A Guide to Baccarat

Baccarat is undoubtedly one of the oldest card games in the world and in many ways it is also one of the easiest to play. That simplicity has made it extremely popular with players all over the globe and whether you're playing for fun or if money is at stake, Baccarat is a great game to get involved with.

What is Baccarat?

The history of the game dates right back to the 1400's where it originally became popular both in France and Italy. The exact date of the first game of Baccarat is predictably unknown but it is most likely to have originated in Italy because the name itself literally translates as ‘zero'.

The term features a lot in all versions of the game because all the tens and picture cards count as ‘zero' in the established variant of Baccarat. The phrase is also used for any hand that totals zero such as an eight and a two, or any other relevant combination.

It is a game with an exotic reputation and Baccarat has historically featured quite heavily in many of the early James Bond films. Going back to its original roots, the game was the favourite of French noblemen from the early fifteen century onwards and this popular pastime clearly has an exotic past.

How do you Play Baccarat?

The basic principle of Baccarat is to attain a score that is as close to nine as possible without going over that mark. You can't actually ‘bust', as you would in Blackjack but a score over nine reverts back to zero and then continues from one onwards until you hopefully reach nine once again.

There are three established versions of Baccarat which are individually known as Chemin de Fer, Baccarat Banquet and Punto Banco. Essentially, the three games all operate by the same rules with a key difference resting in the way that the cards are dealt onto the table. Also, there are separate rules when it comes to dealing additional cards after the initial hand.

The most popular version at online casinos is Punto Banco and in this variant, the dealer deals all of the cards and you simply place your bets when the two separate hands are on the table.

When you're playing Baccarat at an online casino, only one player is involved. There is a dealer in the sense that cards are dealt to you but in this game, you aren't playing against the dealer as you would be in Blackjack for example.

At the start of the game, two hands of two cards are dealt onto the table. The hands are referred to as ‘banker' and ‘player' but these are merely notional names - the player cards don't belong to you and the banker cards don't belong to the house.

Your role is then to bet on the one hand that you think will have the highest score. In addition, you can also bet on the tie which will offer a return if the two hands add up to the same final score. Therefore, when you're betting on any version of baccarat, there are only three possible outcomes - win for either hand or a tie.

Baccarat scoring

In that sense, the game of Baccarat is really very simple but the scoring methods are not quite so straightforward. Here, the Ace counts as one and then all cards between two and nine will score their face value. Tens and picture cards will count as zero.

The value of each card is relatively easy to grasp but because the number ten cards, together with all the picture cards, actually count as zero in Baccarat, it isn't as beneficial to draw these as it would be in most card games.

The second point to understand is the cumulative scoring method. A hand of five and six may add up to eleven in most card games but in Baccarat it simply counts as one. Similarly, a ten and a picture card will add up to zero here as opposed to twenty.

Therefore, the highest possible hand in Baccarat is nine and this can be obtained through any number of combinations.

Having taken note of the almost unique way of scoring, you now place your bets as to which of the two hands is the highest and if successful you collect. The theory really is as simple as that but there are some anomalies to this basic set of Baccarat rules.

Punto Banco

In casinos, both those in the physical world and the ones that are online, the version of Baccarat most commonly used is known as Punto Banco. Under this variant, extra cards can be drawn depending on the value of cards dealt in the first set of hands.

This is where a simple game can become far more complicated so it is vital to understand the lengthy set of anomalies before you start playing Baccarat with your own money.

To begin with, if the ‘player' hand results in a score of between 0 and 5 then a third card is dealt to that hand. For any other score, the player stands.

The casino rules for the banker hand are far more elaborate and the drawing of an additional card will depend on the player's draw card's value and the banker's hand total.

The full set of regulations are as follows:

  • Once the player has drawn a third card, the banker will draw a further card if the banker's total is 2 or less, irrespective of the player's score after three cards have been dealt.
  • If the banker's hand totals exactly 3, then the bank will draw a third card although if the player's third card was an 8, the banker's hand will stand.
  • If the banker's hand totals exactly 4, then a third card will be drawn if the player's third card was a 2,3,4,5,6 or a 7.
  • If the banker's hand totals 5, a third card will be drawn if the player's third card was a 4,5,6 or a 7.
  • If the banker's hand totals 6, a third card will be drawn if the player's third card was 6 or a 7.
  • If the banker's hand totals 7, the banker then stands.

Punto Banco Online

If you find yourself playing Punto Banco at an online casino, here are the standard bets that you can place together with the odds that you will receive if those bets come in:

Banker - You can bet on the banker's hand to return the highest score and if this comes in, you can expect to receive odds of 1 - 1 less a house commission which usually comes in at 5%.

The odds are very slightly in favour of the banker's hand if a third card is needed and that's why the odds are effectively less than 1 to 1 once you deduct that house commission.

