The Monte Carlo of the east, as Macau has been called, gives its name to one lesser known member of the Baccarat family of games. Despite the mystique around it, Baccarat play is deceptively simple, and play in Macau is even more so. Origins of the game are hazy, with different sources attributing it to different groups and different places. It is thought by most to be a forerunner to Baccarat that was imported to Europe by sailors returning from Asia.
How to play
Macau first appeared in Europe in the early 1700s, and many variations on the rules are on record. Players may choose their own configuration to add to the excitement, or stick to the basics and leave the money at stake responsible for the buzz.
In Macau, there is no house involvement, and all players bar one bet against the banker, a role which rotates around the table. This means that the majority of casinos will not spread the game.
To get started, two decks are shuffled together and cut. The banker retains his role until he busts, or until the two decks have been dealt. Before each deal, bets are placed by each player according to the agreed limits. The banker deals then a card face down to everyone at the table, and finally to himself. Here, there are two key differences from other forms of Baccarat. Firstly, normally only one player hand would be dealt, whereas Macau works with several player hands – often up to a total of ten, but more is not unheard of. Secondly, the initial hand is comprised of only one card, rather than two.
Nevertheless, the objective is to have a total of as close as possible to nine points in hand, where aces count for one, twos to nines are counted at pip value, and tens and face cards count for exactly zero. Following the initial deal, a player has the right to request further cards should he or she choose to. All further cards will be dealt face up.
Some variants of Macau match closely to Baccarat in that just one additional card can be requested, and if the total score is greater than nine, only the units digit counts (a total of fifteen gives just five points). Other records state that as many cards as desired could be requested, but that once a player’s total exceeds nine, he or she is declared bust. When breaking a tie between two identical scores, the number of cards in the hand determines the winner, the fewer the better. This means a hand of four twos loses to a hand of two fours, for example.
Payouts in Macau differ slightly from Baccarat, too. A player winning with a one card total of nine is entitled to winnings of three times his total bet – a windfall by Baccarat standards. A one card total of eight merits a pay out of double the initial wager, also a considerable victory. Should a player win with a total of seven points or fewer, or by using more than one card, their winnings are equal to the amount staked. One card totals of eight and nine are were originally named a Kleiner Schlag and a Großer Schlag respectively. UK players wishing to avoid gratuitous offense are likely better off using the term natural.
Most variants of Macau have the dealer winning the bet in the event of a tie, whereas others would declare it a push. This decision can be left up to group of players.
Like most variants of Baccarat, this is purely a game of chance! The enjoyment here comes not from strategizing and psychological play, but from the rapid exchange of the money wagered. As with Chemin de Fer, it is prudent to hit when dealt zero to four, and to stand on six and greater. When holding a total of five, do what your instinct tells you!
The most profitable position is that of the dealer, especially in games where the dealer takes the entire bet in the event of a tie. That being said, dealing a round and then getting up and leaving with your likely winnings is a sure-fire way to make yourself very unpopular indeed.
Where to play in the UK
As with Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque, Macau has been largely supplanted by Punto Banco, the latter being more simple for the player and faster for casinos. Games where the player bets against other players, with the exception of poker, have fallen out of favour with gaming operators.
However, Macau is the most simple variant of Baccarat, and the only variant that affords the opportunity to act on a hand to each and every player. It’s therefore a strong choice for player-dealt private games.