Baccarat Guide for Beginners: History, Tips, and Strategy

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Introduction

Baccarat is a very popular card game that is available at land-based as well as online casinos. The game has been immortalized on the silver screen as well, with the legendary spy James Bond favoring it as his casino game of choice. The game appears complicated but is simple to play, with rules that are easy to follow. You have three options to place bets on – the player winning, the banker winning, or a tie.

There are three variants that are popular:

  • Punto Banco
  • Chemin de Fer
  • Baccarat Banque

Baccarat has always retained the aura of being a game for the rich and the high flyers. However, the advent of the online casino has changed that perception. Now anyone who has a decent budget and the interest can play baccarat at his favorite online casino from the comfort of his home. There are a number of bets that one can place, and at online casinos you get a range of interesting side bets to work with as usual.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. A Brief History of Baccarat
  3. Baccarat: How to Play
  4. Bets in Baccarat
  5. Essential Baccarat Strategy
  6. Baccarat Tips for Beginners

A Brief History of Baccarat

The game of baccarat has a rich history spanning more than 500 years. Known popularly as the game of the aristocrats and nobility in the olden days, it is said to have been first created by Felix Falguiere in the 15th century in Italy. The name ‘baccara’ translates to zero and came from the fact that the value of the 10 card and all the face cards is worth just that, zero. The initial name of ‘baccara’ underwent a small upgrade later to become the French word ‘baccarat’.

The story has different versions as to the origin. One story has it that the game was based on an ancient Etruscan legend wherein a virgin threw a dice that had nine sides to decide her fate. A throw of 8 or 9 would elevate her to the haloed status of a priestess, while a throw of 6 or 7 would mean she could not take part in any religious or community events going forward. A throw of 5 or lower would mean she would be banished to the seas and death by drowning.

That original game had a slightly different mode of play than what you get today, of course. There were 4 dealers at that time compared to the one dealer today. Every player got a chance to be the banker and the players could bet not just on the banker or the player but also on other players in the game. Anyway, the game moved from Italy to France where it came to be known as Chemin de Fer and was popular among nobility, especially King Charles VIII. From there it moved to England where it grew in popularity as well.

From England the game crossed over to different parts of the world, sailing across to the Caribbean countries and also South America. The game went on to become Punto Banco and also subsequently a different form, popularly called American Baccarat emerged where the banker was the casino. The game reached the USA sometime in the 1950s and found its pride of place in the casinos of Las Vegas, making an appearance at the Sands Casino first. With the arrival of the Internet and the online casino, baccarat is now a globally popular game.

Baccarat: How to Play

The game of baccarat is very easy to play. At a land-based casino a baccarat table can seat anywhere between 12 and 14 players. At an online casino you just sign up/log in, deposit funds, and place your wager to start playing. Regardless of where you play, the game remains the same: you can bet on the banker, the player, or a tie between the two. The game involves multiple decks of 52 cards, usually anywhere between 6 and 8 decks. The following are the card values in this game:

  • Aces: Value of 1
  • 10-card and other face cards: Value of 0
  • Cards from 2 to 9: Valued at face or pip value

This is how the game plays out: the player and the banker are each dealt a hand of 2 cards face up. The hand value is the sum of the value of the individual cards. A hand value of double digits results in only the value of the right digit being considered. The objective of the game is to get a hand whose value is 9 or closest to it.

A hand with a value of 8 or 9 is a natural hand and whoever – banker or player – has the higher value is an automatic winner. If the player’s hand is valued at between 6 and 8 he stands; if his hand value is 5 or lower he hits and is given another card. The banker will also stand if his two-card hand is valued at between 7 and 9. A two-card banker hand total of 0 to 3 results in a hit. Depending on the total value of the player’s hand the banker may also hit on a hand total of between 4 and 6. The following is a brief summary of the banker’s hand play.

  • Initial hand value of 7, 8, or 9 requires him to stand.
  • Initial hand value of 4, 5, or 6 requires him to hit. The banker will also hit if he has a hand value of 3 against a player’s hand value of 8.
  • Depending on the player’s hand value, the following is the action a banker takes if he has a hand value of 4 to 6:
    • Banker hand value of 4 and player hand value of 2 to 7: banker hits
    • Banker hand value of 5 and player hand value of 4 to 7: banker hits
    • Banker hand value of 6 and player hand value of 6 or 7: banker hits

Bets in Baccarat

There are 3 major bets in baccarat. They are:

  • The Banker: This is the most commonly placed wager in baccarat because it has the lowest house edge among all the 3 different types of bets. It also ensures the third card rules work in favor of the banker. The payoff therefore is 1:1 and there is also a 5% commission that is charged per win.
  • The Player: The rules on the player winning in case of the third card are slightly skewed and less favorable to the player. The house edge in this bet is slightly higher than it is in the banker bet. The payoff in this bet is also even money, i.e. 1:1, but there is no commission involved.
  • The Tie: Also called the sucker bet, this is the least favorable of all baccarat bets. The odds of a hand resulting in a draw or tie are not quite great. The house edge in this bet is therefore way higher than in the other two, standing at a little above 15%. The payoff is also high for this bet, at 8:1.

