Hourly Hand Decisions in Baccarat: Is There Room to Improve?

Baccarat is becoming an increasingly more popular game on the casino floors of casinos worldwide. Players seem to understand they have a better chance at winning, and it’s a simple game. So how can we get more hands out?

Hourly Hand Decisions in Baccarat: Is There Room to Improve?

In the past year, several jurisdictions have opened their doors offering the game of baccarat for the first time. When introducing Baccarat or any new table game, the primary questions asked by management usually involve procedures for keeping the game safe from theft, cheating, and the occasional advantage play. This includes game format (mini or squeeze) and deck shuffling procedures (manual, machine, or manufactured pre-shuffled). Next management will determine the size of the table (seven, nine, or more positions), the type of Banker return (commission or non-commission), and finally the number and types of side bets that will be offered. Hopefully, these decisions are based on a reasonable market research study and not on “Let’s try it and see if it works.”

Once the games are open and operating, the next most common questions concern expected game performance such as daily average revenue and the “overrated” statistic of table hold percentage. One of the most important elements for achieving satisfactory performance numbers in any table game is the number of outcome decisions the game can generate during a specific period of play, for instance over an hour of average table wagering. The smart manager knows that the number of hand decisions equates directly to theoretical win and achieving an optimal number of decisions for his or her game type is one of the primary management goals. But how many hands are considered optimal?

In the spring of this year, I presented a virtual four-part series on Baccarat using the Zoom platform. One of the sessions involved a discussion on expected hand decisions per hour based on the type of dealing format. The premise for the expected decision assumptions is based on the use of a shuffle machine or pre-shuffled cards which also assumes a deck cutting and transfer down time of under a minute. Following is the number of average decision ranges, per hour based on the different game formats:

  • Mini Baccarat (standard delivery, 5 percent commission) – Range: 50 to 55 Decisions per Hour
  • Mini Baccarat (faceup delivery, 5 percent commission) – Range: 55 to 60 Decisions per Hour
  • Squeeze (standard delivery, 5 percent commission) – Range: 35 to 45 Decisions per Hour
  • Mini Baccarat (standard delivery, NO commission) – Range: 55 to 60 Decisions per Hour
  • Squeeze (standard delivery, NO commission) – Range: 40 to 50 Decisions per Hour

As a comparison, information received from the Far East casinos (Macau and Singapore) indicate that the “Tiger 6” NO commission Baccarat game (squeeze format) offered on the main casino floor generates an average decision range of 36 to 48 decisions an hour. The Tiger 6 game also offers several side bets including a variation of the “Dragon 7” side bet, and “Tie” combinations.

To achieve these ranges, management needs to place an emphasis on dealing hands at an upscaled pace, but without running over the customer in the process. Dealers must be educated in the need to achieve a good dealing pace and how to control the game to move the customers along during the “wagering contemplation” phase. In an attempt to aid the dealer, some casinos utilize a built-in timer on the scoreboard that alerts the dealer when wager contemplation time has expired.

Note: The time expended during wager contemplation is approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the total time spent to deal each hand. If this phase is not managed efficiently, the cost in lost revenue is incredible.

Paying attention to game pace and hourly decisions will assist in increasing your casinos expected win and will also significantly increase the baccarat game hold percentage.

Baccarat Performance Tip: The scoreboard can be utilized by management to indicate whether the dealers are inserting the plastic shuffle point card in a manner to deliver an optimal number of decisions per shoe. If the dealers are required to insert the shuffle point card approximately 15 to 20 cards from the back of the eight decks, the game will produce between 75 to 78 decisions/rounds per shoe. At the completion of the shoe, glance at the scoreboard to see what the number of decisions dealt was before the shoe was completed. If the average number of decisions indicated is less than 70, the dealers are not inserting the shuffle point card deep enough in the cards and they need to be re-educated on the procedure. Losing even 5 rounds on every shoe will result in a significant loss of game revenue by the years end. Regarding any questions, please contact Bill Zender at wzender@aol.com.

Articles by Author: Bill Zender

As former Nevada Gaming Control Agent, casino operator, professional card counter and casino consultant, Bill Zender has been involved in various areas of gaming and hospitality since 1976. In the past, Zender has instructed courses on game protection, card counting, advantage play and gaming operations at various colleges and institutions throughout the country. As a member of JMJ, Inc., Zender was an owner and operator of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino and has additional operational experience in card room casinos in California and is considered an expert in Asian gaming. Besides his practical gaming experience, Zender holds a bachelors in hotel administration and a masters in business. As a gaming author Zender has penned seven non-fiction books on gaming including Card Counting for the Casino Executive, and the Casino-ology series. Owner/consultant of Bill Zender and Associates, Zender spent was general manager at a major California cardroom casino from 2018-2019. For more information, visit billzender.com.