Baccarat is played in virtually every casino in the world, so it should come as no surprise that it is featured prominently on the Internet, as well. And with the vast improvements in Internet speed and video streaming technology, more online casinos are offering live baccarat featuring attractive dealers in swanky surroundings that could be the envy of any casino in Monte Carlo or Macau.
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Baccarat is a very simple game. A deck of 52 cards is produced. A hand of two cards is dealt to the Player, and to the Banker. You, and any number of other bettors may wager on the outcome of the hand.
In baccarat, each card is scored equal to the number (1-9) on its face, or 0 (10 through king). The object of the game is simple: Get dealt a hand that totals 9 points. A jack and a 9 satisfies this requirement, as does a 4 and a 5.
A two-card hand scoring 8 or 9 is called a natural. If either the Player hand or the Banker hand is dealt a natural, the dealing is over, bets are paid, and a new hand commences.
If neither hand has a score of 8 or 9, however, then a third card may be required. It’s important to note that you have no choice in the matter; you’re not the Player, remember? Third cards are dealt according to specific ironclad rules.
If the Player hand score is 0 through 5, it is dealt a third card. If the hand scores either 6 or 7, it stands. And a score of 8 or 9 makes it a winning hand (assuming the dealer does not also have a hand with the same score, in which case the game is a tie).
The rules governing the Banker hand are a bit more involved: After the Player draws a third card, the Banker must stand in two situations: Banker has a two-card score of 7, or the Player’s third card is an 8, and the Banker’s two-card score is 3. All other Banker two-card scores require a draw if the Player has drawn a third card.
Live Baccarat Dissected
While anyone with a few decks of cards and a table can deal a game of baccarat, online casinos must expend a good deal of money and effort to produce the “casino experience” for their baccarat players. The live baccarat you see on screen might appear simple, but it takes a lot more than just a dealer, a table, and some cards to make that happen.
Well, Don’t Make a Whole Production Out of It
Actually, that’s what they did: Make a whole production out of it, that is. Literally.
First of all, cameras need more light than the human eye does in order to resolve the images it sees into something approaching acceptable reality — a lot more light.
So you need bright lights. You need good sound reproduction. You need every item placed correctly and functioning properly. You need a director.
You also need an IT person to make sure everything goes according to plan, and you need somebody to respond to text chat from the players.
Oh, and you need a trained dealer who just happens to look drop-dead gorgeous in an evening gown.
Easy as pie, right? Kinda surprising everybody doesn’t produce live streaming table games, isn’t it?
All kidding aside, online casinos are in the gambling business. The video production business is a bit, shall we say, outside their wheelhouse. So in order to present players with the live dealers they want, online casinos typically contract with one of a handful of companies that have whole divisions specializing in this sort of video production.
Evolution Gaming, Playtech, Microgaming, Visionary iGaming—these are all gaming software firms you’ve encountered in your online gaming adventures. You know they’re certified, licensed, and thoroughly competent in their areas of expertise (gambling software for the Internet).
They all know how to build an onscreen interface, making each choice and option intuitively easy to use. And they’ve applied that knowledge to making baccarat’s transition to your laptop as seamless as possible.
Most online casinos now feature at least a few live dealer tables offering a selection of the more popular table games like baccarat, roulette, and blackjack. But others may rival a Las Vegas casino with their dozens of live gaming tables–including several variations of live baccarat at varying bet limits.
As you move from online casino to online casino, you may start to recognize some of the same dealers at the baccarat tables. That’s because Evolution Gaming (for example) has a studio full of baccarat dealers, each dealing live baccarat for any number of online casinos simultaneously.
We haven’t mentioned branding yet.
Yes, of course, virtually all of the streaming companies offer branded tables. These dealers and tables appear only on the online casino paying for the branding (you’ll recognize the tables as those having that specific online casino’s logo printed on the table, just like a baccarat table at the Tropicana in Vegas).
Obviously, a branded baccarat table is more expensive to operate than a plain-vanilla-one-size-serves-all baccarat table (which could be serving any number of other casinos simultaneously), so only the larger, busier online casinos tend to have them. Also, you can expect the table minimum bet limits at branded tables to be significantly higher.
Now that we’ve got the gorgeous live dealer standing behind the baccarat table underneath those hot lights, let’s give her a few decks of cards and watch her go to work, shall we?
The screen we see on our laptop is of a baccarat tabletop, with the various betting options painted on it, just as you might find at a brick and mortar casino baccarat table. The dealer (sometimes a man but far more often, an attractive woman) sits behind the table.
To her left (your right) is the shoe. These days, this might be an electronic contraption that not only holds the six to eight decks of playing cards needed for the game but also contains a built-in optical scanner that reads and reports each card as it is removed and dealt.
At other tables, it is the more familiar plexiglass box holding the cards, with a separate optical scanner built into the table itself to read and report each card value as the dealer slides the card over it.
Regardless of the shoe, you’ll see to the dealer’s right (your left) a plexiglass box to hold the cards used in previous hands. Eventually, these cards will be reshuffled and returned to the shoe.
At the top of the screen, you’ll usually find an area that shows your remaining bankroll balance, your current bet amount, and sometimes, the amount of your last win.
