Why the Banker Bet Isn’t Always the Best Bet in Baccarat

By Randy Ray in Baccarat
| September 19, 2020 1:36 am PDT
Banker Bet Isn't Always the Best Bet in Baccarat

Baccarat doesn’t give you many options in terms of bets and strategy.

In fact, you have just three choices.

  • Bet on the banker hand winning.
  • Wager on the player hand winning.
  • Bet on both hands tying.

As I’ll cover later, your best decision is wagering on the banker hand winning. That’s it — you don’t need to worry about any other strategy.

Therefore, you might think that it’s always best to place this bet. But there’s one exception to this rule that can cause you to lose.

Obviously you don’t want to flub your chances in such an easy game. You can keep reading to find out more about the banker wager in baccarat and the one time where it’s absolutely terrible.

Why Is the Banker Bet Normally Great?

When you place the banker bet, you’re wagering that the banker’s hand will have a better score than the player’s hand. Whichever side is closer to a score of 9 wins.

The banker has stronger odds of winning than the player. You initially have an advantage over the house as long as you gamble on the banker winning every time.

Of course, no casino willingly gives you an edge. Instead, they take a 5% commission out of your winning bets on the banker.

This amount sounds outrageous at first. But even with the commission included, you’re only facing a 1.06% house edge on the banker hand.

This is not only the top wager in baccarat, but it’s also one of the best in all of gambling.

Only blackjack (with player-friendly rules) and certain video poker variations give you a better long-term expectation than the banker bet in baccarat.

Wagering on the player hand isn’t such a bad proposition either. This wager only carries a 1.24% house edge.

You could switch back and forth between banker and player bets. After all, you only yield an extra 0.18% edge when gambling on the player.

However, you usually have no reason to bet on anything other than the banker. Few situations (beyond the one I’ll cover next) warrant going away from this wager.

As for the tie bet, it should be avoided at all costs. This wager carries a 14.36% house advantage when it delivers an 8-to-1 payout.

The tie bet’s house edge drops down to 4.84% when it offers a 9-to-1 payout. However, this amount is still four times as high as both the banker and player house edges.

Commissions on Banker Bets

The aforementioned 5% commission on banker-hand wins applies to the tables. However, some casinos require a minimum commission.

Such commissions are typically represented a dollar amount. For example, you might have to pay a commission worth at least $1 per hand.

This amount actually looks cheap at first glance. However, it’s designed to make more money off low stakes players.

Assuming you’re at a table that lets you bet $5 per hand, then a 1% commission represents 20% of your win. If you’re wagering $10 a hand, the commission still chews up 10% of your win.

Here’s an example to show how bad these higher commissions are if you’re a low stakes player.

  • You wager $10 on the banker hand.
  • The commission on your wins is 10%.
  • This scenario increases the house edge to 3.35% on banker bets.
  • 35 / 1.06 = 3.16
  • You’re facing a house edge that’s 3.16x higher than normal.

You don’t have to worry about the $1 minimum commissions if you’re wagering $20 or higher. After all, a dollar is just 5% of $20.

However, you do need to think long and hard about these tables if you’re betting less.

Why Casinos Charge High Minimum Commissions

Running a land-based casino is an expensive endeavor. Table games can especially be costly given that they require dealers.

Most casinos only pay dealers minimum wage and expect them to earn tips for the remainder of their salaries. Even still, table games aren’t like slot machines where they can run themselves.

That said, gambling establishments often look for ways to profit more from table games. Charging a $1 minimum commission in baccarat is one of these methods.

The house doesn’t make much extra money through this rule change. However, it does gain some additional value over low stakes players who don’t know any better.

One more reason why gaming venues boost the commission is because they don’t want to make change with quarters. 5% of $10 is fifty cents. A gambling establishment may find handling quarters to be inconvenient.

You can chalk these higher commissions up to greed, convenience, or a matter of survival. In any case, you don’t want to play such games for low limits under normal circumstances.

What  To Do When You See Minimum Commissions

You have several options when presented with the possibility of a $1 minimum commission or higher.

You can decide what the best course of action is yourself by checking out each option below.

Run for the Hills

One of the great things about casino gaming is that you can choose from many different games. You also have the ability to pick from plenty of tables.

You don’t have to take what’s given to you. This applies to the dollar commission games that are the subject of this discussion.

Assuming you don’t plan on wagering any more than $10, then you should avoid these tables and never look back.

Look for Better Tables

If you go with the advice covered above, then you can either leave the current casino altogether or stick around and continue searching for tables.

Odds are that the $1 commission is going to apply to all games within the gambling establishment. But you may get lucky and find a table that doesn’t carry this unfavorable rule.

Stay and Make the Player Bet

As covered earlier, the player bet still gives you a solid chance to win with its 1.24% house edge. You’re better off wagering on the player if you’re going to bet $10 or less on these tables.

Again, you can always leave the casino and look elsewhere for more favorable banker bets. However, the player wager makes for a suitable alternative if you don’t feel like travelling to a different establishment.

Bet More

The main reason why $1 minimum commissions are such a big deal is because they negatively affect low stakes players. You’ll be facing a 3.35% house edge if you only risk $10 per hand.

Assuming you’re willing to take on additional risk, then you can up your bets to $20 or more. As long as you’re betting $20, then the dollar minimum commission doesn’t raise the house advantage.

Play Online Baccarat

One more option is to grab your smartphone or tablet and skip the land-based casinos scene altogether. Almost every online casino offers real money baccarat.

What’s more is that you never have to worry about a $1 minimum commission with the internet version. All payouts are handled electronically, meaning the casino doesn’t need to worry about handling quarters.

Online baccarat also offers another advantage in the form of low bets. You can wager as little as $1 per hand at its most gaming sites.

Conclusion

You can’t totally fault casinos for increasing commissions on low stakes tables. They have a couple of good reasons for doing so.

First, they can profit more off low limit players. Slightly larger commissions help make up for the expensive costs of running mini baccarat tables.

Secondly, casinos avoid forcing their dealers to handle quarters. The croupier only needs to worry about handling bills as long as the commission is $1 or higher.

Nevertheless, you don’t have to settle for minimum commissions as a low limit player. You can leave the casino altogether, look for a different table, wager on the player, bet more, or choose online baccarat.

Your chosen route will depend upon your personal preferences. Assuming you’re fine with betting a little extra, for example, then you can just stay on the tables.

If you’re staunchly against risking more than $10 per round, on the other hand, then you should consider leaving the casino.

The one thing you don’t want to do, though, is stick around and keep betting $5 or $10 per hand. Doing so increases the house edge by quite a bit.

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