Stepping into Baccarat

Whether you play Minibaccarat or decide to dust off your evening wear and head for a high-stakes formal game, don’t worry about any pressure. Baccarat is a no-brainer. But in case you’re nervous and need to build your comfort level, the following sections walk you through a game one step at a time.

Positioning yourself to play

Feel free to sit in any open seat at the table — your position won’t help or hinder your game in any way, nor does it matter how many people are playing. Then observe the unique aspects that distinguish a Baccarat table (formal and Minibaccarat) from any other gaming surface:

A number outlined on the felt before each player. The numbers indicate each player’s position and run from 1 through 7 in Minibaccarat and 1 through 15 in regular Baccarat; most casinos skip the unlucky number 13.

Three designated boxes. These boxes or circles are located on the felt above each player’s number. Closest is the player bet box. Next is the banker bet box, and farthest away is the tie bet box. Check out Figures 6- 1 and 6-2 to see how the boxes may appear on both a formal and a Minibaccarat table.

On the formal table, you also see a boxlike device called the shoe, which houses the cards. At the beginning of a game, one of the three croupiers gives the shoe to a player, who acts as the banker and deals the cards from the shoe.

Betting the banker (or the player)

Before the banker deals the cards, the caller asks you to place your bets. So there you are — you haven’t received your cards, and yet you must decide the winner: the player or the banker. Or will you have a tie?

As we explain earlier in this chapter in “Counting Down the Baccarat Basics,” you’re betting on which hand — the player’s or the banker’s — you think will come closest to 9, the highest possible score, or if you think you’ll have a tie. Baccarat is simply a matter of luck. No skill or card counting or complex mathematical formula can beat the house, but knowing that the odds favor the banker’s hand can give you an edge.

Betting on the banker’s hand offers the best odds (–1.06 percent) because of the simple fact that the banker acts after you each round. Baccarat rules are designed to provide a calculated split between the two hands. Statistical analysis shows the odds of the player’s hand winning are about 44.6 percent, the banker’s hand winning around 45.8 percent, and ties winning about 9.6 percent. Even after factoring in the house commission (5 percent on winning bets), the banker’s hand is still your best bet. For example, if you bet $10 on the banker’s hand, you’d push two $5 chips out into the second box or circle in front of you (the one marked Banker or Bankers).

Dealing the hand

If you’re playing regular or formal Baccarat, as soon as the caller announces, “No more bets,” the player with the shoe (known as the banker) deals out four cards. If you’re the banker, follow these steps:

  1. Dealtwocards,slidingonecardface-downtothecallerforthe player’s hand and slipping the second face-down under the corner of the shoe for the banker’s hand. Repeat this process with the third and fourth cards.
  2. Takethetwocardsyoudealtfortheplayer’shandandplacethem face-down in front of the player with the largest bet. This player gets the privilege of taking the first peek at these cards and then turns them over. No advantage actually exists to seeing the cards first — just part of the pomp.

3. Handthecallerthebanker’shandwhensherequestsyoutodoso. Before you receive this request, the caller places the player’s hand face-

up in the center and announces the value.

Then the caller places the banker’s cards face-up in the center and announces the total.

Le petit is a natural of 8 points; a natural of 9 is le grande. If either hand draws a point total of 8 or 9 on the first two cards, the le grande wins. If the hands have equal value, then you have a tie. Either way, the game is over.

When the player or the banker draws a total of 8 or 9, the hand stands, and the round ends. This rule is the natural rule and overrides all the other rules.

Drawing for another card

If neither hand has a total of 8 or 9, an additional card may be drawn on one or both hands, depending on the amount in the hand. The rules for drawing are clear-cut. Neither the player’s hand nor the banker’s hand has discretion but must follow predetermined rules. The following sections explain the rules.

Following the player’s rules

To draw an additional card, the banker’s hand is dependent on the total of the player’s hand — the reason these rules are known as the player’s rules. For example, the player’s hand has two face cards, which equal 0. The banker’s hand has a 9 of hearts and a 10 of diamonds, giving it a point value of 9, a natural. The banker’s hand wins based on the natural rule, and the game is over. There are no gray areas, no decision making, no folding, no passing, no bluffing. Just the rules.

Don’t worry if you can’t remember these rules — the caller (and dealer in Minibaccarat) directs all the action. Table 6-1 shows the three possibilities.

The banker’s hand follows these same player’s rules as long as the player’s hand does not draw a third card. If the player’s hand draws a third card, the situation gets a little more complicated, and the banker’s hand must follow special banker’s rules. The following section explains what happens when the player’s hand draws a third card.

Adhering to the banker’s rules

The banker’s rules apply only to the banker’s hand, and only in those situations when the player’s hand draws a third card. These third-card rules are consistent for all variations of Baccarat around the world. Table 6-2 shows the banker’s rules.

Neither the player nor the banker will ever have more than three cards in their hand, but the goal is simple — whichever hand has the higher total wins.

Knowing when the banker follows the banker’s rules

Once again, unless the player draws a third card, the banker must adhere to the player’s rules for the two-card total. Only when the player draws a third card do the banker’s rules come into play.

You can refer to Table 6-3 as a resource for when the banker draws. In this table, the numbers across the top, 0 through 9, represent the player’s hand total. The banker must stand or draw, depending on the player’s hand point total and the banker’s starting two cards.

S = STAND D = DRAW

Having trouble memorizing all these variations? Don’t strain your brain! Remember that as a player you don’t have to remember any of these rules — the dealer does all the work.

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