Baccarat has always held a certain mystique in the gambling world. It was James bond’s favorite game in early 007 movies, and it’s been popular among high rollers for decades.
But baccarat has become far more attractive to the general gambling population in recent years. Specifically, mini baccarat is now one of the most-played games on casino floors.
The numbers tell the story on baccarat’s ascension from an obscure high roller game to becoming popular among the masses. Research from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research shows that mini baccarat now occupies far more floor space than it did a few decades ago.
The following shows what percentage of Vegas Strip gaming floor space each table game occupied in 1985:
- Blackjack – 77.22% of table units
- Craps – 10.59%
- Roulette – 6.60%
- Other – 3.14%
- Baccarat – 2.45%
You can see that baccarat comprised very little space on gaming floors. The primary reason why is because it was mostly available to high rollers.
Here’s a look at how this floor space distribution dramatically changed by 2017:
- Blackjack – 50.06% of table units
- Other – 19.98%
- Baccarat – 12.79%
- Roulette – 10.09%
- Craps – 7.08%
Perhaps an even more-telling stat is how much revenue baccarat pulls in compared to other Vegas Strip table games.
I’ll start with data from 1985:
- Blackjack – 50.25% revenue
- Craps – 28.04%
- Baccarat – 13.60%
- Roulette – 6.62%
- Other – 1.49%
Now, look at how things changed greatly by 2017:
- Baccarat – 37.60% revenue
- Blackjack – 30.50%
- Other – 13.11%
- Roulette – 10.00%
- Craps – 9.03%
Part of the reason why baccarat now to outranks blackjack in terms of Vegas Strip revenue is that it’s still popular among whales. But you can also see that the number of table units have also increased on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Of course, mini baccarat isn’t just a game featured in Vegas casinos. The opposite is actually true, because this game is even more popular in many Asian gambling destinations.
What’s behind mini baccarat’s popularity surge? Find out as I look at several reasons why this game is now one of players’ top choices.
Mini Baccarat Is Easy Compared to Other Table Games
One of the main criteria that casinos look at before trying out a new game is how easy the rules are to learn. After all, they don’t want gamblers struggling to figure out a game for 5-10 minutes before leaving the table.
This is why many casino games can be learned in a matter of a few minutes. But baccarat is even easier to master than the average table game.
The only thing that you really need to know is the three available bets and where to place your chips. You’ll see Banker, Player, and Tie circles in front of your table space.
Here are the rules and payouts for each of these wagers:
- Banker bet –You want the banker hand to beat the player hand. Payout is 1:1.
- Player bet –You need the player hand to beat the banker hand. Payout is 1:1.
- Tie bet –You want the player and banker to tie. Payout is either 8:1 or 9:1, depending upon the casino.
Note that the banker hand has a slightly better chance of winning than the player. Therefore, casinos take out a 5% commission from winning banker wagers to retain their house edge.
Your wager is a push if the banker and player tie, and you didn’t bet on this outcome.
As you can see, learning how to play baccarat is completely easy. Anybody who’s new to table games will find that baccarat is simpler than blackjack, craps, and roulette.
The only complicated thing about mini baccarat is how hands are scored. You don’t really need to know how this works in order to play the game.
But if you’re curious to know, I’ll briefly explain how winning scores are determined.
The best place to begin is with how much each card value is worth, which can be seen below:
- Ace = 1
- 2-9 = Face value (i.e. 5 is worth 5)
- Jack, queen, king = 0
Each player is dealt two cards to begin the round. The hand with a score closest to nine wins.
If a hand reaches a double-digit score, the first digit is removed. For example, a score of 18 would actually be 8.
The player’s and banker’s score determines whether or not they receive a third card. If the player or banker receives an 8 or 9 on their first two cards, they have a “natural” and will win automatically as long as their opponent can’t match or beat the score.
Here are other scenarios to consider regarding whether either side receives an additional card:
- The player automatically receives a third card if their score is less than 5. The player stands when their score is 6 or 7.
- The banker draws if their score is 5, and the player has 6 or 7. The banker stands when their score is 6 or 7.
- The following table shows when the banker receives a third card if the player draws for one:
Mini Baccarat Is Like the Slots of Table Games
Slot machines are easily the most-popular games in the casino. In fact, slots dwarf all table games combined in terms of casino floor space.
Baccarat may not be able to compete with slot machines in terms of popularity. However, you might think of mini baccarat as the slots of table games.
The first reason why is that mini baccarat is easy to pick up. I explained earlier how you merely need to know the three of available bets to start playing. Similarly, slot machines have a very easy learning curve. You simply need to familiarize yourself with the betting options and push the spin button to play.
The speed and simplicity of mini baccarat makes it a favorite among those who enjoy quick action without having to read an instruction manual.
