On most nights, table game pits are busy; some nights, they’re hectic. And then there was Sunday night, Feb. 19, at the Commerce Casino near Los Angeles, when 140 tables of EZ Baccarat were active at the same time, serving more than 1,000 players.
“It sounds like science fiction,” said Francisco “TJ” Tejeda, a co-creator of the game. “I don’t know of any proprietary baccarat game or table game, for that matter, that has ever had 140 active tables at one time in the U.S. or Canada.”
Few North American casinos have 140 tables for one type of game, even a legacy (non-trademarked) game such as blackjack. An analysis by the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas found that all Nevada casinos combined had 3,905 table games at the end of 2022. The most common was blackjack, with 2,016 tables; baccarat and mini-baccarat combined for 516.
In a statement last week announcing the Feb. 19 accomplishment, Commerce CEO and president Jeff Harris said that with 140 EZ Baccarat tables, the cardroom is “the largest baccarat casino in North America.”
The Commerce website features an around-the-clock display of the number of active tables for each type of table game, updated every 10 minutes. For example, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time on April 17, it showed 37 active EZ Baccarat tables. The second most-active game was 21st Century Blackjack at five tables.
The Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t have a listing for most tables of a proprietary game in action at the same time, although it notes that the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut had 1,610 slot machines operating simultaneously.
Tejeda said the 140-table experience at Commerce didn’t involve any promotion for playing EZ Baccarat. Regardless of whether the action that night is recognized as an official record, he said, it illustrates the popularity of EZ Baccarat. The game has the same drawing rules as regular baccarat, but eliminates the 5% commission for payoffs on a winning Bank hand. To make up for that, a Bank bet pushes when Bank wins with a 3-card 7. EZ Baccarat has two side bets: Dragon 7, which pays 40-to-1 when the Bank wins with a three-card 7, and Panda 8, which pays 25-to-1 when Player wins with a three-card 8.
Tejeda said EZ Baccarat placed its first two tables in 2008 and has enjoyed a “trajectory of success” since then, even with a slowdown during the worst of the COVID pandemic. California is the largest EZ Baccarat market, with more than 530 tables in 50 casinos. EZ Baccarat is nearing a total of 900 tables installed in more than 150 North American casinos. Its largest and fastest-growing markets outside California are Alberta and Ontario, Canada.
“The brand is starting to gain more market,” Tejeda said, citing “powerhouse” operators including Hard Rock, Caesars, Boyd, and Penn National among its clients. “Once the brand gets some traction, it builds on itself. We rely strictly on word of mouth from the customers.”
Tejeda said players like the game because it’s easy to understand and has a strong social component. From an operator’s standpoint, EZ Baccarat deals more hands per hour than any other baccarat game, thanks to the time-saving elimination of the commission.
“Our classic EZ Baccarat player is an Asian-American – regular people, not high rollers,” Tejeda said. While some EZ Baccarat tables are placed in high-limit rooms, most are on the main gaming floor.
He said EZ Baccarat sought to be different from the outset, including in its pricing approach. Tables cost a flat $600 a month, regardless of the operator’s size, with the operator keeping all revenue the game produces. The price hasn’t changed and Tejeda said it won’t, even amid the pains of inflation and predictions of a recession.
In the game’s early days, the one-price policy was deemed “a crazy idea,” he said, but over the years, it has helped solidify EZ Baccarat’s popularity among operators and brand recognition among players. “We want market share,” he said. “We want a little bit from many many customers.”
Scientific Games and its subsidiaries distribute EZ Baccarat.