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Best of Henry Tamburin

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The skinny on baccarat

27 May 2011

Baccarat is very easy to play and the house edge is relatively low. I'll quickly go over the basics of how to play.

There are only two hands in baccarat -- the bank and the player hand -- and the objective of the game is to guess which hand is going to win.

At the start of a round, players make their bets on either the bank hand or the player hand (there are betting spots in front of each player for placing your chips on either hand). There is a third betting option and that is a bet on the Tie (meaning you are betting that the hands will have the same total). Even though the Tie bet pays 8 to 1 when it wins, it's a bad bet with a high house edge (14.4 percent). Bottom line: Avoid betting on the Tie.

Once players make their bets, two cards are dealt to the bank hand and two cards to the player hand. In baccarat, every card counts its face value except all the 10s and picture cards count 0 and the ace counts as 1.

The highest total you can have in baccarat is 9 (think 21 for blackjack and 9 for baccarat). If the cards in either hand total over 9, you subtract ten from the total. For example, if the bank hand is 8-9, the hand totals 7 (17 less 10). Got it?

Initially, both hands get two cards and there is a possibility that one or both hands will have to draw another card. Now don't panic because this isn't like blackjack where you have to memorize when to stand and when to draw. In baccarat, players don't have to make any stand-or-draw decisions. The playing rules dictate whether one or both hands must draw a third card. In fact, you don't even have to know the rules for drawing (the dealer is paid to know them), but the game is more interesting if have some idea of what they are (and the third card draw rules, especially for player hand, are straightforward).

First, if either hand totals 8 or 9 (known as naturals) the round is over and neither hand draws. Second, the mandatory third card draw rules are the not the same for both hands. The least complicated is the player hand (this hand goes first), and here is the rule: Player hand draws a third card if the initial two cards to the player hand totals 0 through 5 and stands on 6 to 9.

It doesn't matter what the bank hand totals or whether the player is beating the bank hand, the player hand must stand or draw based solely on the total of the initial two cards to the hand. Simple, huh?

Now the drawing rules for the bank hand, I'll admit, are a little more complicated. Bank hand must draw if the initial two cards to the bank hand totals 0, 1 and 2 and stand on 7, 8 and 9. If the bank hand totals 3 through 6, the drawing rule is based on to factors: whether or not the other hand (i.e., player hand) drew a third card and what the value of the third is. However, as I mentioned earlier, don't sweat it because you don't have to know these rules to play the game (the dealer will direct the game).

Here's an oddity in baccarat to keep in mind. Winning bets on the player hand pay even money. Winning bets on bank hand also pay even but only after the casino collects a 5 percent commission based on the amount of the win (you only pay the commission when you win, not when you lose). The reason for the commission on the bank hand bet is because the bank hand wins slightly more than 50 percent of the time. This almost evens things out between the two hands and results in the following house edges:

Bank hand: 1.06 percent
Player hand: 1.24 percent

Some casinos decrease the commission from 5 percent to 4 percent on winning bank hand bets. This reduces the house edge on the bank hand to only 0.60 percent, which is a good deal for players.

Baccarat games are played on tables of different sizes. The large baccarat tables that seat 14 players are usually found in high roller pits. Traditionally, players alternate dealing the cards in these high-stakes games. On the main casino floor, you'll sometimes find lower-stakes baccarat tables that seat 6 or 7 or 8 players (known as mini- and midi-baccarat, respectively). In mini-baccarat, the dealer deals the cards (rapidly, I might add, making it a fast game). Whatever table you play, the playing rules are the same.

Your best playing option is to bet on the bank hand because it has a lower house edge than the player hand.

The next time you want to play a different and fun table game, why not try baccarat?

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin