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How To Play Baccarat Online For Free Or Real Money

Baccarat has a bit of a reputation as being the most confusing of the card-based table games, as its rigid structure dictates what happens, sometimes at the expense of player choice. However, those willing to understand the game will find a thrilling game of chance with a rich history. There really is nothing like it.

By the end of this page, you'll know how to play baccarat online, the differences between variations, your odds of winning any particular game, and the best strategies to use.

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The History of Baccarat

As with anything with several hundred years of history, the origins of baccarat are an interesting mystery. Numerous sources have been credited as having inspired baccarat, including the Chinese gambling game Pai Gow - a tile game where the highest score is nine.

One popular theory for baccarat's origins is that it originated in Italy in the 1400s. An Italian gentleman named Felix Falguiere is often credited with using a deck of tarot cards to create baccarat as we know it today.

It's rumored that French soldiers brought the game with them when they left Italy at the conclusion of the Italian War of 1494-1495, giving it the French name we're familiar with. In certain Italian dialects, "baccara" is Italian for zero, and within the game tens and face cards have no value - they are worth zero.

Adding a further wrinkle to baccarat's history is a later reference to Macao, a European card game similar to baccarat, which was first mentioned in 1783. In 1891, baccarat exploded in popularity in England due to the Tranby Croft affair, a massive scandal involving the then-Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII.

Baccarat made its way to the United States in the late 1800s. Despite being played at many casinos in the early days of the Las Vegas strip, it didn't get its first official table at the Sands until 1958. When the Punto Banco variant came to Las Vegas in 1959 through Argentina and Cuba, it immediately became the most popular version of baccarat. The game struggled a bit in the 1970s, where it only occupied 15 tables in all of Las Vegas, but it eventually rebounded. By 2008, there were 24 different versions of baccarat available.

The first version of baccarat at a casino online launched in the 1990s, and it is available to play at most every gambling site today. While the exact origins of baccarat might be unknown, there's no denying that the game has a rich history.

How to Play Baccarat Online

If you don't want to get dressed up to go to a casino or just want to get a better grip on the game's rules, there are plenty of ways to play baccarat online.

Almost all online casinos offer some version of baccarat, whether for stand-alone play or as part of their collection of live dealer games. If you want to play baccarat for free, it's as simple as going to the online casino of your choice and loading up one of their stand-alone baccarat games. If you'd rather play baccarat for real money, you'll have to sign up for a casino account and make a deposit.

When you sign up for a casino account, you'll be offered a welcome bonus to take advantage of alongside your first deposit. Welcome bonuses are quite substantial amounts of money to start new casino players off on the right foot, though how much you're eligible to receive is typically tied to the size of your first deposit.

Not only does playing with your account balance mean you can win real money, it's also the only way you can play baccarat as a live dealer game. Live dealer games are unique in that they use cameras and a studio to simulate the experience of playing baccarat at a land-based casino, with a dealer controlling the action in real time. Live dealer baccarat is also the only way you can play baccarat for real money with or against other players.

What are the Rules of Baccarat?

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

What is the House Edge for Baccarat?

The house edge for baccarat varies depending on the number of decks used in the shoe (the device from which cards are dealt). The house edge for baccarat is:

House Edge Per Decks Used
  • 8 decks – Banker 1.06%, Player 1.24%, Tie 14.36%
  • 6 decks – Banker 1.06%, Player 1.24%, Tie 14.44%
  • 1 deck – Banker 1.01%, Player 1.29%, Tie 15.75%

Baccarat Odds

Whether you play baccarat online or at a land-based casino, your chance of winning is almost even. There are only three betting options, one of which (betting on a tie) should be avoided, as it has a much higher house edge than the other two bets. With a small house edge of less than 1.5%, the other two bets are nearly even.

Baccarat is a game that pits the player's hand against the bankers, and you must bet in advance on which hand you think will win. If you guess correctly, the bet is paid 1:1, though if you bet on the banker's hand and it wins, the casino takes a 5% commission of your winnings. This is because there is a very small likelihood that the banker's hand will win (50.68% to 48.15% for the player), and casinos don't want players to take advantage of this small but important difference in probability.

A tie bet may pay 8:1, but the odds of a tie in baccarat are only 9.5%. This means that the house has a huge 14.4% edge over you because the payout is a smaller ratio than the probability of the tie actually happening.

Even with the 5% commission you pay when successfully betting on the banker's hand to win, it is still mathematically the best bet you can make, whether you're playing baccarat live, by yourself, or at a land-based casino.

Some casinos might also be a bit more liberal with baccarat rules, such as reducing the commission payment on a winning banker's hand or increasing the payout on a tie bet to 9:1. In an eight-deck game at 9:1, the house will only hold a 4.84% edge, six decks is 4.93%, and 6.38% in a one-deck game. However, more relaxed rules are certainly an exception, and shouldn't be reliably counted on when playing baccarat online.

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Baccarat Variations

The version of baccarat that most players are likely familiar with is the aforementioned Punto Banco variant. When you play baccarat online, you are always playing this version.

Punto Banco

The biggest difference between Punto Banco and the other variations of baccarat is that the game is streamlined - the banker plays both hands according to the drawing rules, and there are no optional plays that can be made.

