You’ve seen the people in the high-limit table game pit wagering massive amounts of money literally on the turn of a card. They studiously mark their scorecard to decide their strategy before making their bets. Then they often squeeze the cards, as if their actions might change the card’s value to a winning hand, while screaming things like “monkey!” (face card) or “snowman!” (Eight). What’s going on in there?
It’s all very mysterious but it’s actually the simplest game in the casino (if the casino doesn’t offer War). And it’s also one of the best to play because the house edge is minimal compared to many other casino games.
Let’s start with the basics. All face cards and Tens are worth “0” while all the other cards are worth their face value. But when adding the cards together, if the total count is greater than nine, you simply drop the left digit. For example, if you have an Eight and a Five adding up to 13, you drop the 1 and the total of the cards is three. A Nine and a Two is one. An Eight and a Nine is seven. So you get the idea.
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Player Betting Strategy
Players at the baccarat table can make three bets: the Banker, the Player and the Tie. (On some baccarat games, there are other bets, but for this article, we’re talking about a basic baccarat game with no bonus bets.)
Each hand (Player and Banker) gets two cards. The cards are added together and the dealer announces the score. If either hand gets a total of eight or nine, the hand is over and no third card is drawn.
The third-card rules are a bit complicated, but the good thing is the player doesn’t need to know them. But here’s a chart if you really care to understand why your hand does or doesn’t get a third card.
Best Odds of Casino Games
The reason you should consider learning to play baccarat is simple, like the game. You get some of the best odds in the casino. The Banker Bet has the lowest odds in the casino other than the pass line with full odds on the craps table (Trust us on this one!), at 1.06% in favor of the house. The Player bet is just behind it at 1.24%. But the catch is, if you make the more favorable Banker bet and win, the house charges a 5% commission on the bet. So if you make a $20 bet and win, you owe the house $1. In some casinos, they keep track of the commission and charge you at the end of the shoe. At other casinos, they’ll pay you the bet, minus the commission.
The Tie bet pays 8-1 so you might think that’s a great payout. But when you consider the house edge on the Tie bet is more than 14%, really not so much.
Like most table games in real casinos these days, the minimums on a baccarat game can be rather high. Most games start at a $25 minimum and move up from there.
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Two Baccarat Versions to Choose From
There are usually two versions of baccarat in a casino. “Midi” baccarat is played on a larger table, usually in the high limit pit, and usually allows players to handle the cards, exposing the Banker and Player hands, and doing the “squeeze” on the third card. On the main casino floor, the games are “mini” baccarat, played at a blackjack-sized table and no handling of the cards by the players is permitted. If you’ve ever watched a James Bond movie, you might have seen him play a version of baccarat called Chemin de Fer. It’s played at a large gaming table, accommodating as many as 14 players with dealers wearing tuxedos and gowns. But those days are gone unless you find a super high limit room at a European casino.
Baccarat at an online casino is a completely different animal. You still get the great odds in the electronically generated games with very low minimums. They can be as low as $1—and even the live dealer games, although the minimums there can also start rather high. Because baccarat on a live casino floor, like many other casino games, can be intimidating, starting to play online to learn the game is a great option.
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