One of the great things about baccarat is the simplicity of the game. Another great thing is the low house edge it offers. The precise numbers will vary depending on how many decks are in use but generally speaking baccarat has a house edge of 1.06% for the banker and 1.24% for the player. Although this is great for the serious thinking casino gambler it does have a couple of drawbacks. For recreational players, the endless back and forth churn of even money payouts can get a bit tedious. For casinos, they are always seeking ways to increase the house edge and given the parameters of baccarat that’s tough to do on banker or player bets. The game has a similar dynamic to blackjack with many of the same upsides and downsides for both players and ‘the house’.
Like blackjack, casinos have found ways to increase their hold on low margin baccarat games without changing the fundamentals of how the games are played. Don’t get me wrong–casinos aren’t above messing with the fundamentals of a game either as evidenced by the infuriating trend toward paying 6 to 5 for blackjack instead of the traditional 3 to 2. They’re probably still surprised that there’s been so little pushback from recreational players who apparently leave any math skills they have at the McCarren International Airport baggage claim when they fly into town.
For both blackjack and baccarat, innovative ‘side bets’ have become increasingly popular. Players like them because they offer more ‘action’ and an opportunity for a bigger payout than the basic hands. Casinos like them because they invariably have a significantly higher house edge than the ‘traditional hands’. We’ll look at some of the blackjack side bets in the future but let’s start our coverage of baccarat side bets with the most fundamental side bet of all: the tie bet
THE TIE BET
The tie bet is the original baccarat ‘side bet’. In fact, it’s such a fundamental part of the game you can make a case that it shouldn’t be considered a ‘side bet’. In this way, it’s similar to ‘insurance’ in blackjack–not necessary a ‘sharp’ play but a standard part of the game. That’s a reasonable point but since the payout and house edge have all of the earmarks of a side bet it’s a good place to start.
The idea of the bet is simple enough–if the banker and the player have a final hand with an identical number of points it is considered a ‘tie’. Typically, land based casinos pay 8 to 1 on ties. In most cases, online casinos also pay 8 to 1 though you can sometimes (albeit rarely) find one that pays 9 to 1.
Now the bad news: if you’re playing a game that pays ties at the standard 8 to 1 the ‘tie’ bet has a house edge of 14.4%. If you manage to find one that pays at 9 to 1 that reduces the edge to 4.8%. That’s still not good but it’s definitely ‘less bad’.
Basically, that’s the same deal with all baccarat side bets. Some players enjoy them due to the opportunity to make a big score but there’s no way that this comes without a significant downside in terms of the house edge. There are some side bets that offer a more reasonable house edge than the 14.4% of 8 to 1 pay baccarat ties. There are also plenty of side bets that have a house edge well in excess of this.
Stay tuned for more baccarat side bet rules and odds in future articles!