How to play baccarat?
Preface: There is a definite mystique about baccarat, pronounced as ‘bah-cah-rah’ with a silent ‘t’. This casino card game remains shrouded in mystery, despite its widespread popularity at casinos and online casinos around the world. Baccarat has been around for centuries, and in earlier years was reserved for royalty, nobility, and the well-heeled of France, Italy and England. Baccarat was introduced by an Italian gentleman named Felix Falguiere in the 1400s. The meaning of baccarat is somewhat of a disappointment; as the Italian word bacarra literally means zero. The history behind this game can be traced back to old Etruscan legends and a pair of dice rolls. Suffice it to say that any value of 6 or less in baccarat is typically a losing hand, while the best possible hand values are 8 or 9.
The age-old game that ultimately became the modern-day game of baccarat was worlds apart from what we currently play. After Italy, baccarat was introduced to players in France where it became known as Chemin de Fer. The upper echelons of French society, including the aristocracy and the royalty could not get enough of this game and it remained hugely popular in closed circles for centuries. Indeed, when Baccarat made the jump across the English Channel, it caught on like wildfire in England. Latin American countries were next, including the islands of Cuba, and the Caribbean, and finally North America. It was then – the 1950s – that the iconic Las Vegas Sands showcased baccarat. The game never really caught on with the masses, but it remained a niche selection for high rollers to enjoy. Today, baccarat is widely played online and at land-based casinos everywhere.
Rules of Baccarat – How to Play Baccarat like a Pro
Baccarat is first and foremost a casino card game. It is played in many different variants at land-based casinos and online casinos around the world, with the most popular variant being Mini Baccarat. Others include Baccarat Ban, Chemin de Fer, and Punto Banco. But these names essentially refer to the same game, played in different parts of the world. The rules of Baccarat are fairly easy to understand, and once you have mastered these basic rules it’s really simply a game of chance:
- There are 3 primary bets in baccarat – The Player Hand, The Banker Hand, and a Tie
- Hand totals in Baccarat are unique, since any hand value greater than 9 automatically has the tens digit removed, so you can never exceed 9 in your baccarat hand.
- The Player Hand has a house edge of 1.24%.
- The Banker Hand has a house edge of 1.06%.
- Tie bets have a house edge of 14.36%, and should be avoided at all costs.
- The vigorish – the juice – in Baccarat is usually 5%, although some casinos offer No Commission Baccarat.
- Card values are as follows: Aces = 1, cards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9 have their nominal value, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are valued at 0.
- The objective of baccarat is to achieve a natural which is indicated by a hand value of 8 or 9.
- The only decision a player needs to make is which bet to place. There are no complicated rules or strategies to worry about – the bet with the lowest house edge is the most popular – The Banker Hand.
Note: Neither the player, nor the dealer at the casino is the player hand with the banker hand. A bet is simply placed on a selection, irrespective of the house or the player.
Baccarat is perhaps best understood by way of several examples:
Player A decides to bet on the Banker Hand:
- Banker Hand – Ace +6 = 7
- Player Hand – 6+6 = 12 (-10) = 2
The Banker Hand wins since it is closer to 8 or 9 than the player hand.
Player B decides to bet on the Player Hand:
- Banker Hand – King + 4 = 4
- Player Hand – 8 + 6 = 14 (-10) = 4
Tie result. Player B loses the bet.
Player C decides to bet on the Banker Hand:
- Banker Hand – 5 + 5 = 10 (-10) = 1
- Player Hand – 3 + 6 = 9
Player C loses the bet since the Player Hand wins with a Natural.
The specific rules of play will determine whether the Banker or the Player wins. For example, the Banker always wins if they draw 8 or 9 on their first two cards. Provided there isn’t a tie result, the Banker bet will win in this case. If the Banker has less than 6, the Banker will draw another card if the Player has a hand total of 6 or 7. However, if the Banker has a hand total of 6 or 7, the Banker will stand. If the Player hand total is less than 5 with the first 2 cards that are dealt, a third card must be drawn. However, the Player will always stand with a hand total of 6 or 7.
Recall that there are multiple variants of Baccarat. Fortunately, the rules of play are similar for each of these games. There are slight variations between the games, notably in terms of the vigorish (commission or juice) that the banker bets take. This is the only way for the casino to have an edge over the player will. one of the most popular variants of baccarat is No Commission Baccarat for precisely this reason. However, other rules are put into place to retain the house edge, for example if the banker hand wins with 6, then the player only wins 50% of the original bet. This increases the house edge to approximately 1.46%.
Other notable Baccarat variants include: 6 Deck Baccarat where the banker hand house edge ranges between 1.06%-1.056%, 4% Commission Baccarat, and EZ Baccarat where winning Banker bets with a 3-card 7s is a Push, instead of a even-money payout. This game has a Banker Hand house edge of 1.02%, making it a preferred game for fans of baccarat.
Once you understand the rules of Baccarat, you know how to play Baccarat. There are nuanced rules in effect with specific variations of the game, and it’s important to understand and remember these rules since they can mean the difference between winning and losing. Fortunately, you can never go bust in baccarat since the tens digit is always removed.