Smart Bets at the Baccarat Table
Traditionally one of the more intimidating games in the casino, baccarat is actually very simple to play. You can only make three bets: the “player” hand winning, the “banker” hand winning or the two hands ending as a tie. Both the player and banker bets have some of the lowest house edges you will find in any casino game.
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Hands win by being closer to a total of 9, with tens and face cards counting as 0 and aces counting as one. If the sum of the cards’ value is greater than 9, the tens digit of the value is dropped so that a hand can never “bust.” For example, a hand containing a 5 and an 8 would count as 3.
In contrast to blackjack, you can’t make any strategic moves after the cards are dealt that will affect your expectation. A third card will be drawn in certain situations, but these are all made by the dealer according to set rules. A 9 or 8 dealt in the initial two cards is known as a “natural” and this ends the play. If the player is dealt a 2 and a 6, for example, for a total of 8, no additional cards are dealt and the player automatically wins unless the banker hand is also a natural. He ties any other 8 and loses to a 9.
Also, baccarat isn’t played as player versus dealer but simply one hand against another, which changes the dynamic significantly. Only two hands are dealt and each player picks whichever one they prefer; at its essence baccarat is as simple as guessing heads or tails on a coin flip.
While both the banker and player bets have very low house edges, the banker bet is the best move you can make at the baccarat table. All banker bets come with an included 5% “commission,” which means that if you bet on the banker and win, you owe 5% back to the house. If you bet $10 on the banker hand and win, for example then you must give $.50 to the dealer. Don’t hesitate to make this wager, however, because the commission is factored into the long-term expectation of the banker bet. It is still the best bet, although the player bet is an extremely close second. The one bet that should always be avoided, though, is the tie bet. It has an extremely high house edge.
You will encounter two different types of baccarat in brick and mortar casinos: classic and mini baccarat. The first version is played in special baccarat “pits” off the normal casino floor. Classic baccarat is responsible for the aura and mystique that surrounds the game and also dissuades many novices from playing. In this high-stakes and refined version, players are allowed to physically deal the cards when it is their turn, an extreme rarity in any casino, and these tables have some of the biggest action anywhere. Both versions have the exact same rules, but the mini version is played at a normal table and has the same table minimums and maximums as other table games like blackjack. The dealer is also the only one that handles the cards in mini baccarat.
With the increasing popularity of the mini version and a multitude of online casinos offering the game, baccarat’s exclusive reputation is quickly becoming history. The game is very simple, requires no special skills or tedious memorization and offers the player a very low house edge. Simply put, it’s a great bet to make at the casino.
Baccarat Smart Bets
Banker Bets – 1.06% house edge. This percentage factors in the 5% commission that you owe on a winning banker bet.
Player Bets – 1.24% house edge
Banker Bet (4% commission table) – 0.60% house edge. It is not common, but you may run across a game in which the banker bet only has a 4% commission. If you do, make the banker bet every time and you will enjoy a much lower house edge.
Worst Baccarat Bets
Tie bet – 14.36% house edge. This is a terrible proposition, especially since the only two alternative bets in Baccarat are among the best in the casino. You should never bet on the tie in any situation.
Building Your Baccarat Bankroll
Baccarat is extremely simple to play and the house edge is among the lowest of any casino game. Even with a good long-term expectation in comparison to the other games, the casino still has the advantage. However, there are factors that can further help your bankroll. If you seek out comps, bonuses and casino VIP offers from a good live or online casino, you can show positive value from your baccarat play.