Baccarat is an exciting, yet simple casino game. You do not need to learn complicated strategies before you can start playing, as there are basically just three possible outcomes on which you can bet: Player Hand wins, Banker Hand wins, and Tie. Note, that “Banker” does not refer to the house. You have the option to bet on either, the player’s hand or the banker’s hand.
Over the years, several versions of the game have emerged:
- Baccarat Punto Banco (American Baccarat)
- Baccarat Chemin de fer
- Baccarat Banque
However, all those three versions have basically the same rules, with the major difference being how the cards are dealt. More about those different versions will be discussed in future posts. Now let’s talk about the basic rules and how to actually play Baccarat.
Basic Rules and how Baccarat is played
At the beginning of each round, all bets are made. You can place your bet on the Player Hand, on the Banker Hand or on Tie. Or you could also combine those bets, for example, betting on a Tie and the Banker Hand.
After all bets are made, the two hands are dealt consisting of two cards each. Note, there are always just 2 hands dealt, no matter how many players attend the game. The objective in Baccarat is to guess which hand will have a total closest to 9.
To calculate the hand value in Baccarat all face cards and tens count zero. Aces count one and all other cards count their face value. If the count of a hand exceeds 9, 10 is subtracted. For example, if the player hand is dealt an 8 and a 7, its total is 5 (8 + 7 = 15, 15 – 10 = 5).
There are specific rules, which determine whether the Banker or Player Hand is dealt a 3rd card (which is the maximum of cards that can be dealt per hand). But more later.
Those who correctly bet on a winning Player Hand receive a 1 to 1 payoff. If you correctly bet on a Banker Hand you also receive a 1 to 1 payoff, but you have to pay 5% commission, thus resulting in a payoff of 19 to 20. A winning tie bet awards you with a payoff of 8 to 1.
Third Card Rules
Depending on specific rules, a third card is drawn for one or the other hand. This often confuses players, but note, this has nothing to do with strategy. There are clear rules about it which are followed by the dealer. Therefore, you do not have to memorize anything as you do not have any playing options. However, if you familiarize yourself with the third card draw rules and have some understanding of what will happen, you probably will feel a little bit more comfortable playing this game.
Player Hand 3rd Card Rule
In Baccarat, the Player is always the first to get dealt. This applies to the first two cards as well as to the third card being dealt. Whether the Player Hand is dealt a third card, depends on the total of the initial two cards.
- If the total equals something between 6 and 9, no third card is dealt for the Player Hand and it automatically stands.
- When the total equals 0-5 a third card is being dealt unless the Banker Hand totals 8 or 9.
Banker Hand 3rd Card Rule
Depending on the Player’s hand and its third card (if dealt), the Banker hand draws and receives a (third) card.
The rules for the Banker Hand follow similar principles but are slightly more complicated. If you do not want to memorize them, you do not have to, as it is the job of the dealer to know them and determine whether a third card is necessary.
Depending on the total of the Banker Hand of the first two cards, the Banker Hand stands or draws as follows:
0, 1, 2
Bank draws a 3rd card, unless Player has a natural win
Bank draws if Player's 3rd card is 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 9 otherwise it stands
Bank draws if Player's 3rd card is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 otherwise it stands
Bank draws if Player's 3rd card is 4, 5, 6, or 7 otherwise it stands
Bank draws if Player's 3rd card is 6, or 7 otherwise it stands
Natural win, neither hand draws a 3rd card
Baccarat Outcomes and Payouts
The four possible outcomes of Baccarat are: Player Hand wins, Banker Hand wins, Tie, Neutral Win.
A winning bet on the Player Hand pays you even money. For example, if you bet € 10 on the Player Hand and it wins, you receive € 20.
Betting € 10 on the Banker Hand will pay you € 19,5 if it wins. You would also receive even money, but as you have to pay 5% commission your true payout is 19 to 20.
If you manage to predict a Tie, you will usually receive a payout of 8 to 1. For example, if you bet € 10 on tie and you are right you will get € 90.
However, if the total points of either the Player’s or the Banker’s hand on the first two cards dealt is 8 or 9, this is called a Neutral win. You receive your wager back and the current round is over.
Final Tipps and Key Takeaways
Baccarat is a fairly simple and easy to learn game with the main betting options being: Player Hand, Banker Hand or Tie. The objective of the game is to guess which hand is closest to 9. To calculate the total of a hand, all face cards and tens count zero, an ace counts one, and all other cards count their face value. If the total is higher than 9, 10 is subtracted. As there are fixed drawing rules for the 3rd card, there is no opportunity for strategic decisions like there are for example in Blackjack. But there are some tips, which when followed can help increase your chances of winning.
First of all, ignore the tie bet. Although the payout is higher than compared to betting on the Banker Hand or the Player Hand, it is such an uncommon occurrence that when betting on a tie, the house edge lies around 14.4%. The same is true for all other side bets like Player Pair or Banker Pair which might be available. Ignore these betting options if you do not want to lose your money. The best chance to win in the long run, is to bet on the Banker Hand, as here the house edge is around 1.06% compared to 1.24% when regarding bets on the Player Hand. Baccarat's overall house edge is around 1.2%, which is one of the lowest in the casino range. That’s probably one of the reasons why it is so popular.
Another important factor when playing Baccarat is your bankroll management. Never treat it lightly and only risk money that you can afford and are ready to lose. Like with any other casino game, it is a game of chance, and even the most tried and tested theories go on losing streaks.