Baccarat is a game of elegance and random chance. Often set off in a private area of the casino and requiring a dress code, this game has existed in one form or another for centuries. While its unbeatable nature and traditional high cost prevent it from becoming a household word, it has built up a fanbase that includes royalty, billionaires, and even the occasional celebrity. Even if you’re just a normal person with a below-average income, you can still enjoy baccarat thanks to various online casinos.
Free Play - Baccarat
No matter which version of baccarat you play, there are a few rules that remain constant. Games are contested between the player’s hand and the banker’s hand, and the following outcomes are possible: player, banker, or tie.
Each card is assigned a point value, and these include the following:
Card Points Values
- 2 through 9 – worth their face value
- 10, Jack, Queen, King – worth 0 points
- Aces – worth 1 point
In order to determine the value of a hand, add the cards together and take the value of the right digit. For example, a hand with a 5 and 9 would be worth 14(since the right digit in 14 is 4). If the cards were a 2 and 6, then the value of the hand would be 8. Due to this method of keeping score, the highest value of a hand in baccarat is 9.
In this version that’s most common throughout the US, UK, Canada, and assorted other countries, the banker plays both hands in accordance with set drawing rules. One hand is designated for the “player,” while the other is assigned to the “banker.” As mentioned earlier, participants can choose to wager on a win by either side or a tie.
During a coup (or round of play) each hand receives two face-up cards from a shoe of 4, 6, or 8 decks. If either side has a total of 8 or 9 at this stage, they are declared the winner. If they both do, then it’s declared a tie. If the coup is not over, then the drawing rules are consulted.
If the player has a total of 6 or 7, then he takes no additional cards. If he has 0 through 5, then he receives another card.
If the player didn’t receive a third card, then the banker applies the same drawing rules. If, however, the player did get a card, then the banker obeys the following guidelines:
- Banker draws a card if his total is 2 or less.
- If the banker’s total is 3, he draws an additional card (unless the player’s third card was an 8).
- If the banker’s total is 4, and the player’s third card was a 2 through 7, then he takes another card.
- If the banker’s total is 5, and the player’s third card was a 4 through 7, then he takes another card.
- If the banker’s total is 6, and the player’s third card was a 6 or 7, then he takes another card.
- The banker stands on a total of 7.
The winning hand is then determined, and payouts (if any) are issued. Player bets usually pay even money, while a 5% commission is taken out for banker bets. In the case of a successful tie bet, payouts are 8 to 1, and the wagers for player and banker roll over to the next coup.
Baccarat Chemin de Fer
Still popular in France, this is the original version of the game. Six decks of cards are used, and players take turns being the dealer/banker. This player wagers whatever amount they see fit, and then each player is given the opportunity to “go bank” or match the bet (although only one may do so).
If no player single-handedly matches the wager, then each participant is given a chance to make a smaller bet. If these wagers do not match the banker’s bet, then onlookers can also contribute in order to increase the total. In the case of player wagers that exceed the bank, the banker has the option of matching the new total or having the excess amount discarded.
The dealer receives two face-down cards, and so do the punters (acting as a group). The player who made the highest wager (or “went bank”) represents the group. The hand ends if either has an 8 or 9. Otherwise, the player may choose to take a third card. The banker, after seeing the player’s adjusted total, may also choose to take a third card. The hands are then compared to determine a winner.
In the event of a player win, each bettor gets back their wager plus a matching amount from the banker. The role of the bank then passes to the next player. If the banker wins, he receives all player wagers and keep his position in the following round. When a tie occurs, wagers remain the same for the subsequent round.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this baccarat overview. While the game isn’t for those with poor nerves or faltering bank accounts, it remains one of the more interesting casino experiences. Even if you don’t plan on playing regularly, I suggest any gambling devotee try it at least once.
The following is a list of the house edge, which varies depending on the number of decks used in the shoe:
House Edge Per Decks Used
- Eight Decks – Banker 1.06%, Player 1.24%, Tie 14.36%
- Six Decks – Banker 1.06%, Player 1.24%, Tie 14.44%
- One Deck – Banker 1.01%, Player 1.29%, Tie 15.75%
Another game in a casino that gives the player a near-to-even chance of winning is baccarat. This simple game has only three betting options, and one of them has a huge 14.4% house edge and should be avoided at all costs. The other two bets are nearly even money, with a small house edge of less than 1.5%.
Baccarat pits the player against the bank, and before each hand you must decide whether the player or the bank will win the hand. If you pick the right one, your bet will be paid 1:1. Betting on the player is a straight 1:1 payout, but if you bet on the bank and win you have to pay a 5% commission on your winnings.
The commission exists so that players don’t take advantage of the fact that the bank has a higher probability of winning (50.68%).
The bet to stay away from on the baccarat table is the tie bet. It pays 8 to 1 on your wager, but the probability of hitting the tie bet is only 9.5%. That gives the house a huge 14.4% edge over you because the payout is a smaller ratio than the probability of the tie occurring.
