Baccarat is a game which may not be everybody’s cup of tea but is nonetheless widespread online. Many people shun baccarat, mistakenly believing that it is one of the most challenging games they can play, or that it is only associated with high-roller gameplay. Neither of these is technically accurate, though.
Yes, James Bond likes to try his hand at baccarat, and the Third Card Rule in baccarat does take some getting used to. However, baccarat is simpler, more affordable and a lot more fun to play than you might think. In this gambling guide, we will show you how it works, so you can start playing this great gambling game today.
A Brief History of Baccarat
Baccarat is thought to be at least 500 years old. According to legend, Felix Falguiere (or Falguierein) developed a game called Baccara during the renaissance in Italy. The name of the game means “zero” and took its name for the fact that tens and faces were all worth zero points. According to other sources, the game’s history stems back 1,700 years before that, to the Etruscans.
Irrespective of its origins, baccarat has changed little since it was first introduced. Nowadays, we commonly refer to the game as baccarat instead of baccara. This is because the game became quite popular amongst the French aristocracy in the 1700s when it was known as Chemin de Fer. Naturally, Francophones also decided to alter the name baccara into Baccarat.
From France, the game moved to England, and then on to the new world. In Spanish speaking South America, it adopted a new title – Punto Banco, meaning “player/banker”. Its popularity grew marginally in the US, too, courtesy of the casinos of Las Vegas.
By the late Twentieth Century, baccarat was selected as one of the first casino games to go live on the internet. It was also ported to mobile casino platforms and was a pioneering game in live casino software from 2006 onwards. Today, baccarat remains popular amongst high-rollers and has found a place in the hearts of Asian players in the casinos of Macau. Make no mistake about it, though; baccarat is a game which could very well be for you, too.
How to Play Baccarat
The traditional baccarat game is played on a table which would not look out of place amongst blackjack players. Unlike some card games, players do not actively take control of any hand in baccarat. Instead, you merely bet on whether the banker’s hand will win, or the player’s hand (or ties). The hand which outranks the other by getting as close to 9-points as possible will win. Unlike blackjack, hands cannot bust in baccarat.
Each card is worth its numerical value in baccarat, with Aces counting as 1-point cards. However, tens and face cards are worth zero points. If a pair of cards adds up to more than nine points in the game, the first digit is dropped from the total, leaving you with a hand worth nine points or less. For instance…
If a hand consists of the Nine of Hearts and Five of Diamonds, it will have a total of 14. We drop the first digit, giving us a hand of five points.
If a hand consists of the Two of Clubs and the Three of Spades, it will have a total of 5. This remains the hand’s total, as it is worth nine points or less.
Now, before we move on to the gameplay, we need to learn how to bet.
Placing Your Bets
Each baccarat table has its own table limits. This is worth noting before you play, as some games are designed for beginners, and others are reserved for high-rollers and VIPs. Your bet must fall somewhere between the minimum and maximum table limits.
You will play your bet down in either the player or banker spots on the table, according to whichever hand you think will win. Alternatively, you can slap a bet down in the Tie section if you wish.
Placing a bet needs to be done before the deal.
Once bets have been made, the dealer will deal out two cards to both the player’s and banker’s hands. Those cards are then analysed, and one of the following three things can happen:
Natural: If the player’s hand is worth 8 or 9 points, it is a “Natural”. Unless the banker’s hand matches it or is worth better, Naturals are automatically winning hands.
Stand: If the player’s hand has a value of 6 or 7, it stands.
Draw: If the player’s hand is worth 0-5 points, a third card will be drawn unless the banker’s hand is a Natural.
Baccarat’s Third Card Rule
There are times in baccarat when a third card must be drawn. This is always done according to strict rules and is not something you have a say in. You don’t necessarily need to learn these rules, as they will automatically happen whether you play in a land-based or online casino. If you want to become a complete baccarat player, though, here they are…
When the sum of the first two cards in the player’s hand total…
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10: The player’s hand receives a third card
- 6 or 7: The player’s hand elects to stand
- 8 or 9: The player’s hand chooses to stand, as it is a Natural
The banker’s hand rules are trickier to follow. However, the banker’s hand will take a third card if according to the following rules:
If the banker’s hand is worth 0, 1 or 2, then the banker’s hand always draws a third card
If the first two cards total 3 and the player’s third card is an 8, the banker’s hand stands. It will draw a third card if the player’s third card is worth anything else.
If the banker’s total is 4 points, a third card is drawn if the player’s third card was a 2 to 7. Anything else sees the banker’s hand opt to stand.
If the banker’s hand totals 5 points, it will draw a third card if the player’s own third card was a 4, 5, 6 or 7-point card. It stands on anything else.
Banker hands with a value of six draw a third card if the player’s third card was worth 6 or 7. Anything else sees the banker’s hand choose to stand.
