Baccarat is a banking game, similar to Blackjack. The Baccarat card game is a very popular one at many casinos across the world, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, Macau, Hong Kong, and Italy.
Most casinos will segregate their Baccarat tables from the rest of the floor, as it is often considered an exclusive game for big spenders at the tables. The Dealer/Banker role and how the game is played will be further explained below.
How to Play Baccarat?
The Anglo-American standard 52-card deck is the favorite of most casinos worldwide, and as such will be the only deck that you need to know in order to learn Baccarat.
This guide will make learning how to play Baccarat easy.
Keep in mind, that the “suit” of the playing card does not matter when playing Baccarat. The only value of a playing card that counts is its numerical value.
Cards without numerical value, such as the “face cards” (King, Queen, Jack) are scored as 0 in Baccarat. Essentially, a face card is blank, and neither adds nor subtracts from one’s score.
The aim of Baccarat is to receive a hand whose total value is 9.
Most casinos will not play Baccarat with a single deck of cards, as the deck would have to be shuffled every single game, and there would only be 4 copies of each particular card (as the playing card’s suit is irrelevant). This would radically change the odds of being dealt the same cards in the second and third hands. For this reason, a “Shoe” is created.
A shoe is a deck made of many decks, in the case of Baccarat 6 to 8 decks of cards, all shuffled into one large deck.
Baccarat is scored in two ways at the same time: hand-to-hand, and with chips.
On a hand-to-hand level, the Banker and one player will be dealt two cards. Other players will then bet on the outcome of the game between the Player and the Banker/Dealer.
There are three possible bets in Baccarat:
Essentially, the other players bet on whether the Player will win, the Banker will win, or the values of their cards will be the same or “tied.”
This is the hand-to-hand method of scoring, where each individual game, or “hand” between the Banker/Dealer and the Player is scored and settled.
The Baccarat card game plays with a base-9 numerical system. Imagine an analog counter for example, numbered 0 to 9. There is no “10” on the analog counter because it only has a single digit. When the counter wishes to display 10, it cannot, and therefore displays 0 instead. This is why face-cards in Baccarat count as 0, because of the base-9 numerical system.
The goal of the game is to reach a 9, or as close as possible. For example:
- Banker Score: 7
- Player Score: 8
- Player Wins
Although neither the Player nor the Banker/Dealer reached 9 total, the Player was closer to 9 and was therefore victorious.
This is where the chips come into play. Each Player, aside from the one facing off against the Banker/Dealer, will wager their chips on the outcome of each particular hand.
A “chip” is a token given by a casino with real cash value. This wager, depending on the outcome, can payout one of 3 ways.
The Player Bet will reward the betting Player with a 1-to-1 reward for their bet.
- Player 1 Bets $15 on Player 2’s Hand
- Player 1 Wins and receives $30 dollars.
- Player 1 was victorious, and so received his original wager of $15, plus $15 dollars from the casino.
Betting on the Dealer
Betting on the Dealer rewards the same 1-to-1 payout, however, the Banker/Dealer will demand a 5% commission for betting on them.
This is because of the 0.02% margin mentioned above. The “House” is very slightly more likely to win than the Player. This increased chance of victory means casinos must recoup some of their losses when players bet on the casino consistently, as it is statistically the safest choice in order to win.
There is also the Tie bet. Betting Tie has about a 10% chance of a payout, but if successful, most casinos outside of the United Kingdom offer an 8-to-1 payout on successful tie bets.
This means that a Player who bets Tie, and wins the hand, will receive eight times the amount of money they originally wagered. $20 becomes $160 for example.
There is also Hitting” in Baccarat, like in Blackjack. Being “Hit” means that you are asking the Dealer for an additional card. There are, however, dealing procedures that must be followed. Casinos implement these rules in order to help themselves make money, and there is no getting around them.
There are two normal dealing procedures:
- Player procedure
- Banker procedure
The Player procedure is simple, and is all that you really need to know when playing Baccarat:
- If the Player is dealt a total of 5 or less, they must hit and draw another card.
- If they are dealt a 6 or a 7, then the Player must “stand” or not draw any more cards.
