Baccarat is one of the oldest and most popular casino card games, a distinct favorite among high-rollers. The game is as easy as betting on the flip of a coin. It involves a banker or dealer, and two players also known as ‘punters.’ The game is similar to blackjack where players bet against the house. The croupier or dealer deals each player a maximum of fifteen cards. The objective is to receive a hand from the dealer a number as close to or equal to nine. To win the jackpot, a player needs to beat the dealer’s hand.
Playing baccarat is one of the most entertaining and social experiences you can have on the casino floor. With the rise of online casinos, baccarat has made its way onto the virtual market, as well. Nowadays, it is available globally in one form or another. It has never been easier to play a few hands and stake some money.
Getting into baccarat is simpler than most people would think. Below, we will explore everything you need to know about this game, how it works, and what you can expect from it.
History and Legacy of Baccarat
The origins of baccarat are not exactly as clear as we would like them to be. Like most classic table games, there is much speculation and fabrications about where baccarat comes from. There are those who claim that baccarat can be traced to the 14th century in Italy but this has been disputed time and again. It is a common understanding that the game comes from that part of the world but the exact year or century cannot be pinpointed with certainty.
The first authentic records of baccarat stem from the 19th century in France. Over time it had become the game of the upper classes and the aristocracy, rising to immense popularity with the rich. This is an image the game has cultivated over the centuries and even as baccarat has become accessible to all, this reputation remains. While baccarat was enjoying all-time popularity in France, it also picked up in different countries, such as England and later the United States.
The modern history of baccarat is much more detailed and easier to track. The first version of baccarat to appear in US casinos was Chemin de Fer in the Sands Casino in Las Vegas. Still, baccarat only became a major attraction with the introduction of Punto Banco to Vegas tables in 1959. This is the version that is featured at most Western casinos and Macau.
Nowadays, baccarat is still found at all respectable establishments, though it sometimes plays second fiddle to roulette and blackjack. But this is only in the West. In the East, baccarat has never been more popular. It is reported that baccarat tables bring in about 90% of all Macau gambling revenues. Many of the newer baccarat innovations came from Asia, rather than the West. This shows that this game has never fallen out of favor on a global scale and is more popular than ever before.
As far as the presence of baccarat in the virtual gambling industry is concerned, it is available to anyone who wishes to place a bet. However, it is often passed over for slots and progressive jackpots, as well as the myriad of blackjack and video poker variations. Still, those who are in for a great baccarat experience have multiple options at their disposal. Many modern online casinos offer both virtual and live dealer baccarat. Evolution Gaming, Playtech, Microgaming, and Ezugi all maintain some form of live baccarat which can be played at many different gambling platforms.
Rules of Baccarat
Baccarat at its core is a simple game that you can understand in only a few minutes. After a brief rundown, you can get to playing right away. Even if you do not know all the minute details and mathematical probabilities, you can still do alright.
Modern baccarat is usually played with eight standard 52-card decks. From time to time, you may encounter a table that uses six or fewer decks, though this is the exception and not the rule. Two hands are dealt for all players and you place your bets on the outcome of the draw.
The two hands are the Player’s Hand and the Banker’s Hand. What’s important to understand is that these names are used for stylistic purposes. This is not blackjack, where each individual at the table is dealt a hand, nor will the dealer receive one, either. The hands are, in this sense, communal and are for everyone at the table.
Before we continue, we first have to figure out what value each card holds. All face cards – think Jacks, Queens, and Kings – and the Ten, have a value of 0. The Ace holds a value of 1, while the remaining cards use their face value. Therefore, a hand made up of a Five and a Jack will have a total of 5.
The hands in Baccarat consist of two or three cards, depending on their value and the specific rules at the table. The Player’s Hand is the first to receive a card, followed by the Banker’s Hand. Then the process repeats and both hands will have two cards. If either has a total of 8 or 9, then that hand will stand and no more cards will be dealt to it. But if the value of the hand is lower than that, then according to the rules of the table, each hand may or may not receive a third card.
The two hands are governed by different rules and what goes for one will not necessarily go for the other. For instance, if the Player’s Hand has a total between 0 and 5, then it is dealt a third card. But if the value is either 6 or 7, then the Player’s Hand will stand and that will be its conclusive value for that round.
