Baccarat Rules & Strategy

best baccarat onlineThe first documented games of baccarat were in France, although it is believed to have originated in Italy. The origins of the word baccarat give it away: it means “zero” in Italian and refers to the fact cards with a face value of 10 are worth zero in this game.

Much has been written about the popularity of baccarat with French nobility in the mid-1800s. Journals and historical notes recount high-stakes games among the social elite. And the elite tag endures, with the game attracting arguably the biggest wagers of any game at casinos around the world.

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Baccarat is believed to have evolved from a dice game called baccera played as early as the 1500s. But hard facts about baccarat don’t become clear until much later, with the game becoming widely popular in the early 1900s.

In Europe, Chemin de Fer was the popular variation, while Punto Banco was popular in English-speaking countries, including the USA and the United Kingdom. In most Las Vegas casinos these days you will find Punto Banco or mini baccarat, with the more traditional variations usually found only in high-rollers’ rooms.

The baccarat tables in Macau attract the biggest action, with wealthy Asian players flocking to the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

Baccarat Banquet v Chemin de Fer v Punto Banco

The three main versions of baccarat, when you boil them down, have almost identical rules, barring how the cards are dealt.

Punto Banco: This is the game you are most likely to find in U.S. and many European casinos and is played with between four and six decks in the shoe. You will find both mini tables and big tables in casinos. The difference is that on the mini tables, the casino dealer does all the dealing. On the big tables the casino dealer does the shuffling but the players (up to 14) share the deal. The shoe moves on when the dealer loses a bet.

Chemin de Fer: This variation allows the player to shuffle and deal the cards. The cards are also dealt face up, unlike in Punto Banco where they are face down. The biggest bet on the table gets to see the outcome, while the rest of the table waits. In this version the player chooses whether they take a third, rather than it being pre-determined by the rules. The house is also eliminated with players competing against each other. The team at WGL has never seen this game in a casino … anywhere. The hunt continues.

Baccarat Banque: The major difference here is one player is the dealer and banker for the entire shoe. The rules are similar to those of Chemin de Fer although we have not seen a game with more than four decks in the shoe, which is fewer than in other variations. You will find this game in many European casinos, while if you dig deep enough you should find a few tables on the Vegas strip.

Baccarat rules

Baccarat is played with a six- or eight-deck shoe with all face cards and 10s having no value. All other cards are counted at face value, with their suits not affecting the game.

If you remember two simple things about baccarat you will be able to play. Only single-digit values are valid. Then when you add up your cards and the tally is over nine, drop the number on the left-hand side. For instance, if you tallied 15 from your two cards you would be on five.

To begin a game players bet on either Banco (bank), Punto (player) or standoff (tie). The dealer then gives two cards to the player and two to the banker. The aim of the game is for the hand you bet on to have the highest value.

It is possible for a player to get a third card, but this will happen only when certain factors come into play.

  • The natural: If a player or the bank gets an eight or nine from their first two cards, no further cards are drawn. This is known as a natural and the hand is decided.
  • Five or less: If a player draws two cards and they equal five or less they are given a third card.
  • If the player doesn’t draw a third card: The bank must stand on six or more and must take a card on a total of five or less.
  • Third card rule: When a player takes a third card this kicks in. It works like this.
  • – If the bank’s total is two or less then bank draws a card, no matter what the player’s third card is.

    – If the bank’s total is three then the bank draws a third card unless the player’s third card was an eight.

    – If the bank’s total is four then the bank draws a third card if the player’s third card was 2 to 7.

    – If the bank’s total is five then the bank draws a third card if the player’s third card was 4 to 7.

    – If the bank’s total is 6 then the bank draws a third card if the player’s third card was a 6 or 7.

    House edge in baccarat

    The below odds are the most liberal you will find. Rule variations and other side bets will ensure greater house edges. The house edge clearly puts banker as the best bet for players.

    Banker: 1.17%
    Player: 1.36%
    Tie (Standoff): 14.12% at 8:1 payout

    Online baccarat

    It is a safe bet every version of baccarat can be found on the internet. Whether in a random-number-generated form or a live-dealer game you will find what you need.

    Most live-dealer versions will use an eight-deck shoe and have the house edges we mentioned above, although there will often be a “banker pairs” side bet.

    The table limits at online websites will vary from casino to casino, from live dealer to RNG. But, for example, the popular online casino Leo Vegas has Baccarat Pro, where you can bet anywhere from $1 to $100 on any hand. At the same casino’s live-dealer tables you can bet anywhere from $1 to $2000 on any hand.

    Several other prominent casinos have much higher table limits for baccarat, but we’ll talk further about this on our page dedicated to the online version of this game.

    Baccarat strategy & tips

    Your strategy will obviously depend on which variation of baccarat you are playing. We will focus on Punto Banco, but most of these tips will transfer to the other variations.

    Counting cards: We don’t claim to be card counters at this website; we are good at playing cards but far from Rain Man. So baccarat suits us to a tee. Minds far greater than ours have declared the margins too slim for card counters to profit from their skill, but it obviously can help.

    Bet on the banker: The house edge is lowest when you bet on the banker in baccarat – it’s simple maths. So if you stick to the banker bet you are doing yourself a favor. Obviously, success here is largely dependent on Lady Luck, and a few late nights in Macau have proven to this writer that the “player” bet has its place.

    Ride & jump from those streaks: Baccarat is a game where you can find yourself well ahead in a matter of a few hands. It’s easy to ride this luck and a hot streak but the trick is knowing when to hop off the streak before you blow everything. Which leads us to our next point …

    Manage your bank roll: It’s tempting to keep increasing your bet when you are on a streak. Betting more than you have just won is a common trait of an inexperienced baccarat player. The next thing they know, they have nothing and are walking away from the table. If this is you, look to work to percentages. For instance, you might bet your initial stake plus 20%. There is never anything wrong with not increasing your stake.

    Avoid the tie bet: The payout for the tie bet is big, at 8-1, or 9-1 — dependent on decks used. The problem with this bet is it has a whopping 14% house edge. In comparison, the house edge is often as low as 1% for the banker and player bets.

    Baccarat systems: Avoid them because they can ruin you as a baccarat player. You need to acknowledge there is a house edge in baccarat and play accordingly. Maximize your chances by smart play but systems such as doubling your bet on every losing hand are just plain stupid.

    Movies featuring Baccarat

    You can guess where this is headed but how could we write a section about baccarat on the big screen without talking about our favorite secret agent. While James Bond’s fascination with baccarat is well known, there are many other references to this great game in popular culture.

    Bond films: Way back at the start of the Bond movies, James is seen enjoying a game of baccarat. Baccarat also features in Goldeneye, Dr No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Never Say Never Again. Interestingly, in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale (the original was released in 1967) Bond is seen playing poker. Maybe this has something to do with it being one of the worst-performing Bond movies at the box office?

    A Hard Day’s Night: This film about the Beatles was a big hit in the 1960s. It features Paul’s grandfather playing baccarat at a casino, where he goes on a winning streak despite “not knowing the difference between banco and bingo”. He plays a stack of baccarat and wins big but eventually loses the fortune. If you are a fan of the Beatles this movie is simply brilliant.

    Rush Hour 3: A few Jackie Chan films have featured baccarat. This one shows Carter (Chris Tucker) attempting to win the love of a girl by winning at baccarat. But he quickly comes undone when he doesn’t know the rules. Chan is reportedly a big player on the baccarat tables in real life.