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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Low House Edge Gives Baccarat Its Appeal

19 March 2008

The popularity of baccarat at casinos in Northwest Indiana and elsewhere around the Chicago area has not gone unnoticed by gamblers, as this reader's question reveals:

"I see a lot of people playing baccarat. Can you please explain how the game is played? What are the two sets of cards the dealer draws from the shoe and what do you want to happen? Also, what does the white card that all players mark after each hand do for you?" – Joe S.

The game of baccarat has a long history. For decades it was segregated from the main casino floor and played in an upscale room with upholstered chairs and tuxedo-clad hosts. A favorite of high-rollers, baccarat is veiled in romance, legend and lore, but today it has been adapted to mainstream casino gambling.

Baccarat is a card game that requires no skill. In many respects, it's just a guessing game, comparable to calling heads on tails on the flip of a coin. Multiple decks of cards, generally eight, are shuffled up and dealt out of an elongated plastic shoe. Individual players do not receive cards.

At the start of a game, the dealer draws two sets of two cards each and positions them in front of him on the table for all to see. One set is the player's hand and one set is the banker's hand. In baccarat, face cards and 10s count as zero value, 2s through 9s carry face value, and Aces count as one. Suits are irrelevant.

In order to determine the value of each hand, you merely drop the value of the "tens" place. For example, if the hand is comprised of a pair of 9s you add them together and get 18, then drop the digit in the tens column. The hand has a value of eight.

The object of the game is to get as close to 9 as possible, with 9 being the highest hand. If either the player or the banker has a hand that totals 8 or 9, it is considered a "natural" winner. The higher value hand wins.

The player has three options: Betting on the banker's hand, betting on the player's hand, or betting on a tie.

Keeping in mind that the dealer does all the work, a third card will be dealt to the player's hand if the player's total is less than or equal to five.

A third card will be dealt to the banker's hand in the following cases: If player's hand does not take a third card, banker's hand draws a third card on total of 5 or less; if bank total is 0, 1 or 2, bank draws a third card; if bank hand totals 3, bank draws a third card unless the player's third card was an 8; if bank hand totals 4, then bank draws a third card if player has drawn a third card of 2 – 7; if bank hand totals 5, bank draws a third card if the player has drawn a third card of 4 – 7; if bank hand totals 6, bank draws a third card if player has drawn a third card of 6 or 7; if bank hand totals 7, bank stands.

Winning Player bets are paid at even money (house edge 1.24 percent). Winning bank bets paid at even money less a 5 percent commission (house edge 1.06 percent). Winning tie bets are paid at 8 to 1 (house edge 14.36 percent).

Many players like to keep track of the decisions on a white card and base their bets on past performance, but the value of doing this is questionable.

An additional, relatively new betting feature known as the "Dragon Bonus", is gaining in popularity, but the best strategy from an economics perspective is to stick to wagering on either the player or the banker.

CASINO NEWS: Horseshoe Casino Hammond is offering some very imaginative promotions for slot players, including this new twist: "Community Jackpots" in the High Limit Room every Friday through March 28. The jackpot starts at $5,000, then $200 is added to the prize pool for every taxable ($1,200 or more) jackpot that someone hits in the room between 4 pm and 11 pm. Every one actively playing in the room at the time it hits will receive one entry into the Community Jackpot drawing. A winner-take-all drawing will be held at 11 pm. Winner must be present.

The next two months will be exciting at the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin during the property's new big money promotion, "Break the Bank". Ten winners will be selected at random every Tuesday and Thursday between March 4 and April 24 at 2 pm and 8 pm. Those contestants will then have an opportunity to win a share of $256,000 in guaranteed cash prizes during the course of the promotion. Club Victoria player's club members earn one entry for every 1,000 points earned today (Feb. 29) through 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 24.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp