A casino card game of chance, baccarat is especially popular among high-rollers in Asia who often frequent Macau casinos looking for a Baccarat table. And thanks to modern technology, this classic game now enjoys a similar popularity in online and live dealer casinos.
One of the reasons for this is because the game is very simple and fast to play. Namely, to win at Baccarat you don’t have to use a specific strategy, because the game is based entirely on chance, with luck being the most important factor for winning.
How to Play Baccarat?
Baccarat is played with up to 8 decks of cards and in order to play it, gamblers have to first place a bet on the banker, player, or go for the tie bet. Once wagers are in place, the banker and player are dealt two cards. The hand that is closest to 9 in value, or has the highest rank, wins the bet.
There are also variations of Baccarat that have side-bets like the Banker Pair and Player Pair bets. These two bets are basically bets on whether the first two cards dealt to the banker or player will be a pair or not.
While this sounds as simple as it can get, there are several important things you need to keep in mind. First of all, the hands’ value is ranked differently than in other card games. And secondly, there are rules that allow for a third card to be drawn.
Baccarat Hand Values
Baccarat hands are ranked according to the right-most number of their sum in total. For example, if you have a 7 and 6 (a total of 13) the hand values as 3. The card’s face value is also counted differently, as follows:
- Aces only have a value of 1
- Face cards and 10s have a value of 0
- Number cards (2 to 9) retain their original value (e.g. a 3-card is counted as 3)
When Can You Get a Third Card?
The third card rule may have some alterations in different versions of Baccarat, but it mostly follows the same principles as the original Baccarat game. In short, this rule states when a banker or the player can draw a third card.
The easiest way to remember the third card rule is to remember the hands that it’s applied to:
- If a player’s hand value is a total of 5 or less (0-5), a third card can be drawn.
- If a player’s hand value is a total of 6 or 7, the player must stand.
- When the player stands, the banker can draw a third card if he has a total of 5 or less (same) or stand at a total of 6 or 7 (same).
- In all other cases, whoever has a hand of 8 or 9 will win.
Once a third card is drawn, a new set of rules is followed, which varies according to the game played. The best way to master the third card rules is to pick one Baccarat variation and then memorize that rule table before moving on to others.
Choosing What Bets to Make in a Game of Baccarat
Unlike Roulette, or Craps, you really don’t have much choice when betting on Baccarat. This is exactly what makes the game more attractive, as it’s simpler to play. However, before you decide on what bet is best, there are a couple of things you need to understand:
- There are three different payouts in Baccarat – The banker/player bets are paid 1:1, the tie bet is paid either 9:1 or 8:1 (more common) and the side bets are usually paid 12:1.
- The banker bet is statistically more advantageous, with (app) 45.85% chances of winning a hand, while the player bet has a 44.6% chance of winning.
- The tie bet is far behind both banker and player bets, as it has only a 9.54% chance of winning.
Thus, the most lucrative option would be to go for the tie bet, but at the same time this is the least likely win, statistically speaking. This is why most people stick to either the player or the banker bet.
However, it’s also important to note that most online casinos also charge a 4-5% commission on the banker’s bet to tilt the house edge in their favor. If not for this commission, the casino will risk losing money. Yet, even with a 5% commission the banker bet is still the best bet to make, as it has the lowest house edge of 1.06%, while player and tie bets have a house edge of 1.24% and 14.4%, respectively.
Different Variations of Baccarat
You can find almost the same variations of Baccarat in both online and land-based casinos, simply because online games were adapted from the real versions. The most popular choices are as follows:
- Chemin de Fer – The original (and French) version of Baccarat played with 6 decks. In Chemin de Fer, the banker’s role is taken on by players and the player can decide whether he wants a third card or not.
- Punto Banco – The most well-known version of the game, as played in South and North America, Asia, and Australia. In Punto Banco, the casino takes on the banker’s role and a third card is automatically given to the player, per standard rules.
- Baccarat Banque – A European version of the game that’s played with fewer decks (normally 3) and the banker’s role is given to one player. The game also has different third card rules that vary from one casino to the next, or one game developer to another.
- Baccarat Mini – As the name implies, this is a scaled-down version of Baccarat, with less players and only one dealer taking on the banking and dealer role. The entry wagers are also lowered, while the rules are similar to Punto Banco.
- Baccarat Pro – A game with standard rules but more betting options and better payouts on the tie bet ( 9:1, rather than the usual 8:1).
- Live Dealer Baccarat – Online versions of the game dealt by human dealers in real time and streamed from a casino or live studio.
Fewer Decks = Better Chances
A game of baccarat is played with 6 or 8 card decks shuffled together, with 8 decks now becoming a standard. Naturally, it is better to play Baccarat with 6 decks or even lower, simply because the fewer the decks, the better the winning chances. In other words, the odds are better and tipped more in your favour if you play games with fewer decks.
What’s the Best Strategy?
Baccarat is not the same as playing Blackjack. In a game of Baccarat, there are no complex strategic moves you have to memorize to decide when to hit, stand, split, or double down. No. With Baccarat, all you have to do is pick a bet and wait for the hand to play out before you win.
Thus, the only strategic choice you can make is to go for the banker or player bets, which have the lowest house edge, and avoid the tie bet at all costs. That is, if you don’t want to bet your money on the worst odds at the table. Needless to say, the side-bets are also to be avoided. Other than that, it’s all about staying disciplined with your money and enjoying yourself.