Player - as an alternative, you can also back the player's hand to attain the highest score of the round and this outcome will pay 1 to 1 without any commission being taken. The player has a very slight disadvantage on the turn of a third card and that's why you can expect to receive a marginally higher pay out.

Tie  - as the name suggests, the tie pays out if the two hands return level scores at the end of the round. A tie is much rarer so the odds involved are much higher - 8 to 1 in most cases.

The biggest development in the game of Baccarat has come with the growth of the internet over the last fifteen years. Most, if not all online casinos now have at least one version of the game as part of their overall gaming portfolio.

If that outlet has just one variant available, then in all probability it will be the Punto Banco version and the game will adhere to the rules that we have listed above. If you're confused by the scoring and the introduction of a third card, check to see if that provider will let you play with some free, trial software.

In free versions of the game, you can play for fun without staking any money until the time comes when you feel confident enough to play the game for real. This period will give you the best possible chance to get familiar with the idiosyncratic rules of Baccarat and to develop a strategy in your mind.

When you play at the Baccarat tables in an online casino, you may get the opportunity to select a live dealer. This simply means that the casino in question will allocate a real life human dealer who allocates the cards in real time.

Alternatively, the cards can be dealt automatically via the casino software that you download. The choice in this respect is purely a personal one and some players like to have the sort of human interaction that you can enjoy in a casino within the physical world.

In contrast, other players like to have no distractions so that they can concentrate on the cards that come out and the two hands that are laid before them. Maybe you have your own theory over this or have previous experience as to which method works best for you. Alternatively, just trial both approaches and see which one you are comfortable with before committing to a long term plan.

Punto Banco is the main Baccarat variant that you can expect to see at an online casino but there are occasions when the lesser known versions will appear. So it helps to know what those versions are and whether there is any adjustment in the rules.

Chemin de Fer

The phrase 'chemin de fer' literally translates as ‘railway' from the original French and it's so-called because the original baccarat cards came in an iron box. This is rarely seen in casinos, either online or in the physical world but it is still popular in France where it originated from.

In this version of baccarat, six decks of cards are used and they are all shuffled together so it becomes almost impossible to predict if you are trying to implement a card counting strategy. This is a version of the game where players take an active role and at the start of the very first hand, each one takes their turn in shuffling the pack.

One player is then designated as the game's banker and they will then deal the two hands of cards, ‘banker' and ‘player'. Other players in the game are then known as ‘punters'. The dealer then deals two hands face down and both he and the players then look at the two cards they have received.

The scoring system in Chemin de Fer is identical to Punto Banco but once the cards have been looked at, the banker or player has to declare if they have been dealt an eight or a nine. If this is the case, the two hands are turned face upwards and compared for scoring purposes and the player has the choice as to whether or not to accept a third card.

If a third card is necessary to beat the banker's score, it is dealt face up and the scores are compared once again. At this point, the banker has the final choice whether to take an additional card and after that decision has been made, the cards are compared for a final time.

Chemin de Fer is much easier for new players to understand because the rules on third cards are far more straightforward than they are with the Punto Banco version. This variant of Baccarat is rarely seen outside of France but it's worth referring back to the rules if you ever get an opportunity to play it.

Baccarat Banque

Baccarat Banque is another rare version of the game but it may be available online and therefore it's useful to take the rules and regulations of this variant on board. This game is similar in many ways to Chemin de Fer but the key difference is that the position of banker is much more fixed.

With Chemin de Fer, the right to be banker passes from player to player as soon as a banker's hand loses a round but with Baccarat Banque, the position is essentially permanent.  Initially, the banker role is put up for auction between the competing players and the honour goes to the person who can commit to the highest stake.

Another key difference lies in the number of packs of cards used for this version and this figure will vary depending on the casino that you use. In the majority of cases, three packs are utilised and shuffled together but some games of Baccarat Banque will use two or even four packs.

Once again, the scoring system deployed in Baccarat Banque is exactly the same as in Punto Banco or in Chemin De Fer. Cards between two and nine offer their face value while the Aces count as one point and the tens and picture cards count as zero.

The third card system is also the same as Chemin de Fer with either player or banker declaring if they have an eight or a nine before the additional card option kicks in.

Baccarat Tips and Strategies

As previously outlined, there are only three possible outcomes in regards to winning at Baccarat, Either the banker's hand or the player's hand will have the highest score while there is the third option of the tie which is obviously quite rare and pays out much higher odds on the occasions when it comes in.

Out of all the popular card games, Baccarat is the one where chance plays the biggest element of all. Essentially, you are just betting blind on three possible outcomes so in that sense, chance dominates the entire game. However, there are some prescribed tips and strategies to follow that will hopefully give you a better chance of a consistent winning run.