This Is No Longer a Game for High Rollers
Gone are the days when baccarat was only available in roped-off areas with dress codes. Mini baccarat has made the game far more accessible to the average gambler.
You can find dozens of mini baccarat tables in some casinos. People have grown fond of this game, and casinos have responded by adding more tables over the years.
A mini baccarat table is simply friendlier than the big baccarat table where high rollers play. You aren’t required to wear a tuxedo or evening gown, and you also don’t need a large bankroll just to start playing.
You Have a Strong Chance of Winning in Mini Baccarat
Not all gamblers focus on the house edge and their long-term chances of winning. But those who do will appreciate that mini baccarat has a low house edge.
Here are the house advantages for each wager:
- Banker bet = 1.06% house edge
- Player bet = 1.24%
- Tie bet = 4.85% (9:1 payout) or 14.36% (8:1 payout)
Even though casinos take out a 5% commission from winning banker hands, this is still the game’s best wager. The 1.06% banker hand house advantage is one of the best in gaming.
If you get bored with wagering on the banker, you can temporarily switch to the player hand. This bet has a 1.24% house edge, which narrowly trails the banker.
You should definitely avoid the tie bet, because it carries a 14.36% house advantage. Even if the payouts are upgraded to 9:1, you’re still dealing with a 4.85% casino edge.
If you want to maximize your chances of winning in mini baccarat, all you need to do is to wager on the banker winning.
Mini Baccarat Doesn’t Cost Much to Play
Low stakes are another driving force for why mini baccarat has spread to the gambling masses. The minimum bet at a mini baccarat table ranges from $5 to $25.
Compare this to big baccarat tables, which often call on players to bet a minimum of $50 to $100. The high wagers featured on big tables are the top reason why this game remained inaccessible to low rollers for so long.
You can play baccarat even cheaper at online casinos. The average minimum bet at gaming sites is only $1 per hand.
You also have the option to enjoy free baccarat at internet casinos. Playing for free is a good way to familiarize yourself with the different bets and how hand scoring works.
Keep in mind, though, that mini baccarat can be more expensive than it appears. The fast deals featured at land-based casinos expose you more to the house edge.
Here’s an example:
- You’re playing at a baccarat table with $10 minimum bets.
- The croupier is dealing 200 hands per hour.
- 200 x 10 = $2,000 wagered per hour
- 2,000 x 0.0106 = $21.20
Most players aren’t scared of $21.20in hourly theoretical losses. But it’s still good to be aware of how the fast-paced nature of mini baccarat factors in.
Asian Gamblers Love Mini Baccarat
I discussed earlier how mini baccarat is a global game that’s especially popular in Asian casinos. The same gamblers who populate these casinos also travel to gambling establishments in America.
According to a 2012 Las Vegas Sun piece, players from Asia are a big reason for mini baccarat’s rise. Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, told the Las Vegas Sun that they have more Asians than Americans playing baccarat in their casinos. “Most of our baccarat business is international,” he said. “There’s very little national [American] baccarat play.”
Bill Zender, who served as vice president of the Aladdin hotel-casino, explained that big baccarat is disappearing as casinos focus on Asians’ love of the mini version.
“Dealers in tuxedos, beautiful women acting as shills, the use of cash or gaming plaques,” said Zender. “These traditions have gone by the wayside with the advent of Asian play. Asians are where the real money is.”
Mini baccarat has become so big in Macau casinos that they let players touch and even bend cards. These allowances are made to allow Asian gamblers to carry out various superstitions.
Ray Rody, a gaming professor at Macau Millennium College, described another superstition where Asian gamblers change their bets based on if the player or banker is winning at the time.
“The Chinese like to bet with a player when they win and against a player when they are losing,” said Rody, “because they believe in the luck of other players as well as their own. “They look for trends of three or more straight wins for the banker or player and then bet for a 4th or 5th straight win.”
Logical gamblers don’t typically believe in superstitions like these. But they increase mini baccarat’s entertainment value, which draws more players to the tables.
Baccarat didn’t come to America until the 1950s, when it was quickly typecast as a high roller affair. But this game later exploded in popularity thanks to a few different reasons.
First off, casinos have repackaged big baccarat into a mini version that’s more inviting to the gambling majority. Mini baccarat features lower stakes and doesn’t require a dress code.
You can now play this game in land-based casinos for as little as $5 or $10. Compare this to big baccarat, which requires a minimum wager ranging from $50 to $100. The nature of baccarat itself — whether big or mini — also draws players. This game is easy to learn since there are only three bets to master.
Asian gamblers are yet another reason why mini baccarat is widespread these days. Players from Macau and other countries not only enjoy baccarat at their native casinos, but also travel to the US to play.
In summary, mini baccarat’s climb isn’t attributed to any one reason, but rather several factors. And you can expect to see this game prominently featured in casinos for years to come.