Baccarat Frequently Asked Questions
What is Baccarat?
A shroud of mystery surrounds the game of baccarat, yet underneath the strange table felt and silent players is a simple game. Of all the casino table games, baccarat is by the far the most misunderstood by recreational players.
However, it shouldn’t be because the game is very simple and basically involves no strategy or technique to be able to play. It’s a very simple game to learn, as the action is basic and straightforward, particularly in popular mini baccarat versions available in almost all casinos. The language used when playing baccarat is also easy to learn, simply check out our comprehensive baccarat terms guide.
The game came to fruition in the 1800’s in France and is thought to be an evolution of a series of other popular card games at the time. You’ll find three main versions of the game including:
- Punto Banco, otherwise known as American baccarat.
The American version of the game is purely based on luck as the player takes no action in the game. In the other two versions, players will make choices and thus bring some strategy and skill into the game. The house edge will remain the same, however, so it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Punto Banco, or American baccarat, is by far the most popular form and is the game you’ll find in most casinos both online and bricks and mortar. Punto Banco is the version of the game we’ll focus on in this guide and in particular the mini version of this game.
Who Wins and Who Loses
In the game of baccarat, the player can make a bet on whether the banker will win, the player will win, or if the hand will be a tie between these two. After bets have been placed, the dealer will deal two face up cards for both the player and the banker. These cards will be assigned a value based on the card ranks.
If certain values are attained by either the player or the banker the hand is over. If not, then more cards will be dealt based on the value of both hands. The hand with the higher value will win and the relevant players will be awarded a win based on their initial bets. The player and banker bets pay out at even money, and a tie bet pays out at 9 to 1 or 8 to 1, depending on the casino’s house rules.
In baccarat, a shoe is used to deal cards from and this generally contains either six or eight decks which have been shuffled beforehand. In punto banco high stakes play, a large table is used with three dealers. One will manage the game while the other two take commission and control bets and winnings. Mini baccarat is a smaller version of the table that you see on the casino floor with just one dealer and a number of seats available to players, similar to a blackjack table.
This is a very brief overview of how the game works and we’ll go into much more detail in the next section, and you can also check out the Wikipedia page.
How Do I Play Baccarat?
In essence, baccarat is a very simple game to play and you don’t really need to know the rules at all as the dealer will control all the action. Playing in Vegas and online it is quite simple. Just make a bet on the player or banker and take note of the action. The tie bet should be avoided due to the high house edge, although it can provide some extra entertainment and excitement for some players.
Initial Bet and Cards Dealt
After all bets at the table are made, the dealer will give both the player and banker two cards each. In some forms of the game, these will be dealt to players face down in a casino when a player is making bets on themselves, although it doesn’t really matter as no secrecy is required.
Baccarat Hand Rank
In mini-baccarat, they’re dealt face up. From the two cards, a hand value is determined. Face cards and tens have a value of 0, aces are worth 1 point and the rest of the cards are worth their actual rank value. Zero is the lowest score a hand can be and nine is the highest. If an eight or nine is dealt initially it is known as a natural and the hand is over immediately. When hand values go above 9, the second digit of the hand value is used. So a hand with a rank value of 15, will actually be a score of 5 in baccarat.
Getting a Third Card
If neither the dealer nor the player has a natural eight or nine, then the player must hit with a five or less, and stand with six or more. If the player stands, the banker will hit with a hand value of five or less. When the player hits, the banker will hit based on the player’s third card, and what their total is.
I’ve listed out the banker’s action as follows:
- When the banker has a value of seven, they always stand.
- When the banker has a value of six, they hit if the player received a six or seven. Otherwise, they stand.
- When the banker has a value of five, they hit if the player received a four, five, six, or seven. Otherwise, they stand.
- When the banker has a value of four, they stand if the player received a zero, one, eight, or nine. Otherwise, they hit.
- When the banker has a value of three, they stand if the player took an eight. Otherwise, they hit.
- When the banker has a value of a two or less, they hit every time regardless of what the player has.