The Banker’s Hand follows a more complicated set of rules and the actions taken will also be influenced by the Player’s Hand. We have outlined the possible outcomes in the table below, for better readability.
|Banker’s Total||Draws Third Card If|
|2||Banker always draws third card|
|3||Banker draws third card if Player’s third card was 8|
|4||Banker draws third card if Player’s third card was 2,3,4,5,6, or 7|
|5||Banker draws third card if Player’s third card was 4,5,6, or 7|
|6||Banker draws third card if Player’s third card was 6 or 7|
|7||Banker always stands|
The maximum value of any hand is 9. If the total value of the hand exceeds that, for example, if two 5s are dealt, then the actual value of the hand will be 0. If a third card is added, for instance, a 7, then the hand total will be 7. The key thing to remember is that Baccarat hands can only have single-digit totals.
After the cards are dealt and the totals figured out, the hand with the higher value will be declared the winning one. Along with it, all wagers made on that hand are also successful. In the event of a tie – when both hands have the same totals – players do not lose money on their respective bets. Their money is returned to them and free to use in the next round. Of course, those who placed a Tie Bet will be pleased with the outcome since they are in for a big payout but more on that later on.
These are the basic rules of baccarat and how the game generally plays. These rules are for the most popular version and if you come across certain obscure or novel variations, they may not apply exactly. Still, most baccarat games available in North America and Europe follow this ruleset and if there is some deviation from it, then that game will go by a different name.
Baccarat Bet Types
Baccarat is different from other games of chance in that it offers multiple ways to stake your money. At face value, the three betting options are not particularly deep. However, there are much more intricacies to the main baccarat bets. Furthermore, certain variations of baccarat come with compelling side bets, giving you additional factors to wager on. For now, we will focus on the primary bets and take a look at the side bets later on.
The Player Bet is done by placing any number of chips on a potential Player’s Hand victory outcome. For this wager to be successful, then the Player’s Hand has to have a larger total than the Dealer’s. If you win the Player bet, then you will earn even money. This is represented by a payout ratio of 1:1. Therefore, by staking $10 on the Player bet, you will $10, for a net bankroll of $20.
It is worth bearing in mind that the Player bet is statistically worse than the Banker Bet. This has to do with the odds and probabilities, and the house edge that we draw from them. Though the house edge difference between the two is only 0.18%, it is always worth it to choose the Banker bet over the Player bet.
The Banker bet is the second betting option in classic baccarat. As you can imagine, this is a wager on the Banker’s Hand coming out on top. Therefore, after the cards are dealt, if the Banker’s Hand is higher in value than the Player’s, you win even money. Much like the previous wager, the payout ratio is 1:1.
However, there is something that you have to take into account. The Banker bet usually comes with a commission of 5%. Therefore, the actual payout ratio is 1:0.95. If you wager $10 on a winning Banker bet, you will receive $9.5 in winnings, for a net balance of $19.50. Some versions of the game waive the commission rule, which makes the bet even more appealing. Still, this is a rarity and most baccarat tables will feature the commission.
The Tie bet is the third and final of the main wagers that you will find at the Baccarat table. To win a Tie bet, then both hands have to be of the same value after all cards have been drawn. A winning Tie Bet will pay 8:1, though there have been instances of 9:1 payouts being awarded at certain casinos. Of the three wagers, the Tie bet is the least statistically likely to be successful and as such, it comes with the highest payout.
You may be drawn to the high payout ratio and think this is a good bet to make. However, the house edge on this bet is astronomically higher than the other two. Specifically, a Tie bet will come with a house edge of 14.4%, assuming an 8:1 payout ratio. Compared to the Dealer bet and the Player bet, which feature house edge values of 1.06% and 1.24%, respectively, it is a raw deal.
Baccarat Side Bets
Like most other table games in the modern casino world, certain baccarat variations come with additional betting options. These side bets can be placed alongside the three main wagers detailed above but they cannot be used on their own. You can make a side bet if you wish to add more risk and excitement to your experience. Naturally, the higher the risk, the better the potential rewards.
The nature of the side bets will vary depending on what variation you are playing but it usually has to do with some aspect of the hands in play. Below, you will find information about certain common side bets in the baccarat world.
The Dragon Bonus is arguably one of the more intricate side bets out there. It is commonly featured in online live dealer casinos and at several land-based establishments, as well. When you put down a Dragon Bonus side bet, you are wagering that your chosen Hand will beat the other by a certain number of points. The higher the difference, the higher your payout. The Dragon Bonus bet can be placed on both the Player and the Banker Hand.
