From the average casino player’s perspective, baccarat offers the best of both worlds: a low house edge combined with extremely easy to learn gameplay. And indeed, baccarat has endured as one of the gambling industry’s iconic staples for several centuries for that very reason.
You don’t need any basic strategy charts or mathematical genius to play baccarat, just a few bucks you’re willing to bet on a virtual coin flip. With that said, games that lack a single skill element are the house’s bread and butter, which explains the nine reasons why casinos LOVE when you play baccarat found below.
1 – The Sharpest Card Player Can’t Improve Their Odds
First things first, baccarat is the ultimate game of chance. Akin to flipping a coin but with playing cards instead of a quarter, this age-old gambling game offers players two basic choices—the banker hand or the player hand.
These two- or three-card hands, dealt at random and with no player decision points, take their name from baccarat’s roots as a player-banked game.
Back in the days of punto banco and chemin de fer, each gambler took turns serving as the game’s bank. Thus, one player acting as the banker might win one hand, while the same player could lose their bets back to the new banker.
Today, modern baccarat lets the casino play the banker role; the two randomly dealt hands have kept their ancient names. But here’s the rub: Once you decide between the banker or player hand, your work is done. The dealer takes over from there, and they’ll lay out the deciding cards completely on their own.
You can’t “hit” or “stand,” “double down” or “split” a la blackjack, and you can’t reduce or increase your wager based on the initial deal. You just sit back, watch the dealer do their thing, and hope your chosen hand winds up with the total closest to nine.
From roulette to the slots, casinos absolutely prefer their players gambling on pure games of chance. After all, real money skill-based games like blackjack and video poker can be found a few feet away, and both let sharp players apply their skills and strategies to cut down the house’s inherent edge.
2 – The “Low” House Edge Is Double What You’ll Face on Skill-Based Games
When betting on the banker hand, the house’s edge against you stands at 1.06%. Place a wager on the player hand and the house edge climbs slightly to 1.24%. In other words, the house can expect to win $1.06 or $1.24, respectively, for every $100 you put on the line over the long run.
Those are extremely low rates when compared to other games of chance like roulette (5.26%) or the slots (between 7% and 9%).
Take your action to a game like craps, and certain “exotic” bets balloon the house edge to 11.11% and beyond. But what about other card games which involve skill and strategy?
Well, if you play blackjack correctly according to basic strategy, the house’s edge is cut in half to 0.50%. And on the base video poker game of Jacks or Better, the house only enjoys a miniscule 0.46% edge against basic strategy players.
In fact, many video poker variants shave that edge down to the 0.15% to 0.25% range, making them five times better of a bet than standard baccarat.
3 – Frantic Pace of Play Ensures Players Place More Bets Hourly
A house edge of under 1.25% might sound sweet, but remember, baccarat plays out at an extremely brisk pace.
When you play roulette, you can expect to see 38 rolls decided over the average hour. At the craps table, shooters see 48 rolls settled over a 60-minute span. And other table games like Caribbean Stud or Let It Ride sit right in the range of 50 hands per hour.
But on the baccarat table, that pace climbs quickly up to 72 hands settled every hour. That’s right, you’ll be seeing more than one hand per hour at any respectable casino—a frequency which can cause that “low” house edge rate to compound in a hurry.
4 – Superstitious Regulars Routinely Risk More Based on “The Scoreboard”
Every baccarat table comes equipped with a “scoreboard,” or a brightly-lit display showing how the previous handful of hands have gone down.
This scoreboard appeals to superstitious players, typically of Asian descent, who believe that certain patterns in the banker/player back-and-forth can help guide future betting.
Just ask Bill Zender, a Las Vegas lifer who has worked as a Nevada Gaming Control Agent, dealer, and casino consultant during his distinguished career. In an interview with Forbes highlighting baccarat’s increased popularity over the last decade, Zender offered the following insights on superstitious players:
“The cards are shuffled, and they are put into the dealing shoe. There is no hitting or standing for the player — it is all based on pre-determined rules.
So they believe that their luck flows into the shoe. This is very important. It used to be that we would burn [discard] a card if a dealer made an error, but when we did that the Asian players would leave the table; they thought it ruined their luck.
So we started saving the card and dealing a dummy hand instead.”
When superstitious notions meet a skill-free gambling game, the house definitely wins.
5 – “Commission” When Smart Players Pick the Game’s Best Bet
If you paid attention up above, you’re probably wondering why anybody would back the player bet (1.24% house edge) when the banker bet (1.06%) is clearly better.
Well, the casinos see to that by imposing a 5% “commission” fee on any winning banker bet. Thus, when you risk $100 to take the banker and the dealer delivers, you’ll only get $95 back on your return.
This commission fee essentially nullifies the banker bet’s built-in edge, making baccarat a pure crapshoot.
6 – The “Tie” Bet Is Among the Worst Sucker Bets on the Floor
The baccarat table also offers a third bet based on whether the two hands will wind up tied.
If you play the longshot—ties, or “stalemates,” will occur on 9.5% of hands on average—a winner brings back a sweet payout of 8 to 1 on your money.
Unfortunately, baccarat’s tie bet incurs a massive house edge of 14.35%, making it one of the worst wagers in all of casino gambling.
7 – High-Rollers Bet Big Bucks in Exclusive Baccarat Games
Most old-timers first discovered baccarat while watching “007” win like clockwork in the classic James Bond flicks.
Accordingly, the game has become synonymous with sophisticated high-rollers who have more than enough money to spare. Here’s how Zender described baccarat’s previous reputation to Forbes:
“Before the influx of Asian players, to get people interested in the game, we really had to dress it up. So you had the big double tables, dealers in tuxedos, and attractive women in evening gowns standing around. It was very James Bond.”
In a departure from the skill-based games, casinos today don’t impose strict limits on baccarat bettors. In fact, Zender reports many casinos in Singapore and Macau taking action up to $500,000 on a single deal. Here in the states, those wagers can often climb to $150,000 a hand when the right player is feeling hot.
Combine a luck-based game, a fast pace of play, and huge bets, and it’s no wonder why baccarat consistently generates more revenue for casinos than any other offering but slot machines.
Less importantly nowadays, but still central to baccarat’s appeal to pit bosses, is its “count-proof” construction.
In theory, a skilled card-counter capable of tracking exposed and discarded cards should be able to gain an edge on baccarat. But by stuffing the dealer’s shoe with eight decks, and dealing more than one hand per minute, casinos easily protect their bottom line from aspiring baccarat counters.
9 – Baccarat Can Become Addictive for Players
Last, but certainly not least, comes the scourge of compulsive gambling.
When a gambling addict convinces themselves that an unbeatable (over the long run) game like baccarat is beatable, bad news is brewing for the afflicted player. And thanks to the introduction of small-stakes baccarat alternatives like “Mini Baccarat,” even low-rollers looking to turn a fiver into a fortune are not immune.
Casinos couldn’t care less though, despite what those Responsible Gaming pamphlets might profess. Every bet lost via compulsive play is just another deposit into the house’s ever growing bank account.
Baccarat can be one of the more entertaining casino games you’ll ever encounter—provided you don’t care about losing your stake. But if you play to win, and want to have a fair shake at beating the house, baccarat is by far from the best option available.
Sure, a short-term lucky streak can easily see even first-time players build up a chip stack. Nonetheless, the odds and probabilities dictate that baccarat will always be an economic engine working in the casino’s corner.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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