Baccarat: Getting to Grips with the Game that Scares Casino Owners

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If you follow the ups and downs of the casino industry, you’ll have seen plenty of headlines outlining baccarat’s role in dictating casino revenues. We are told that it has overtaken blackjack as the world’s biggest casino game. But if you strolled through the average casino resort, you certainly wouldn’t think that’s the case. For example, The Mirage, Las Vegas, has five baccarat tables; 48 blackjack tables. The Cosmopolitan, meanwhile, has 12 baccarat tables and 68 blackjack tables (2020 figures). 

But even if you know that a specific casino has a dozen baccarat tables, you’ll not see too many of them as they can often be in the VIP rooms. Even those tables on the main floor of the casino aren’t what we would call accessible. The minimum bet on the cheapest baccarat table at the Aria is $50 per hand, although you can find it for $5 if you look hard enough along The Strip. 

More affordable baccarat online

It’s a little different online, of course. You can play baccarat online here for a fraction of the cost of what it would cost in a land-based casino. But the fact remains that baccarat is ultimately perceived as a high-roller game. That is borne out in the revenue statistics from Vegas to Macau. The game is a big earner for casinos. But the reverse is also true, and a good run on the tables can blast a hole in a casino’s finances. 

We know that a lot of baccarat’s status comes from its popularity with Asian players. The baccarat revenue coming from Macau is astronomical, over $15 billion in 2019. But it’s not without its fans in Europe and North America either. Baccarat revenue took a hit in Vegas in 2019, however, declining by 13.5%. 

So, what are the attractions of the game? Well, for a start, it has a much lower house-edge than similar games of chance like roulette. We stress “games of chance” because there isn’t much strategy involved – no raising, folding, etc. You make your bet, the rules determine if you take more cards, and then just hope for the best. 

Banker bet has the best odds 

The main strategy is deciding whether to make the banker bet or player bet, as well as placing any side bets. The banker bet pays 19 to 20 on winning hand (taking off 5% as commission), whereas the player bet pays 1 to 1, i.e. no commission. However, while it seems counterintuitive, the banker bet seems the smart option as it has the lower house edge, coming in at 1.06% vs 1.24% for the player bet. Betting on a tie pays 8 to 1, whereas side bets like player pair can pay 10 to 1. But these bets have a house edge in double figures. 

We mentioned in the title that baccarat scares casino owners, and it’s because of the thinness of that house edge coupled with the number of high rollers participating in the game. If you started with, say, a $1,000 bet, and pursued a Martingale-like strategy of doubling the player bet until you won, it wouldn’t be long until you ended up with a profit. Of course, casinos are going to have limits on the tables, but you’d have to be very unlucky to not win a hand before breaking them. 

Is it worth playing if you aren’t one of the super-wealthy? Well, you must remember that you can find plenty of affordable tables, both online and in resorts. Moreover, we only described classic baccarat above, and there are plenty of different variants of the game to check out. If you fancy a change from blackjack, poker, roulette and slots, baccarat may be the game for you. 

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