Banking procedure is much more complicated and is less important for the Player to know. The Dealer at any casino you visit will have memorized their venue’s own dealing procedure.
In basic form, understand that the Banker will generally hit when their total is low. When their total is high (6 or 7) they will only hit if the Player also hit that hand, and their third card was a 7 or an 8. This is because the Banker is more likely to lose if they do not hit in that specific situation.
There is also a special dealing procedure, known as the “Natural.” When a Natural is dealt, either the Player or the Banker were dealt a total of 8 or 9 in their opening hand, without an additional third card.
When this occurs, the Natural automatically wins the hand, and those who bet on the Player or Banker receiving the Natural will receive their payout.
Dragon Wager Bonus
Some places offer an optional side wager, called Dragon Wager. Although rules vary depending on the casino, the Dragon Wager will generally be paid out when the winner won by being dealt a Natural. Some Dragon Wagers also increase payout depending on the number of points ahead of the loser the winner was.
The Dragon Bonus or Dragon Wager only has about a 0.077% chance of being successful, hence its very high 30-to-1 payout.
The standard rules for Baccarat can be summarized as follows:
- You must follow the dealing procedure outlined in the Baccarat rules. It is good advice to know the dealing procedure before sitting down at a Baccarat table, it may be considered bad etiquette to not be aware of the Player procedure before sitting down. Players do not need to know Banking procedure in order to play.
- The draw rules are standardized and do not change depending on the casino. This means that you can sit down and play Baccarat at most venues once you follow the rules clearly.
- Do not forget that even though betting on the Banker/Dealer is the best option, statistically, in order to make money, there will be a 5% commission charge for betting on the Banker/Dealer. The Banker will keep track of the number of Banker bets a particular Player makes, and will total up and “bill” the player for their commission. Do not walk away from a Baccarat table without paying your commission, or you may be asked to leave the premises.
- The third card rule is required, you must be dealt a card when the dealing procedure demands it, and you must not be dealt a card when the dealing procedure demands it.
Baccarat is scored hand-to-hand and by the number of chips a player has. The score is not kept between games. This means that winning a previous hand has no bearing on the next hand being played.
Each hand can be considered its own insulated game, that does not impact other later games. There is slight changes in the odds as cards in the shoe are depleted, however, the Banker/Dealer will shuffle the shoe eventually, and return the odds to their full randomness.
On a one-hand basis, here is how the game is scored:
- The Banker and the Player are dealt two cards.
- Their object in the game is to reach 9 total.
- The score will be determined by the ones digit of the total value of cards in each person’s hand.
- Player 1 Opening Hand: 7♦ 7♣. Total: 4
- Dealer Opening Hand: K♦ 3♦. Total: 3
7+7=14. The 4 is the important number here. The Player’s total is ultimately 4. In this situation, the Player must draw a card according to the 3-card rule.
10+3=13. The 3 is the important number here. The King counts as a 10, as do all face cards. The Dealer/Banker in this situation will also have to draw according to the Banker’s dealing procedure.
The way that Baccarat is scored outside of the ‘game’ itself is the prize money. Players who play the game well by guessing correctly on the outcomes of successive hands will be rewarded with prize money.
Baccarat tables are cyclical, and could technically never end. The game only ends for each individual Player when they have decided to stop playing.
Winning is determined by matching the outcome of a particular hand. Whether it is Player, Banker, or Tie, if you guess correctly then you will be considered a winner of that individual hand.
It should be noted to potential players that Baccarat has a favorable margin. Although the casino will always have a slight edge, it only has about a 0.2% margin over the player, which are favorable near-random odds. This is comparable to other random-chance favorites such as Roulette.
This means that if winning is your goal, Baccarat may be the game for you. However, Baccarat is normally a game for “high-rollers”. This is a gambling term that refers to gamblers with considerable money already in their pockets, willing to make large wagers consistently throughout the night.
Learn with Example Hands
Here are some helpful hands that put the rules of Baccarat into practice:
- Player: 9♦ K♦
- Dealer: 7♦ 3♠
This is an example of a Natural. Here, the Player was dealt a 9 naturally in their first two cards. As the dealer was not also dealt a Natural, this is a win for the Player. All other Players that bet on the Player will receive their payout.
