By John Grochowski
Baccarat is a simple game to play
Casino card games don’t come much easier than baccarat. Only two hands are dealt, labeled “banker” and “player”. You may bet on either one – don’t be a sucker and bet on ties. Draws are made by rule.
You have no decisions to make. No muss, no fuss, no strategies.
Exception: There is a minor muss and fuss when you win a bet on banker. Banker wins more often than it loses, so the house charges winners a 5 percent commission to get its 1.24 percent edge. Without a commission, bettors would have an edge, the game would lose money and casinos would hustle it off the floor.
Can that fuss be ironed out of the game? Sure. Versions of no-commission baccarat have been tried since at least the beginning of the 2000s, when Spanish 21 inventor Richard Lofink rolled out a no-commission game.
Today, the most common no-commission version is EZ Baccarat, and it’s found niches both in online casinos and in live casinos.
The house edge on the banker bet is slightly lower at 1.02 percent than the 1.06 percent in standard baccarat. Player bets face the same 1.24 percent edge on either EZ or standard games, and the edge on tie bets remains a whopping 14.4 percent on either games.
Here’s how EZ Baccarat works.
Just as in standard baccarat, two two-card hands are dealt – a banker hand and a player hand. And just as in standard baccarat, whether either hand gets a third card depends on a set of rules.
Winners on either banker or player are paid at even money. Winners on ties are paid at 8-1 odds. No commissions are charged.
The house gets an edge on banker with no commission thanks to one minor change in the rules. When banker wins with a three-card total of 7, banker bettors don’t get paid. The bet pushes, and bettors just keep their wagers.
That’s enough to give the house a 1.02-percent edge, according to the game’s inventor.
That edge is equivalent to giving the casino a 49.14-cent commission on a winning $10 bet instead of the usual 50 cents.
That’s a close match in edge, and the casino gets more hands per hour in the bargain since it doesn’t have to take the time to collect commissions.
Other than that change, the game is still standard baccarat. The hand that gets closer to a total of 9 wins. Number cards through 9 still count as their face value, including aces as 1 point, and 10s and face cards count as zero. In totals that exceed 10, the digit in the 10s column is disregarded — a 9 and a 6 is not a 15, it’s a 5.
The method of drawing cards does not change from the standard game. Both player and banker hands stand on totals of 8 or 9. Player also stands on 6 or 7, but hits 5 or less. If player stands, banker hits 5 or less. If player draws, banker always hits totals of 0, 1 or 2 and stands on 7, 8 or 9; hits 3 against all player draws except 8; hits 4 if player draws 2 through 7; hits 5 if player draws 4 through 7; and hits 6 if player draws 6 or 7.
There is no change to the player bet.
EZ Baccarat comes with two optional side bets, called “Dragon 7” and the “Panda 8.”
**DRAGON 7: Originally called an “insurance” bet, Dragon 7 allows you to collect on those hands that have been turned from winners into pushes under the no-commission rules. If you make the side bet and the banker hand beats player with a three-card total of 7, you collect a 40-1 payoff.
True odds on banker winning with a three-card total of 7 are 43.4-1. If your $1 Dragon bet won and brought you $43.40 in winnings while you kept your original bet, it would be an even wager, with no house edge. But since you get paid $40 instead of $43.40, that shortfall of $3.40 represents the house advantage.
To put it another way, a banker’s winning three-card 7 shows up on 2.25 percent of hands, and the EZ Baccarat site shows a house edge of 7.61 percent.
**PANDA 8: A wager that the player hand will win with a three-card total of 8, Panda 8 pays winners at 25-1 odds. True odds are 27.95-1, and the house has a 10.61 percent edge.
For those looking for big instant wins, Dragon 7 and Panda 8 give options on both sides of the banker-player divide. However, the house edges are much higher than on the main game.
Better to stick to banker or player for house edges that are among the lowest on casino floors, especially for a no-strategy game.
Overall, EZ Baccarat is a worthy alternative to baccarat. Game play is nearly the same. The house edge on banker actually is slightly lower than standard baccarat. And the house can make up any revenue shortfall from that lower edge by getting more hands per hour when not taking time to collect commissions.
With a slightly lower house edge than regular baccarat, the EZ game is a good option to have. Just stick to the base game and skip the Dragon and Panda betting options.
John Grochowski has been covering casinos and casino games for nearly 40 years. He is the author of six books
and his work appears in newspapers, magazines and websites around the world.
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