The banker’s hand always stands on a seven or a natural
No hand can receive more than three cards, and there are a few exceptions to these rules depending on the baccarat game you are playing. Again, though, you don’t need to learn these Third Card Rules if you wish to play baccarat.
How to Win at Baccarat
To win at baccarat, you simply have to predict which will be the winning hand. Of course, you are eligible to bet on ties, too, but they seldom occur. After any third cards are drawn (if needed), the banker’s and player’s hands are compared. The highest-scoring hand wins.
Provided you have backed the right horse; you could win the following:
Banker’s Hand: Betting on the banker’s hand has a payout of 0.95:1, as you often need to pay 5% commission to the house. This is because the game is tilted marginally in favour of the banker’s hand.
Player’s Hand: If the player hand wins and you’ve bet on it, you can expect winnings of 1:1.
Ties: Ties push, meaning that bets are returned. However, if you bet on a tied hand and that turns out to be the result, you can net winnings of 8:1. Be warned, though, as the house edge on tied hands is set to 9.5% in most baccarat games.
Types of Online Baccarat Games
Baccarat has changed little over the years. Nonetheless, there are now a few different variants out there that you can try your hand at. Each has its own rules which tinker with the basic gameplay and alter house edges as well as payouts. Here are a few of the more popular and widespread ones you can find when playing at online casinos:
Baccarat Banque: Often found in European casinos, this game allows you (or the player with the largest pot) to become the banker instead of the house.
Baccarat Squeeze/Control Squeeze: Asian players like to “squeeze” the cards for luck. While this is not possible online, Live Squeeze and Live Control Squeeze allow players to use multiple camera angles to simulate this action.
Chemin de Fer: The original baccarat game (depending on who you ask), Chemin de Fer is hard to find. It allows you to make decisions yourself, including shuffling and drawing, which alters the house edge.
Live Baccarat: Essentially the same game as classic baccarat, although this live dealer game is played with a real human banker over a video stream. Sometimes, these streams come from renowned brick and mortar casinos and studio floors.
No Commission Baccarat: No Commission Baccarat sees the 5% commission paid on winning banker hands removed. However, the game is often weighted in favour of the banker in that if that hand wins with six points, only 50% of the winnings are paid out.
Punto Banco: Essentially, Punto Banco is just another name for baccarat, and in most circumstances, the rules will be identical.
Speed Baccarat: Standard baccarat rules apply here, although the game has a betting window of mere seconds, with total gameplay taking less than 30 seconds. This is a game which is designed for players who want to bet fast and bet hard.
Super 6 Baccarat: Baccarat Super 6 is similar to No Commission Baccarat. In this game, winning banker hands pay even money unless the banker’s hand wins with 6 points, then winnings are worth 0.50:1. A Super 6 side-bet can be placed with winnings of 12:1.
Baccarat variants can include side-bets such as Perfect Pairs and a few alternatives. However, as with tied bets, we would not recommend placing side-bets in baccarat, as the house edge is heavily stacked against you.
Top Tips to Improve Your Baccarat Skills
There aren’t any tips which guarantee success in baccarat. However, there are one or two other things you can do to improve your skills. Here are a few things worth keeping in mind:
Play for Free: As with any new card game, it is worth getting in some practice before you decide to play internet baccarat for real money. Most baccarat games feature multiple decks of cards, so this may not be something you can practice easily at home. Fortunately, there are many free, demo baccarat games you can play for free online.
Avoid Tie Bets: The tied bet has a house edge of up to 14.4%. That is a staggering house edge for any card game, and despite the generous pay-out, these bets are just not worth it.
Bet on the Banker’s Hand: The banker’s hand is weighed to win more frequently, albeit only marginally. House edges on the banker’s hand are set to 1.06%, rising to 1.24% for the player’s hand.
Ride Until You Lose: Most baccarat players agree that you should not change hands until you lose, and even then, wait for one additional hand. Baccarat is just one of those games where you should stick to the banker’s or player’s hand for the long-haul.
Manage Your Money: You should try and manage your money as best as you can. Betting strategies such as the Martingale can help with this. Never go “all-in” with baccarat, as the risk is just too considerable.
Where to Find the Best Internet Baccarat Games
You should, by now, have a fair understanding of how baccarat works – at least enough to help you get started. Baccarat is a game which is commonly found at virtually all major online casinos, although not all sites offer a wide selection of baccarat variants. You may only end up with the odd game, or a few sparse live dealer titles. It is worth scouting around for a casino which offers you more than just a few different options.
Again, we recommend that you get your practice in, to hone your skills. Once you are confident and comfortable, it is time to find somewhere to play. There are many top casinos out there offering RNG (random number generator) baccarat and live baccarat games. Some of these top sites are recommended right here.