- Player: 7♣ 8♠. Total: 5 7+8=15
- Dealer: 7♠ 6♣. Total: 3 7+6=13
In this situation, neither the Player nor the Banker have a high enough total to stand. According to Dealing procedure, they must both be dealt a third card according to the third card rule. Now imagine their cards were thus:
- Player: 7♣ 8♠ 3♥
- Dealer: 7♠ 6♣ 3♦
The totals are now 8 for the Player and 6 for the Dealer. This means that the Player wins, and those who bet on the Player receive their payout.
- Player: 4♣ 5♠
- Dealer: 6♥ 3♦
In this situation, both the Player and the Banker received Naturals. This means that the game is a Tie, and all the players that bet Tie will receive their 8-to-1 payout.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- Statistically, it is best to bet on the Banker/Dealer as much as possible. The slight margin in favor of the Banker/Dealer means that over the course of several hundred or thousand games, the Player that bets consistently on the Banker will likely receive more money than the player that doesn’t in the long run. However, remember that betting on the Banker will cost 5% of your winnings.
- Although the odds are relatively low, at only 10%, it is a good idea to try and bet on Tie every few hands. The odds of it happening in a given hand are slim, but 10% of all total Baccarat games end in Ties, which means it does happen on occasion. The payout for a Tie is so much higher than a normal bet that it can be considered worth it.
- Baccarat is mostly a game of random chance, like roulette. This actually makes it a more desirable option at a casino because the odds of winning are closer to even than most other games on offer.
Quick Word on Variations
There are many different kinds of Baccarat, however, the majority of casinos in the world offer Punto Banco as their variation of choice. Punto Banco is a variation in which the casino always acts as the Dealer, and always acts as the Banker, for the purposes of the game.
However, if the good margin seems tempting, consider playing Mini-Baccarat. The rules are essentially the same, and the minimum and maximum bets are much lower than the exclusive high-stakes Baccarat tables.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the house edge in Baccarat?
The house edge in Baccarat ranges from 1.06 to 1.24%. The Banker has a very slight chance of winning more often than the Player because of their more complex dealing procedure, and the fact that the Dealer/Banker will draw or stand based on the Player’s third card draw.
How many betting positions are there at a Baccarat table?
There are 3 possible betting positions at a Baccarat table: Player, Dealer, and Tie.
What is Flat Betting?
Flat-betting is when a player bets exclusively on either the Player or the Banker, or exclusively on Ties. Essentially, it is a player using the same betting position on every hand of the game.
As mentioned above, flat-betting on the Banker is the optimal betting position over the course of many hands of Baccarat.
Why does the Banker have an advantage?
The Banker has an advantage because the Banker Dealing procedure is mathematically deduced as being the optimal way for a Banker to play.
The Banker is allowed to play second in a hand, meaning that the Banker will see the Player either Stand or Hit. The Player’s total is then seen by the Banker, and the Banker’s dealing procedure will tell them the optimal play after seeing a Player’s third card.
What is a chop in Baccarat?
A chop is a betting strategy in Baccarat. A player might start betting “chop” if they notice that the game seems to favor alternating people. Meaning, hand 1 goes to Dealer, hand 2 goes to Player, hand 3 to Dealer, hand 4 to Player.
Chop bets will always bet the opposite of the last winner of a hand. If the Player won the last hand, a chop bettor will always bet on the Dealer as a part of their strategy.
What is an Ace worth in Baccarat?
An Ace is worth a single point on the 9-point scoring system of a hand of Baccarat. For example, a 6♦A♣ is worth 7 points, 6+1=7
What is edge sorting in Baccarat?
Edge sorting is a form of cheating where a player might notice small imperfections on the back of a particular card. Whether it’s a minute scratch, a folded corner, a frayed edge, or something else that distinguishes a particular card from the others.
Casinos consider edge sorting to be cheating, and if you are caught edge sorting you may be removed from the venue. In some cases, depending on the country you are in, you may also be denied from receiving your winnings for games that were won using edge sorting. Please do not try it.