Baccarat dates back to the 15th century in Italy and was eventually introduced into American casinos during the 1950s. It’s the one game that seems to attract the glitz and glamour in the brick and mortar casinos. I’m sure you can picture the scene with the elegantly dressed ladies and tuxedo-clad gentlemen, huddled around roped-off tables and drinking the finest champagne money can buy. It’s easy to see why Baccarat is often thought of as an elitist game but it’s not all about the high stakes and VIP clientele.
The most popular version of Baccarat is called Punto Banco. It translates to Player Banker and the easiest way to play this famous game is online. Why? It’s just you and the table with no requirements for designer clothes and rolls of cash! Nowadays, many casinos offer mini-versions of the game for those who want to play at lower stakes.
How To Play Baccarat
The truth is that Baccarat is a very simple game to play. You only need to remember the three different types of bets and be able to count to nine, easy right? We’ll base this guide on the mini-baccarat game which is the one you are most likely to play online. Games are often played with eight decks of cards (minus the jokers), however, this is reduced to six decks in the mini versions.
- Aces count as 1.
- The numerical cards 2-9 count as face value.
- Face and ten cards all count as 0.
- Suits are not relevant when counting values.
To begin with, you place a bet on one of the Player, Banker or Tie options. Once the bets are made, the Player and Banker are both dealt two cards face up. Players have no choice in taking extra cards, however, third cards can be dealt out according to the total of the two initial cards (explained later).
The values of the two cards are combined to find the winner. The winner is determined by whoever has the highest total with 9 being the top score. An 8 or 9 is known as a “natural” hand with a 9 beating an 8, and a tie is also possible.
If you have anything higher than a 9 then the quickest way to find your total is to simply drop the first digit. For example, if your hand was 6 and 7, you would drop the 1 from the 13, leaving you with a total of 3. If either hand turns out to be “natural” then both hands will stand (no more cards are dealt and the bets are settled).
Things start to get exciting when a third card is dealt according to a predefined set of game rules, which are as follows:
- If the Player has a total score of 6 or 7, the hand will stand. The Banker is only dealt a card if his initial score is 5 or less.
- If the player has an initial score of 5 or less then he will be dealt another card. The banker then stands or is dealt a third card depending on their initial total and the value of the Players third card.
This is the only slightly complicated part of the game but it’s all managed by the casino and dealer so you don’t need to memorize anything. A useful overview of how the Banker can act can be seen in the following table:
Banker Drawing Rules Table
Baccarat is a game that requires very little decision making on the players part except for the initial bet. So the best strategy for you is to try and minimize the house edge wherever possible. Tie bets give the house around a 14% edge so we recommend staying away from those. Banker bets do result in a 5% commission yet the house edge is dramatically reduced to around a 1.06% return compared to a 1.24% return on Player bets.
- Player bets are paid out at 1-1
- Banker bets are paid out at 1-1 (with 5% commission)
- Tie bets are paid out at 8-1 (sometimes 9-1)
Playing Baccarat online is a fun and simple way to enjoy the game that is often seen as off-limits for many people in the big casinos. Online gaming is suited to everyone because there are tables designed to suit all types of budget. The great thing about Baccarat, and in particular Punto Banco, is that everything is fixed in terms of rules and payouts. To the uninitiated, the game can seem a little daunting due to the high-profile image it has been given. However, the game follows a simple set of predefined rules from start to finish. All you need to do is make your bet and then let the action unfold!