Firstly, if you have a mind that works quickly and your memory is exceptionally good, you can attempt to recall the cards that have already been dealt from within the pack. This way, it may be possible to predict the cards that are likely to come out in the next two hands.

Additionally, if the rules mean that the dealing of a third card is necessary, you have an even better chance of predicting just what that card may be. Of course, the method isn't completely fool proof but if you have an excellent standard of memory retention, you just might be able to tip the odds in your favour.

At a very basic level, some gamblers like to use the science of mathematical probability to try and make a consistent profit at Baccarat. In theory, both hands should provide a win in the same proportion that you would expect a coin toss to produce a head or a tail around 50% of the time.

Some punters will therefore stake on the the player's hand to win at the outset and if they win straight away, they collect and then choose the player's hand once again. However, if they lose, they simply double their stake until the player's hand eventually wins the round.

Clearly there is great potential for this method to go spectacularly wrong and lead to some heavy losses, particularly when the tie is in the equation as a possible outcome too. However, it is a method that some use so it's worthy of noting as a potential strategy.

For most players however, the main piece of advice given is to bet with the bank. When playing baccarat, either online or in a physical casino, the bank has a distinct edge so many punters choose to bet with this accordingly to try to ensure a greater run of wins over time.

A lot of strategies are offered and some may be more successful than others but like most card games, one particular approach may not suit another player. The key therefore is to trial as many as you feel comfortable with and there is a way of doing this without having to part with any of your own money. Baccarat can easily be played for fun, either online or with a group of friends.

A very useful tip is to play with a casino's trial software if you possibly can or alternatively, you can play Baccarat by using a free flash game. The game play here is purely for fun so you don't have to risk any of your own money and as the versions use flash, you don't have to download any large software files either. A quick internet search will offer a wide list of flash providers where you can play baccarat along with a whole host of other card games.

When the time comes to play the game for real, start off small by using only modest stakes until you get a feel for the game and are more confident of playing with larger sums of money. There is a very high element of chance with any version of Baccarat and as such, anyone new to the game should start very cautiously.

Where is Baccarat Popular in Asia?

Essentially, Baccarat is popular all across Asia and many believe it to be the most widely played card game on the continent. From China to Hong Kong and from Thailand to Vietnam, you'll find that at least one form of baccarat is played extensively.

Perhaps the biggest baccarat location in Asia is on Macau where there is an exceptionally high density of well-known casinos. Players from all over the world head to Macau and the luxury that surrounds the casinos involved just typifies the exotic connotations that the game has enjoyed since it was first played in the early part of the 15th century.

Glossary of terms

If you are just starting to play baccarat online then you may hear some terms used that are unfamiliar to you. Here is a guide to those terms starting with the most basic of all.

Baccarat: Naturally this is the name of the game but the term ‘Baccarat' can also be used when any hand on the table totals zero. This can be achieved through any relevant combination of two or more cards.

Coup: A single round of play is sometimes referred to as a ‘coup'. This simply refers to a completed round comprising of the banker and player hands.

Dealer: Naturally this is the person in charge of dealing the cards to other players on the table. In online play the dealer position is fixed but you may find in the physical world that this position can be taken by one of the players.

Dealing Shoe: The shoe is one of the peculiarities of Baccarat and one that makes the game so special. Essentially this is a long wooden pallet from which the cards are delivered to the table and while it may never be seen at an online casino, you may still see the shoe in use outside of the virtual world.

Dragon Bonus: This is an extra feature used in some online casinos and it's designed to offer an additional bet, beyond the three standard outcomes in traditional Baccarat. The Dragon Bonus comes in if your selected hand wins the coup by a margin of four points or more.

Mini Baccarat: Mini Baccarat is a term that applies mainly to physical casinos. The game is the same as traditional baccarat but in this version, the dealer hands out all of the cards and there is no option for any of the players to get involved as the dealer.

Natural: A natural is a hand that totals either eight or nine after the first two cards have been dealt. The term has arguably been coined because this is a common total that appears regularly throughout the game.

Run: This is another side bet that has been introduced by some casinos to give the gambler another option. As the name suggests, this involves betting on a series of results so for example, you could bet on the banker hand winning four specific hands in succession.

Where can you play Baccarat online?

It is perfectly legal to play Baccarat online and you can set up an account and play the game through bet365. This popular bookmaker and online casino will accept players from all over the world and there is a choice of payment methods for deposit and withdrawal including some of the better known e-wallet facilities.

bet365 have a generous welcome bonus when you set up a new gaming account and you will also find a reliable set of software together with a trusted pay out policy and some exceptionally helpful customer service options.

There are other online casinos where you can play Baccarat but unlike bet365, they may not always accept players from your country of origin. So check first before you attempt to go through the process of opening up a new account.

Playing the game online is perfectly legal but be sure to choose a casino that accepts players from all over the world.

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