Even if you're a regular casino player, baccarat is an easy game to ignore simply because it does not have the high profile presence on casino floors as games like blackjack, craps and roulette.

Is baccarat a game for millionaire jet-setters, or does it have a place in the scheme of things for average players?

In some gaming jurisdictions around the country, including Northwest Indiana, the game is a huge attraction and a major source of casino revenue.

Many average casino-goers who have no experience playing the game wonder if it's worth playing, or even fun to play. They wonder if it's just a guessing game, and if there is any strategy involved in decision making.

A version of the game called mini-baccarat failed to attract broad appeal. The glamour version, grand baccarat, has an elite reputation and is not readily available.

In spite of a very low house advantage and the efforts of the casino industry to make it more appealing to a broader audience, baccarat is generally perceived as having niche followings among high rollers and the Asian community.

It's a curious reputation for a game, which, from the player's perspective, is easy to play: Simply choose among three bets, Banker, Player or Tie, and the dealer does all the work. Cards are dealt, the winning hand determined, and bets settled.

One cumbersome aspect of play with which baccarat is saddled is the five percent commission that players must pay on a winning Banker bet. The game's math dictates this commission in order to keep it profitable for the house.

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The challenge has always been how to eliminate the commission without changing the drawing rules of the game. DEQ Systems Corp., a worldwide provider of gaming technology products, came up with the answer a few years ago.

The company developed a game it calls EZ Baccarat.

Instead of changing the rules, DEQ Systems changed the math by preventing the Bank from winning on a specific hand, namely a three-card total of seven, and adding an insurance bet called "Dragon 7" that pays 40 to 1 in the event the bet is made when the "barred" hand occurs.

EZ Baccarat preserves the traditions of the game for its core supporters while opening the door for new players who no longer have to be confused over settling the commission.

The modification is really an advantage for baccarat players. It is equivalent to a commission of 4.914 percent, lower than what previously existed, and reduces the house advantage on winning Banker bets from 1.058 percent to 1.018 percent. The edge on winning Player bets remains 1.24 percent.

The casinos benefit from more decisions per hour, and of course the Dragon 7 insurance bet, which packs a hefty house edge of 7.61 percent. The odds against the bank drawing to a three-card total of seven and winning are 43.4 to 1.

The appeal of the game within the industry is evident.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at jbrokopp@comcast.net. John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.


Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.