This is by far the most complex part of the game. Never fear though as you won’t be asked to control it. The dealer will know exactly what action to take in every situation and will do so quickly so you can just sit back and wait for the final hand value to be revealed.
Whichever hand has the highest value will win the hand. Both dealer and player bets will be paid out at even money, and the losing hand bets will be taken away by the house.
Hands that Tie
If the hand is a tie, then only those betting on the tie bet will win. This is paid at 9 to 1 or 8 to 1, depending on house rules. Bets on the player and bank on a tie hand will be pushed and can remain in place for the next hand or can be retrieved.
As you can see, some of the action in the game is quite complex. However, this is all handled by the dealer and can be learned over time. The player has very little to do other than choosing which bet to make. The banker bet is the best to make statistically, closely followed by the player bet. A long way back is the tie bet, which has a great payout but a high house edge and is therefore a sucker bet in this game.
You’ll be taxed at 5%, known as commission, on winning bets on the banker so that the casino can make money on the game. This is due to the generous playing conditions for the player and the odds you receive on the banker bet. If they didn’t take a commission, then the banker bet would actually have an edge for the player.
Traditional baccarat does have some differences, particularly that the player must determine when to hit and how to use the card they are given. In mini-baccarat, this decision is automatic based on the rules. More information on how to play baccarat can be found here.
Are There Different Types of Baccarat I Can Play?
As we touched on earlier, there are three main varieties of baccarat. These are punto banco, chemmy, and banque. Punto Banco, also known as American baccarat, is the most common and is usually played mini-style at most casinos. The full game will often be played in the high stakes area as it involves more dealers and a larger table. You won’t usually encounter this form of baccarat unless you’re betting thousands of dollars per hand.
After these varieties, there are different styles of baccarat available in live and online casinos which may offer extra bets or progressive jackpots.
Generally, these versions of the game have a higher house edge and lure the player in the hopes of winning the jackpot or a higher payout on the side bets. These should be avoided if you’re purely playing with the intention of achieving the lowest house edge. If you’re playing for fun then by all means play these games as they can be quite dynamic and add an extra level of excitement.
On top of these, you can also find rapid baccarat which has one central dealer and computer terminals in stadium style seating. The players will make their bets on the computer terminal and follow the action on a TV screen showing the dealer and cards. This is the same as mini baccarat at a genuine table but you have your own private space and can play without interaction with any other players. On top of this, you’ll usually be able to play at lower stakes which is great for new players to the game.
What’s the Difference Between a Banker, Player, and Tie Bet?
The banker bet is made on the banker to win the hand while the player bet is on the player to win. The tie bet is made with the hopes that the banker and player score will be equal at the end of the hand.
- The player and banker bets pay even money while the tie bet pays at 8 to 1 or 9 to 1.
- The banker bet has a house edge of 1.06% factoring in the 5% commission on winnings.
- The player bet has a house edge of 1.24%.
- The tie bet is 14.36%.
As you can see, the best bet to make is the banker bet and the worst is the tie bet. The latter should be avoided due to the high house edge compared to the payout you receive. The odds of a tie happening are 9.55% compared to the best possible payout of 9 to 1. Based on this, you don’t receive good odds in the long run of hitting a tie when compared to the relatively modest payout, which worsens if the casino you’re playing in only pays out at 8 to 1.
Can You Win at Baccarat?
You can certainly win in a single session of baccarat if you choose to walk away at the right time. However, in the long run, you can’t win playing this game. The theoretical house edge on each bet will always match the practical house edge on a long enough timeline.
Therefore, you’ll eventually lose in baccarat no matter what you do. You won’t find a positive expectation version of the game, and casinos have all implemented 5% commission on banker winnings to ensure that they keep on making money.
If you come across any supposed strategies or methods that proclaim they’ll ensure you win in the long run when playing baccarat, then just ignore them. No strategy or betting method will work in the long run and won’t change the house edge.