The payouts for this side bet are as follows:
|Win by 9||30:1|
|Win by 8||10:1|
|Win by 7||6:1|
|Win by 6||4:1|
|Win by 5||2:1|
|Win by 4||1:1|
We have to point out that while the payout ratios are the same for both Hands, the house edge values vary. The Dragon Bonus on the Player’s Hand has an average house edge of approximately 2.6%. By comparison, the Banker’s Hand has a theoretical casino advantage of 9.4%. One is clearly better than the other and we recommend that you stick to the more worthwhile option.
The Pairs side bet is common in several card games such as casino poker and blackjack but it is also available at particular baccarat tables. This is a bet where you wager that a hand will include two of the same cards.
There are four main different Pair side bets that you can choose from. If you take the Any Pair option, you will win a 5:1 payout if either Hand features a pair. The house advantage for this bet is much higher than the standard for baccarat bets. Specifically, it comes out to around 14.5% with a six-deck shoe and about 13.7% if eight decks are used.
Alternatively, you can place your Pairs bet on the Player’s Hand or the Banker’s Hand. Both bets will pay 11:1 if you get it right.
Finally, the Perfect Pair wager will pay 25:1 (with some deviation at particular casinos) when a hand forms a pair of the same suit, for instance, two Jacks of Clubs or two Aces of Hearts. You should note that certain casinos allow you to place a Perfect Pairs bet on one hand or both of them. In the case of the former, the house edge will be around 13%, whereas the latter features a comparatively low casino advantage of 6.6%. In both cases, we assume eight decks are in play.
The Pairs side bets are best utilized when playing at a table with eight decks in the shoe. The more cards there are, in general, the higher your odds of forming the correct pair.
Big or Small
The Big or Small side bet deals with the total number of cards dealt to both Hands in a round of baccarat. The Small side bet can be won when only 4 cards are drawn and it pays 1.5:1. On the other hand, the Big option will pay when 5 or 6 cards are used and it comes with a payout ratio of 0.54:1.
Assuming these payout ratios for both options, we conclude that the Small bet has a house edge of 5.28%. The Big bet carries a house advantage of 4.35%.
House Edge in Baccarat
The house edge of any given casino game represents the statistical advantage the casino has over the players. This is how gambling establishments make their profits and this term is also a factor in the saying ‘The house always wins’. However, we all know that sometimes we leave the casino with full pockets. So how does the house edge actually work?
The statistical advantage of the casino may be the reason for its wealth but it is only realized in the long term. Specifically, after hundreds of thousands of hands are played, the numbers will show that the game has developed a bias for the house. But no single individual can realistically play that many hands. This is why in the short term anything is possible. You may make off with a large profit before the house edge can kick in. Still, if you play for long enough it will get you.
As far as baccarat is concerned, you will be pleased to know that this game has some of the lowest house edge values from all gambling games. Specifically, the Banker bet has a house edge of only 1.06%, while the Player bet gives the casino an advantage of 1.24%. The Tie bet breaks the norm by offering a house edge of 14.36%. These numbers are true, assuming you are at a table using eight decks in the shoe, featuring the 5% commission rule on Banker bets, and paying 8:1 on Tie bet wins.
However, there are different versions of baccarat and they may include a change in the rules. For example, there are baccarat variations that do away with the Banker bet commission or pay 9:1 for a Tie Bet. The number of decks in the shoe does play a role in the odds but it is much less pronounced than in blackjack, for example. At best, reducing the number of decks will reduce the Banker bet house edge by no more than 0.05%. In all cases, nothing to write home about.
The Banker bet commission has a greater effect than most people would think. Assuming the same 8-deck shoe and 0% commission, not only is the house edge reduced but it actually goes into the player’s favour. Specifically, a no-commission baccarat game will have a house edge of -1.24% for the Banker bet. Effectively, this makes the bet have an RTP value of 101.24%, which means that the statistical bias now favours you. Granted, no commission baccarat games are rare but they do exist.
