Baccarat - How to Play

Baccarat today is a popular casino game. It is a game of luck in which the player makes only one decision: to bet on the bank, the player, or to bet on a tie. However, more than any other casino game, Baccarat enjoys an aura of royalty. For many years it was the private entertainment of European royalty. In today's shorts and flip-flops casino environment, we can still see elegantly dressed patrons quietly enjoying Baccarat. The game is often played in a specially-roped-off section of the casino.

According to legend, Baccarat derives from an Etruscan Medieval ritual in which a virgin rolled a nine-sided die. If the 8 or 9 appeared she became a Priestess. The other numbers were not so lucky for her! True story or not, the numbers 8 and 9 are still winners at Baccarat!

Baccarat

The Basics

Baccarat is also known as Punto Banco. Punto is the player and Banco is the bank. Although there is enough room around the Baccarat table for fourteen players there are always only these two hands, player and bank.

Players bet on whether player will win the hand, bank will win, or there will be a tie (standoff in some casinos). The object of the game is to have a point total as close to nine as possible. The game requires three dealers. The play of the cards and the determination of the winner are all fixed in the basic rules so the bettors don't have to make any decisions after they make their one bet.

Some casinos allow the players to deal the cards. The dealer is the bank. The player who acts as the bank assumes no extra risk in doing so. He or she may, in fact, vote for "player" to win. The deal stays with the same player until the bank loses. Then the deal moves to the next player and he or she becomes the bank. Everyone else is the player and the one Punto hand applies to them all. All players, including the bank, must place a bet before the hand is dealt.

It has been found that the bank will win about four hands more than the player over the course of a six-deck shoe. So, the game truly is a relaxing and elegant way to be entertained.

The house's advantage is in the 5% commission it takes from the bank.

The Play

The dealer deals four face-down cards: player, banker, player, banker. The banker's cards are put face-down under the shoe. The player's cards are given to the bettor who bet the most on "player". He or she looks at the cards, hands them back to the dealer who turns them up and places them face-up on the player spot on the table.

The dealer then takes the bank's cards and hands them to the caller who puts the cards on the banker's spot on the table. If there is a winner after two cards the caller calls the winner. The casino workers at the table handle the chips after the caller has announced the winner.

If there is no winner after two cards the caller calls for another card. The third-card rules are fixed so the bettors have no decisions to make. They watch the game and await the outcome.

Card Values

Baccarat is played with standard, full decks but the card values are different than in other games.

*** Aces are always 1

*** 2 through 9 are the face value of the card

*** 10 and picture cards are 0 (zero)

If the total of the two cards dealt exceeds 9, the one is dropped. For example, if banco is dealt 7 and 5 his or her total is not 12 but 2. The 1 is dropped.

If either banco or punto have a total of 8 or 9 a natural is declared. If there is a winner, or if there is a tie, the hand is over. If there is neither a winner nor a tie a third card is played.

Third Card Rules

A third card will be dealt either to the Punto or to the Banco or to both based on the following precise rules:

Remember: If there is a natural, a point total of 8 or 9, after only two cards have been dealt, then the hand is over. The caller announces the winner or a tie. The dealers distribute the winnings.

But what if there is no natural? Then:

*** If the punto has a total of 5 or less, he or she receives one card

*** If the punto has a point total of 6 or 7 he or she must stand

*** If the punto must stand, the bank draws on 5 or less but stands on 6 or 7

Bank's Third Card Rules

Remember: If the player has 6 or 7 he or she stands. When the player stands the banker has only one option: he or she takes a card with 5 or less and stands with 6 or 7.

But what happens if the player takes a third card? Hold your hats!

*** If the bank's point total is 2 or less, he or she receives a third card. The card that the player received is not considered. But…

*** If the bank's count is 3 he or she draws a card unless the player received an 8

*** If the bank has 4 he or she gets one card unless the player's card was 0 (a ten or picture), a 1, a 8 or a 9

*** If the bank has 5 he or she gets a card only if the player received 4, 5, 6, or 7

*** If the bank's total is 6, he or she takes a card only if the player received a 6 or 7

*** If the bank's total was 7, he or she must stand even though the player received a third card

Click for a player's and banker's Third Card Rules chart.

Payouts

The payout for a winning bet on player and on bank is 1-1. However, the house takes a 5% commission on winning bank bets.

The payout for a winning tie bet is 8-1.

The Odds

The tie bet is the least favorable. The payout is 8-1 but a tie occurs less than 10% of the time.

The bank will win 45.9% of the time and the player will win 44.6% of the time. The casino takes a 5% commission on winning bank bets. Ties account for about 9.55% of hands.

Tidbits

*** Most players don't learn the third card rules. Online this is not a problem. But land-based casinos use people not computers to run games. People sometimes make mistakes

*** The deal of the first four cards should always go player, banker, player, banker

*** The first digit of a two-digit total is not used. Only the second digit counts

*** The dealer will turn over a card when there is a new set of decks and will burn cards equal to the value of the card

Strategy and Advice

*** Baccarat is almost entirely a game of chance. In the American version the play is dictated by the rules

*** Astute players will learn the third-card rules to prevent the dealer from making a third-card mistake

*** Do not bet on a tie. The house has a large advantage on this bet. (edge of 14.1%)

*** The house advantage on banker bets when no one has bet tie is 1.17%. It is 1.36% on player bets when no one has bet on a tie. But if a tie occurs and someone has bet on it, all other bettors lose their money. Our advice is to walk away from a table where a bettor often bets on a tie. He or she will surely lose his or her money faster but, although the house advantage doesn't increase, player and banker bettors lose more.

*** Runs occur often in games of chance. After three consecutive wins by either banco or punto, many players stop betting until the run is broken. Others bet with the run.

Summing Up

Baccarat is a relaxing casino game. It is popular both online and in land casinos. Many players like the fact that the rules dictate the play. After the concentration of blackjack, poker, or sports gambling, a quiet hour or two at Baccarat is often just what the player needs to recharge his or her battery. And even though the game has little decision-making it is fun to play!

Posted by Nick David

Click here for a full list of all casino game rules, how to play and strategies.