What’s so Great About Baccarat GemdiscoPH Bonus, Anyway?
Baccarat is an old game with an interesting history, and not just because James Bond plays it in so many old movies. It used to be played in a separate area of the casino with a lot of accouterments that made high rollers feel like they were really special.
Strangely enough, for a card game with such a huge following, baccarat has no skill element at all. It isn’t like blackjack where your decisions about how to play each hand have a major effect on your mathematical expectation.
Winning at baccarat is just a matter of being good at a guessing game that’s not much more complicated than Casino War. But people love it, and I’ll tell you why.
How to Play Baccarat
The casino shuffles up eight standard decks of cards and stores them in a shoe. Unlike blackjack players, baccarat players don’t get dealt any cards of their own.
Instead, the baccarat dealer deals two cards for a player hand and a banker hand. You can bet on either hand.
The face cards and 10s count as zero. The numbered cards have points equal to their ranking. Aces count as one point. Suits don’t matter.
To get the value of each hand, you total the value of the cards and ignore the “10s” place. So, a total of 29 is treated as a 9, and a total of 14 is treated as a 4.
If you have a hand that includes an 8 and a 9, for example, the total value of the hand is 7.
Do you see why? The hand that wins is the one that gets closer to 9, which is the highest possible score.
But gameplay doesn’t end immediately unless one of the hands has a total of 8 or 9. If one does, the winning hand is declared, and a new round starts. A total of 8 or 9 is called a “natural.”
If the player’s hand is less than 5, a third card gets dealt. The dealer’s hand is more complicated.
Here are the rules for whether the dealer gets a third card:
- If the player hand doesn’t get a third card, the banker hand gets a third card if its total is 5 or lower.
- If the banker total has a 0, 1, or 2, the banker gets a third card.
- If the banker total is 3, the bank draws a third unless the player’s third card was an 8.
- If the banker total is 4, the bank draws a third card if the player has a third card of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7.
- If the banker total is 5, the bank draws a third card if the player has a third card of 4, 5, 6, or 7.
- If the banker total is 6, the bank draws a third card if the player has a third card of 6 or 7.
- If the bank total is 7, the banker hand stands pat.
You have three possible bets you can make:
The player bet pays off at even money and carries a house edge of 1.24%. The banker bet pays off at even money, but the casino keeps a 5% commission. This gives the house an edge of 1.06% with this bet.
A tie bet pays off at 8 to 1 and has a whopping 14.36% house edge. You’ll see a lot of players tracking what’s happened on previous hands. They like to bet based on what happened previously.
They’re engaged in something called the “gambler’s fallacy,” which I’ll explain shortly.
What Is the House Edge and How Does It Work?
The house edge is the mathematical edge that the casino has over the player. It’s the reason that casinos are decorated like palatial estates for the wealthiest people in history, and it’s why most gamblers live in apartments.
Basically, the casino has an edge over the player because the bets pay off at different odds than the payouts for those bets.
If a casino bet has 3 to 1 odds of winning, but the bet only pays off at 2 to 1 odds, the casino has a mathematical edge that can’t be overcome in the long run.
If you bet $100 on such a game four times and get statistically perfect results, you’d still lose three times at $100 each, for a $300 total loss. You’d win $200 on that winning result, but you’d still be down by $100 over four trials.
That’s an average loss per trial of $25, which is 25% of the size of your original bet. The house edge in that case would be 25%.
Generally, the lower the house edge is, the better the game is for the players. The casino still wins in the long run, but in the short term, random chance ensures that some players walk away winners.
The best house edge in a casino is usually either at the blackjack tables or at some of the video poker machines. The house edge on a good blackjack table under good conditions is far less than 1%, maybe even as low as 0.25%. You can also find video poker games with a house edge that low.
But those games require skill to play. Baccarat has one of the lowest house edge figures to face in the casino, but when you compare it to other games that are entirely random, it’s downright stellar.
Roulette, by way of example, also has no skill element, and the house edge for that game is 5.26%.
That doesn’t sound like much, but when you look at the average expected loss for a gambling session of one hour, it adds up.
For example, let’s assume you’re betting $100 per spin of the roulette wheel, which means the casino expects you to lose $5.26 on average for each of those spins. You might see 35 spins per hour, so if you’re losing $5 on average per spin, you’re looking at $175 per hour in losses.
With the same kind of action at the baccarat table, you’re looking at only losing around 1% of that action, or $35 per hour.
Of course, in the short run, you’ll see better or worse results for these sessions. But over time, if you play long enough, your average will start to resemble the expectation.
You’ll also notice that I round down and assume you’re smart enough to avoid the tie bet, which is an awful sucker bet with a big house edge.
The Gambler’s Fallacy
My favorite thing about baccarat, though, are the players who are religiously tracking the results of every hand on their index cards. They’re tracking how many times the banker bet has won versus the player bet. Since this is basically a coin toss, those results should be roughly equal over a long period of time.
Their thinking is that if banker has won 70 times out of the last 100 hands, player is due to win, because the odds have to even out eventually, right?
That’s the gambler’s fallacy in a nutshell. It’s the idea that past results affect the probability of future events. Every hand of baccarat is (for all practical purposes) an independent event.
Some people have looked into the possibility of counting cards in baccarat, as the ratio of cards in the deck does change as the game is played.
But the best minds in blackjack have determined that, because of the rules of baccarat, the effects of the cards being dealt is minimal on the outcomes over time. Keep in mind, too, that baccarat is almost always played with eight decks, which would minimize any possible edge you could get counting even if you were playing blackjack.
So, here’s what’s so great about baccarat. It’s a relatively slow-paced game with a relatively low house edge, AND it requires no skill to play well.
If you’re smart enough to remember to always bet on the banker, you can face a casino game with a house edge that’s about 1%. This is as close to a breakeven game as someone could hope for without having to study basic strategy in blackjack or optimal play in video poker.
The only disadvantage to baccarat is that it’s often aimed at relatively well-heeled gamblers, which means the betting limits are sometimes out of the range of normal gamblers like you and me.