How to Play Baccarat Gold

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One of the complaints so often heard among newcomers to the game of baccarat is that its drawing rules are hard to learn and remember, yet they must be followed exactly. With this in mind, some casinos and card rooms have attempted to simplify the game a bit. This has been especially true at poker clubs in California, where a variant referred to as “Baccarat Gold” has been introduced in recent years. In addition to making the rules slightly easier to recall, the changes also add a decision-taking element to the game and make the House edge on the Banker hand and the Player hand more similar.

Rules of the Game

Most of the rules of Baccarat Gold follow those of the standard game with eight decks in play, but with a few important differences. Borrowing a rule from Chemin de Fer, the person in control of the Player hand has the opportunity to take a decision when holding a two-card total of five—hit or stand. This compares to the conventional rule whereby the Player hand must hot on totals of five or less and stand on totals of six or more.

For the Banker hand, the rules have also been changed. Whenever the Player hand draws a third card, the Banker hand must draw on a total of zero to three and stand on a total of six or seven. When the Banker had totals four of five, a draw is required only if the third card of the Player hand is 3~7; otherwise, the Banker will stand. This compares to the rather complicated chart of rules that must be memorised to determine the action of the Banker hand in standard play.

The conventional “Ties” side bet is available in Baccarat Gold, but the payout has been increased from 8 to 1 up to 9 to 1. This, combined with the changes in drawing rules, reduces the House edge on Tie wagers from 14.36% down to 7.55% when the Player hand stands on a two-card total of five or 4.91% when the hand draws.

Playing Strategy

The person controlling the Player hand needs to make a hit or stand choice when the total is five, but oddly enough the optimum play is the same as it would be in the convention game—always draw a third card. That’s because this choice shaves 0.24% off the House edge, which would otherwise be 1.39% if the Player hand stands.

A more important decision, however, is whether to back the Player hand at all. In conventional baccarat, betting of the Banker hand carries a House edge 1.06% versus 1.24% on the Player hand. In Baccarat Gold, those margins are 1.144% versus 1.147%, respectively, when the Player hand hits on five, and they are 0.918% versus 1.386% when the Player hand stands on five. So once again, the Banker hand is the better bet.

For those who enjoy shifting bets back and forth between the two hands, Baccarat Gold is preferable to the standard game, as long as the Player hand hits on five. Under the same conditions, it is also preferable for those hate paying the 5% commission on Banker hand winnings and will wager only on the Player hand. The opposite is true, of course, if the Player hands stands on five. And as for the Ties bet, the significantly lower House advantage compared to conventional blackjack makes this game a better choice, too.

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