When you think Baccarat, you think James Bond, roped-off VIP tables, and high rollers in tuxedos and evening gowns. Whilst the game still has that reputation – and is still one of the most high-stakes casino games out there – an average joe can still enjoy Baccarat at a mini-Baccarat game or online. These options allow you to bet smaller amounts (classic Baccarat tables will have minimum bets in the hundreds) and enjoy the game on a smaller, more manageable scale, whilst still living out your 007 fantasies.
So, you are ready to start playing Baccarat, or you are already a regular player but want to kick your game up a notch. We are going to go over the basics of the game, as well as the best tips to play Baccarat and maximise your wins.
The rules of Baccarat can seem a bit complicated at first, but that’s just because they are quite specific. It may take you some time to familiarise yourself with the full rules, but it is worth doing this before you sit down to play, especially as rounds tend to go very quickly: if you don’t understand the rules, you may feel a bit overwhelmed and confused as the rounds go by.
It is important to note that there is more than one type of Baccarat game: the three most popular ones are Punto Banco, Chemin de Fer, and Baccarat Banque. Because it is the most common around the world – including the US, UK, Australia, and Macau – we will be focusing on Punto Banco.
In a game of Punto Banco Baccarat, a shoe containing a standard 8 decks of cards is used. There are two hands dealt out each game: ‘Player’ and ‘Banker’. Note that these do not designate the gambler and the casino, they are simply names for hands which you can bet on. At the beginning of each game, you bet on Player, Banker, or tie. Two cards are distributed to each one from the shoe, and the value of the hands is compared: the overall goal is to get closest to 9.
In Baccarat, cards up to 9 are worth their number value, with Ace being worth 1. Tens and court cards (Jack, Queen, King) are not worth any points. If the two cards add up to a two-digit number, the hand is worth only the value of the second digit: for example, a hand made up of a 7 and a 9 add up to 16, which is worth 6.
If either of the hands adds up to an 8 or 9 at this point, this is a ‘natural win’ and all wagers are paid out – if they are tied, the game is also over. If the player has a total of 0-5, they draw a third card; if they have a total of 6 or 7 they stand. If the player stands, then the banker follows the exact same rule: third card for 0-5, stand for 6 or 7.
If the player drew a third card, this is where things get a little bit complicated. The banker draws a third card or stands depending on player’s third card and their current total is:
Following this, whoever gets closest to 9 wins.
Once you have mastered the basics, you can start thinking about strategies for winning. Here are some of the best tips to play Baccarat and win.
The main statistic you need to keep in mind is the house edge, or the percentage advantage the casino has in every hand. House edges for baccarat are quite low in general: 1.06% for banker, 1.24% for player, and 4.85% on a 9-to-1 tie payout. However, some casinos use a 8-to-1 tie payout, particularly in Asia where 8 is seen as a lucky number: in this case, the house edge for a tie becomes a whopping 14.4%.
This is a good example of why you should familiarise yourself with the rules of the particular casino and table you are playing at before starting. Another variable is the banker commission: because of the lower house edge on the banker bet, most casinos charge a commission for every win you get by betting on banker. The standard is 5%, which in the long run is compensated by the house edge advantage, however some casinos charge 10% or even 25% and a few charge less than 5% to attract players: make sure you know before betting, especially as many strategies have you betting only on banker (see below).
Yet another thing to look out for is the number of decks. The standard is 8, however very few casinos use fewer decks, such as 4 or 6. This affects your game significantly, and allows you to play for longer with less risk.
Most guides to playing Baccarat will agree on one thing: ignore the tie bet. The 9 or 8-to-1 odds make it appealing, however a tie only shows up about 9% of the time. You are quite simply not likely to get one, and betting on it is a waste of money, particularly given the relatively high betting minimums at Baccarat tables (even the mini ones average around $25).
Everyone also agrees that you should pick a bet and run with it throughout your game, continuously betting whilst it wins and stopping when it starts to lose. However, this varies: most guides will tell you to always bet on banker, because the lower house edge will pay off in the long run. However, some experts say that if you are following a strategy, you are better off always betting on player, as you avoid the commission in case of a win. Overall, you are probably better off always betting on banker, unless you know what you are doing and are using a progression strategy.
It is important to note that Baccarat is known as a game of chance rather than skill, more like roulette than blackjack or poker. This is why some players develop betting strategies much like they do for roulette, allowing for effective betting and money management. These include strategies like the Martingale, which involves doubling your bet with each round.
Even if you do not want to use a rigid strategy, the best tip to play Baccarat regularly and safely is to set yourself limits. It is a quick game, with hundreds of rounds each hour: set yourself a strict limit of rounds or money to gamble before starting, and don’t allow yourself to deviate from this. Avoid using time limits, as it is very easy to lose track of time, and casinos specifically try to get you to do this (the famous ‘no clocks or windows’ trick). Also, play shorter sessions of Baccarat than you would other games: its quick pace means a lot of money can be lost in a short amount of time, so you are better off breaking your play into small chunks, with proper breaks in between them.