|Usually played in a separate casino area, Baccarat’s table is around the same size as that of Craps’, with up to 12-14 players and 3 dealers. Despite its reputation for being an opaque, sophisticated game played only by high-rollers, Baccarat’s premise is actually quite simple and relies on just 2 primary bets.
These are called Banker and Player (Banco and Punto). Each player bets on whether the Banker or Player will have a total value closest to 9.
In online Baccarat, cards are dealt by a virtual dealer, and the layout replicates a live table. Clickable buttons at the bottom of the window will offer different betting amounts, and the player can click on the “player” or “banker” fields to place their bets. There will then be a “deal” and “draw” button to start dealing cards. There will also be fields displaying bets, wins and losses, as well as a virtual score card.
As in live games, online casinos may vary in terms of cards facing up or down when dealt. In the case of down-facing cards, there will be an additional “flip” button to reveal the hands.
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How to play Baccarat:
The game begins with the dealing of two hands (one for Banco and one for Punto), and each player bets on which one will win. Players can also bet if the hands will tie (called a “standoff”). Hands consist of a minimum of 2 cards and a maximum of 3. In some versions, the cards are dealt face up, and in other versions, dealt face down underneath the shoe.
If either hand has a total of 8 or 9, it is called a “Natural” and ends the round. If the hand is not as high as an 8 or 9, the dealer/croupier can ask the dealing player to deal another (third) card. Different casinos may follow different rules concerning the third deal.
Once the cards are dealt, the hand with the highest value (closest to 9) wins. The croupier will first collect losing bets and then pay out winnings. Note that although the players deal the cards, it is only the casino dealers (croupiers) who can collect bets and pay winnings.
Cards from 2 to 9 are counted at face value. 10s and face cards (jacks, queens, kings) have no value. Each time a hand’s value goes over 9, 10 is subtracted from the total. For example, a 12 will become a 2. There is no going “bust” in Baccarat like there is in Blackjack.
Each player gets the chance to deal the cards. The dealing player usually bets on Banco. Players can take an option not to deal, instead passing the shoe (a box that distributes cards) on to the next player. As long as the Bank wins, the shoe stays with one player. If the Player, or Punto, wins, the shoe is passed to the next player.
The Punto player will look at the cards and then give them back to the dealing player, who will turn both hands over while one of the dealers announces the winner.
Payouts are 1:1, except for the standoff, which pays 8:1 or 9:1 depending on the casino’s individual rules.
The best strategy in Baccarat is to bet on the Banker, or Banco, as it offers the best odds. The house only has 1.06% advantage on a Banco bet. Note that casinos may take a small commission on these bets, as it is not profitable for them otherwise.
Often players are also given scorecards to keep track of their moves, which tends to reveal patterns, both of the player’s own and that of others. Recognising how other players are placing bets in response to yours will allow you to apply caution and care when placing your own bets.
Realise that standoff bets (where you bet on the banker and player tying) are risky and not to be placed too often.
Of course, in a game like this where one is betting blind, there is only marginal strategy one can apply in order to increase winnings – this is what makes the game so popular with high-rollers, its unpredictability.
There are three main variations of Baccarat. The most common is the one explained above: Punto and Banco. In this version, there are also big tables and what’s known as mini Baccarat. In mini Baccarat, the casino dealer deals all the cards, rather than the players – so players’ only input is placing their bets. Mini Baccarat is perfect for beginners learning the ropes.
A much rarer version of the game is Baccarat Chemin de Fer, where players are far more active participants. Each player can shuffle and deal, and dealing is done face down. The player who has placed the largest bet can see the face down cards first, while the others wait for the result.
The final version, Baccarat Banque, is very similar to Chemin de Fer, except that one player is the dealer and banker for the entire game. The dealer, or croupier, pick the player who will be the dealer. Drawing and turning rules are otherwise the same as Chemin de Fer.
Baccarat is fun, unpredictable and its association with James Bond makes it a popular casino game. Don’t be intimidated by its reputation for attracting only high-rollers – with such a low house advantage, Baccarat is a great game for players of all types and skill levels. Remember to bet with caution and enjoy the game!