The highly popular casino-based card game of Baccarat is undoubtedly one of the more opaque table games, especially when compared to the accessibility of poker and the simplicity of Blackjack. However, despite its complexity, Baccarat remains one of the most popular card games in the world, played everywhere from informal get-togethers in homes to the best online casinos – so there’s clearly a lot of fun to be had if you can overlook the initial confusion. The good news is that it doesn’t take long to learn, and if you can get the hang of this popular table game, and, in time, you could well find it the most enjoyable of the wide range of casino games online.
Just so you’re up to speed, bear in mind the first rule you need to learn before you go any further – the name of the game is pronounced with a silent “t”. It may not matter if you’re just playing online, but pronouncing it “back-a-rat” is perhaps the quickest way to advertise to more experienced players that you’re a novice. That’s not a mistake you’ll easily recover from!
Playing online Baccarat is simultaneously one of the most simple and most complicated processes you’ll find yourself involved in in an online casino. The rules are not exactly simple, but in terms of what you need to do during the game, there’s really not much that you need to remember. Basically, you will place bets, deciding on which of two hands of cards will be the “winner”. This involves a certain element of guesswork, though you can improve your chances by monitoring the way that each hand goes.
The rules of an online game will be – unless otherwise stated – the classic rules of the most common form of Baccarat. Known as Punto Banco, this game is the version of choice in pretty much every establishment, be it a new casino or a more traditional land-based operation. The reason for Punto Banco’s popularity is simple: it’s the most basic form of the game, and is far easier to get to grips with than the more advanced forms. If you see that the game is referred to as Chemmy (or Chemin de Fer), or Banquette, walk away – Punto Banco is the best choice for newcomers to Baccarat.
So, to Punto Banco, and how to play it. The first rule to be aware of is quite simple. You make your bet before the action begins, choosing one of three options: Player, Banker, or Tie. We’ll come to how the game is won and lost in due course, but it’s worth knowing for now that the names “Player” and “Banker” refer specifically to two hands, initially dealt face-down, which you bet on without seeing them. Each hand initially has two cards, though another can be added to each depending on a complicated list of rules and exceptions. Don’t worry too much about all of those rules, because Baccarat is a passive game. Once you’ve bet, you have nothing more to do but watch.
Baccarat is won by the hand that has the highest numerical value from 0 to 9. The number cards from 2 to 10 are assigned the points value of the number on the card – so a 2 gives you two points, and a 10 gives you ten points. The picture cards give no points at all, aside from the Ace, which is worth one point.
So what happens if your points total is higher than nine? To explain that as simply as possible, your hand’s value is equal to the last digit of the total points. If you are dealt a two and a three, the total is five (5), and your score is five. If you are dealt a seven and an eight, the total is fifteen (15) and the score is five. Your score is always the end digit of the points total and, therefore, can never be higher than nine.
Technically, the answer to this question is that you don’t really play Baccarat. You bet on the games, but every decision in the game is preordained by a set of rules. So to put it another way, you play Baccarat by betting on how the cards will fall. You don’t call, or fold, like in Poker. You don’t stick or twist, like in Blackjack. You control only the amount that you bet, and what you bet on. As you may have gathered, there is a substantial element of luck in this game, but if you have a decent understanding of probability you can assign your bets based on your observations as each hand is played.
Every in-game action is controlled by the dealer. They take the bets from the players, and then turn the cards face-up to see which hand wins. If one hand – Player or Banker – has scored eight or nine, that is considered an automatic winner, or in Baccarat terminology, a Natural. However, depending on how the hands have fallen, there may be a need to deal a third card, or Hit. A hit will happen, automatically, if the Player hand scores five or lower. If the player hand scores six or more, their hand will stay as it is, or Stand.
What happens with the Banker hand is more complicated still, but to sum it up in a few lines:
- If the Banker hand’s score is 0, 1, or 2, there will always be a Hit.
- If the Banker hand’s score is a 3, and the Player hand has Hit, so will the Banker unless the card drawn by the Player was an 8.
- If the Banker hand’s score is a 4, there will be a Hit if the Player hand has Hit and drawn any card from 2-7.
- If the Banker hand’s score is a 5, there will be a Hit if the Player hand has Hit and drawn any card from 4-7.
- If the Banker hand’s score is a 6, there will be a Hit if the Player hand has Hit and drawn a 6 or a 7.
- If the Banker hand’s score is a 7, 8, or 9, it will always Stand.
Again, while that is a lot of detail to keep in mind, you won’t need to put it into practice or perform an action dictated by the rules – remember, all of this will happen automatically. The dealer will always follow the precise rules of the game of Baccarat, so the bet you make before the cards are even dealt is your first, last, and only action in a game.
How, then, can you play Baccarat successfully? Well, as we’ve pointed out, there is a large element of luck to the game. You, as a player, can be more successful by applying probability and betting accordingly. The more times one side wins in a row, the greater the chance that the opposite side will win the next hand; while it’s not certain that the Player will win after a long run of Banker wins, probability dictates that the Player will win slightly less than half the time. We’ll explain why in the next section.
There are three possible outcomes to a game of Baccarat. The Banker will win if their score exceeds the Player’s, and vice versa. Additionally, both hands can have the same score, which is known as a Tie.
The odds are set based on the chances of each outcome occurring. The odds on the Banker winning are set at Evens, or 1/1, and the same for the Player winning. Because the likelihood of both hands scoring identically is more distant, the odds on a Tie are set at 8/1 in most casinos; in some, it may be 9/1 – double check the rules to verify this before settling to play.
What you may have noticed, if you are something of a statistics nerd, is that the Banker actually has a slightly increased chance of winning, because their cards are dealt after, and in reaction to, the Player cards. As the given odds on a Player win and a Banker win are invariably the same (1/1 in both cases), this makes the more dynamic Banker hand the obvious choice for bettors. As a result, the house will invariably apply a commission on winnings from any Banker win – usually between 4-5%.
There is no guaranteed strategy for winning at Baccarat – it is, after all, a game of random chance. However, hopefully with the information contained in this guide and your own keen understanding of probability, you can have an enjoyable and successful time playing this entertaining card game online.
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