One hand is designated the player, while the other is assigned to the banker. Participants bet on which hand of cards they think will win. They can also bet on a tie, which has the best payout but is also the least likely outcome.

During a round of play (also known as a coup), each hand receives two face-up cards from a shoe of four, six, or eight decks. If either side has a total of 8 or 9, they win; if both have a total of 8 or 9, it's a tie. If neither of these outcomes occur, baccarat rules dictate what happens next:
•    If the player has a total of 6 or 7, then they take no additional cards. 
•    If they have 0 through 5, then they receive another card.
•    If the player didn’t receive a third card, then the banker applies the same drawing rules. 
•    If the player did get a card, then the banker obeys the following guidelines:

Banker Guidelines
  • Banker draws a card if his total is 2 or less.
  • If the banker’s total is 3, then they draw 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 they take another card.
  • If the banker’s total is 5, and the player’s third card was 4 through 7, then they take another card.
  • If the banker’s total is 6, and the player’s third card was a 6 or 7, then they take another card.
  • The banker stands on a total of 7.

After these rules are followed, the winner is determined. Player bets typically pay even money, while banker bets lose a five percent commission. If there is a tie, the both wagers roll over to the next round.

Mini Baccarat

As its name implies, Mini Baccarat is a version of baccarat with smaller table limits. The game itself is also played more quickly. While there are some differences in how the table is laid out compared to other variations, Mini Baccarat follows the same set of rules as Punto Banco.

Chemin de Fer

French for "railway", Chemin de Fer is considered the original version of baccarat, and remains popular around the world. Chemin de Fer is played more quickly than Punto Banco and is a bit more complicated, but the goal of your cards adding up to 9 is the same.

In Chemin de Fer, six decks of cards are used, and players take turns being the banker, as opposed to a banker being designated like at a casino. The banker wagers whatever amount they see fit, and players are given the opportunity to "go bank" (match the bet).

If no player matches the bet by themselves, each participant is given a chance to make a smaller bet. If even these bets don't match the total of the banker's bet, onlookers are allowed to contribute to reach the total bet. If the combined wagers from players and/or onlookers exceed the total, the banker can match the new total or discard anything over their initial wager.

Both banker and players receive two face-down cards to represent their hands. The player who made bank (made the highest wager) represents the entire group of players. If either hand has an 8 or a 9, the game ends. Otherwise, the player may choose to take an additional card. After seeing the player's new total, the banker may also choose to take a third card, and the hands are then compared to determine a winner.

If the player hand wins, all of the players get back what they wagered, plus a matching amount from the banker, and the role of the banker is passed to the next player. If the banker's hand wins, they keep everything wagered and they stay in that role for the next game. If a tie occurs, wagers remain the same in the next game.

Baccarat Banque

Baccarat Banque is mechanically similar to Chemin de Fer, with the exception that the role of the banker does not change between games unless the player acting as the banker retires of their own volition or cannot afford to bet any longer. As opposed to Chemin de Fer's six decks, Baccarat Banque uses only three.

The role of the banker is given to the player who is willing to risk the most at the outset of the game. Two groups of up to five players, as well as any onlookers, are positioned to their left and right, and so two groups of players are dealt hands to compete against the banker's one hand. Any player may "go bank", though two players can share going bank for half of the stake. A player going bank can do so on a regular hand, or cut their stake across two hands. Players can go bank repeatedly, even when losing, but not after three losses.

The banker must play at least one hand, but can retire at any point afterwards. The position of the banker is then open to any other player, starting with the same amount. The outgoing banker switches positions with the new banker, and a new game begins.

Free Play vs. Real Money Play

The only real difference between playing baccarat for free or real money is your ability to actually win your wager if successful. However, there are still reasons to play baccarat online for free.

When you play free baccarat, you can take the opportunity to better understand the flow of the game, and how the progression of rules work. When you know why certain things are happening - when cards are added to either hand, and why - you'll find that you'll be able to follow the game better and enjoy it more.

Similarly, casino games are intended to be fun, and no one would argue that you can still have a lot of fun without having to win or wager money. Playing baccarat online might be a bit more solitary than it is in a land-based casino (with the exception of playing live dealer baccarat), but it can still be a great time.

Baccarat Strategy

As we mentioned above, the best strategy when playing baccarat online is to bet with the banker. It's not the most fun or dynamic thing to do, nor is it a guaranteed win, but if your goal is to win more often, wagering on the banker's hand is the way to go.

Similarly, while betting on the chance of a tie might be attractive since it pays out the most, the odds of there actually being a tie aren't good.

Another strategy that is true for baccarat, or any gambling game, is to not bet more than you can afford to lose. Some banking strategies, such as the Martingale System, aren't valuable for those with small bankrolls, and baccarat specifically often has low table limits. If you've lost a few games, don't go chasing a big win, because there's no guarantee that it will happen.

Tips for Playing Baccarat Online

If you want to play baccarat online for real money and you're looking to claim a casino's welcome bonus, make sure you check out the terms and conditions before you do. Some casinos may prevent you from withdrawing any winnings before you've wagered a certain amount, or you might only be allowed to withdraw so much at a time. Be sure to carefully read the terms before you agree to them so you're not caught by surprise later.

No matter how much you love baccarat, you might eventually want to play something else. When figuring out where you want to play baccarat online, look at their other game offerings and see if there's anything that appeals to you.