Baccarat, The Game

There is probably no other casino game so simple yet so seemingly aloof. There are two considerations for two main possibilities: where and how much? The rules are hard and fast, with the game moving at a pace that makes it easy to understand the strategies and outcomes. Compared to fast-action, multi-bet craps, baccarat moves at a snail's pace. Thought of in a different light, this is a game of heads and tails, with one other wrinkle, the Tie.

There are only three choices on which to bet: Player, Banker, or Tie. The outcome of the game features no other options. Player offers odds of 1.23% and Banker odds 1.06%. There are subtle game variations, but this is how the game is played: eight decks are thoroughly shuffled by a dealer sitting in the middle of a large oval table with six to eight spots on either side.

The mathematics of the dictates the Banker hand will win 44.8% of the time, the Player hand will win 44.6%, with the Ties winning 9.6%. With Ties excluded, the Bank wins 50.7% as opposed to 49.3% for the Player. This difference accounts for the 5% commission commonly charged by the casino to offset the Banker's winnings. Some casinos make the commission a bit more attractive at 4%, but that is usually a short-term promotion. The commission can be paid at any time during the game, but if it hasn't been dealt with prior to the end of the game, after the last hand in the shoe is dealt, the dealer will ask that each player settle up. You may also be asked to pay if and when you leave the table for any reason.

Baccarat has rituals which are descended from the European games of "En Banque" or "Chemin de Fer." In the traditional game, there can be up to three dealers, each responsible for a different function or table area. In most casinos, eight decks are employed with the cards shuffled then dealt from a shoe, beginning with an initial "burn" sequence similar to blackjack. The object of the game is to choose the side, "Banker" or "Player" which finishes closest to a total of 9, with 8 the next best possible hand. Two cards are drawn face down for Player and two for Banker, in this order, Player, Banker, Player Banker. Player's cards are turned over or exposed first, then Banker. Tens and face cards or royals have a value of zero. An ace counts as one. If either side has a total of 9, or 8, with the two exposed cards, it is called a "natural" with 9 winning automatically and 8 if there is no nine on the other side. Failing this, one or two cards are drawn to decide each total. There are specific drawing rules for each set of circumstances with no option, the third card draw is quite specific.

The side closest to 9 wins, with casino chequess paid by the dealer equal to the amount initially bet. Remember on the Banker bet, a commission of 5% is charged if that side wins. In the case of a Tie, neither side wins, but if you had placed a bet in the Tie circle, the third option next to Banker or Player, you would be paid at an 8-1 ratio. The reason for these odds is that tie occurs approximately once in every 12 hands. An entire shoe can be dealt without a tie, or it can occur several times in a row, 3 or 4 different times. When you consider the third card draw chart, it will be obvious Banker has many more options than Player, giving this side an advantage of 1.23%. The casinos elevate this to the 5% vig or commission. Again, the commission is paid upon the completion of each shoe, if not before.

The betting ranges differ at each property, but as a general rule, full tables run $25-5000, minimum to maximum, and mini-bac tables $5-1,000. There are higher level tables available at certain properties, reserved for upper limit players who have been known to wager as much as $250,000 on the turn of a card. If you want to experience a real thrill, wander over to the high-roller pit (or area) and you will probably see more money bet on one hand than most folks make in a year.

The Standing and Third Card Draw Rules

The best and worst of all scenarios comes with the natural draw of an 8 or 9. And, naturally, it all works out if you have bet that side, and doesn't if you haven't. As soon as the Player side, which opens first, draws a 9, the best the Banker side can hope for is to pull another 9 and thus tie or push. In this case, there are no winners or losers as far as Player/Banker goes. The winner here would be the person who bet Tie. Naturally,the worst thing that can happen is to draw a lovely 8 and a face card, only to have the Banker pull a 9 and a face. That is what we call a bad beat. Failing a natural 8 or 9 on the first draw, things get a little trickier, but they aren't that difficult to figure. First let's look at the card values:

Aces=1 (not 1 or 11 as in blackjack) Cards with denominations of 2-9 are equal to their face values. Tens and face cards (the royals, Jack, Queen, King)=0 (baccarat!) Naturals can consist of any combination of cards making 8 or 9, ex. Ace + 7=8; 4 + 5=9, etc. Lacking a natural on any draw, there are third card draw rules which are strictly adhered which offer no options or possibilities of drawing and standing by the player on either side. The following rules help give the game its simplicity:

On the Player's Side First Two Card Totals Player side must: 1,2,3,4,5,10 = Draw 6,7 = Stand 8,9 = Natural (No draw, Banker cannot draw)

On the Banker's Side

First Two Card Totals Banker must draw if player shows: Banker does not draw when 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 = always stands always stands 8,9 = Natural (Player cannot draw)

These rules contain one exception: if player takes no card (stands on 6,7), then the banker stands on 6.

One thing should be obvious from these hard and fast rules: the Banker has a great deal more options than Player. This translates into a 1.8% advantage for betting Banker, but the casinos, in their infinite search for profits, round this figure off to a full 5%. These commissions are maintained by the dealers and each player is held accountable by the end of play on each shoe, unless previous arrangements have been made.

The Waiting Game and Betting Options

The beauty of baccarat lies in its simplicity. Once again, there are two choices: which side to bet, and how much. Three if you want to count tie, and four if you add that you may not want to bet at all. This is also another fine feature of the game, unlike blackjack, where you will incur the wrath of other players as well as the dealer and the floor supervisor by jumping in and out. In baccarat, this is a commonly practiced procedure. Many baccarat veterans chose to use this facet of the game to their advantage. They employ a patient approach, choosing to wait until there is an opportunity or perceived advantage. Some will wait until at least 10-15 hands have been played to consider any emerging trends. Another fine feature of baccarat is the fact that you are permitted to bet any amount from the table minimum to maximum or anything in between on a regular basis without any problems. This is not often the case for blackjack, where jumping your bet wildly will often bring scrutiny from floor supervisors. Please refer to the money management section for more detailed information.

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