Baccarat is a casino game embroiled in prestige. Think James Bond, think class, think high-roller Monte Carlo casinos with beautiful women watching the table…
Okay, playing online Baccarat might not be quite the same, but Baccarat has gained popularity due to the fact the game has one of the lowest house edges of any casino game, and this gives players a fantastic chance of winning!
How to Play Baccarat
Baccarat is fairly simple to understand, and like Blackjack, your hand – the players – will be pitted against the dealers. One key difference, however, is that in Baccarat, you don’t have to bet on your own hand – you can also bet on the dealer winning, as well as betting on a tie.
To begin playing Baccarat, you first select your stake, and click the ‘Deal’ button. Once the hand has started, the dealer will deal two hands; one to you, the player, and one to himself, as the dealer. A hand consists of two cards, and the aim of the game is to make each hand total as close to nine as possible.
All cards use a points-based system to determine their value, and below, you’ll see a table of the points-values assigned to all cards.
- 10, Jacks, Queens, Kings = 0
- 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 = Face Value
- Aces = 1
If you are dealt two cards that total above nine, only the lower-value card is used (assuming the lower-value card is a 9 or lower). So, for instance, if you were dealt a King, and a 4, your hand would total 4, as the King is disregarded.
If you are playing Punto Banco Baccarat – the most common form of Baccarat – the action that happens next is pre-determined, although if you opt to play just plan ‘Baccarat’, you can choose your own action.
- If your cards total between 0-5, you will be dealt another card.
- If your hand totals 6-9, you will stand.
Now, the bankers hand – i.e. ‘the dealer’ – plays out slightly differently, and depends on what your hand shows. Below, you’ll see the actions the banker will take:
- If the bankers hand is 1-2, they will draw another card, regardless of your hand.
- If their hand totals 3, they draw another card when the player’s hand totals 1-7, and 9 and 10, while standing on a player 8.
- If their hand totals 4, they draw another card when the player hand is totals between 2 and 7, and stands on a player hand totalling 1, 8, 9, or 10.
- If their hand is a five, they take a card when the player hand totals 4, 5, 6, or 7, and stand on a player 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, or 10.
- If their hand is a six, they draw a card when a player shows 6, 7, or 8, and stand on all other player’s hands.
- If their hand is 7, 8, or 9, they stand, regardless of the player hand.
Once all action is completed (it’s all automatic online, so don’t worry about doing it yourself), the game will end, and you’ll be paid out if your bet is a winning one.
The payouts (and bets) are listed below:
- Betting on the Player Hand – If you bet on the player hand winning, and pick correctly, you’ll be paid out even money, meaning a £5 stake would return £10.
- Betting on the Dealer (Banker) Hand – Bet on the dealer’s hand, and you’ll be paid at 0.95/1. This means a £10 stake would return £19.50. The reason for the smaller payout than the player hand is due to the casino taking a small 5% commission on Banker bets.
- Betting on a Tie – If you bet on both the player and dealer hand equalling the same value, you’ll be paid out at 8/1 if correct, meaning a £5 bet would return £45.
As you can see, Baccarat is a relatively simple game to play, and if you opt to play Punto Banco, you won’t need to make any decisions whatsoever, as it’s all automatic. However, there are a few variations of the game where you DO get to make your own decisions, and we’ll cover these in the section below.
- Baccarat Chemin De Fer – This is the original version of Baccarat, and is – simply – Baccarat. Originating in France, Baccarat Chemin De Fer plays similarly to Punto Banco Baccarat, with the sole difference being that the player and dealer can make their own decisions on when/if to draw another card. Of course, like Blackjack, the dealer will be subject to certain rules on when they draw a card.
- Baccarat Banque – This unique version relies on multiple players playing the game at once, and the Banker continues to deal the hands until he loses; when this happens, the Banker position is given to another player. Like Baccarat Chemin De Fer, the player gets to decide whether to draw a card or not.
- EZ Baccarat – This version is exactly the same as Baccarat Chemin De Fer, with the main difference being that Banker bets are paid out at even money, instead being subject to the small casino commission of 5%. The casino makes up for this by calling the hand a tie, if the banker makes a 3-card hand totalling 7.
