Blackjack does not have the lowest House Edge in the casino! Controversial opening statement – but hear me out.
It’s fairly well established that when it comes to casino gambling, you’re going to have the house against you in terms of numbers. Whether you’re playing in a brick and mortar or an online casino, every game is going to be designed so the house has an advantage. The sole exception here is Blackjack.
Because it’s played with a deck of cards and they aren’t constantly shuffled, you can actually base your decisions in the game on how your last hand went. As opposed to, say, roulette where each game is independent of the last one.
Baccarat is similar in that it uses a deck of cards (or rather multiple decks) but the advantages you get at Blackjack are a little different. While in Blackjack there’s a basic strategy that needs to be followed in order to bring the House Edge down, Baccarat’s edge is already low solely due to the betting options on offer. Which, from a certain perspective, makes this a better game for someone looking for advantage play they can capitalise on.
So How Do I Play Baccarat?
Well, there’s good news and bad news: the bad news is that the rules for Baccarat are actually pretty complicated, but the good news is that’s the dealer’s problem! The most advanced bit of thinking you’re going to have to do is work out where you want to put your stake.
The aim of the game is to get as close to 8 or 9 as possible and a hand’s count is valued using just the right most digit. That might sound a little complicated but when we say right most digit we’re talking about this one: 1,2
In addition card values are added together to reach your hand total with 2-9 being the stated value. Aces are equal to 1 and 10, Jack, Queen and King are worth 0 (or 10 effectively). Let’s go with another example, if your hand is 5 and 2 then your total is 7 i.e. 5 + 2 = 7
But if your hand is something larger, then the value of the hand is just the right most digit. So, if you have a 9 and a 4 your value is actually 3 i.e. 9 + 4 = 1
There’s only two hands to worry about – the Player and the Banker – with rules about who gets to take another card when and where based on what cards each hand has. That part is fairly complicated but if you want to learn the rules you can find them here.
The betting comes in when you put money on who you think is going to win, the banker or the player (or a tie if you’re feeling brave).
Where Did Baccarat Come From?
Like a lot of casino games, France and Italy are the main progenitors. It’s believed that the game originally came from Italy around the 1400’s and moved to France before it split into three different versions; Chemin de fer, Baccarat Banque and Punto Banco.
This last one is the game played in the majority of casinos but all three share the same basic rules so you should be able to play at any of the three. Be forewarned though, Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque are a little more hands on so maybe start with some Punto Banco before you give them a try.
It sure seems popular, it is. Probably due in part to the perception of the game as a high roller specialty, it’s one of the biggest money makers at the casino due to it being both simple and reasonably exciting. It’s the perfect game to play when you’re fantastically wealthy and want to enjoy some easy to compute fun. Some of the popularity is doubtless down to the most famous baccarat player of all time, James Bond.
I know he plays Texas Hold’em in the 2006 Casino Royale movie but he’s MEANT to be a Baccarat player. He was in the original anyway. Although he played Chemin de Fer rather than Punto Banco. Nevertheless, Bond’s patronage of the game has doubtless served to propel it into stardom.
OK, but about that house edge you were talking about? Right… yes… the House Edge.
The House Edge
So, when it comes to odds, the big thing here is that there are only 3 real bets to make, the banker, the player and a tie. Unlike in standard casino games, there isn’t an option here that means the house wins automatically like the zero tile on a roulette wheel. In addition, thanks to the rules, the odds of a banker win are actually higher than the player win, with a probability of around 50.65%. So, from that perspective, this would be the only game in the casino without a house edge!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is that really right? Would the casino have a game where they don’t have a House Edge? Well, you’re right: there is a caveat to this.
Obviously, casinos don’t want a game on their game floor that costs them money which is why Baccarat bets on the banker come with a vigorish of 0.5%. Basically, any winnings you make off the Banker Bet there’s a small commission the casino takes.
This cut brings the house edge up again to around 1% which is still lower than the 2-3% you get playing Blackjack with no strategy. if you use basic strategy at Blackjack you can bring the House Edge down enough that Blackjack would give you a better advantage.