Beginning in 19th century France, casino gambling enthusiasts have taken to the tables to engage in a perpetual battle between the Banker and the Player. No, I’m not talking about the house versus individual players, but rather baccarat, a classic card game in which the Banker and Player hands duel to reach the closest total to nine.
Modern baccarat as we know it today evolved from foundational variants like punto banco and chemin de fer, so it’s easy to see why game designers would seek to create new variants of their own. But in the case of the five baccarat games found below, improving on the original version of live baccarat has proven to be far from natural.
Lucky Draw Baccarat
Baccarat is extremely popular with Chinese gamblers, and in 2011, Chi Fat Au-Yeung decided to take a shot at developing a new baccarat variant. Better known as “Mr. Casino Games,” Au-Yeung made his claim to fame 11 years prior when he released the smash hit table game Casino Holdem.
That instant classic combined elements of traditional Texas holdem poker with standard table game dynamics. And with his Lucky Draw Baccarat experiment, Au-Yeung once again attempted to fuse two popular casino products – baccarat and blackjack.
Unlike standard baccarat – which challenges players to guess whether the Banker or Player hand will arrive at the total closest to 9 – Lucky Draw Baccarat pits the player against a house dealer. To begin play, you’d put up an ante bet known as the “Enter” before receiving two cards face down. The dealer gets two cards as well, but on of them will be turned face up to provide players with partial information.
Lucky Draw Baccarat uses the age old scoring system, so cards 2-9 are valued at their numerical rank, 10s and face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are worth 0 points, and Aces are worth 1 point.
Based on your starting two-card total’s strength relative to the dealer’s up card, you now face a crucial decision – do you stand pat or draw a decisive third card?
Imagine holding a King-8 for an 8 total against the dealer’s 3 up card. In this case, you’d likely just stand pat and hope to hold up upon showdown. But if you held a 3 total to the dealer’s 8 up card, you’d definitely want to place a second bet (equal to your Enter wager) to draw a third card.
In this example, we’ll be generous and say you spiked a perfect 6 to make a 9 total. The dealer draws a “monkey” (AKA any face card) and their total stays stuck at 8.
Just like that, you’ve won even money on your Enter bet… but what about that additional Draw bet? Well, in Lucky Draw Baccarat, boldness is rewarded with enhanced payouts should you draw to a winning total.
Drawing and winning with a 1-6 total keeps the payout at even money, but a 7 total is good for 3 to 2 on your money, an 8 pays out at 2 to 1, and the 9 you just scored pays back a sweet 3 to 1 premium.
Despite debuting in a handful of Australian casinos, Lucky Draw Baccarat ultimately drew out to a lowly 0 when it was all said and done.
Another novel game which tried to blend baccarat with real money blackjack emerged in 2007 via a California-based company called Dolchee LLC.
But in the case of Baccarat Gold, the game’s designers opted to play things as close to the vest as possible. Their concept largely preserves the basic structure, rules, and gameplay of basic baccarat – albeit with three subtle twists.
Secondly, the esoteric tableau of guidelines which dictate how the Player and Banker hands will draw in traditional baccarat has been scrapped altogether.
In its place, Baccarat Gold relies on a simple three-part system to determine how the Banker hand “acts” after the Player hand has hit. When the Banker’s total is 0-3, the must draw; on totals of 4 or 5 the Banker only draws when the Player’s third card ranks 3-7; and the Banker never draws on totals of 6 or 7.
Lastly, the brains behind Baccarat Gold opted to increase the payouts on Tie bets from 8 to 1 up to 9 to 1.
With a reasonable house edge of 1.14 percent, well within ordinary baccarat parameters, Baccarat Gold is essentially a close clone of its predecessor. For that reason, it has developed a foothold in some of the Golden State’s smaller card clubs, but the game has yet to reach Las Vegas and beyond.
7 Up Baccarat
Most of you are familiar with the soft drink “7 Up,” but unless you hail from Singapore, you’ve probably never heard of 7 Up Baccarat.
This obscure regional variant can only be found at the Marina Bay Sands, one of Singapore’s glitzy casino resorts. The central conceit of 7 Up Baccarat is quite simple really, as the Player hand always begins with a 7 as its first starting card. A second card is then dealt to complete the Player hand’s starting total, while the Banker hand is dealt out as per usual.
From there, the game plays out identically to standard baccarat except for a slight adjustment to the payouts. After winning a 7 Up Baccarat hand with a 7 total, the Player hand only receives 1 to 2 on their wager. Conversely, the Banker hand winning with a 7 total produces a payout of 9 to 5.
Finally, the Tie bet pays out at 7 to 1 on all totals except for 7, which results in a 9 to 1 payout instead.
You’ll also find a fun side bet based on the number of 7s dealt out, and this can pay up to 700 to 1 when six 7s hit the board.
Unfortunately for 7 Up Baccarat’s innovators, the emphasis on 7s wasn’t enough to keep the casino house edge in the reasonable range. Facing a house edge of 2.58 percent, players incur more than double the liability found at a basic baccarat table.
2 to 1 Baccarat
Another baccarat variant hailing from Down Under, 2 to 1 Baccarat was instituted by Melbourne’s famed Crown Casino in 2012.
All things considered, 2 to 1 Baccarat isn’t a very inspired attempt at expanding on baccarat’s foundation. And with a high house edge of 3.62 percent, players outside of the Crown Casino region simply found no need to take up 2 to 1 Baccarat.
3 Card Baccarat
Three Card Poker has proven to be one of the most successful additions to the casino gambling industry ever devised.
Thus, it’s not exactly surprising to see a 3 Card Baccarat alternative spring up in Macau’s thriving baccarat pits.
In this odd game, players back either the Banker or Player hand following the usual system. Next, each hand gets three cards to start and whichever hand holds the most face cards takes the cake.
Should both hands have an equal amount of face cards showing, the normal baccarat scoring system is used to mint a winner.
If you ever make it to Macau, you’ll find a few 3 Card Baccarat games running, but don’t expect to see it played anywhere else.
Traditional Baccarat Still Remains a Favorite
Baccarat has long held a reputation as the most elegant of casino table games, the domain of high-rollers and sophisticates. But as condensed versions such as Mini-Baccarat brought the game to the masses, intrepid game inventors hoped to capitalize by spinning off their own recreations of the classic.
By and large, however, these moves to make baccarat into something it’s not have gone down in flames. As it turns out, players appreciate the original form and prefer the venerable “Game of Kings” to any pretenders to the crown.