This being said, you can still have big winning sessions playing baccarat if you get lucky with the hands that are dealt and run hot. The game is fun and easy to play, and if you choose the right table or play online from the comfort of your own home it can be very entertaining and exciting.
Keep in mind that in real live casinos there is a certain etiquette associated with baccarat tables, so you won’t enjoy high fives and cheering like you would at a craps or blackjack table.
What are Some Good Baccarat Strategies?
You won’t be able to implement any strategy or betting method in baccarat that will see you win more in the long run. It’s all based on luck, and the house edge is fixed. You certainly shouldn’t buy any books or join any online clubs that claim to have winning formulas and methods, as winning methods and real successful systems just don’t exist. The game is designed to return a certain amount to the player and for the casino operator to make a certain amount on the game.
The best bet in baccarat is the banker bet. This attracts the aforementioned commission of 5% on any winnings. The house edge on this bet is the smallest at 1.06%. So if you wish to play the best possible method in baccarat, then just bet on the banker.
The tie bet should be avoided due to the huge house edge of 14.36%.
Unlike craps, there’s nothing wrong with betting on the banker in baccarat. It isn’t frowned upon or against the etiquette followed by the majority of players.
Should I Play Baccarat Online?
If you like the sound of baccarat and wish to give it a shot in a more relaxed environment, then online play may be your best option. You won’t have to acquiesce to the expected etiquette of a casino baccarat game and you can cheer and yell in anticipation of the outcome of a deal, or after you win. If you do this in a casino it certainly won’t be welcomed at many baccarat tables.
Online baccarat will also allow you to play at smaller stakes which means you can become familiar with the game while risking less money. This is also good for a beginner player and for the recreational player.
Many reputable online casinos offer baccarat for players in digital formats. Additionally, many online casinos now offer live dealer baccarat games which allow you to see the actual cards and dealer via a video link while you make your bets digitally on your own betting layout.
Are Baccarat Outcomes Random?
Yes, they are. Many players will keep track of previous hands and their values in order to determine their betting decisions for the following hand or hands. This is completely superstitious in nature, though, as each hand is completely independent of the previous hands.
Counting cards also won’t work at all in baccarat as a player doesn’t make decisions like they do in blackjack. On top of this, the cards in a baccarat game don’t impact the game with such a high level of variance as they do in blackjack.
Counting cards simply won’t work and there’s no strategy that will allow the player to attain a lower house edge in this respect, or push the game into positive expectation territory.
How does Baccarat Compare with other Casino Table Games?
While the house edge in baccarat on a banker bet is a generous 1.06%, blackjack can still offer better odds for a player with a house edge of 0.26% when the rules are optimal. After blackjack, there aren’t many competitors with baccarat and due to the simplicity of playing the game and less chance for errors to be made by players, this is very appealing.
The best house edge in craps is 1.36% on the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come bets, and in roulette, it’s 2.7% on a single zero wheel. So as you can see baccarat is quite good when compared to other table games.
Although blackjack does offer a better house edge for the player, as mentioned above you’ll need to implement a perfect strategy to attain this. In baccarat, this isn’t required. You just need to make a bet on the banker, then the rest is up to the dealer.
Why do Players Bend Cards in Baccarat?
When approaching a baccarat table, you’ll often find a player being dealt their cards face down, irrespective of whether they’re acting as the player or banker in that hand. They’ll sneak a peek and bend the cards fully to see what they have before turning them over.
This is all for show and to spice the game up. In essence, baccarat is quite a boring game where not much happens and the players at the table do very little aside from making bets and watching the action. To combat the slow and automatic nature of the game players have started trends such as bending the cards to increase excitement and anticipation in respect to what they’ve been dealt. Additionally, it’s also sometimes done for superstitious purposes.
When you play baccarat you certainly don’t need to bend the cards as other players do, and some casinos may frown upon it if you’re playing a low stakes game, or not even give you the opportunity to touch the cards. It’s generally reserved for a full punto banco version of the game as a deck of cards will cost the casino only a few cents, while the player will sometimes be wagering in the tens of thousands of dollars.