How to Play Baccarat
Baccarat, enchanting as the game is, carries within itself the simplicity and candor of the fairest of games. The baccarat table is usually where the high-rollers reside. One of the most glamorous games in the whole casino, it embodies the captivating excitement, which gambling is all about. If you are not really good at blackjack or craps, then baccarat is just for you – if you want to entertain yourself with a game that offers fair odds of winning and a very small house edge.
How the Game Works
A comparing card game, baccarat is just a bit more complicated than a game of coin toss. There are four cards being drawn from the shoe, forming two hands – one for the Player (the Player does not represent you; this is not your hand), and one for the Banker (the Banker or the Bank does not represent the house, just like the Player is not you). The way the cards are dealt is as follows: one for the Player, one for the Banker, one for the Player, and another one for the Banker.
Bettors simply wager which hand will win – the Player or the Banker (it is like one is head and the other is tails). There is a third option – you bet that it will be a tie, but we would not advise taking this option because the odds of winning are terrible and it has a huge house edge. The only reason people find it alluring is because it pays 8 to 1. In comparison, the Player and the Banker bets pay evenly, i.e. 1:1 (the banker pays less, though, due to the additional 5% commission). The Tie is still not a good bet so we would advise you to stay away from it.
- Player Bet – 1:1, 1.24% house edge
- Banker Bet – 1:1 with a 5% commission, 1.06% house edge
- Tie – 8:1, 14.40% house edge
The winning hand is the one that has a value closer to 9. That’s it, really. This is all you need to know as a bettor in order to play the game. You will only have to make two decisions – how much do you want to bet and on which hand. Armed with this knowledge, you can go to the baccarat table and start playing right now. There are other things about the game, such as when additional cards are drawn and other details, which we will, of course, explain below, but this is what you actually need to know in order to play the game. Everything else is a bonus.
Cards’ Values and Hand Ranking
One of the most important things in baccarat is the way we count the hands – of course, it is different from the ranking of the hands in blackjack or poker. If you want to know the cards’ values, here they are – while an Ace is worth 1, all the low cards are worth their face values. So, for example, 2 is 2, 3 counts as 3, 9 as 9, etc.). Higher cards, starting from 10, are actually 0. This includes Jacks, Queens, and Kings, which are all worth 0.
Whenever a 2-card hand goes over 9, the first digit of the total is removed so that the highest score is always 9. If, for instance, we have a hand of 8 and 5, which sum is 13, the hand actually is counted as 3. Just to make sure everything is clear, here is an example from an actual game.
The dealer deals and when the Player’s cards are revealed (the Player’s hand is always revealed first), the hand consists of a King and an 8 – this is a Natural 8 because the king is 0, which is very tough to beat. However, the Banker’s hand is 10 and 9 – a Natural 9 (since the 10 is also 0). The Banker has a Natural 9, hence the Banker wins.
Everyone who has bet on the Banker collects their winnings. This is a very unlikely turn of events, in general, and we are just using it in this example because it would be easy to understand. Once we get drawing more cards in the equation, it becomes much more complicated.
Dealing the Cards
At the start of each coup – this is how the game round is called in this game, the cards are drawn from a shoe. The game is typically played with eight decks of cards, although there are also versions using six decks. The dealer deals four cards alternating between the Player and the Banker. The cards are placed on the table face down (unless you are playing Mini-Baccarat) and so there is a bit of tension and mystery before the outcome is revealed. The Dealer flips the cards, starting from the Player’s hand, and then, abiding by the rules of the game, he draws more cards if needed.
In some casinos, the Player’s cards are given to one of the bettors, usually the one with the highest bet, as a ritual, so he or she has the chance to have a look at them first. This plays no role in the outcome of the game and is for entertainment purposes only. The cards had been shuffled and cut before entering the shoe and then dealt without giving anyone the chance to choose which card to draw. Even though the outcome is unaffected, most players enjoy this bit because it adds even more substance to the game.
Drawing Additional Cards
Players do not really need to know these rules because they are enforced by the casino – when playing online baccarat, the rules for drawing additional cards are applied automatically. Players do not have any choice in the matter, and neither does the house. However, for information purposes, we will explain how and when more cards are drawn.
The Player’s Rule
Since the Player is the one dealt first, this is the hand getting to draw any additional cards if needed. The rule about the player cards is as follows:
- For values from 0 to 5 on the combination of the first two cards, the Player draws;
- For values from 6 to 9 on the combination of the first two cards, the Player stands (with 8 and 9 beings Naturals);
The Banker’s Rule
The Banker is dealt second. This is an important fact because this is how the Banker is given a bit of an advantage. Keep in mind that the Banker does not represent the casino, which means that if this hand wins, the casino does not actually win. Since the Banker has an advantage, the casino charges a 5% commission on every bet for the Banker. This means that if you bet on the Player and win, you will get your bet at even money (meaning you gain exactly what you bet).
However, if you bet on the Banker and win, you will get your bet at even money minus the 5% commission. Since the Banker is dealt second and has the advantage, casinos are protecting their interests by enforcing this commission. Whether the Banker draws another card depends highly on the Player’s hand, as well as on the total of the first two Banker cards.
