BASICS OF BACCARATBaccarat (pronounced bacc-ah-rah) is from an Italian word meaning zero. So, when you are at a
Baccarat table, and the dealer calls the score as “Baccarat”, he simply means the total of the cards for that particular hand add to zero. Oddly enough, although the game is called Baccarat, the ultimate score is not zero, but rather nine. Each round deals a hand for Player and a hand for Banker. The hand with the ending score closest to nine wins the round.
Baccarat is a very traditional game with European roots. Many had their first glimpse of the game in a James Bond movie. James puts on his tux and plays with the high rollers, leading those who see him to believe it is a dress up affair requiring a very substantial bankroll. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the European tradition of elegance and style lives on in the American casinos with their “Baccarat Pits”, you will often find games in these lofty rooms with a minimum bet of only $10 or $25. With the addition of the “Mini-Baccarat” tables, which are usually found on the main casino floor with the blackjack tables, Baccarat has gained more and more in popularity with all players. As a result, where two years ago you found very few Mini-Baccarat tables, you now find at least one and often several in nearly every casino you visit.
You will find two versions of Baccarat currently available in the casinos. There is the traditional, Big Baccarat table, so called because it is a large table, seating up to 14 players at one time. Most often, you will find the Big tables in a separate room, generally in what is considered a high dollar pit. The dealers here traditionally dress in tuxedos, there are one and sometimes two floor personnel for just that one table, and there is often a small buffet for the players during and between the games.
The tradition of the Big Baccarat table calls for the shoe to pass from player to player for dealing the cards, and for a separate dealer (referred to as the croupier) to call the score of the cards dealt, and to call for additional cards when required. The players in this game also have the opportunity to look at the cards before the rest of the table sees them. The player with the highest bet on Player will be given the first two cards dealt for the Player hand, and the dealer (the player holding the shoe) will be allowed to look at the first two cards for the Banker hand before giving them to the croupier. There will be two additional dealers at the table, each taking care of players’ buy-in, pay outs, commissions, etc., for half of the table. At the Big table, eight new decks of cards are used for each shoe played.
The Mini-Baccarat tables, on the other hand, are generally always located on the main casino floor, and will seat either seven or nine players. There is only one dealer, and that dealer will shuffle, deal, decide when additional cards are required, take care of buy-ins, pay outs, commissions, etc., for all players at the table. The players in no way may touch the cards as they are dealt, and the dealer reveals the first two cards for both the Player and the Banker hands. This is all done to increase the speed of the game. In this same vein of expediency, the cards are simply reshuffled after each shoe, and are generally changed only once a shift, rather than after every shoe.
PLAYING THE GAME.
Once you have your seat at the table and have bought in, you have only to decide which of three bets to make-Banker, Player or Tie. Banker and Player pay even money if you win, (you pay the house a 5% commission on any Banker bets you win), and the Tie bet pays 8 to 1. The house advantage on the even money bets is relatively small, 1.26%, but the house advantage for the Tie bet is a whopping 14%!
How do you decide what to bet? Well, as you can imagine, theories abound. There is the “Follow The Shoe” approach, where you simply bet whatever won the last hand. This works great if you have a shoe with lots of runs of Players and Bankers, but will kill your bankroll fast if you get lots of twos and threes in a row. There is the approach of waiting until the Banker or Player have two or three wins in a row, and then betting for the opposite side to win. This works great when you are getting just the twos and threes in a row, but will cost you money if you experience long runs. (My advice, NEVER bet against a run. Always bet WITH it, as you can only lose once!) I believe the best way to make your betting decisions is to look for patterns or trends within the shoe, and to then bet that those trends will continue to repeat themselves. You are allowed, almost encouraged, to use pen and paper and keep track of the Banker and Players on a scorecard, so looking for these trends isn’t nearly as hard as one might expect.
Regardless of how you make your betting decisions, take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to bet every hand, and sit out once in a while when you really don’t see a bet. If you try to match the House hand for hand, you are playing to their built-in advantage. And if you do have a good win at the Baccarat tables, be sure to use good money management, and take those winnings home with you!