You’ve probably heard of the game called Baccarat and probably have never seen it actually played. Or, if you have seen it played, you probably didn’t get very close to the table. Most people are only familiar that such a game exists because of its appearance in Bond movies.
Yet, if you have been in a large casino, such as Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, you may have noticed one table with a rope barricade at the entrance. That table, separated from the main casino floor is the Baccarat room.
When the word Baccarat is spoken in a casino, it is said with hushed tones and almost in a whisper. Traditional Baccarat is the quietest game in the casino. No one speaks a word. There is no hint of excitement when a player wins or any emotion when a player loses.
Baccarat has many rituals that have been passed down since the 1400s when played by the Royals in Europe. To this day, the cards are not touched by human hands once they are placed in the shoe. The cards are passed to each player on a paddle. And, the croupier wears white gloves. Players have usually play with cash but have the option to play with chips.
Most casinos require a minimum number of players before they will open the game and there is usually a minimum buy-in of $100,000 in Las Vegas Casinos and minimum bets of $1,000 per hand. Usually, the bets and buy-in are considerably higher. Wagers often exceed $500,000 in a single hand. Baccarat is an invitation only game at the request for arrangements with the Casino Manager.
- Each player is playing against all the other players and no one is playing against the house – the house has no hand in this game.
- Cards are drawn by each player in rotation on the paddle or, if the players unanimously agree, the croupier may present the cards to each player. Otherwise, the dealer never touches the cards.
- Each hand has 3 possible outcomes: Player, Banker and Tie. However, these outcomes do not indicate winners. These are the names of the betting options and the bet that the player places on these options determines the result of the wager.
- Players take turns as the dealer and bank in most instances, but they may ask the Croupier to act as dealer and bank.
- Since the casino has no stake in the game, they receive a 5% cut of all monies played and each player is expected to tip the dealer generously.
This description is only to give a small part of the rules of the traditional game. It requires a great deal of skill to play and there are many subtleties and variations in strategy that takes years to learn. It is such a unique skill, that only a handful of dealers in the largest casinos in the U.S. are qualified to act as croupier.
- Each numerical card 2-9 is worth its face value
- Aces are valued as 1
- The 10 and face cards are valued as 0
- The highest possible winning score is 9
- 0 is the worst and called a “Baccarat”
Now, for the tricky part. To know what your total score is, you add your cards together.
Let’s say that your hand is an 8 and 9. Add these together and you have 17. But, since there is no ‘10’ you must drop the 10 and what you really have is a score of 7. That sounds like a decent hand, but if you had a 4 and 5 you’d win because your score is 9 and if you had two face cards, you’d have yourself “a Baccarat” – or a “fish” – which is where the name of the game originates.
Allan N. Wilson’s The Casino Gambler’s Guide is the most reliable when it comes to mathematical odds in traditional Baccarat. Using his statistics, this is how often you can anticipate winning on a percentage basis:
- Banker wins 45.84% of all hands dealt
- Player wins 44.61% of all hands dealt
- Tie – neither hand wins – 9.55% of all hands dealt
This means that if you bet $100 and bet only on Banker, you will win $43.55 after the 5% commission to the House. If you bet $100 and bet only on Player, you will win $44.61. If you bet $100 on Tie, you will lose 90.45% of the time and lose $90.45 but, if you play that $100 for the 9.55% of the time that the tie comes in, you will win $800 each time there is a tie.
However, you’ll lose $9500 before you win $800 x 9.55 times, which is still only $7640.
There are several strategies that novice players who want to take a chance on playing an elite game of chance.
- Keep a record of each player’s win (remembering that Banker is an invisible player) and remembering that you are betting either Banker or Player will win the hand – and that may not be you! This will help you see if there are streaks or patterns developing.
- Play the streaks if you have limited skill – card shoes frequently deliver cards that win and land either with Banker or Player several times in a row. That is a streak. Play either Banker or Player. If the first win comes out for Banker, then on your next bet play Banker. Change to Player immediately after the win goes to Player. This does not work all the time. But, it does work often and for a beginner, it’s easy to remember.
- Never chase your losing bets. If you place a bet of $100 on Banker and it loses, do not ever then “reason” that you should play $200 on Player – it won’t and you won’t break even if it works because Banker and Player pay different % because the house’s edge is different for each one. There are tons of systems on the internet that suggest this as a “winning” strategy. Obviously, they have never sat at a table and watch their system bite the dust.
Is there a difference between Baccarat and Mini- Baccarat beside the amount of the bet?
Yes. There are several differences. In Baccarat, you must determine if you want a card and when you want it played. In Mini-Baccarat, the rules determine when and if a card will be placed on Player or Banker.
Are there other variations of Baccarat besides Mini-Baccarat?
Yes. There is a version called Baccarat en Banque where the Banker is auctioned off to the players and the highest bid wins the position of Banker. There is also a version played in Europe and by Europeans in U.S. casino games called Chermin de Fer. In this version, each player takes turns dispensing the cards and the player has the option of taking another card on a 5 total. There is also an American version called Super Pan 9 played with 36 cards to make it more interesting and Three Card Baccarat which is a Macau inspired game.
Baccarat Rules and Strategy,