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 2 or less, he draws a card, regardless of the Player’s score.
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 3 and the Player has drawn a third card other than an 8, then the Banker draws another card;
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 4 and the Player has drawn a third card from 2 to 7, then the Banker draws another card;
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 5 and the Player has drawn a third card from 4 to 7, then the Banker draws another card;
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 6 and the Player has drawn a third card 6 or 7, then the Banker draws another card;
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 7, he stands;
- If the Banker is dealt a total value of 8 or 9, this is a Natural, so he stands;
Finally, If the Player is dealt a Natural 8 or 9, then the Bank cannot draw another card because nothing beats a Natural other than a higher Natural (or they tie if they are both Natural 9). Those are the drawing rules. It sounds a bit complicated at first, but in reality, most players will not have trouble remembering them within a few games, even without trying to memorize them. You don’t really need to know how drawing additional cards works in order to have a good time and win some money.
How to Play Online Baccarat
Online baccarat does not differ a lot from the traditional game offered in land-based casinos. Of course, players need to take into account the different settings – the online environment and the virtual nature actually makes the game much simpler and faster. At the same time, playing solo against the computer may not be as fun for some players.
Choosing a Reliable Online Casino
Since the rules, payouts, and odds in most baccarat games are standard, it does not really matter what baccarat variant we will choose. What really makes a difference, however, is the casino we play at. It is important to pick an online platform, which is safe and offers fair, responsible gambling. The casino operator should be properly licensed and authorized to provide games of chance online – this does not only guarantee that the casino operates to high standards but it also gives players actual, legal protection in case of complaints and disputes.
Moreover, good online casinos offer their patrons fast and reliable payments via varied and secure banking methods. The more payment options available, the better. Overall, players should look for online casinos, which clearly display detailed information about the owner and operator of the platform, about the payments, the average payouts, etc. They should also check the customer support of the casino – what the average response time is, whether there is a phone line or a live chat feature around the clock, and others.
Online Baccarat Gameplay
The online version of the game is even easier than what is offered in physical casinos and is played at a faster pace. Each round starts when players make a bet – they are usually offered chips in various denominations between $0.50 to $20 (or even more in certain games). After choosing the size of their bet, players place the chip on the designated space for Player, Banker, or Tie bet.
Depending on the software, the dealing of the cards could be automatic or not. In most games, players need to click on the Deal/Draw button each time a new card has to be dealt to the two hands. The total score of each hand is displayed on the screen and the winner is automatically determined. The winnings are also paid immediately – note that the casino instantly takes the 5% commission from the payout, so players do not need to pay anything after the game. If, for instance, we have wagered $5 on the Banker and won, we receive $4.75, which is exactly 95% of the original bet.
Online baccarat is a fast game based purely on probabilities and while for some players, this is not as interesting as the live game, others prefer the virtual form of it for several reasons. First of all, they can usually opt for Autoplay or Fast Play, which allows for each round of cards to be dealt automatically – players do not need to flip over each individual card. This saves time and helps players play more rounds per hour.
The virtual game of baccarat also often comes with a history of the played hands and detailed statistics. They are displayed in the so-called Score Boards and there, we can see the past results of our gameplay – how many times the Banker and the Player won, how many times the round ended in a Tie, etc. The stats often come in several different boards and tables, namely the Bead Plate, the Big Road, the Big Eye Boy, the Small Road, and the Cockroach Pig.
Many versions of online baccarat also come with a Rebet/Repeat button. It allows players to make the same bet in the next round. In addition, some games have a multi-player option so players can make up to three or up to five bets per round. Of course, they will not be allowed to wager on the Player and Banker at the same time. One of the greatest features in virtual online baccarat is that we have instant access to the rules of the games, the payouts, and even the house edge or return percentages.
Odds and Payouts
Baccarat is one of the best games in the whole casino industry for many reasons. One of these reasons has to do with the fact that it offers a low house edge – it is 1.24% if we bet on the Player’s hand and 1.06% if we bet on the Banker’s hand. This gives players a fairly good chance to make some money.
The Effect of the 5% Commission
We have already explained the 5% commission paid to the casino for a winning Banker bet – due to it, the actual payout is 0.95:1. If that commission was not there, most casinos would lose a lot since the Banker is more likely to win. Even though the standard commission is 5%, some casinos offer a 4% or even 3% commission. If you see something like this, think twice before you play the game because there might be a catch. If the fee is lower than 5%, the house virtually has no edge, which begs the question why would they make such an offer?
Players should double-check everything to make sure there isn’t something else at play here, otherwise, you might find yourself liberated from a large sum of money. Moreover, if there is no commission at all and we play the same game with 8 decks, the house will no longer have an advantage over us – in fact, we will have an edge of 1.24%. This makes this version a positive expectation game, which is extremely rare for any type of casino game.
