Baccarat Guide: Rules, Tips & Where to Play Online
Baccarat is a game that is wrapped in mystery and ancient tradition. Its routes can be traced back to central Europe over 600 years ago and possibly even further. Today, the game which is the favored casino game of fictional super-spy James Bond is one of the most popular casino games in the world and can be found in almost all online and physical casinos. It is the most played casino game in the world and has exploded in popularity over the last 30 plus years. It is so popular in Macau casinos that it regularly makes up around 90% of the city’s casino’s yearly income.
Although the game is unknown to some, especially Americans, it is actually very easy to pick up and learn the basics of the game. Once you know the basics, all you have to do is bet and the dealer takes care of the rest. The simplicity and player-friendly odds of the game are why it has long been popular in casinos both in real life and online.
A Brief History of Baccarat
There are varying tales of exactly how baccarat started and exactly how old it is. The fact that winning is based on the number 9 makes it related to Pai Gow, and ancient Chinese tile game and dice games played in ancient Rome. The name itself and its history as a card game are derived from medieval Italy in the 1400s where “baccara” meant zero, relating to the fact that face cards in the game are worth zero.
No matter the exact origins, what is known is that most people think of baccarat as a French game. This is due to the fact that French soldiers brought the game back from tours of Italy in the late 15th century. The game soon became a favorite of the French aristocracy led by King Charles VIII. Baccarat was widely played in France in the ensuing years although the first written rules of the game did not appear until the 1800s.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the game grew out of central Europe and started to pop up in the Americas and Asia. The game started exploding in popularity on both these continents in the 1960s and 70s. Today the game is hugely popular, especially in many Asian cultures. It has also been become one of the most played games in online casinos and can be found in any of the online casinos that offer table games.
Different Versions of Baccarat
There are several different versions of baccarat that are played online and around the world. Many casinos will offer multiple versions of the game. The major varieties of baccarat are:
If you see a baccarat table in a casino in North America, most of Europe, or Macau, chance are, it is a punto banco table. These words translate into English as “player” and “bank’ which makes sense when you understand how standard casino baccarat is played. The rules in this guide are for standard punto banco baccarat.
Chemin de Fer
This is an original French version of baccarat that translates to “railway”. It was called this because it was a fast version of baccarat just as the railway was the fastest mode of travel when the game was named. This is a 6-deck version of the game.
The main difference between Chemin de far and standard casino, or punto banco, baccarat is that this game is played around a table where one player acts as the banker. Players bet against the banker and try to win by beating their hand. The banker may pass being the bank to another player during the game.
This smaller version of baccarat has to do with the size of the table and the size of the bets as opposed to the game itself. The rules of this game are usually the same as punto banco. This style of baccarat is played in a table the size of a blackjack table and with 6 decks of cards. The smaller table and wager size allows casinos to take baccarat from a VIP area game and put it on the casino floor to be played by the masses.
How to Play Baccarat: Know the Rules
Baccarat is a fast-paced game that can look intimidating from the outside. However, baccarat is actually quite easy to learn and play. The biggest thing that players need to know about baccarat is that they do not have to do anything but place their bets.
While baccarat is a card game like blackjack or poker, players never actually touch the cards. The dealer handles all the play and the player’s only responsibility is to decide where to wager their money. Here is everything you need to know about how to play baccarat.
- Two hands are dealt each round (also known as a coup)
- There is a player hand and a banker hand
- The goal is to bet on which hand will be closer to 9
Those are the basic rules of baccarat. There are other, more involved options that we will get into but these simple rules make up the crux of the game.
One thing to note, even though one is called the “player” hand and the other is the “banker” hand, you are free to bet on either one. It is not like blackjack where your player hand is playing against the house dealer hand, in baccarat, these names are just what the two hands are called.
