’s not uncommon to see mini baccarat games dealt from a six-deck shoe which does create an incremental change in the odds. As with blackjack, each card is given a point value—aces are worth 1, the 2 through 9 cards are worth their face value with the 10 through King given the value of 0 (zero).
To begin a hand, each player at the table has the option of wagering on either the player or the banker. There is also a common side bet offered for a ‘tie’. Once all bets have been made two cards are dealt to the ‘Player’ hand and two cards dealt to the ‘Banker’ hand. Although the eventual outcome is determined by which hand has the highest point total there’s a bit of a process to get there. It sounds confusing at first but after a while it’ll become second nature the way blackjack is to American casino patrons.
The maximum point total for each hand is 9. The point total is determined by tallying up the value of each individual card as detailed above. If the total is higher than 9, the first digit is dropped for comparison purposes. For example, if a hand consisted of a pair of 8’s for a total of 16 the ‘1’ would be dropped for the purposes of the game the hand would be worth 6 points.
The dealer then determines if a third card will be added to each hand following a set of rules similar to blackjack’s ‘dealer must hit on soft 17’ dictum. If either the player or banker has 8 or 9 points it is called a ‘natural’. If either hand has a natural, then both hands will stand. If there is no natural, a player with a total of five or less will receive one more card. With 6 or 7 points, the player hand stands
If the player hand stands with either 6 or 7 points the banker hand will be played. If the banker has 5 points or fewer he’ll draw a card and he will stand on 6 or 7 points. If the player draws a third card, the banker may or may not follow suit.
The determination of whether an additional card will be dealt to the banker hand is made based on a chart of ‘Banker Drawing Rules’. The card features a matrix made up of the Banker’s Score and the value of the player’s third card. At the intersection an indication is made for a ‘draw’ or ‘stand’. It looks a lot like the cards you see for blackjack basic strategy.
Once this process is completed the higher value hand is declared the winner. In the event of a tie value the hand is a ‘push’.
The ‘house edge’ is built in to the payout. A winning bet on the player pays at even money while a winning bet on the banker pays at 19 to 20. The payout on the banker hand is based on even money minus a 5% ‘commission’. If there is a side bet on the tie it is usually paid off at 8 to 1. This might all sound convoluted to the North American bettor unfamiliar with the game but it’s easy to pick up after a few playing sessions.
Broadly speaking, baccarat isn’t much different than betting on a coin flip—only with a commission assessed on winning bets on one side. The banker hand wins slightly more often than the player hand (50.68%) and this gives the house an edge of 1.36% on player bets. The 5% commission on winning banker bets results in an advantage of 1.17% on banker bets.
There are some card counting techniques that work for baccarat as well as a controversial strategy called ‘edge sorting’ that high level players can use to gain an advantage.
Despite its image as an exotic and elite game, the reality is that it is extremely easy to learn and play Baccarat! Here at Super Slots you have your choice of three different gaming platforms at our Casino, and a more social option at our live casino. So what are you waiting or? Give Baccarat a try today!