Betting on the player to win will pay 1 to 1 on your money and will occur 48.15% of the time. That’s a lot better than a tie bet, but even with the 5% commission you have to pay on a banker win, a player bet is still not as good as betting on the bank. Many players will only bet on the bank when they play baccarat. It may not be the most interesting way to play, but mathematically it provides the best odds to get ahead in the game.
When it comes to knowing your baccarat odds one important thing to consider is how many decks are in the shoe in the game that you’re playing. Baccarat games can be found using one deck, six decks, and eight decks. The house edge is different depending on the game;
House Edge with an 8-Deck Shoe
- Banker Bet – 1.06%
- Player Bet – 1.24%
- Tie Bet – 14.36%
House Edge with a 6-Deck Shoe
- Banker Bet – 1.06%
- Player Bet – 1.24%
- Tie Bet – 14.44%
House Edge with a 1-Deck Shoe
- Banker Bet – 1.01%
- Player Bet – 1.29%
- Tie Bet – 15.75%
There are also liberal rules baccarat games offered by some casinos both land-based and online. The baccarat odds in these games are better because the casino adjusts the commission paid on a winning banker bet. The amount that the casinos will diminish the commission price can vary from 1% to the entire 5%, and often liberal baccarat games are only offered for a limited time and in high roller rooms.
The odds on a liberal game will change the house edge in favor of you, and like the regular game the baccarat odds depend on how many decks are in the shoe. Some casinos will also pay 9-1 on the tie bet, greatly reducing the size of the house edge for that bet. In an eight-deck game at 9-1 the house will only hold a 4.84% edge, six decks is 4.93%, and in a one-deck game 6.38%.
There is a common gambler’s fallacy with the game of baccarat that many players believe. Following trends of hands is something that one can see at most live baccarat games as players try to find trends in the hand results as they switch from banker to player. Pencils and paper are even provided for players to track hand results, but it’s all a waste of your time as the results of one hand are in no way dependent on the results of any other.
Once a game played strictly by high rollers in secret back rooms of the casino, the game of baccarat has evolved over the years to become popular with players of all size bankrolls. The introduction of mini baccarat made the game affordable for anyone to play and its popularity in casinos has steadily grown since.
The game is simple to play and bankroll management for baccarat should be just as simple. Players need only set limits for the amount they are willing to lose in a particular session and on an amount of winnings that will be enough for them to take themselves out of the game and count their winnings for a particular session.
Baccarat is a lot like the game of blackjack in that deciding to get out of the game at the right time is one of the most important decisions you can make. All betting games have a win/loss variance, and if can get out of the game when you’re up, instead of down, it will make all the difference.
Players who employ baccarat strategy against the casino may think they’re being clever and giving themselves a mathematical advantage. Baccarat is one of the worst games for those who want to make a profit on a somewhat consistent basis.
What it is, in reality, is a game that lets high rollers dress up in fancy clothes, flash their rolls of cash, and generally come away feeling like they’ve got a license to kill. That last part is definitely a James Bond reference, and there’s a reason why 007 was often depicted playing this risky game of chance in various films (at least until it was replaced with the rather ill-fitting Texas Hold’em).
Whether you’re a high roller or a lowly office drone longing for the illusion of high-stakes adventure, you’ve come here seeking tips on the best strategies to use while playing baccarat. Instead of trying to dash your dreams against the rocks, I guess the least I can do is oblige.
The following are my tips for baccarat, cobbled together from a combination of my own experiences, various Internet sources, and lots of time spent reading Ian Fleming novels.
Don’t Be Poor
This may sound like a terrible thing to say, but poor people need to run away from baccarat as fast as they can. This is a game for those with money to burn, and anyone who has to scrape to pay the rent is better off at the penny slots. If you insist on playing anyway, I suggest the online version, as many land-based casinos keep the baccarat tables in a private area with a dress code and prohibitive table stakes.
Learn the Game
Whether you’re playing baccarat or Uno, it always helps to know the rules of the game. There are two primary versions of baccarat offered in casinos around the globe, so it’s important to learn the difference between Punto banco and Chemin de fer. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like a fool in front of all the other rich folks.
Bet Against the Player
When you’re playing Punto banco, you have the option of betting on who’s going to win the hand: the player, the dealer, or a tie. Avoid the tie wager, as it carries a house edge that’s just below 15%. The player bet gives the house a 1.24% edge, while supporting the banker only carries a 1.06% disadvantage for the customer.
Wesley Snipes would tell you to “always bet on black.” We say, “Always bet on the banker.” You’ll still come up short in the long run due to the math, but there’s a greater likelihood of picking up some big wins along the way.
Ignore Pattern Bets – Casinos always provide notepads and pencils for their baccarat customers. Why? It’s so patrons can write down the various totals of each hand and look for patterns. While this sounds promising, they might as well give slot machine players similar implements and urge them to look for patterns on the reels.
This has as much to do with the traditions of the game as anything else, and there are plenty of players who don’t even bother with the practice. There’s also the idea that providing pencil and paper makes the customer feel as though he or she can beat the game, and that’s often enough to keep someone coming back to the tables.