Baccarat is played with 6 to 8 standard 52-card decks. All cards are used in the game. The value of each card is as follows:
- Ace is worth 1
- 2 – 9 are worth their face value
- 10, Jack, Queen, King are worth 0
The actual card game piece of baccarat is played entirely by the dealer. The dealer deals two cards to the player hand and two cards to the banker hand. The cards are flipped face up and play always starts with the player hand.
To start, you add up the two cards in the hand. If the value is 9 or under, that is the current value of the hand. If the value is over 9, you subtract 10 from the total. Some people will say you “drop the first number” which is a different way of saying the same thing. An example is if the hand consists of a 7 and a 5 for a total of 12, the actual value of the hand is 2.
Hitting and Staying
The truth is, you do not really need to know the rules around hitting and staying to play baccarat. The dealer will do this when appropriate. However, it is always better to understand why the things that are happening are happening. Here is how the dealer determines whether to hit or stay.
Like in blackjack, one option for each hand is to “stand”, meaning the hand will be played as is, with just the two cards dealt.
If a hand has an 8 or 9, it is known as a “natural” and is an automatic winning hand unless the other hand also has a natural. When either hand has a natural, both hands stay. This is the number one rule and overrides any other hitting/ standing rules.
Standing for Player Hand
- If the player hand is 6 through 9, the player stands
Standing for Banker Hand
- Banker always stands with a total of 7, 8, or 9
Again, like blackjack, the other option is to “hit” on a hand. Unlike blackjack though there will only be one hit per hand, per round. The hands are not able to continually hit until they get the best hand.
The rules for a player hand hitting are simple while the rules governing a banker hand hitting are more complicated. Again, you don’t have to know all this to play as the dealer takes care of it all.
Hitting for Player Hand
- Player hand will hit when its value is 2 through 5
Hitting for Banker Hand
- If the player stands, the banker hits on any hand worth 5 or less
If the player hand hits, whether or not the banker hits are based on both the banker hand and what the player received as their third, “hit” card. These rules are:
- If the banker has a total of 0, 1, 2: Banker always hits
- If the banker has a total of 3: Banker hits if player’s 3rd card is anything BUT 8
- If the banker has a total of 4: Banker hits if player's 3rd card is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- If the banker has a total of 5: Banker hits if player's 3rd card is 4, 5, 6, 7
- If the banker has a total of 6: Banker hits if player's 3rd card is of 6 or 7
- If the banker has a total of 7: Banker always stands
There are 3 main betting options is the game of baccarat. There are also side bets that you can make to make the game more complex and interesting.
- Player wins: pays out even odds, 1 to 1
- Banker wins: pays out 95% of the bet
- Because the banker has slightly better odds, the house takes a 5% commission.
- Tie: A bet that the hand will end in a draw. Player and banker bets are returned, and tie bets payout 8 to 1 (or sometimes 9 to 1)
There are a number of side bets you can make during each hand depending on the style you are playing and where you are playing. Standard side bets like pair – one of the hands having two of a kind – payout around 11 to 1 usually. Perfect pairs – one hand having two of the exact same number and suit – pays around 25 to 1. Betting on one side to win with 3 cards pays 4 or 5 to 1.
There are also more exotic side bets that may be available. These include things like hitting 6 exactly, a hand having 3 cards in a row, or all the cards being the same suit. The rarer the occurrence of the side bets, the higher the odds will be.
A Word about Baccarat Odds
Baccarat is one of the most popular games in any in-person or online casino. A big reason for this is that it offers one of the lowest house advantages in any casino. This means that your odds of winning at baccarat are better than most other games.
The house edge betting on the player hand is 1.24%. The house edge on the banker hand is even lower (hence the 5% commission) at 1.06%. Here are how these house advantages compare to other popular casino games:
- Blackjack – 0.4% - 2%
- Craps – 0% - 16.67%
- Slots – 2% - 15%
- Roulette – 2.7% - 5.3%
- Keno – 20% - 25%
Strategies for Winning at Baccarat
Whether a hand wins or loses in baccarat is completely up to chance. Therefore, there are no real gameplay strategies. What the player does have control over is betting. That is why baccarat players implement different betting strategies to help win more money. Here are some of the most popular strategies.
