Perhaps, like most players at the casino, you have never played baccarat yourself. Baccarat has a mysterious reputation among recreational gamblers, largely due to the way casinos set up and organize the game.
Most casinos relegate their real baccarat tables to secluded “high limit” sections. There it envelops a group of serious players who spend the entire night placing large bets. This unusual scene can be unpleasant for many casual players.
In this article, you’ll read why baccarat is actually a game you really should play once anyway.
Baccarat offers you three betting options: player’s hand, banker’s hand or draw.
The basic rules are easy to learn
Before we get into the many benefits of playing baccarat, we’re going to give you a quick crash course on the basic rules and gambling options of the game.
Depending on the version you play, standard baccarat is played with either six or eight decks of cards, just like blackjack. As for the cards, below are the values of the cards in baccarat:
- 10, jack, queen and king = 0 points
- Ace = 1 point
- 2 = 2 points
- 3 = 3 points
- 4 = 4 points
- 5 = 5 points
- 6 = 6 points
- 7 = 7 points
- 8 = 8 points
- 9 = 9 points
To start a hand with baccarat, you have to choose from three betting options: the player hand, the banker hand or draw, also called the Tie.
Don’t worry too much about the original meaning behind these hand names. They are simply remnants of the old skool version in which gamblers alternated between acting as players and banks. In all respects, you just guess which of the two hands will win or whether they will end in a draw.
The goal of baccarat is extremely simple. Guess which hand reaches a total of nine or comes closest to it after being dealt two or three cards.
Once you have placed a bet, the dealer does nothing more than deal two cards (one at a time) to each hand. The total of an individual hand can never exceed nine, so if it goes into the double digits, all you have to do is remove the left digit to get to the real total.
That’s pretty tricky, so here’s an example to illustrate how a baccarat hand works:
- Player’s hand = Ace and 7 for a total of 8
- Banker’s hand = 6 and 9 for a total of 5
As you can see, we remove the tens to leave a total of five. Even though the six and nine of the banker’s hand should equal 15.
The third card
What makes baccarat exciting is the addition of a third card based on the relationship between the first total of two cards of each hand. Don’t worry too much about this either. The dealer consults a system known as the baccarat “tableau.”
With this, he decides when a third card is warranted. From the player’s perspective, this all plays out within seconds. You don’t have to make any decisions or apply any strategy.
Sometimes only one hand draws a third card and in other cases both hands may draw a card. In any case, the third card completes a hand’s total and the hand that finishes closest to nine is the winner.
Payout from the house
If you win with the player’s hand you receive a proportional payout from the house. A winning banker’s hand is paid out with almost equal money, but reduced by a 5% commission. This commission is necessary because the banker’s hand has a slight statistical advantage over the player’s hand due to its ability to “draw” last.
Again, these details may seem confusing at first glance, but, however, do not matter at all while playing. And if you happen to gamble on the tie option and both hands end in a tie, you will receive a payout of 8 to 1.
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Now you’ve learned how to play baccarat, so let’s look at the many reasons why you should give this classic casino card game a try.
Baccarat used to be for back rooms
When you walk through a land-based casino you eventually come across some sort of private room. The game being played here may be reminiscent of blackjack or craps in terms of setting, but this is no humble dice game. It is the Big Table Baccarat.
This version of baccarat, also known as “punto banco,” is best known as the setting for James Bond’s infamous confrontation with girlfriend Sylvia Trench. You probably know the scene from the movie when the suave secret agent coolly beats the beautiful Trench out of her entire bankroll while playing cards in a fancy casino.
In the traditional form of Big Table Baccarat, which is still played, players take turns acting as the bank while dealing several stacks of cards around. Similarly, in a Big Table Baccarat game, the clientele will typically be dressed like “007” himself.
Between the huge stakes and the haughty atmosphere, many recreational players watch a few hands out of curiosity before moving on to a more humble setting. You can’t really blame them for that either.
Different game options modern casinos
Casinos have long since adapted by rolling out a more informal low-stakes option called ‘Mini Baccarat’. This game, also known as ‘Midi Baccarat’, takes place in the normal pit of the table game and uses minimum bets such as €5 or €10. The giant table is traded in for a standard table that looks, feels and fits like the standard blackjack or Three Card Poker game.
Instead of players alternating between being the banker, a dealer also takes care of all that. The result is an accessible form of baccarat that invites recreational players on a limited budget to join in.
You win about 50% of all game rounds
Another reason beginners are encouraged to try baccarat is the binary nature of the game. Aside from the tie bet, you have only two options to choose from: player or banker.
The Banker bet wins about 45.9% of the time, followed by the Player bet with about 44.6%. Note the word “approximately” though, as the tie bet will win in about 9.5% of all games.
The Tie bet option will make your bankroll shrink quickly
Speaking of the tie bet. This betting option has a high risk and a high reward, which is 8 to 1. If you win a natural blackjack, your €10 bet will earn you €15 in winnings on a 3 to 2 quote, or €12.50 on a lower 6 to 5 rate.
But that same €10 bet turns into €80 in winnings when the Tie at baccarat is cashed. That’s enough to please any player. And that’s why you see a lot of players betting on the Tie option. Not a very smart move, because usually they will lose their bet.
The low house edge is on the banker’s box
Unless you are a master of basic strategy, the casino house edge at blackjack is 1.5%. Jump on the roulette table and you face 2.70% (wheels with one zero) or 5.26% (wheels with double zero). Some of the more popular bets on craps like the “Yo” (11) create a house edge of 11.11%, which is unbeatable in the long run.
However, if you take your bankroll to the baccarat table, you will get a relatively friendly house edge of 1.06% on Banker and 1.24% on Player. Those are of course offset by the obscene house edge of 14.36% on the tie bet. So be very cautious with that betting option.
Only game where you’re allowed to secretly see the cards
This one is reserved for Big Table Baccarat. One of the more fun traditions in casino gambling is to slowly bend that third and final card to reveal the fate of your hand.
You’ll find that superstitious gamblers maximize their “sweat” by bending the corner of the card just so and calling Monkey! Or “Picture!” in hopes of seeing a picture. In fact, many high-limit baccarat tables will even let you rip a bad card out of frustration (it’s bent anyway, so no harm, no foul).
So it’s definitely worth spending a little more for this unique experience, at least if you can afford it.
Baccarat doesn’t appeal to everyone, but once you take a seat and place your first bet, this opinion will quickly change. Given the almost binary ‘coin flip’ nature of the game, you also end up winning almost half of the hands you play on average.
The game may have a bad reputation based on its outdated status as an enclave for exclusive high rollers. But today’s baccarat has been modernized to have broad appeal. We hope the reasons in this article are enough to persuade you to give the game a try.