Those who dabble in baccarat know that the bet on the banker hand is slightly better than the bet on player. Both are among the better bets in the casino, with a house edge of 1.06 percent if you bet on banker, and 1.24 percent if you bet on player.
The banker bet actually wins a little more often than it loses. With all hands considered, banker wins 45.86 percent of the time, player wins 44.62 percent, and 9.52 percent of hands result in ties. Since the ties push, banker wins 50.68 percent of the time when there is a decision, and player wins 49.32 percent.
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The house charges a commission on winning banker bets to get its edge. Any time you win when betting banker, you’ll pay the house a 5 percent commission. If there was no commission, the bettor would have an edge on the game. As it is, it’s one of the few wagers in the house where a single bet wins more often than it loses.
A reader emailed recently to ask WHY banker wins more often than player. What is it in the drawing rules that would cause the banker hand to come closer to 9 more often than the player hand?
Let’s look for a clue in the rules for playing out the hand. If either player or banker has 8 or 9 in the first two cards, that’s a natural and no more cards are dealt. Assuming no natural, the player hand is completed first. Player stands on totals of 6 or 7, and draws a third on 5 or less.
Banker always stands on 7 as well as 8 or 9, but other plays depend on the player hand. If the player stands, banker hits on 5 or less. If the player takes a third card, banker always hits 0, 1, or 2; hits 3 if the player’s third card is anything but 8; hits 4 if the player’s third card is 2 through 7; hits 5 if the player’s third card is 4 through 7, and hits 6 if the players third card is 6 or 7.
The key difference between drawing strategies for banker and player is that whether the banker draws is largely dependent on the player hand. The banker takes a third card when the player draws one that is more likely to help that hand. That’s the key to the disparity in percentage of wins.
In a way, it makes baccarat a similar situation to blackjack. In blackjack, the house has an edge because the dealer acts after players have completed their hands. A player who goes bust loses a blackjack hand before the dealer even gets a chance to hit or stand. In hands where the player and the dealer both bust with hands that exceed 21, the player loses because the hand already has been decided before the dealer busts. The house has no other edge in the game.
It’s not exactly like that in baccarat, where there are no bust hands. You’re trying to get as close to 9 as possible, but if the player hand starts at 2-3, then draws a 9, it doesn’t bust. It just becomes a 4 --- only the last digit counts when baccarat hands are totaled.
However, the banker hand wins more often than the player hand because the banker hand is completed last, and many of banker’s drawing situations are dependent on what the player hand drew. In both blackjack and baccarat, the last shall be first in number of hands won.
NUMBERS GAME: Sharp-eyed readers will note that banker wins 50.68 percent of decisions and player wins 49.32 percent. And no doubt someone will wonder whether the house edge on player should be the difference between those two figures, making it 1.36 percent.
Some gaming writers and analysts do list the house edge on player at 1.36 percent, along with a 1.17 percent edge on banker. That’s what you get if you toss ties out of the equation and consider only hands in which either player or banker wins.
I prefer the other method, including tied hands, to come up with house edges of 1.24 percent on player and 1.06 percent on banker. If you bet $10 a hand on banker for 1,000 hands of baccarat, this method tells me that for your $10,000 risk, you’ll average 1.06 percent of that in losses, or $106. If I try to calculate the average loss for those 1,000 hands using the 1.17 percent figure that tosses out ties, then I need to know the average number of ties to eliminate from consideration before calculating an average loss.
Either way, the banker and player bets in baccarat are among the best no-skill, no-knowledge bets in the casino. You can do better if you know your basic strategy in blackjack or stick to pass or don’t pass plus odds in craps. But the low edges with no skill involved help make baccarat a favorite in the high-limit rooms.
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