Baccarat is a niche card game in most UK casinos. You might find the odd table in your local casino but not many. In Lecesiter Square London, with a large Chinese clientele, you might find a lot of tables but at your typical Genting or Grosvenor casino, you will find one Baccarat table if you are lucky.
Baccarat is a very simple game. I like to think of it as like roulette with cards. There are only really two sensible bets to have in Baccarat, the Player and the Banker. This is almost like betting on Red/ Black in roulette. The house edge is very small on those bets. More later.
There are 10 scores in baccarat. Its simple modulo mathematics. The score is just the sum of the cards mod 10. So a 7 and 8 make up 15 but mod 10 is 5. So the scores are simply 0-9. The winner is the one with the highest score with it been declared equal (egalité) if the hands match.
There are 3 main bets in baccarat. Player. Banker and Tie. You get even money for the banker and player bets but the banker has to pay a 5% commission. So if you place a £10 bet on the dealer, you will win £9.50 net. The odds on a tie are usually 8/1 or 9/1 depending on the casino.
How the dealing works.
The dealer will deal just two hands no matter how many players are playing the game. These are the Player and Banker hands. The player gets a card, then banker, then player and then banker. Depending on the result, more cards may need to be drawn.
|Point value of first 2 cards||Action|
|1,2,3,4,5,10||Draws a card|
|8-9||Natural hand, no further cards drawn|
|Point value of first 2 cards||Draws When The Player's Third Card Is:||Does Not Draw When The Player's Third Card Is:|
|0,1,2||Draws a card|
|8-9||Player cannot draw||Player cannot draw|
This can be summarised as if the player or banker has 8 or 9 straight off, they have a “natural hand” and no further cards are drawn. The winner or tie is declared then.
For the player, if they have 0-5, the always get dealt another card. If the player has 6 or 7. they always stand.
The Banker is a little more complicated. If the player has 0, 1 or 2 then they will always draw a card. For a 7, the dealer always stands. If the Player 6 or 7 from the start the Banker will always take a card if their score is between 0 and 5. If the bankers hand score is 3,4,5 or 6, the drawing of a third card is determined by the table above.
If Bank wins – 1.06%
If Player wins – 1.24%
Any Égalité (8/1) – 14.36%
Any Égalité (9/1) – 4.84%
Can you card count?
In theory. the odds of the player or banker winning should change as cards are being dealt. In practice the cards make so little difference and as you can’t suddenly double your bet like you can in blackjack, there is little point in trying.
Has Baccarat been beaten?
There is a famous case involving the poker player Phil Ivey. He managed to beat baccarat using a technique called edge sorting. Basically, cards are not perfectly symetrical. Ivey convinced the casino to let him turn certain cards the other way so he could identify the high and low cards. Once you know which cards are going to come up, you can alter your bet accordingly. The house edge is really small so just knowing that the first card is a 7 or 9 is a huge advantage.
The most famous case was in Crockfords casino in London. The casino refused to pay after reviewing the security tapes and finding out about edge sorting. It went all the way to the UK Supreme court and they ruled against Ivey.
What about Ed Thorp?
Ed Thorpe is the father of blackjack card counting. He also managed to find a way to beat a particular variant of baccarat in Vegas. This involved doing side bets on natural 8s and 9s. He reasoned and confirmed with computer analysis that a deck rich in 8s would lead to more natural 8s and a deck rich in 9s, natural 9s. So you couldn’t beat the main game counting cards but you could beat this one side game he found. Not many casinos offered this side bet though and the two that did, barred him after a few nights.
As you can see from the house edge, there is only really the Bank and Player bets that are worth considering. With edges of 1.06% and 1.24% respectively, they are much better than the tie bet at 14.36% for a typical 8/1 payout. Given that the Bank edge is smaller, it does make sense to keep betting on the banker. However the difference is quite small and you got to think about why you are gambling. Its a negative expectation game so you will end up losing, so why not mix it up a little?
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