As for the Tie bet, it normally features a payout of 8:1. As such, it features a house edge of 14.36%. These are downright awful odds for the expected return and you would do well to avoid this bet. However, some UK baccarat tables have been known to bump up the payout ratio to 9:1. In this case, the casino advantages fall by almost 10%. Specifically, a 9:1 Tie Bet will have a house edge of 4.84%. Oddswise, this is between European and American Roulette, though still far removed from the other two main bets in baccarat.
Baccarat Tips and Tricks
When playing baccarat, you may want to give yourself an edge. After all, playing the game is fun and scoring wins makes it even better. The best advice that we can give on this topic is to understand thoroughly how the game works. Knowing what each bet at the table is for and what the payouts are will help you make informed decisions that are based on facts, rather than fiction.
Judging purely by the odds, the Banker’s Bet is the most worthwhile of the three primary betting options at the baccarat table. It has the lowest house edge at only 1.06%. The commission on the Banker’s Bet may dissuade you at first, but it is still a better option statistically than the other two. There are even baccarat games online that do away with the commission altogether. As we covered above, removing the commission pushes the RTP in your favour, as long as the even-money payout is kept.
Something else that is in your best interest is to avoid the myths surrounding the game and gambling in general. Baccarat, much like many other table games, is based only on chance. Unlike in blackjack or video poker, you have no direct input on the outcome of the cards. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying to you and themself.
One thing you do control, however, is how you place your bets. Since baccarat pays even money in a more or less predictable manner, you can easily implement a betting system. The Martingale and Labouchere Systems are good places to start and we have articles that explain them in detail.
Another important aspect of gambling is to master the art of bankroll management. Knowing when to bet and when to walk away is key to maintaining a positive balance. Placing bets with your head is not particularly romantic but it will keep you in the game and understanding when to stop will prevent you from losing the shirt on your back. Never gamble with money you cannot afford to lose. Gaming is supposed to be a fun pastime, not a way to earn a living. It is never a good idea to play with the goal to win back what you have already lost.
Variations of Baccarat
As we have already established, Baccarat is an old game. With hundreds of years of history, it is no surprise that it has evolved over time. Some variations of the game are small scale, while others change parts of the core experience. Regardless, all originate from the same place and it is a good idea to know how each version works. While it is unlikely for you to find all versions of baccarat in a single casino, the educational value alone is worth it.
Punto Banco is the game that we have, so far, described above, though it may also appear simply under the label of ‘Baccarat’. This version of the game is most commonly found in the West and Macau. As you will already know by now, Punto Banco Baccarat is a casino game and this means that the casino takes on all bets, which is not the case with other versions. This makes it a popular option at many land-based and virtual casinos, as it is easier to organize. All in all, this whole page is dedicated to this specific game and there is little more that we can add to it.
Maintaining a Baccarat table is no easy job. It requires at least three people to man it and it takes up a lot of space, a lot more than it should according to some casino managers. That’s why, in the interest of cutting costs but still giving you a taste of the Baccarat experience, some smaller casinos offer Mini-Baccarat. This variation requires only one Dealer and a supervisor (or a Pit Boss) and the table is much smaller – instead of Craps-table size, it’s closer to Blackjack-size table.
As for the game itself, it plays just like its bigger sibling – you give the Dealer your cash and get some chips, then bet on the Player, Banker or Tie. However, the cards are dealt face-up, meaning you can see them as they are being dealt. You may not think this is a big deal, but trust me – it is. It kills a large part of the mystery, and hence the enjoyment and thrill of playing Baccarat. The payoffs are made by the Dealer after each round.
In a sense, Mini-Baccarat is the crude version of the real game. A large portion of the mystery, magic and glamour are taken away, replaced with efficiency and cost-effective solutions by the casino. It gives you the basics of the game, but it doesn’t really enable you to enjoy it in the same way you would when playing on the big table. It’s much faster and focused on effectiveness.
This is not what Baccarat is supposed to be about. Think of it this way – if Baccarat is a nice, juicy steak you eat a nice restaurant with a glass of exquisite wine, with classical music playing in the background, then Mini-Baccarat is eating a cheeseburger at a stuffed joint, sipping a soft drink right out of the bottle, trying to satisfy your hunger as soon as possible, with some pop music you can’t stand playing in the background. This is the difference for me. If you want to try the game, try the real thing.
Chemin de Fer
Chemin de Feris is a baccarat variation that traces its origins back to the 19th century. In comparison with modern Punto Banco Baccarat, Chemin de Fer is much more social and has more interactions between players. What’s more, this game also requires some level of decision-making by those at the table, unlike standard baccarat, where the game unfolds by itself.
