How to Play Three Card Baccarat

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The rising popularity of baccarat has been driving casinos to add tables and come up with new, challenging variations in order to take advantage of this worldwide trend. In Macau, one of the latest innovations is “Three Card Baccarat,” a version of the conventional game that is played against the dealer with a single 52-card deck and three cards dealt to both the player and dealer hands. It also offers two new types of side bets in addition to the typical “Ties” wager found at most baccarat tables.

Rules of the Game

As in standard baccarat, Aces count as one point, the 2~6 cards are scored according to their face value, and face cards count as zero. All three cards must be used in determining the hand’s total value. When the point total is greater than nine, the hand value is the terminal digit of the sum of the cards, such as nine when the cards are 5-7-7 (19).

One of the major differences in Three Card Baccarat, however, is the treatment of face cards. First, the top hand is three face cards totaling zero, and it beats a natural 8 or 9. If both the player and dealer hands contain three face cards, the result is a push. Also, if the two hands tie with the same total, the one containing the most face cards wins. If the tied hands contain the same number of face cards, the result is a push.

Apart from those exceptions, the hand with the highest point total closest to nine is the winner. When the player’s hand wins, a 5% commission is deducted from the winnings for a net payout of 19:20. When the dealer’s hand wins, the original wager is lost. If the Tie side bet has been made and is successful, it pays 20:1, but keep in mind that probability of a tie is greatly reduced from the usual baccarat odds, owing to the role of face cards in deciding the winner.

Playing Strategy

Because wagering is allowed only on the player’s hand and all three cards must be put in place, there is no hand play strategy for this game. The player only has control over the size of the bet and whether or not to wager on a side bet. The House edge on the main bet is 2.41%. On the Ties side bet, the House advantage is a whopping 20.80%. There are also two other side bets to consider: “Dealer Total” and “Three Faces.”

The Dealer Total side bet requires the player to wager on the specific sum of the dealer’s three cards, zero through nine. Each of the ten choices yields a payout of 8:1 when successful. Odd numbered outcomes (1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) occur with a frequency of 10.01% each. Even numbered totals (2, 4, 6 and 8) can be expected just 9.79% of the time. The best bet, however, is zero, which has a probability of 10.79% and a House edge of 2.91%.

The Three Faces bet has been accused of setting “a new record for the worst bet in any casino game.” It pays 16:1 if the dealer’s hand contains three face cards, otherwise it loses. Such a hand can be expected to come up in less than 1% of all deals. That makes the House edge is an incredible 83.08%, meaning the bet can be counted on to lose four out of every five units wagered.

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