Baccarat (also known as punto banco in some countries) is one of the oldest casino games and can make for a fun time gambling online or at the tables. While many may think it looks difficult, the card game is actually fairly easy to play. Baccarat can be found in casinos around the world, and it is the gambling game of choice for superspy character James Bond. The game is seen as elegant, and many high rollers enjoy the action, which sometimes scares off amateur gamblers.
However, it doesn’t have to be just for high rollers and VIPs: online and live casinos also offer lower-stakes versions of the game. Players who do step up to the baccarat or minibaccarat tables will be rewarded with a game that has only a small house edge and is simple to play. Here's our casino guide to baccarat.
Before getting to gameplay, here are some things to know about baccarat.
• Hand values: Each card retains its numerical value in baccarat. Kings, queens, jacks, and 10s have a value of 0. Aces have a value of 1.
• Table talk: Baccarat tables can be a bit different depending on the casino. Larger casinos such as Caesars may offer larger tables (like those in the Bond films) that can seat up to 14 players. Other properties may offer minibaccarat, which seats about eight players and usually has lower limits. There is also a small difference in gameplay. In the mini version, all cards are dealt face up and the players never touch the cards.
• Player: A hand dealt for the player.
• Banker: A hand dealt to the house.
• Tie: A betting option to bet that the player and banker hands will be the same.
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A game of baccarat begins with those at the table making bets on the player, banker, or a tie. The dealer then deals a hand for the player and the banker. The goal in the game is to get as close to 9 as possible. Any two-card hand adding to 9 is called a natural. A 10-9 would be a natural 9 because the 10 has no value and the 9 makes for a perfect score.
Also, no hand can go over a total of 9, and any total over that simply drops 10. For example, a player may be dealt a pair of 7’s for a total of 14. However, that hand drops 10 and is actually a value of 4. An 8-7 hand would have a value of 5 after dropping 10, and two 5’s would equal 0.
After each hand is dealt, if either hand has a natural 9 then that hand is the winner and bets are collected and paid by the dealer. If neither hand has a 9, then the next best hand is an 8 (also called a natural) and that hand would be the winner.
If the two hands are the same with an 8 or 9, then the hand is a tie and neither hand wins.
If the value of the two hands don’t total 8 or 9, a third card can be drawn. Whether to draw a third card is predetermined by the rules of the game and does not depend on a decision from the player. Here’s a look at those rules:
• The player must stand with 6 or 7.
• If the player stands, the banker hits on a total of 5 or less.
• If the player has 5 or less, the player hits and receives a third card.
If the player receives a third card, then the banker draws a third card according to these rules:
• Banker has 0, 1, or 2 – always draws a third card.
• Banker has 3 – draws if the player's third card is 1 to 10 (excluding 8).
• Banker has 4 – draws if the player's third card is 2 to 7.
• Banker has 5 – draws if the player's third card is 4 to 7.
• Banker has 6 – draws if the player's third card is 6 or 7
• The banker always stands with a total of 7.
That may seem like a lot, but there should be a chart available at the table to help explain the rules to players. The dealer also knows the rules and should know which hands to hit. After a third card is added, the hand closest to 9 is the winner. If both hands are a tie, then neither hand wins and the tie bets are paid out.
Bets on the player are paid out at even money, and the house only has a 1.24 percent edge on this wager. Wagers on the banker also pay out at even money, but the player pays a 5 percent commission for that bet on any wins. So, if the player bet $10 and won, he or she would owe 50 cents to the house for that win. The commission is only paid on winning bets, and the dealer keeps track of these commissions in a slot in the dealer box. Those commissions must be paid when a player leaves the table.
Taking the commission into account, a bet on the banker offers the house an edge of only 1.06 percent and is one of the best wagers in the casino. A bet on the tie pays a player 8 to 1 (which is the same as 9 for 1 and may be printed on the table). It’s a nice payout, but carries a big casino advantage of 14.36 percent.
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Baccarat is a good game for the player, and requires no special skill. While it may look like James Bond has some special skills in the movies, the truth is this game is great because it doesn’t require a ton of knowledge and that low house edge gives everyone a decent chance of taking home some winnings.