The Martingale betting system is a negative progression system that goes back to (not surprisingly) the 1700s in France. The strategy behind the Martingale system is for a player to double their bet after each losing round. The idea is that you will make slow, steady progress when you win hands to build your bank and when you lose hands, you can quickly get back to even. The system does make sense mathematically and works in theory over a long period of time but for normal gamblers, even a short losing streak can wipe out your entire bankroll quickly.
This is a positive progression betting system that works the opposite of how the Martingale system works. In this system, players start by betting 1 unit on the first hand. If the player wins that hand, the bet should be doubled to 2 units. If the next hand is a win, the bet is increased to 3 units. After 3 consecutive wins, the bet is dropped back to 1 unit and the system starts over. In contrast to the Martingale system which is a long-term play, this system is best for short-term gains.
This is a negative progression system like the Martingale system but a little more complex. This is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers which is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on. Here, you start with 1 unit and bet the next number up the chain with every loss. After a win, you fall back two places on the chain and start again.
The Growth of Online Baccarat
Since the late 1990s, the world of online casinos has grown rapidly. From the early days of sketchy sites and even sketchier internet service to today, where it is a multibillion-dollar market, the industry has seen incredible growth.
It is no surprise that baccarat, the most popular in-person casino game in the world, has become a vital part of the online casino scene. You can find a variety of baccarat games online including video and live dealer versions. Many online casinos also offer great bonuses to use on baccarat when you sign up, deposit, and/or play.
Best Online Casinos to Play Baccarat
There are many online casinos where you can play baccarat but some standout over others. Here are some of the best online casinos to play baccarat.
This is a UK-based casino licensed in Curacao. It has a fun, old school Western saloon theme and a wide variety of games to choose from. High Noon Casino, or HNC for short, has been around since 2004 and offers a good selection of bonuses to players on table games, and has a very good reputation overall.
A newer player in the online casino space, Red Stag Casino is also licensed in Curacao and it accepts players from the UK, U.S., and EU. It has a good mobile site and loyalty program as well as a nice selection of games and bonuses. Even though they do not offer a huge amount of ways to withdraw money, they easily process money out with the ways they do allow.
Started as Bogdog Casino way back in 1994, Bovada is simply one of the biggest and best online casinos around. It is a one-stop-shop for gambling with casino, sportsbook, and poker room offerings. It has a great selection of live dealer games, including baccarat, that will make you feel like you are in a physical casino setting.
Not to be confused with Bovada, BoVegas Casino is similar in name the casino above but not related. It does share the fact that it is also a great place to play baccarat online. With awesome bonuses and promotions and a top-notch loyalty scheme, playing video baccarat on BoVegas is a great experience.
A great casino to play baccarat in, Ignition Casino features multiple styles of baccarat for you to pick from including live dealer action. They also offer huge bonuses, a nice mobile site, and a good customer service team if you ever run into issues.
What to Look for in an Online Baccarat Casino
There are many factors to look for in an online baccarat casino. Which factors are most important to you generally depend on personal preference. Here are some things to consider when looking for the perfect online baccarat casino for you.
Some online casinos are great and there are never any problems but, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Read reviews to make sure the fairness of the site, the security, and the overall reputation is good.
Depositing and Withdrawals
Some sites make it easy to deposit money but hard to take it out. Other sites make the whole process complicated. Look for a site that fully supports your preferred method of payment.
Bonuses and Promotions
The online casino market is competitive so sites are always vying to get your business. Find sites that offer great bonuses, promotions, and loyalty schemes and you will be able to play for free at times.
This may not matter to you if you are a small-time bettor but some sites have wagering limits. If you are a big spender, this may not be good. Conversely, if you sometimes go above your means, you may find these limits helpful.
While you hope there is never a problem with your online casino of choice, there is bound to be from time to time. In these cases, a fast and professional customer service team is a huge plus.