Baccarat is a simple game of comparing cards. There are two cards to compare in each game of Baccarat, called a “coup”: the player’s card and the banker’s card. Each coup of Baccarat has three possible outcomes: a tie, a player win, and a banker win. The simplicity of the game’s rules and outcomes has made it a staple of casino gaming, especially in Europe and Asia.
Baccarat is similar to two other European card games, Faro and Basset. Both of these games were originally played by French and English royalty, and involved comparing ranks of cards and wagering on either a player or a central bank.
Some gambling locales have embraced Baccarat more than others, especially Macau and other Asian casinos. This has something to do with the high roller aspect of the game (big wins and losses are possible on the simplest of gaming decisions) and something to do with game preferences among different nationalities.
The History of Baccarat
Baccarat originated as an Italian card game, but it has spread around the world. The game originally spread from Italy to France, which is where it skyrocketed in popularity. Like most French casino and gambling games, Baccarat spread to the rest of the world through port cities. French noblemen loved to gamble, and they often travelled the world colonizing in the name of France.
Baccarat took hold in Asia more than any other gambling region, and in Macau it is considered the choice game of high rollers. Baccarat is not as popular in America, though it is a traditional casino game title and is offered at most casinos, online and land-based.
Online Casinos with Baccarat Games
Baccarat games generally use eight full decks of cards. Baccarat cards have the following values: Aces are worth 1, 2-9 cards are worth their number value, and 10 and face cards are worth 0.
At the beginning of each new Baccarat shoe, Baccarat dealers turn over a card. This card determines how many cards are burned off the deck, based on the Baccarat value of that card. These cards are sometimes called the “soda,” especially in European Baccarat games.
Dealers then stick the cut card in the bottom of the shoe. That cut card’s appearance later in the shoe signals the dealer that it is time to start a new shoe.
Baccarat play starts with every player betting on the player, the banker, or a tie. Once these bets are on the table, the Baccarat dealer deals two cards to the player and two cards to the banker.
In Baccarat, the score of a hand is the digit on the right of the card total. Let’s say the player is dealt a 5 and a 9. The total of those two is 14, so the player’s overall score is the 4. The other digit is dropped. That means that all Baccarat scores are between 0 and 9. Unlike blackjack, Baccarat has no way of “busting.”
Baccarat’s Third Card Rules
The tricky part of Baccarat rules come when the third card chance occurs. Sometimes in Baccarat, a third card is dealt to either the player or the banker.
- If either the player or the banker totals 8 or 9 points, both players stand.
- If the player's total is 5 or fewer, the player hits.
- If the player stands, the banker must hit on any total of 5 or less. If the player hits, the banker either hits or stands depending on their score.
Winners are determined by the score of the player versus the score of the banker. All winning bets on the banker pay 19 to 20 (which is an even money bet minus a 5% vig), while winning bets on the player pay even money. Winning bets on ties pay off 8 to 1, the best payoff in Baccarat. In the event of a tie (or “push,) the dealer returns the player’s bet.
Baccarat players don’t pay the vig to the banker for each win. The player earns the even money and pays the commission to the dealer at the end of the game. These commission dollars are marked with special markers. Dealers can collect the vig at the beginning of a new shoe or when players cash out, usually a decision made standard by each casino offering Baccarat.
The rules of Baccarat are straightforward, the bets are simple, and the odds are easy to calculate. There are only three bets in Baccarat, making strategy a simple matter of making the one wager with the best possible odds.
All bets on the player give the house an edge of 1.29%. All bets on the bank, thanks to the 5% commission, give the casino a house edge of 1.01%. All bets on tie, which normally pays off at 8 to 1, give the house a steep 15.75% edge.
Overall, the banker’s hand wins more often than any other bet in Baccarat. Don’t let the 5% commission scare you away. Betting on the banker is the best possible bet in Baccarat.
Baccarat may seem boring. Games like craps offer dozens of betting options, while Baccarat only offers three betting options. But the 1.3% house edge is small enough compared with the house edge on other games that it makes Baccarat one of the best bets in the casino. Simplicity isn’t a fault with a casino game; blackjack and roulette are simple too.
Baccarat has a reputation as the game of kings and high rollers. In many casinos, high roller baccarat tables see thousands of dollars won and lost on individual coups. As long as Baccarat plays by some of the easiest to understand rules on the casino floor, it will be a popular game for people who like their gambling with a little less complexity.