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Why Baccarat Is The World’s Biggest Gambling Game, And Why Casinos Love And Fear It

Many American casino patrons are somewhat confused about the top casino game globally. Although Baccarat has roots in the gambling salons of Italy and France, it has become increasingly popular in casinos over the past thirty years, especially in Asia but more and more in the United States, where casino owners and players are both flocked.

On the first day of Sheraton Macao, a croupier has seated at a baccarat table inside a casino… [+] a hotel at Macau’s Sands Cotai Central. Photo by Kin Cheung for AP
On the first day of Sheraton Macao, a croupier is seated at a baccarat table inside a casino… [+]
How popular is Baccarat globally? Since displacing Las Vegas in 2006, Macau’s casinos have generated more revenue than any other city worldwide. More than 88 percent of the $33.2 billion earned by Macau’s 40 casinos last year came from Baccarat. The game also contributes significantly to the earnings of Singaporean casinos. Even on the Las Vegas Strip, where many guests aren’t familiar with the game’s rules, it makes up 18% of all casino winnings. Slot machines are the only game that generates greater revenue for Strip casinos, and there are many more in Las Vegas than there are baccarat tables.

The definitive text on controlling casino games was written by Bill Zender, a former Nevada Gaming Control Agent, casino dealer, executive, and current consultant. Throughout his 40+ year career, he has watched Baccarat significantly expand.

“Before the inflow of Asian players, we had to dress it up to get people interested in the game,” he explains. “Therefore, there were the large double tables, tuxedo-clad merchants, and lovely women mingling. It had a James Bond vibe.

At a baccarat table in the Galaxy Macau, a croupier hands cards to people impersonating clients… [+] Phase 2 casino in Macau, China, built by Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg took the picture
At a baccarat table in the Galaxy Macau, a croupier hands cards to people impersonating clients… [+]
According to Zender, Asian high rollers have nearly always made Baccarat their game of choice during the past 20 years since it is well suited to their cultural preferences.

He explains, “The cards are jumbled and placed into the dealing shoe. “There is no hitting or standing for the player; established guidelines do everything. They consequently think that their luck transfers into the shoe. This has major significance. When a dealer made a mistake, we used to burn [discard] the card, but the Asian players would leave the table since they believed it to have damaged their luck. So we began dealing a dummy hand in its place while preserving the card.

Baccarat is a simple game, although it’s frequently hidden away in high-limit gaming sections. After determining whether to wager on the “Player” or “Banker” hand, players can sit back and let the dealer take care of the rest. The goal of the game is to go closer to nine than the opposite hand. The first digit is dropped if your cards add up to more than nine. As an illustration, a seven-plus a six add up to a 13, which is reduced to a three. Aces count as one, whereas the 10-count cards (tens, jacks, queens, and kings) count as zero.

The only choices a player has are which hand to gamble on and how much to stake since dealers follow preset rules that determine if a third card is drawn.

Why does Baccarat draw big rollers? The game has one of the lowest hold percentages in the casino, with an average house advantage of roughly 1.2 percent on banker and player bets, in addition to the cultural factors Zender mentioned. A third wager called a tie offers a payout of eight to one if both hands total the same amount, although it has a far higher house advantage—more than 14%. So, the majority of competitive players stick to player or banker.

Baccarat is risky for casinos because players have a chance to significantly outperform the house thanks to the high stakes and little house advantage. What are the maximum betting limits? According to Zender, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip may accept bets up to $150,000 per hand and wagers as high as $750,000 SGD (approximately $550,000 USD) in Singapore. Casinos can potentially lose millions in a matter of hours and potentially make millions.

The general concept I tell them is that your risk is 100 times your average stake, says Zender of his advice to casino managers hoping to profit from Baccarat. Therefore, if a man bets $10,000 per hand, he might earn $1 million from you. It is possible because that is within two standard deviations.

Compared to its opulent European roots, Baccarat has undergone significant alteration. Since most of the large Asian players aren’t very interested in the James Bond theatrics of tuxedoed dealers and double tables, most casinos now offer the game on a single table, which resembles a blackjack game, according to Zender. While table minimums are still expensive in high limit sections, the game can also be available on the normal casino floor, frequently with cheaper minimums.

Therefore, the game that originated in Europe and was given new life in Asia is now more accessible to American gamblers than ever. Don’t be shocked if your local casino soon adds more baccarat tables, given its tremendous potential for income and its well-established history worldwide.

There won’t be a shortage of wealthy players willing to try their luck, either, as this is one of the only games where a high-betting player may perhaps hurt the casino.

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