Baccarat is a traditional casino game, one of the oldest card games in the world, and the game of choice for players in European and Asian casinos. The game rewards ambitious bets and, due to its simple rules and lower house advantage, is currently one of the most popular at online casinos. The game has many variations, but the most played versions are punto banco (the variant we’ll cover in this article), chemin de fer, and baccarat banque.
Baccarat gained mainstream attention thanks to the world’s most famous secret agent, as it has been depicted in many James Bond movies, like For Your Eyes Only, starring Roger Moore as the man with a license to kill. The game originated in Italy, as one of the many ancient Italian card games, with its first accounts dating back to the 1400s, and then was introduced in France at the end of the 15th century, by soldiers returning home from the Franco-Italian War. By the end of the 19th century, baccarat had become a popular pastime among French nobility.
The variant we know today, which is the most common version at American land-based and online casinos, punto banco was created in Havana in the 1940s. When the first Las Vegas casinos were built in the 1950s, baccarat was already one of the games available then.
The game’s popularity in the United States has been increasing in the past few decades, and today most online casinos offer baccarat and its many variations, including live baccarat, which is managed and operated by professional croupiers, and streamed to players all around the globe.
In this article, we present the basic rules of the game, and some useful tips that can help players improve winnings. However, since baccarat is strictly a game of chance, there isn’t a single strategy that guarantees wins, so it’s important to gamble responsibly.
The rules of baccarat are very simple and straightforward, and a bit similar to blackjack. Two hands are dealt every round: the player hand and the banker hand. The goal is to make hands that add up to nine or as close as possible, and just like blackjack, the player and the banker can opt to draw another card or stand, but it depends on the value of the initial hand. Each card represents the same value as its face number, whereas 10, J, Q, and K represent a zero, and aces account for one.
Bettors can wager on the player hand to win, on the banker to win, or on a tie, which pays out more than the other choices, but present worse odds as well. Some casinos also offer the pair bet, which pays out if the banker or the player comes up with a pair of cards of the same rank.
If neither the player nor the banker is dealt a total of 8 or 9 in the first two cards, which is known as a natural, both hands must draw another card, starting with the player’s hand. If the player has an initial total of 0-5, a third card is dealt. But if the initial total equals 6 or 7, the player stands.
If the player stands, the banker acts according to the same rule, drawing another card for totals below 5, and standing with 6 or 7. However, if the player draws a third card, the banker act as it follows:
- If the banker total is 2 or less, then the banker draws a third card, regardless of the player’s third card
- If the banker total is 3, then the banker draws a third card unless the player’s third card is an 8
- If the banker total is 4, then the banker draws a third card in case the player’s third card is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
- If the banker total is 5, then the banker draws a third card if the player’s third card is 4, 5, 6, or 8
- If the banker total is 6, then the banker draws a third card in case the player’s third card is a 6 or a 7
- Finally, if the banker total is 7, the banker stands
Just like other casino games, game selection is an important factor, as it can improve winnings, or at least increase bettor’s odds. At land-based casinos, players can find baccarat tables using eight decks of cards, six decks, or one deck. The house edge, which is the amount punters lose on average over time, is different for each one of these setups, and single-deck games have the lowest house edge, usually 1.0117 percent, so it’s preferable to play these tables. Since most online casinos today feature single-deck games, this shouldn’t be an issue when playing online baccarat.
According to statistics, the banker hand tends to win 50.68 percent of the time, so when handling standard wagers and trying to improve winnings, it’s better to play the banker bet. It’s also important to notice that, even though they might seem attractive bets due to their higher payouts, the pair and the tie bets are bad choices, since the chances of winning are thinner, and the house edge on these bets is too high.