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How To Play Baccarat

Baccarat is one of the world’s most popular casino games. Rumored to have started in Italy in the 1400s, baccarat is a fantastic game for those that enjoy an easy card game with fast-paced action! Although it may look complicated to start, baccarat is a straightforward game! Read our GambleGuys guide to learn how to play baccarat – both the rules and the strategy!


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Baccarat Basic Rules

Baccarat is one of the best games to play at a casino, mainly due to its low house advantage. Unfortunately, in the most common version, an elaborate table of rules (called the “tableau”) often scares first-time bettors. However, as we will see, the tableau is simply for the dealer to know when to pull cards – it does not affect the players.

The basic rules of baccarat are pretty simple. There is a player’s hand and a banker’s hand. Each hand has two cards to start, with the option of drawing a third card. The objective of both sides is to get a hand with a score closest to nine.

Scoring in baccarat is easy. Add up the sum of both cards, and take the last digit. That’s the hand’s score. Face cards count as zero, and aces count as one.

Here are a few quick examples of baccarat scoring:

  • A-8 = 9 (Ace [1] + 8 = 9)
  • K-9 = 9 (King [0] + 9 = 9)
  • 4-4 = 8 (4 + 4 = 8)
  • 7 + 8 = 5 (7 + 8 = 15, take the last digit = 5 total score)
  • K + Q = 0 (King [0] + Queen [0] = 0)
  • 3 + 9 = 2 (3 + 9 = 12, take the last digit = 2 total score)
  • 3 + 9 + 5 = 7 (3 + 9 = 12 + 5 = 17, take the last digit = 7 total score)

If the first two cards score eight or nine, that hand is a “natural.” Neither side may draw a third card, and the dealer will compare both hands immediately to determine who wins the round. In the most common version of the game, players may bet on the player, banker, or tie.

How To Play Baccarat For Beginners

Go to a table (online or in-person) and place a wager on the player, banker, or tie! At its core, playing baccarat is that simple! However, players should know a couple of things before playing this game.

First, most online and land-based casinos feature a version of baccarat called “punto banco” (even though they call it baccarat). The complete set of rules for this game is further down in this article. It is worth noting, though, especially for beginners, that punto banco baccarat is often synonymous with “baccarat.”

In punto banco baccarat, the player has a house edge of 1.24%. Even with a 5% commission (more on this later), the banker has a house edge of just 1.06%. Statistically, that makes baccarat one of the best games to play in the entire casino. However, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the tie bet usually pays 8-to-1, giving the casino a house edge on that bet alone of 14.4%. Therefore, the tie bet is one of the worst bets in a casino.

As such, when playing baccarat, stick to bets on either the player or the banker – both are about statistically the same, although technically, the banker does have slightly better odds.

Side Bets

Some casinos offer side bets that players can make to make the game even more enjoyable. One of the most common side bets is the Dragon Bonus, which pays up to 30:1 depending on the margin of victory of the player. Some bettors like to use that side bet as a bit of a hedge against a player’s victory if they are betting on bankers. If, for example, the player gets a natural nine and the banker has two face cards for a value of 0, the bettor would lose their banker bet but win 30:1 on the side bet, likely being ahead overall.

To summarize, how to play baccarat is relatively straightforward. With the most common version of the game, pick which side you think will win: player or banker! Take a side bet if you want to spice things up, but don’t focus on the tie bet – it has a lousy house edge!

How To Learn How To Play Baccarat

Arguably the best way to learn how to play baccarat is to either observe a game in progress or try out a free version online (or one for a bit of money). When you follow a game at a casino, for example, you can see how the cards go to the player and banker. You can also see how the game’s history (i.e., whether the player or banker has won) displays on the boards and get a good sense of what people are doing in terms of betting.

Online casinos also make it easy to learn how to play baccarat. Load up your favorite online casino and put a bet down – even as little as €1 – on the player or banker to see how the game mechanics go. Baccarat is not a complex game, even though there may be a complex set of rules that dealers must follow when dealing with the cards (more on this later). Ultimately, it just involves betting on the player or banker, much like players bet on red or black in roulette!

How To Play Baccarat Punto Banco

Punto Banco is the most commonly played version of baccarat. In this version, players play against the casino (the bank), not each other. When you play baccarat online or at any land-based casino, this is almost always the version of the game you are playing. This version of baccarat (punto banco) is a game of two hands – one for the player and another for the banker. Unlike other games, the player hand is usually not per player, but one central player hand and one main banker hand. Therefore, the dealer only deals with two hands per game. The goal is to bet which hand will be closer to nine, the player or the banker.

