Baccarat is a popular card game in casinos the world over, due in no small part to its prevalence in the James Bond movie franchise.
The game itself is relatively simple once you get over the – slightly idiosyncratic – rules. We’ll come to those in detail in a moment, but for now, just bear in mind that this is a card game with rules all of its own. Don’t treat it like blackjack or poker – the ways you can win are vastly different, and online Baccarat takes some getting used to. Once you’re familiar with the rules, though, it’s an easy, quick, and fun game and there is plenty of upside to getting some experience before you hit the (virtual) tables to play a few hands.
The first thing to recognise about Baccarat is that there are multiple versions of the game – three of which are widely recognised. These are called Punto Banco, Baccarat Chemin de Fer (also known as Chemmy), and Baccarat Banque. We will be focusing here purely on Punto Banco, as it is almost certain to be the type you will encounter. In countries where casino gaming is permitted, roughly 90% of the Baccarat games on offer are Punto Banco, and this is also the case across all the best online casino sites. By all means, you can learn for yourself about the other types, but a thorough grounding in the most fundamental version of the game is by far the best place to start.
In any game of Baccarat, the cards will be dealt face down in two hands: Player (also known as Punto) and Banker (also known as, and you can probably see where this is going, Banco). It may seem like it would make sense for novice Baccarat players to look at the hands and hope that the “Player” hand turns out well but, in truth, it doesn’t actually matter. The “Player” hand does not belong to you, the “Banker” hand does not belong to the croupier. “Player” and “Banker” are just names; what actually matters is what you bet on.
Your bet is placed right at the start of the game, before a single card is dealt. You have three options: Player, Banker or Tie. The first two options are fairly obvious – bet on Player if you think the Player hand will win, and so on. You can bet on a tie – at much longer odds and with a greater house edge – if you want to take a riskier punt.
Once all bets are in, you as a player have done everything you are going to for the duration of the game. Every decision from this point on, as per the rules, will be in the hands of the dealer. The decisions they will make are governed completely by the values of the cards in each hand.
After the bets and the deal are completed, the cards are turned over – Player’s hand first – and the goal is to reach a points score of as close to nine as possible. Read on for more on how you reach nine, and why that’s the goal in this involving card game. You can learn more about how to play Baccarat here.
The first rule you need to learn about Baccarat is in regard to card values. Unsurprisingly, the number cards have points values which correspond exactly to the number on the card. In other words, the “2” card is worth two points, up to the “10” which is worth ten, and so on. The picture cards, though, are a little different. J, Q and K are worth zero points, while the “A” card is worth a single point. So if, for example, a hand of “6A” (a six and an ace) is dealt, its value is seven; if “8K” (an eight and a king) is dealt, its value is eight.
The next key rule is that only the “rightmost” digit of a score counts. This means that a total points value of 16 equates to a score of six, a value of 11 scores one, and so on. So if a hand with an 8 and a 6 is dealt, that’s a total of 14, and scores four. Nine is the highest score you can get, because if the card value is greater than nine, it enters double figures, and the first digit of any double-figure score is automatically disregarded. If either hand scores eight, or nine, the hand will end without any further cards being dealt. These scores, when they come from the first deal, are deemed Naturals, or Natural winners, and an 8 can only be beaten by a Natural 9.
If you’re thinking that this game sounds somewhat like Blackjack, you’re half right. However, in Blackjack, you have the choice to “stick” if you’re happy with your hand, or “twist” to receive another card if you want to up your total. In Baccarat, this decision is made for you. If the Player’s hand has a total of between six and nine, the score Stands – in other words, no further cards are turned over. If the hand totals five or less, the dealer will automatically Hit (turn over one additional card). The Player’s hand is now over.
At this point, the Banker’s hand is addressed. The “Banker” will Hit if they have scored 0,1, 2 or 3 (with one exception, as we’ll see later). They will always Stand on 7, 8, or 9. As we will see in the next section, what they will do with a hand of 4, 5, or 6 depends on the Player’s hand.
Because the Banker’s hand is played after the Player’s, there is a slight house edge in favour of the Banker, and a Banker bet in Baccarat is one of the most popular not just in this game, but in all of casino gaming. If you bet on the Banker and win, you will be paid out one-to-one, or “Evens”, minus a 5% commission amount that goes to the house – this is designed to ensure that people are disincentivised from always betting on the Banker. A winning Player bet pays out Evens without any commission, while if you successfully bet on the Tie you will be paid out at a rate of eight to one in most casinos.
Exceptions in the game of Baccarat
By and large, Baccarat is a game where both “Player” and “Banker” are dealt two cards each, and the game can be won and lost on those two-card hands. However, depending on the scores of the hands they have turned over, the Player, Banker or both can end up drawing one more card. This is one of the more complicated aspects of Baccarat, but remember, it won’t be you who decides when to Hit and when to Stand. It’s all triggered automatically, along the following lines:
- If the Player or Banker draws an 8 or a 9, this is deemed a Natural winner and ends the hand right away, unless the opponent draws the same, in which case it is a Tie, or betters it. No additional cards are drawn.
- If the Player draws a 5 or lower, they will always draw a third card. When the Player does not draw a third card, the Banker Stands on 6, and Hits on anything lower.
- When the Player does draw a third card, the Banker’s decision to draw is made based on the following criteria:
- If the Banker’s total is 2 or lower, they will always Hit.
- If the Banker’s total is 3, they will Hit if the Player’s third card is not an 8.
- If the Banker’s total is 4, they will Hit if the Player’s third card is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7.
- If the Banker’s total is 5, they will Hit if the Player’s third card is 4, 5, 6 or 7.
- If the Banker’s total is 6, they will Hit if the Player’s third card is 6 or 7.
- The Banker will always Stand on a total of 7 or higher.
After the third cards are turned over, the player with the highest total is the winner, although there is still the possibility of a Tie. Don’t go crazy betting on the Tie, though, as it comes with a steepling house edge of 14.36%
Before we finish, there is one other thing worth noting. Any offline casino will provide “Outcome” pads to players, which allow them to take note of how each game has gone, helping them to play the probabilities by monitoring long winning streaks for one side or another. Online, most new casinos will automatically keep track for you. If they do not, make sure you keep a pen and paper by your computer. Keeping tabs on how the game has progressed can help you with your betting strategy.
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