Baccarat is an ancient card game that has travelled through the centuries without losing its allure. That allure resides in its simplicity and fast action. Game play is dictated by pre-set rules and punters have only one decision to make – to bet on the Banker, the Player or a Tie. Ease of play, quick results and high limits have made baccarat the gambling game of royalty and high rollers.
Mini baccarat is a game offered for low rollers and can be found in select land-based casinos and online casinos. Online, where play can often be free in guest mode, is a place to get a feel for this game of kings. Some online casinos also often live dealer video streams to bring the action from the tables to the screen.
Baccarat is the legendary favourite of high rollers in casinos and the gambling passion of choice for James Bond. When baccarat if offered by casinos the tables are typically roped off or placed in separate rooms to shield the big-money players from the riff-raff. Less than 1% of gamblers come to casinos to play baccarat but the impact of those that do is such that wins and losses at the baccarat tables are given special notation in quarterly earnings reports. The high rollers are attracted to baccarat by the simplicity of the game (in the most popular version the only decision that can be made is which of two virtually equal sides to bet on), the high table stakes (it is not unusual for players to risk $100,000 per hand) and a skimpy house edge (on average a shade more than 1%).
Baccarat was a 15th century Italian card game – the name means “nothing” or “zero.” Each face card and the 10-pip card have a value of zero during play. When the game migrated to France around 1490 it picked up a “t” and a loyal following among the French royalty. The French nobility favoured a version called chemin de fer while the English upper crust adapted a variant known as punto banco. It was this English version that set sail to the New World, first in South America and then up into the United States. A close relative of baccarat called faro was the most widespread card game in the fabled American Old West.
How To Play Baccarat
The most common form of baccarat in United States casinos is punto banco. It is dealt from a shoe of four, six or eight decks. Before a hand of baccarat commences the players make their bets on either the Player, the Banker or a Tie. And that is lone decision to be made in game play. After the dealer call for no more bets two hands of two cards each are dealt face up in the middle of the table. One hand belongs to the “Player” and the other to the “Banker,” which represents the house. From that point the rules of baccarat determine game play. This aspect of baccarat appeals to some gamblers since optimal game play can not be spoiled by weak play by others at the table such as can happen at a blackjack table.
The higher of the two hands will be the winner. The two through nine cards are valued by their real number of pips, the ace is valued at one and 10-K are all zero. When the two cards are added up any total higher than nine is scored by the number on the right; for example, a six and a nine that totals 15 scores 5. If either the Banker or the Player scores an 8 or a 9, called a “natural,” the hand ends and winners are paid and the losing bets collected. Bets on the Player pay 1:1 and bets on the Banker pay 19:20 with the house collecting a 5% commission.
If a natural is not dealt a third card may be delivered to each hand, the Player first. If the Player has a total from 0 to 5 a third card is dealt; if the total is either 6 or 7 the Player stands. If the Player stands the Banker follows the same rules and a winner determined. If the Player receives a third card the Banker plays according to pre-set rules based on the totals of the two players. Again, any game play decisions are already baked into the game’s rules.
If after the third card the Banker and Player have the same total the result is declared a Tie and any bets on a Tie are paid 8 to 1 and often 9 to 1 in Europe. This is a highly favourable bet for the casino with a house edge in the range of 15% at 8 to 1 depending on the number of decks used and 5% at 9-1. Bets on the Player or Banker are left on the table for the next hand and can be pulled back if desired.
One version of baccarat familiar to American gamblers is mini-table baccarat. Standard “Big Table” games can accommodate 14 players and feature high minimums such as $10,000. The mini-table is more attractive to the everyday punter with much smaller bets to join the game.
Other variations of baccarat feature the same basic rules of play but differ mainly by dealer. In Baccarat Chemin de Fer instead of a casino dealer the deal rotates around the table in the manner of dice being passed around a craps table. The bettor with the largest wager is given the role of Player and represents all of the gamblers at the table. Cards are dealt face down instead of up and the Player makes the decision on the third card. As soon as the Banker loses the deal is passed along. In Baccarat Banque one player, either the biggest bettor or at the croupier’s whim, is selected to be the Banker and the deal does not rotate.
Baccarat Tips & Advice
With only one decision and all outcomes dependent on the same game play the smartest play is the one with the smallest house advantage and that is the bet on the Banker. But both the house edge on the Player and Banker are fractionally more than 1% so there is no catastrophe awaiting for occasionally casting your fate with the Player. Do not try to chase the plump 8-1 payout on tie outcomes – that strategy will return only 85% of your bankroll in the long run.
Baccarat players are often seen taking notes of outcomes during a session, hoping to spot a “hot” or “cold” run in the shoe for either the Banker or Player. But each hand of baccarat is an independent event not beholden to past outcomes.