Baccarat bets offer some of the lowest house advantages available in a casino. These attractive odds make baccarat a game that is popular with high rollers, who sometimes bet tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time. Because of its popularity with wealthy players, a casino may win or lose millions of dollars a night on the game, and these swings sometimes even affect the quarterly profits of publicly-traded gaming companies.
Although there are several versions of the game, this tutorial will refer to the North American version of the game.
Baccarat is a simple game with only three possible results - "Player", "Banker", and "Tie". The term "Player" does not refer to the casino customer and the term "Banker" does not refer to the casino. Players may bet on either the "player" or the "banker", which are merely names for the two hands dealt in each game.
In Baccarat, cards 2 through 9 are worth face value, 10s and face cards (J, Q, K) are worth zero, and Aces are worth 1 point. Players calculate their score by summing the value of all their cards and looking at the right-most digit only. For example, a hand consisting of 5 and 7 is worth 2 (5 + 7 = 12 = 2) - the first digit is dropped. A hand consisting of 7 and 3 is worth zero (7 + 3 = 10 = 0). The highest score that can be achieved is 9 and the lowest score is a 0, which is referred to as "baccarat".
The cards are dealt face down, one to the Player first, then to the Banker, then again to the Player, then again to the Banker. This is the initial deal consisting of two cards each. Both cards in each hand are then turned over and added together and the croupier calls out the total (e.g. "4 to the Player, 3 to the Banker"). From here, the "Tableau", or table of play, is used to determine if any further cards need to be drawn. Depending on the value of each hand, the Player and Banker may have to draw a single card or stand pat.
The Banker's play depends on 3 things: 1. whether the Player drew a card, 2. what card the Player drew 3. the Banker's hand:
The croupier will deal the cards according to the tableau and the hand with the highest total wins. The croupier will announce the winning hand - either Player or Banker. Losing bets will be collected and the winning bets will be paid according to the house rules. Winning player bets will usually be paid at 1-to-1 (100%) and winning banker bets will usually be paid 95%, with a 5% commission going to the house.
If the Banker and the Player hands have the same value at the end then all "tie" bets will be paid at 8-to-1 odds and all bets on Player or Banker will remain in place and stay active for the next game. The casino customer is sometimes allowed to take back their bet - depending on the individual casino rules.
In larger casinos, baccarat is usually played in special areas that are roped off the main gaming space to provide privacy to the players. The baccarat table is staffed by a croupier, who directs the play of the game, and two dealers who collect and pay bets and calculate the commissions that are due.
The game usually uses 6 or 8 decks of cards. The shoe that holds the cards is passed around from player to player, who deals the cards from the shoe and acts as "banker". The role of the "banker" is merely ceremonial - the "banker" may bet on the player hand if he wants to, or may pass along the shoe to another player.
The player who has bet the highest amount on the player hand is given the "player" hand cards so he can turn them over and announce their total. The croupier directs the "banker" to deal third cards if they are needed, and then announces the winning hand.
Because there is no shuffling in between hands in baccarat, it would seem that the game would lend itself to successful card counting. Unfortunately, the math (done by Peter Griffin and Edward Thorp) has shown that card counting is not a viable strategy to beat the game.
Mini-baccarat is essentially the same as regular baccarat, but played at a smaller table with only a single dealer handling the entire game, including dealing the cards. The pace is usually much faster than regular baccarat and the betting limits are usually lower. Outside of the larger casinos, this is usually the only version of baccarat that is offered.
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