The Game’s Flow

Bettors can bet on the player, banker, or a tie between the two. The game commences once players have put all their chips down on player, banker, or tie (some casinos have additional betting variations).

To start the game, the dealer takes two cards for the player and puts them on the table in the player’s square. Similarly, the dealer puts two cards down on the banker’s square. The dealer will then flip over the cards to reveal what they have. In baccarat, face cards (J, Q, K) all count as 0. Aces count as one. All other cards have the value they display (so a three of clubs, for example, is a three). We then take the last digit of the sum of both cards to figure out what score the player and banker have. To illustrate, suppose the player has an A and Q, and the banker has a 7 and 8. The player would have a score of one (Ace is 1 + Queen, which is 0 = 1). The banker would have a score of five (7 + 8 = 15, of which the last digit is five). If either the player or the banker (or both) have a total of eight or nine, they have a “natural.” The game stops, and the side with the total closest to nine wins. So, for example, if the player has K-9, and the banker has 2-3, the player wins (0 + 9 = 9 for player vs. 2 + 3 = 5 for banker).

The Tableau

The game proceeds according to the tableau if both the player and the banker have seven or fewer points. The tableau determines who gets an extra card and when. The player goes first. If the player has six or seven, the player always stands. If the player has five or fewer, the player takes one additional card. Next up is the banker. If the player only has two cards in their hand (that is, they must have six or seven), the banker will draw a card according to the same rules as the player. That is, they’ll stand on six and seven, and draw on five or less. If the player takes a third card, the banker follows these rules (the tableau): If the banker’s total is two or less, the banker always draws a card. A banker’s total of three means they’ll draw a card unless the player’s third card was an eight. If the banker has four, they’ll draw a card if the player’s third card was 2-7. If the banker has five, they’ll draw a card if the player’s third card is 4-7. If the banker has six, they’ll draw a card if the player’s third card was either six or seven. Lastly, if the banker has seven, they never draw a third card.

At the end of all card draws, the space with the total closest to nine wins, and all the dealers will pay all bets on that space. The player wins 1:1, while the banker wins 19:20 (95% of the initial wager for a 5% commission).

How To Play Baccarat Chemin de Fer

Chemin de fer, coming from the French term for the railway, is another version of baccarat that people can play. It is not particularly common in North American casinos (for example, you won’t find this in Las Vegas), but it is pretty standard in France and other parts of Europe. You also will likely not see this version at too many online casinos. This version of baccarat is a little like a poker game or a blackjack game. At the table, one person elects to be the banker. They put down a sum of money to wager, and the dealer goes around the table asking players to wager. Once the player (or players) put down a sum of money matching that of the banker, the game can commence.

The Game’s Flow

The player with the highest wager “represents” all other player wagers, while the banker only represents themselves and their money. The dealer deals two cards to the banker and two cards to the player. If either has card sums with the last digit of eight or nine, they must announce a natural. All play stops, and the dealer compares both hands. If the banker has a higher hand, they will win all players’ money. Conversely, if the player has a higher hand, all players will win the banker’s money. If neither side has a natural, each side gets to decide if they want to take another card or not. While there are no official rules determining when the player or banker must take a card (i.e., there is no tableau like in punto banco), social convention dictates that each side will take a card with a total of five or less and stand with a total between six and seven. After each side has the opportunity to draw another card, the dealer compares the hands, and, as was the case with a natural win, the banker either wins the players’ money, or the players win the banker’s funds. Once that hand finishes, the opportunity to be the banker goes to the next player. The previous banker now has the chance to bet against the new banker, and a new round of betting and card dealing commences. While most people that know how to play baccarat aren’t necessarily familiar with chemin de fer, it is worth noting that this was the original way to play. Punto Banco is an “express” version that originated from Havana as a house-backed game that would make casinos money.

Baccarat Is Not a Complex Game

Despite some people feeling a little intimidated by the “rules” of baccarat, the game itself is remarkably straightforward – the hand with a score closest to nine wins. All players attempt to do is figure out which hand, the player’s or the banker’s, will be closest to nine! Players can also bet on a tie, although that is one of the worst bets, statistically, in the casino. Some casinos, including those online, have other side bets that players can make. Baccarat is a fun game that has captivated millions around the world. It is truly a global game, as you will find a version of it in virtually every casino worldwide. Now that you know how to play baccarat, check out a version at one of the top online casinos we reviewed here at GambleGuys!

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