THE INS AND OUTS OF VIDEO BACCARAT

Casinos have a love/hate relationship with baccarat in general. On one hand, they’d really prefer to use the floor space for something that makes more money for the casino. Baccarat with its relatively slow pace and minuscule house edge doesn’t fill that bill. On the other hand, the high rolling Asian gamblers aka ‘whales’ that all casinos want to attract love the game.

So what’s the casino to do? One thing they’ve done is to try and ‘automate’ all of the baccarat games with the exception of ‘high roller’ games. The ‘high roller’ games are still conducted at a big table roped off from the rest of the casino (if not in a separate room). That’s not likely to change anytime soon. What has happened is that lower stakes games aka ‘mini-baccarat’ have become increasingly automated and digitized.

VIDEO BACCARAT MACHINES

As has been the case with every other table game there are now video baccarat machines. We’re not talking crude attempts to simulate the game in a video poker cabinet such as we saw with blackjack several times during the past 30 years–these are very sophisticated games that do a good job of replicating the rules, play and ‘feel’ of live baccarat. There are a number of variations on this theme from different manufacturers but the best ones have multiple seats for players to capture the social and communal ‘feel’ of the game. Each player has his own video terminal in front of him where he can track play and take care of his chips and betting. In front of the player seats is another video screen that serves as the baccarat ‘layout’. This is where the simulated cards are dealt to further replicate the feel of a live table game. In addition, there is a large video screen (or in some cases two) behind the ‘table’ that mirrors the action of dealing and betting. This is done not only to make it easier for players to keep track of the action but as a way to ‘attract’ players to give the game a shot.

These games offer a myriad of options for the casino in terms of rules. Most are dealt from a simulated eight deck shoe but the casino has the option for ‘regular’ shuffling (at the end of a shoe) or ‘continuous’ shuffling. Other games deal 300 cards and then shuffle. Additional options are available for commission amount, side bet availability and table minimums and limits. Casinos can also choose to make the game more elaborate with a computer simulated ‘dealer’ who deals the cards as opposed to just having them appear out of the ether.

HYBRID VIDEO AND LIVE PLAY

This is a format that has become increasingly common at casinos in Nevada–for example, at the Venetian it’s called ‘Imperial Baccarat’. It’s basically a hybrid of live action and computer play. In this format there is a live dealer responsible for 10 or so players who are all seated at video terminals. Some setups have a ‘bank’ of video screens with multiple dealers in the same location. These dealers deal the cards as in a typical baccarat game and they are displayed on big screens above their station.

Players are able to wager on the outcome as they would in a typical baccarat game choosing ‘banker’ or ‘player’. Also available are side bets for ‘ties’ and ‘pairs’. In addition, many of these also offer a ‘jackpot’ feature for an additional bet. The format of the ‘jackpot’ feature varies from casino to casino. These games have been well received and at some point in the foreseeable future could replace the traditional mini baccarat table game.

Las Vegas likes to call itself the ‘gaming capital of the world’ and has a reputation for the widest selection of casino games. It’s a destination point for high rolling Asian gamblers that love to play baccarat on big tables roped off from the rest of the property. That’s still as popular as ever but for some reason the video baccarat is more popular in other markets than it is in Las Vegas.

Most large Las Vegas casinos will have a representation of a video baccarat game but none have a large presence. By contrast, Southern California casinos have substantially more video baccarat games and they look to be in constant demand.