There are a number of popular side bets as well that you see mostly at online casinos offering baccarat. These bets are great because they give you a good chance to rack up a few extra wins on the side. We list a few popular ones for you below:

  • Perfect Pair: Usually seen at Playtech and Evolution Gaming casinos. You get paid out if the first 2 cards in the player and banker hands form a suited pair. Payout for this bet is 25 to 1 under Playtech wagering rules. However, the rules and payout vary for Evolution-powered casinos: player and banker hands ending up being of the same rank and suit gives you a 250 to 1 payout, else it is the standard 25 to 1.
  • Either Pair: This is a side bet for the possibility of the first 2 cards of either the banker or the player forming a pair. The payout for this bet is 5 to 1.
  • Big and Small: The Small bet pays 3 to 2 if the banker or player hand value is 4. Given that 6 decks are in operation, the house edge stands at approximately 5.3%, while the odds of winning stand at around 37.8925%. The Big bet pays 0.54 to 1 if the banker and player’s hand value is at 5 or 6. Again assuming that 6 decks are in operation the house edge is at approximately 4.35% while the odds of winning stand at 61.1%.
  • Egalite: This is a bet on a specific tie being reached and is found usually at UK casinos. The probability of winning the house edge depends on the specific tie that is seen, e.g. 7-7, 8-8, 4-4, etc.
  • Lucky Bonus: This is a very specific side bet that pays 18 to 1 on the banker landing a winning 6. Surprisingly, this bet has a 2.4% player advantage.
  • 3-Card Six: This is a specific side bet that pays 100 to 1 if the first 3 cards of both the banker and the player have a combined value of 6. The house edge in this game is big, at 13.37%.
  • Lucky Six: This is another side bet that pays out on a winning banker hand of 6. A 3-card 6-value hand gives a 20 to 1 payout, while a 2-card hand gives a 12 to 1 payout.
  • Super 6: This is another banker-specific side bet that pays 12 to 1 on the banker landing a winning 2-card total value of 6.
  • Dragon Bonus: A popular side bet, it offers different house edges for the banker and player depending on the number of card decks used:
    • 4 decks result in a house edge of 2.70% for the player and 9.42% for the banker.
    • 6 decks result in a house edge of 2.67% for the player and 9.39% for the banker.
    • 8 decks result in a house edge of 2.65% for the player and 9.37% for the banker.

Essential Baccarat Strategy

Baccarat is essentially a game of luck as that is the only element that determines what cards form the player or banker hands after the deal. There is no highly comprehensive strategy, therefore, that you can adopt to win consistently unlike in a game like blackjack or even video poker, for instance. The good thing about baccarat is that the house edge is quite low, just 1.4% on the banker winning. Given all of this, it is critical you are able to work out the numbers in your head correctly and that will happen only if you understand their import. Know, therefore, the odds associated with the different bets.

  • The odds of a player win are 44.62% compared to the odds of a banker loss at 45.85%. The banker will win about 51% of the time compared to 49% for the player, provided of course there is no possibility of a tie occurring.
  • The odds of a tie happening stand at 9.53% which is why it has a high payoff of 8 to 1.

Another critical element is thorough knowledge of the different baccarat bets and the odds associated with each of them.

Baccarat Tips for Beginners

Here are a few tips to succeed in baccarat if you are a beginner at the game.

  • Play games at casinos operated by well-known casino operators because they will use software from renowned software providers.
  • Do not bet on the tie bet as it has a worst odds of winning.
  • Do not latch on to any of the winning systems floating around online for baccarat; this is a game of chance, not skill.
  • Set a budget when you are looking to play for real money and ensure that you stick to the budget you have set.
  • Check out the games before you play them; the number of decks used can directly influence the outcome of a game: for instance games with less than 8 decks give you better chances of winning.

To learn more advanced tips for playing Baccarat, we highly recommend that you read this article on How to Improve Your Baccarat Skills, which we promise is worth a bit of your time.

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