In Chemin de Fer, one player is assigned the Banker’s role, while all others take on the role of the Player. The Banker is chosen at a fixed order and changes in a counterclockwise direction. Only one player can be the Banker at any time. The Banker uses the Banker’s Hand, while all others place their bets on the Player’s Hand.
The Banker places their bet. At this time, one player may choose to ‘go bank’ and match the full wager of the Banker. If no one chooses this option, then all others will place their bets. Chemin de Fer is zero-sum as far as the bets are concerned. This means that the Banker’s bet has to match the combined Player bets. If the Banker’s bet is larger than that of the Player’s total wagers, by-standers at the table may choose to chip in. If the Player’s wagers exceed that of the Banker, the Banker is given the option to match that. If the bets do not match, then the party with the excess sum has to reduce it to the appropriate amount.
Two cards are dealt face down to both the Banker and the Player Hands. The person with the highest Player Bet is chosen to represent the Player’s Hand. Both the Banker and the assigned Player look at their cards and if either one has a total of 8 or 9, this is announced and the cards are revealed. Should the Player have a total of 6 or 7, then they have to stand. But if the total is 5 or less, then they have to receive a third card.
Technically, this is the choice of the bettor, but etiquette dictates that they accept the card. This is done because the Player is also choosing on behalf of everyone else with a Player Bet and thus, the optimal strategy is used. After this, the Banker looks at their Hand and decides to either take or refuse a card, when the rules permit it.
When all cards are dealt, the two hands are compared. If the Banker wins, they collect all wagers. If the Player Hand wins, the winnings are divided proportionally between all Player bettors. If a tie occurs, the wagers are kept for the next round, until a decisive winning hand is dealt.
The role of the Banker can change between players when the current Banker wishes to retire. If a player can match the current bank, then they are granted the position. If not, then the next player in a counterclockwise order is chosen and they pick how large the bank will be. Usually, there is a minimum sum that a starting bank has to match.
Baccarat Banque is another version of the game, usually found in land-based establishments. This one puts increased emphasis on the role of the Banker. Baccarat Banque is played with three decks and the Banker will retain his position until all three are dealt out. That, or until they run out of money, or simply wish to leave the table.
The Banker role is usually granted to the player who is willing to risk the most and that becomes the initial sum of the bank. This person is seated between two other bettors and they are given the shoe to deal out the cards.
Much like in Chemin de Fer, the Banker bets on the Banker’s Hand, while all others at the table place their wagers on the Player Hands. An interesting change to the formula is that there are two Player Hands in this game. One goes for the people left of the Banker and one for those on their right.
The Banker player will deal three cards, one to themselves and one for each player to their sides. This is repeated until all three hands are made up of two cards. The rules regarding standing or getting a third card are identical as in Chemin de Fer.
The Baccarat Table
Aside from the enchanting atmosphere around the Baccarat table, the table itself looks interesting and might even intimidate a new player. It’s a lot bigger than your standard-issue Blackjack table. It can be comfortably compared to a Craps table. It can usually hold up to 16 players sitting down but sometimes standing observers are allowed as well.
There are betting boxes in front of the seated players corresponding to their seats but if you’re not sure where to place your bet, you can ask the Dealer. If you are an observer, then you will have no choice but to ask the Dealer where to place your bets. Worry not, though.
The personnel at the casino is usually polite and friendly, and since many of the high rollers tend to play Baccarat, you will see that the staff manning the Baccarat table is even friendlier. You can always ask questions if something is unclear and they will be happy to help.
The table is divided into two mirror parts with up to 8 seats on each side. No matter where you sit, you have three choices – bet on the Player, the Bank or a Tie. Sometimes, though, competitions arise and one side of the table starts to bet on the Player and the other side of the table starts to bet on the Banker. These aren’t real rivalries – it’s just something players sometimes spontaneously do. Casinos love those occurrences, because no matter who wins, the house is also victorious.
The personnel are situated in the middle. There are small indentations in the middle of the table, and this is where the staff sit or stand (depending on the casino). At least three people are needed to make the table work – at least two Dealers and a supervisor. Whatever the case, you can rest assured that if you play Baccarat, you will receive the best service in the house.
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