For our purposes, we’ll look at the two main types of tables you’ll find in the casinos: baccarat and smaller cousin, mini-baccarat, or mini-bac. There are a few differences between the two with the most important involving size; the size of the table and bankroll needed to play. Most casinos feature the large full-size baccarat game in a partly secluded area off the main casino floor in an area set aside for the higher-limit games. These games in salons tend to have table minimums of $50-100 per hand with limits that can progress up to $100,000 or more.
If the major game of chance of so many of the wealthy worldwide in Europe, Asia, and America is baccarat, there are undoubtedly good reasons. Gaining in popularity in America, mini-baccarat’s appeal lies in the reduced table size, making it far less intimidating, along with the lowered table minimums of $5 to $25.
The full size big baccarat oval table comes with a green felt layout denoting player positions, usually 1-15, with the 13th place skipped over for reasons of superstition. In some places, one might find the 4th place skipped, as in some Oriental cultures the number four is considered unlucky-it is closely related to the word for death. For many Asian gamblers, baccarat is the game of choice.
The table has a large u-shaped cut on one side in the middle marking a spot for one of the dealer’s to stand. This is the “caller’s” place. S/he acts as the game’s official, literally calling out cards or hands as revealed, announcing the winner, and directing the game. The caller also controls the shoe as it travels the table from one player to another.
The shoe is passed around the table with players taking turns. The player acting as dealer pulls the first card from the shoe and passes it face down to the caller. The second card is slipped under the front corner of the shoe, also face down. A third card is drawn and passed to the caller, and then the fourth is tucked on top of the second under the shoe’s corner.
The two cards in front of the caller represent the Player’s hand while those resting under the shoe are the Banker’s. The caller passes the two cards, still face down, to the bettor who has placed the highest wager on the Player’s side, and it is this person who turns the cards over to reveal the hand, at which point they are passed back to the caller. The caller announces the total, after placing them in a marked spot “Player’s hand” on the table layout.
The same procedure is employed for the Banker with cards placed in their assigned spot marked “Banker’s hand.” With both hands revealed, there is either a final decision or a draw, depending on the relationship of the hands to each other (please refer to the decision-draw information).
There is another spot directly opposite of the rack of cheques laid into the table. In front of the cheques (chips) are small squares or spots with the table positions of 1 to 15 noted. The spots enable the dealers to keep track of the customary 5% house commission charged to winning Banker bets as they accumulate (please see the section on commission).
In front of each player’s marked position lies a row for betting on the Player and behind that is a row denoting Banker. Finally there is a third tier for those who want to play the Tie hand.
The dealer sitting behind the cheques is responsible for taking all losing bets, paying off the winners, and maintaining the commissions for each player.
The mini-bac table is probably more comfortable for those used to playing blackjack. This is the familiar half-circle with 6 or 7 spots laid out in a similar fashion to the full baccarat table described above. The Player/Banker/Tie spots are in the same order directly above the Player’s marked positions, with the dealer sitting in the center of the table. Table limits for mini-bac can be as low as $2-$500, $5-$2,000 and $25-$5,000.
Unlike the card procedures for the large baccarat game listed above, in mini-bac, the game is conducted in a much less formal or ritualistic manner. In a fashion similar to blackjack, the dealer sits in the center of the half-circle, pulling the cards from the 8-deck shoe in a similar procedure to the full baccarat table game. Although there are some casinos that allow the players to open and reveal the hands, most mini-baccarat games feature the dealer controlling all of the action, including the payoffs and Banker commissions.