At the bottom of the screen (usually), you’ll find icons representing various options such as auto-rebet, clear bet, re-do bet, and cancel. You may also find an icon to access the rules of the game, the various settings available (such as auto-display big road after each hand).
Speaking of big road, while all live baccarat games will show you the big road (and usually the bead plate), some will also give you an opportunity to see the big eye boy, the small road, and even the cockroach pig.
By the way, some providers display all roads, boys, plates, and pigs at all times (usually filling the bottom of the screen), while others keep them discreetly hidden behind a counter, to be produced only when a discerning gambler requests them.
Oh, and while you’re inventorying the screen, don’t forget the chat function. Yes, you can chat with most dealers via a text-messaging window, which usually appears above and to the left of the dealer. Check it out occasionally, if for no other reason than to see other players trying to flirt with the dealer.
Additionally, some chat boxes will display the amounts other players tip the dealer (yes, there’s a tip slot there on the table, and you can drag & drop your tip into it at any time). This serves at least two purposes: For the house, it reminds you that tipping is permitted. And for you, it gives you an idea of the denomination other players find acceptable for tips at that table.
As play begins, the camera will usually zoom in on the cards as they are dealt to the Player and the Banker hands. Additionally, the value of each hand will be displayed prominently (a 4 and a 6 to the Player, for example, would be displayed as 0).
Quick note: Live baccarat hands last an average of 48 seconds, start to finish. (some live baccarat providers now offer speed baccarat for those who just don’t have a whole 48 seconds to spare).
As the dealer does her job, she will call out each card. She’ll also call out the winner. In some cases, she’ll congratulate winners or bid them good luck as they leave.
At some of the lower-end live tables, however, the dealer may never speak to or acknowledge the players in any way. You might feel that this defeats the whole “you’re in a real casino sitting at a real baccarat table” illusion. And you might be correct.
Ah well. As they say: “de gustibus non est disputandum,” right? (we’re pretty sure that means “they’re idiots, but we’ll humor them by pretending to be nonjudgmental about it”).
Variations On a Theme
Different live baccarat tables may offer different side bets. For example, some might have a betting field for dragon bets, while others might allow for super6 bets. Still, others may offer the option to place both side bets.
The larger online casinos might also feature live baccarat table specific to each of these bets. If you enjoy the added excitement of a dragon or super6 bet, be sure to check out the table selection carefully before choosing one and sitting down.
Five Tips for the Live Baccarat Gambler
Tip #1: Google Is Your Friend
Before you start betting on a game, find out everything you can about the online casino, and even more about the production company producing the live dealer stream. Do some searches. Are both companies legitimate and trustworthy? If there’s anything we’ve learned in the past couple of decades, it is this: The Internet cannot keep a secret. The search engines know all of them.
Tip #2: Stick with the Devil You Know
Gamble with licensed, certified online casinos that feature live baccarat games provided by the top companies in the industry. These companies are much more likely to be smooth, professional, and honest. The games themselves are likely to be more fun, as well. Avoid companies you’ve never heard of, or worse, have heard bad things about.
Tip #3: Know Their Limits—and Yours
As you may have realized while reading about the vast array of equipment and manpower (and women power) required to produce a live streaming version of a casino game, it is not an inexpensive proposition. Consequently, you should not expect even the low limit tables to be particularly, um, low limit.
Most online casinos offer several live baccarat tables, each at a particular betting limit. A particular table’s limits will usually be expressed in a range of bets, such as $1 to $50 at a low-limit table, and $25 to $500 at a higher limit table). A good rule of thumb is: If the thought of placing the maximum bet allowed at a table raises your anxiety level, you should probably pick one with a more comfortable, albeit lower, maximum.
Another way of looking at it: If you can’t afford to lose $500, you should stay away from tables where the minimum bet is $25. Given a 48-second average hand time, you could easily lose $500 in, oh, a little over 12 minutes. Unless you’re simply trying to get rid of money, don’t put yourself in situations where that’s the likely outcome.
Tip #4: If You Don’t Like the Weather, Leave!
No offense, but if you’re not enjoying the experience at a particular live baccarat table, what are you still doing there? Move to another table, maybe even to a different online casino, and see if you like it better. Finding the right casino and the right live baccarat table is a lot like dating. They both involve a lot of confusion, awkwardness, and false starts, and they usually end with a good-looking woman smiling pityingly at you.
Or so we’ve heard.
Tip #5: Ogle Elsewhere
It was only a matter of time before someone combined live baccarat with another favorite pastime (hint: Hooters wrote a whole business plan around it).
Yes, some newer streaming companies offer topless dealers, but this is merely a flanking maneuver so they can attack your wallet more effectively. And even the more staid, traditional offerings of live baccarat from industry leaders tend to feature dealers just as attractive (and dressed provocatively, too!) as we’ve come to expect.
Appreciate, yes, but don’t be distracted. You’re here to play baccarat. If you want to ogle, ogle elsewhere. Remember: It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye out.
An Embarrassment of Riches
Live baccarat is exciting, fast-paced, and simple enough to start playing almost immediately. Nobody remains a neophyte at baccarat for long. We hope we’ve given you the knowledge and confidence to choose your live baccarat tables wisely.
You can start your search by heading back up to the top of this article and checking out our list of top live baccarat sites.