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The Baccarat expansion – the birth of the three-card variety


12 May 2017

Getting involved in side bets is second nature to certain people.

Some will wager on random things such as who the next person through their office door will be, how many times a particular statement will be said during a wedding speech or what colour outfit someone will wear on a TV show on a given day.

Poker great Amarillo Slim was famed not only for his card-game capabilities, but also for his peculiar prop bets. He would make the wackiest of suggestions and in return get to have some input in part of the challenge.

For example, legend has it that Slim claimed he could beat the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit in a 100-yard race if he could choose the course. He apparently did so when selecting a 50-yard track which required the horse to slow down and complete a 360-degree turn at the end before racing back in the other direction to the finishing post.

Side bets are a growing evolution within popular casino card games. We recently looked into some of those garnering more attention in the world of blackjack.

Baccarat is another game getting in on the act.

The Original Game

In its regular form, baccarat is a simple game where two hands of two cards are dealt – one for the dealer and the other for the player or players. There is no skill involved in the outcome of which side wins.

Players have the chance to bet on either the player or dealer winning the hand, alongside the draw, with the victor determined by which hand total is closer to nine. Both player and dealer pay out at 1/1, but a winning bet on the dealer requires a player to pay a 5% commission back to the casino.

All cards use their face value except for 10s and pictures, which count as zero. If the two cards in a hand equal more than nine, such as a pair of eights totalling 16, it is only the second digit which is used towards the hand score. So in this instance, the player would hold a hand of six.

There are some specific rules which force either side to automatically draw a third card, but a player has no say on this.

Although there is an assumption that baccarat is among the more complicated casino games to understand, it is in fact one of the simplest and least reliant on skill.

The Expansion

Whether the incorporation of side bets is to boost the chances of a bigger payday to attract a different dimension of player or to bring an additional betting layer to an already fast-paced game, a three-card variety of baccarat is now being sampled in some casino environments.

Many of the standard rules transfer across to this updated variety, although it is played with just a single deck of 52 cards and action tends to take place at a blackjack-style table, rather than a traditional baccarat layout.

The other key development is that a hand containing three cards with a value of 0 is now regarded as the best hand available, bettering a total of nine.

Meanwhile, if the player and dealer totals are the same after the new three-card deal, the one containing the most face cards wins. So for example, a hand of king, queen and five would score five, as would an eight, four and three. However, the former would win in this situation.

Side Bets

The first relates to guessing exactly what the dealer’s points total will be at the conclusion of the hand. There are 22,100 combinations possible and these spread across 10 different totals between 0 and 9.

All pay out at 8/1 and should players want the best value from their side bet, they are advised to opt for zero. There are 2,384 ways for a dealer to get 0, which is more common than any other number in a game of baccarat. This probability of a dealer scoring zero equates to a casino having a house edge of 2.91%.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, choosing two, four, six or eight for a dealer total makes the least sense for a side bet, as there are only 2,164 combinations to getting each. The house edge for a casino on any of these even numbers is 11.87%.

Another side bet is possibly the worst that a player could make across the entirety of the casino landscape from an odds perspective. It is called Three Faces and is fairly self-explanatory in the sense that a player is betting on a dealer being dealt three face cards.

There are only 12 face cards in a 52-card deck and 220 combinations of them being dealt together. Therefore, the payout of just 16/1 gives the casino an 83% house edge. Realistically, to fit in with a more expected house edge, the payout should be closer to 90/1.