House Edge and Strategy of No Commission Baccarat

Closeup of a Baccarat Table Being Played

Baccarat is a very old casino game, having been played in its current form for more than 400 years. It’s known as “the royal game,” an elegant companion to the more rough-and-tumble games of craps and blackjack. It’s seen as a sophisticated game for people with deep pockets. Even James Bond, paragon of cool, preferred the baccarat variant chemin-de-fer over every other casino game.

American casinos have been offering the game for as long as they’ve been open, but it’s never been a huge part of the gambling industry stateside. In other parts of the world, particularly Macau, baccarat is king, responsible for about the same percentage of casino income as slot machines do here in the US.

No commission baccarat, sometimes called commission-free baccarat, is a popular variant in Asian casinos that uses slightly different rules and has a different payout structure than the traditional game. Thanks to online gambling and the expansion of the Asian gambling industry into the US space, commission-free baccarat is available to more US-based gamblers each year.

In this post, I’ll give details on the rules, payouts, odds, house edge, and strategy for this popular baccarat variant.

How to Play Commission-Free Baccarat

Each round of the game has three possible outcomes – a player win, a banker win, or a tie. Baccarat dealers do the bulk of the heavy lifting, making it a relaxed experience for the player.

First – card values. In baccarat, cards two through nine are worth their face value. 10s, Jacks, Queens, and Kings have a zero value. Aces are worth one.

As a player, your only real choice in the game is to bet on the player, the banker (meaning the dealer), or on a tie outcome.

Once all bets have been made, the dealer deals two face-up cards to each player and the banker. The hand that gets closest to a total of nine points wins. For double-digit totals, you add the two numbers together and drop the first digit to get your point total.

Regardless of how many bettors are at the table, there are only ever two hands – the player and the banker. If either hand totals 8 or 9 on the draw, this is considered a natural (as with a total of 21 on your first two cards in blackjack) and the round is over. Bets are paid out accordingly. When neither hand totals 8 or 9, the dealer can draw an additional card on one or both hands.

When the player hand is 6 or 7, the dealer will stand that hand. On any total between 0 and 5, the player hand will draw a third card, unless the banker holds 8 or 9, in which case the banker hand has won, and more play is required. The banker hand has some complicated rules for drawing a third card, but basically, the banker hand draws or doesn’t draw based on the value of the player hand’s third card.

Payouts depend on how you bet and how the game turned out.

Bets on the player hand pay out 2:1 when the player’s hand comes closest to nine. Bets on the banker hand pay out 1:1 when that hand comes closest to nine unless the banker hand wins with a point total of exactly 6, in which case the payout is 1:2. A winning tie bet pays 8:1.

If you’re familiar with traditional baccarat, you may have noticed why this game is called no commission baccarat. In the traditional game, the house takes a 5% commission on banker hand wins, making the actual payout 0.95:1. Commission-free baccarat doesn’t charge this commission, making it up for it with the reduced payout for hands worth exactly six points.

Commission-Free Baccarat Odds

First, know that most games use six or eight decks and that the odds for these two versions aren’t significantly different.

I’ll get more into that in the house edge section below, but unless you’re an extreme version of an advantage gambler and are worried about percentages to the thousandth place, you don’t face different odds based on how many decks are used in the game.

MGM Grand Baccarat Room

How often does each betting option (player, banker, tie) win?

The banker hand wins at a total other than six 40.47% of the time. The banker hand wins with a total of six points 5.38% of the time. The player hand wins 44.62% of the time. A tie occurs 9.51% of the time.

Some commission-free baccarat games offer a side bet called Super 6. It pays out when the banker hand wins with a point total of exactly 6, triggering that awful 1:2 payout. When you can find this bet, it wins 5.3% of the time and pays 12:1.

No Commission Baccarat House Edge

Based on the odds and payouts described above, the house edge for commission-free baccarat is 1.458% in an eight-deck game and 1.454% in a six-deck game. I had to go all the way to the thousandth place to demonstrate the difference between the two games, and that makes the difference in house edge almost meaningless.

I’ll demonstrate using a made-up scenario:

Imagine you head in to play baccarat with $1,000. You find a table offering a $25 minimum bet – they’re rare, but they do exist. Assume you see about 70 outcomes per hour. That means your expected losses on a six-deck commission-free baccarat game are $25.20 hourly, while your expected losses on an eight-deck game are $25.51 hourly.

I don’t know any gambler who is worried enough about saving a theoretical $0.31 an hour that they’ll spend time hunting down a six-deck game, but maybe they exist. That $0.31 is about 1/80th the size of a single bet at a $25 minimum, which means you’re saving about the cost of a single bet every 80 hours of play by choosing six decks over eight.

What about the Super 6 side bet available in some versions of the no commission game? The house edge is 29.98%, putting it right up there with the worst bets in the casino.

How does the commission-free version compare to the traditional game? Regardless of how many decks are in the show, commission-free baccarat gives the casino a bigger edge, but not by a huge amount. Standard baccarat gives the house about a 1.2% edge. By choosing to play the commission-free version, you’re giving the casino additional leverage against you.

Why Play No Commission Baccarat?

If the no commission game doesn’t increase my odds against the house, why would I play it?

Casinos like to offer the non-commission version for three reasons. It’s an easier game to run, requiring less calculating thanks to the lack of a 5% commission on almost half of all outcomes. It’s a faster game, meaning players can bet moreover a short amount of time. Finally, players think they’re getting something extra because of the name.

I already showed you how the no commission part of the name is wrong, but the name is very convincing, especially in the sensory overload atmosphere of a casino.

Closeup View of a Casino Baccarat Table

I’ve sat down and shown some people how the casino makes up for the lack of a 5% commission with other rules and payout adjustments, but they still insist that it must be better because it says “commission-free” right in the name. Seen from the casino’s perspective, they like the idea of an increased number of even-money payouts just for the simplicity of accounting and keeping track of play.

You could think of the game as baccarat lite if that helped you understand that this is a simplified version of the game that’s accessible to more gamblers. It may cost players about 17% in house edge, but people like the faster and simpler gameplay.

Our Final Thoughts

Baccarat is a simple game that doesn’t ask a lot of bettors. So long as you avoid making the tie bet and avoid any side bets the casino’s stuffed into the game to squeeze some more edge from you, it’s one of the best bets in the casino in terms of your long-term expectations.

Baccarat faces an uphill battle in the US gambling industry. We are a slot machine-driven industry. It seems unlikely that a game with the air of sophistication and relatively slow rate of play of baccarat would catch on here as it has in Asia.

Commission-free baccarat may be the game that helps baccarat take over in America. It’s faster, it produces a more consistent set of results, there’s a lot less mathematics involved, and you can squeeze in more rounds of player per hour.