Beware the Tie Bet
Betting on a Tie gives the house a 14.40% edge, which is what makes it a really bad wager, even if the payouts are huge (8 to 1 in most cases). Players should not fall into this trap – if the payouts are big, then the chance of winning has to be low. There is one interesting exception to consider, however – in the UK, most casinos pay 9:1 for a winning Tie bet. In this case, the house edge is reduced significantly to 4.85%. It is still quite high compared to the two other options, though.
Overall, betting on a Tie is a bad idea. We simply cannot stress this enough! Despite the alluring payout, the whopping 14.3% casino advantage makes it one of the worst bets you can make, not just on the baccarat table, but in the whole casino.
Tracking the Shoe
Unlike blackjack, where card counting is not tolerated by the casino, you are actually allowed to track the cards in baccarat. Not only that, but the casino provides you with a card where you can put down the tally. You can record the winning hands, the losing hands, cards and anything else you are interested in. It seems good, right? The casino seems to be giving you an even bigger chance to win. And unlike counting cards on blackjack, it is not frowned upon. On the contrary – the house provides the tools.
If it sounds too good to be true, that is because it is. The reason why they will not let you count cards in blackjack is because it actually gives you a bit of an edge. In reality, counting cards is neither illegal nor cheating by the way – still, if you get caught, you will probably be asked to leave the establishment. The thing is that this skill improves your winning chances. When it comes to baccarat, things are a bit different – the house knows well that the previous hands have no effect on the following and that no matter how much you count cards and put things down, it still won’t matter.
Tracking the winning bets is basically nothing more than a ritual. It makes you feel better, but just like the many lucky charms, it does not really do anything except helping you believe in your luck or yourself. It is a mistake to increase or reduce the size of your bet when making predictions based on the previous results – the history and stats cannot help you make accurate predictions. Tracking the shoe and “counting” the cards is almost always pointless in this game due to the frequent reshuffling of the cards.
Counting strategies, even when they promise huge success, are not recommended. The reason is this – these are complicated strategies that require a lot of time and effort to learn. You need to be disciplined and very focused on the task at hand if you are to stand a chance of learning the strategy. This is not even mentioning the huge bankroll you require because you need to play for a long time in order to exploit the statistical variations. You may lose a lot of money to the house simply because you believed in a strategy.
As we have said above, there is no real strategy players should follow when betting on the baccarat tables. That being said, we can still give you a few tips that may improve your game or help you save some money.
The first rule is to always play the most favorable bets – in this case, this is the Banker since it offers the lowest house edge. Statistically speaking, if you place bets on the Banker’s hand, you have the highest probability of success. Remember the 5% commission, though. The total of the commissions is paid to the dealer before you leave the table or at the end of the shoe. Don’t forget that this money is not yours so do not count them as your own.
The other important tip players should know – never bet on Tie! If you bet on Player or Banker and it is a Tie, you don’t lose your bet – it is returned to you. However, if you bet on a Tie and one of the hands wins, you lose your bet. Furthermore, the chance of success is very small and the house edge – enormous.
Keep in mind that the past outcomes do not influence the next hands in any way. The fact that the Player’s hand has won five times in a row does not mean that this time it will be the Banker or Tie. There is no strategy that can ensure victory.
Baccarat – A Social Game
Getting a Natural on the hand you have wagered on is a really good feeling but it is not what makes the game so interesting. Getting a Natural almost always guarantees you a win but it also makes that particular hand quick and boring. The real magic happens where there are turnarounds and you are not sure what’s going to happen. Let us give you an example.
You approach the baccarat table and decide to place a bet. Following the set example, you bet on the Banker – as we said, the chance of winning is a bit higher, which is why most people bet on it, and wait for the cards to be dealt. The first card is dealt to the Player and it is an 8. This is bad news because if the second card is a 10, a King, a Queen or a Jack, he gets a Natural 8.
However, the chance for that is pretty small so you just patiently wait to see what the dealer has in store for you. The second card is dealt to the Banker. It is a 6, so you are waiting to see what the second card brings. The card dealt next to the Player is revealed. It’s a King, so the Player gets a Natural 8. The probability of success almost evaporated.
You, as well all the other people on the table who had wagered on the Banker start moaning, falling into a state of despair. There is almost no hope. Only a 3 can save you now. The dealer draws the second card and places it face-down on the table. The pressure is unbearable. What is it? Is it 3 – the savior of this hand, or is it anything else, which dooms you to lose your bet? Everybody becomes impatient. People tell the dealer to flip it. They want to know what happened. Everyone is waiting.
The dealer flips the card. It is a 3! You win! Almost everybody at the table wins and everyone starts cheering, high-fiving around, and congratulating each other. The atmosphere is electric. You collect your winnings and get ready for the next round. The dealer will then ask you for the 5% you owe the house before you leave the table. For now, you only need to focus on the next game.
As you can see in this example, the game can be pretty exciting. People share their emotions on the baccarat table, just like with any other social game. This is why we advise you to play real baccarat, not the Mini version. In it, there are fewer people playing, less excitement and the cards are always face up so there is no mystery. There is no magic. It is really not as enjoyable.