That’s three of the most common forms of Baccarat you may find while gaming online – there are also a wide variety of side bets, with some of the most common listed below:
- Dragon Bonus – The Dragon Bonus is a side bet that’s grown in popularity with the expansion of online gambling. Usually offered in Mini Baccarat (another variation of the game), the Dragon Bonus is betting on which hand you win by – this means, the difference between your hand, and the dealers.
- Big and Small – Seen only in Playtech Baccarat games, the Big and Small side bet pays if your hand totals 4 (small), or if it equals 5 or 6 (big). Both pay 3:2, and are separate from the main bet, so you still get paid on the side bet if your main hand loses. Big and Small is two bets; you place a wager on big, and/or small.
- Perfect Pair – Also found in Playtech baccarat games, Perfect Pair pays if the first two cards dealt are of equal value and the same suit. This pays 25:1. Another variation exists, called ‘Any Pair’, and this works similarly, with the bet paying 5:1 if the two cards make an un-suited pair. Both bets pay on both the dealer and banker hand, not just the one you are betting on.
- Super 6 – Found primarily in UK land-based casinos, and some online Live Dealer casino games, the Super 6 side bet simply pays 12:1 if the banker wins a hand with exactly 6. This is a side bet to avoid, as the house edge is a whopping 29.95%!
- All Red/Black – Again found generally only in Live Dealer casinos online, the All Red/Black side bet pays if all four of the first cards dealt are the same colour. Four red cards pays 22:1, with 4 black cards paying 24:1 – the difference in payouts (even though the odds remain identical), is the house edge.
History of Baccarat
Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games around today, and while its exact origin remains unknown, evidence shows the game was played in France and Italy as early as the late 1400’s. Baccarat may have its roots set back almost 800 years, but it wasn’t until the 1700’s that the game really begun to gain popularity. The general popularity-growth of the game is usually attributed to the French, when early land-based card rooms and casinos begun offering the game in it’s true, classic form.
Since then, the game has seen a few changes, and has been split into a few different variations: these include the most common variation, Punto Banco, as well as Baccarat Chiming de Far, and Baccarat Banquet. The variations all share the same core rules, and have largely been adapted to fit individual cultures, with Punto Banco usually being the sole variation offered in Westernized countries like the United States, Australia and across Europe.
France is one of the only exceptions to this rule, and their casinos generally still feature the original version of Baccarat, which is Chemin de Fer. The French pride themselves on their class and elegance, and many experts believe the French casinos keep the game original to lure punters through the doors, while ensuring their casino is seen as ‘classic’.
Baccarat has always been associated with the rich, wealthy and famous. Many high-staking gamblers view it as far more ‘classy’ than other games like Roulette and Blackjack, and it’s not uncommon to see high-rollers choose Baccarat over Blackjack, first due to the lesser impact of decision making, as well as the lessened popularity of the game, meaning those playing in land-based casinos often get the table to themselves (thus not having their game affected by other players).
While online Baccarat is still fairly new, it’s seen similar popularity increases to that of the land-based game, and again, Punto Banco is generally the sole variation offered by online casinos. More recently, Live Dealer casinos have begun offering the game, with Baccarat now seen as a ‘staple’ game in a Live Dealer casino, alongside Blackjack and Roulette.
The game also gained attention in 2012, when poker-professional Phil Ivey (regarded as one of the top players to ever live) amassed earnings of over £9 Million playing Baccarat at the prestigious Crockfords casino in London. Ivey begun playing with a stake of £1 Million, and upon finishing his winning session, the casino paid his original stake back without delay, and promised to send his winnings a few days later; however, after a review of Ivey’s playing style, the casino argued he’d used a ‘cheating’ technique called edge sorting, which results in a player using small, yet visible indentations, markings, or scratches on the back of cards to determine whether a card is of low, or high value.
Ivey took the casino to court after they refused to pay his winnings, and after a lengthy legal battle (which resulted in the UK High Court getting involved), the law found Ivey had cheated, although had committed no crime in the process. You can read the full details of Ivey’s session, and the subsequent legal tangle here.