Catching a Streak
This strategy involves looking for winning streaks, regardless of whether they’re for the player or the banker. To apply this “strategy,” place a bet on whoever won the last hand (assuming it wasn’t a tie). As long as the banker or player keeps winning, then continue to wager on them. When the winner changes, your wager should also change.
Another strategy that can be applied to multiple casino games is to place wagers in a predetermined progressive pattern. Here’s one example of what we're talking about, but keep in mind that each wager only applies if the player lost the previous hand: $15, $30, $60, $120, and $240. The idea is that a losing streak is bound to turn around, so increasing the wager each time is designed to capitalize on the inevitable turnout. In the above system, the player also wagers $25 each time they have a winning hand.
As you may have gathered from this article, I’m not a big fan of baccarat strategy. It’s a bogus creation meant to create the illusion that players can achieve a long-term advantage, and that’s simply a lie. Baccarat is a game of chance, and there’s nothing the customer can do to change that fact.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that baccarat should be avoided. As long as you can afford to play, it offers a pure rush of adrenaline that rivals any other casino option. Just make sure to temper your expectations, manage your bankroll, and concentrate on soaking in the experience. If you follow this final advice, then you’ll always come away a winner.
History of Baccarat
Baccarat history is filled with international spies, gentleman killers, and a general air of mystery. While every aspect of the game’s lineage can’t be discussed in the space allotted, I hope to a least demonstrate that its colorful legacy is far from over.
Numerous sources have been credited with inspiring baccarat, including the Chinese game of Pai Gow and an ancient Roman ritual where virgins were forced to cast a die to determine whether they lived, died, or lost their virginity. The most point of origin, however, is Italy, where evidence suggests that a precursor to the game was being played as early as the 13th and 14th centuries.
An Italian named Felix Falguiere is sometimes credited with using Tarot cards to create the modern form of the game. There was also the ancient game known as Macao, which was played to a score of nine and often referred to as “Italian Baccarat.”
No matter where it actually originated, baccarat is known as a French creation. Stories suggest that it was brought back from Italy in the 1490’s by soldiers as they returned from the conflicts started by French King Charles VIII.
The game became a hit with the social elite, and this continued through the time of Napoleon. In 1837, however, casinos were made illegal in France during the reign of King Louis Phillip. While the game continued to be played in the open throughout the rest of Western Europe, French gamblers had to seek their pleasures in establishments operating outside the law.
Baccarat in Great Britain
While baccarat already enjoyed success among the elite of Britain, this popularity suffered a setback in 1886 when it declared a game of chance and made illegal by the High Court of Justice in London. This didn’t stop people from playing, of course, and many skirted the law by claiming that they weren’t playing for money.
One of the more notable cases of baccarat in 19th century Britain came during the 1891 Tranby Croft Affair. The scandal started the previous year, when military man Sir William Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating at baccarat. His accusers, including the future King Edward VII, agreed not to mention the matter in exchange for Gordon-Cumming promising never to play cards again.
When the story got out anyway, Gordon-Cumming sued for slander. It became a media circus, with the heir to the throne appearing before court for the first time since 1411. Despite strong arguments by his counsel, Gordon-Cumming lost the case, got kicked out of the military, and found himself exiled from polite society.
Arrival in America
The first record of baccarat in America dates back to an 1871 article in the New York Times. The game was absent in the early days of Las Vegas, although Chemin de Fer finally got a table at the Sands in 1958. Punto Banco came to Sin City in 1959, brought up through Argentina and Cuba, and it immediately became the favored version of the game (even though the Sands lost $250,000 the first night it was offered).
During the 1970s, the game struggled with only a total of 15 tables available throughout Las Vegas. That changed over the years, however, and by 2008 there were 24 versions baccarat available.
Bond, James Bond
In 1953, the most famous fictional baccarat devotee debuted with the publication of Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. In fact, the entire plot of his debut novel revolved around a high stakes game of baccarat between 007 and a high-rolling arms dealer in need of cash.
More than any other fictional portrayal, the presence of the game in the James Bond franchise has helped it become synonymous with elegance and risk. In addition to a TV version of Casino Royale and a non-canonical 1967 film, Bond has been shown playing baccarat in the following movies: Dr. No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, For Your Eyes Only, and GoldenEye. With the release of the first film to star Daniel Craig as 007, the producers decided to drop baccarat in favor of the more popular Texas Hold’em.
Even Murderers Love Baccarat
While by no means the largest, one of the more notable European baccarat wins came in 1960 when Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, won the equivalent of $76,769 while playing the game over the course of two nights at a private gambling party. Commonly known as Lord Lucan, this member of the British peerage was a professional gambler who raced power boats and was once considered for the role of James Bond.
His most notable historical achievement, however, was the supposed murder of his children’s nanny on November 7th, 1974. He soon fled his estate in a blood-covered car and hasn’t been seen since, although the story continues to fascinate residents of the United Kingdom.
The Internet and Beyond
Baccarat history received a major boost with the creation of the Internet. This has allowed people of all economic levels to enjoy the game from within the confines of their own home. While the rules have remained the same, a whole new generation of Americans is developing an appreciation for a pastime with ties to ancient Europe.