Guide to Baccarat

This guide to baccarat will teach you all you need to know about the game: from the rules to strategy. We'll get you playing baccarat smarter and faster, so you can increase your odds at winning!

Long worshipped by card game players even before there were casinos, baccarat is not as popular today as it once was. But many casino players still love baccarat, and we think you might too. It was, after all, James Bond's game of choice, so it's worth a close look.

Like roulette, baccarat is a game of luck, but it has some of the best odds out there for you. In most popular versions of baccarat, you cannot change cards, so you can only control your betting. With a careful betting method, you can minimize your losses and go in for a bigger win. And that's just what successful baccarat players do.

Let's take a look at this expert baccarat advice and learn about its history.

The Rules of Baccarat

At its base, the rules of baccarat are incredibly simple: try to get as close to 9 as you can without going over. Face cards (jack, queen, and king) and 10s are all worth zero, which is why the game was originally associated with that number. The numbered cards are all worth the number printed on the card, and aces are worth 1. 

If you go over 9 (say, if you're dealt two 9s), then 10 is subtracted from your total (18 - 10 give you 8). If either side is dealt an 8 or 9, that is a natural win for the owner of the 8 or 9. 

These are the basic rules of baccarat. 

Players stand on 6-9. When the player stands, the bank will draw on 0-5. If the player draws 0-5, they will be given another card. 

You can see why baccarat is so popular: the rules you need to know are quite simple, and there is very little strategy to learn in order to be a good player. 

Additional Baccarat Rules

The following rules are more involved. Many players do not take the time to learn these as it is the dealer's responsibility to deal according to these rules. Casinos and online casinos have the rules available at the table or in a window for you to consult. 

Neither the player nor the banker is allowed to choose when they are dealt another card, so there is no strategy - no good or bad decisions - that can be involved there.

If your third card is:

  • 2 or 3, the banker draws when they have a 0-4, and stays at 5-7.
  • 4 or 5, the banker draws when they have a 0-5, and stays at 6-7.
  • 6 or 7, the banker draws when they have a 0-6, and stays at 7.
  • 8, the banker draws when they have a 0-2, and stays at 3-7.
  • 9, 10, face-card or ace, the banker draws at 0-3, and stays at 4-7.

Again, the dealer will announce and play according to all of these rules, so many players enjoy baccarat for a long time without bothering to learn them. Obviously, when you're playing online, you don't need to bother with memorizing these secondary rules as the software will automatically play according to them. 

Betting in Baccarat

In baccarat, smart betting choices really affect how much you take away from the game. You do not make any decisions or have any role in the cards that are dealt; those are dictated by the rules of the game. You can control how much you bet, whether you bet on the strong bets, and if you take the bad bet.

Your baccarat strategy then revolves around making smart bets (and avoiding the bad ones). 

Let's begin with the bad bet: the tie. This pays around 8x your bet (check your rules), which can be enticing. If you play the minimum at a $25 table, you walk away with $200...great! You know the odds are not in your favor, but how bad is it?

The tie bet has a 15% house edge, and that will eat up your bankroll fast if you're playing at a more expensive table. If you're feeling really lucky and have the money in your bank, no one will stop you. But there are some much better bets.

For example, betting on the bank. Your odds are as strong as you'll find in any casino game here. In fact, they're so good that the casino charges a 5% commission on your bet to recuperate the losses they're anticipating. It is a safe bet, but one where you'll continuously lose that 5% if you win, plus your entire bet if you lose. 

This 5% commission is not charged in some online baccarat games, so it's more than worthwhile to find one of those. With games of luck like baccarat,  you want to minimize your disadvantage; that is the strategy. Picking the right table - i.e., the table with the lowest house advantage - is the way you put yourself forward. 

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Types of Baccarat

There are 3 primary varieties of baccarat: chemin de fer (or Chemmy), which is the oldest form; punto banco (also called American baccarat), which is the basis of online baccarat;  and baccarat banque (or à deux tableaux). All of these variations of baccarat max out or bust 9, but they have different roles for the players. See the rules below for details.

Online vs Physical Casino Baccarat

Baccarat is a casino classic, but many land-based players are increasingly turning to online baccarat. The reasons include:

  • Online baccarat is faster, allowing more games and betting
  • The minimum bet can be smaller in online baccarat
  • Smarter playing through online baccarat
  • Decreases your overall spending

Online baccarat games are faster than casino games. This is for several reasons, including lack of time taken to physically deal cards and announce all the sums; lack of banter with the dealer and other players; and not needing to wait for all players to place down their bets. So online casinos give you many more opportunities to place bets, which is important if you are using a long term winning strategy.

Another major difference is the minimum bet amount. Casino baccarat tables can be a bit unwelcoming as they usually have minimum bets of $20-25, with many players putting down more than that per bet. Online baccarat will allow you to place smaller bets, which granted provides smaller wins, but it is great for two reasons.

First of all, smaller bets are perfect when you're learning to play the game. Much better to learn at $.25 per lesson than $25 per lesson. Second, if you are using a strategy that will accrue wins overnight, over weeks, or even over months, it's certainly better if your losses are with lower bets.

Finally, there can be no illusion of card counting in online baccarat. The cards are generated completely at random (or, if you want to think of it this way, you have a show with infinite decks). Even among players who do not consider themselves card counters, there still is a tendency to play as if you were counting cards in a physical casino table. This can lead to some really bad bets due to a false sense of security (this is related to the Gambler's Fallacy below). 

Even in a best-case scenario, the house has the edge. To prolong play, but likely lose money over time, you'd bet with the bank continuously. Many gamblers give themselves not only a bottom limit to the bankroll but also a top. So when you do reach your top limit, call it a win for the night and try another game with a new bankroll.

But playing online versus in a land-based casino saves you enormous amounts of cash in the long run. No spending money on transportation, drinks, or tipping. Keep all that in your back pocket, or place it in your bankroll. Smart players know any money you give to the house contributes to your losses that night. Play online and decrease the house's edge!

Gambler's Psychology in Baccarat

In baccarat, it is important not to fall into bad bets. As mentioned, the Gambler's Fallacy is due to a false sense of security in what will (or must) come next based on what went before. For example, saying "Ties come in pairs" is statistically unlikely even though sone gamblers swear by it. 

But keeping your bankroll in mind is also a very important aspect of your gaming psychology. Stupid bets happen when you're distracted because you're trying to calculate your bankroll. And even stupider bets happen when you're trying to salvage yourself after betting beyond the bank you've assigned yourself for the night. 

History of Baccarat

The name "baccara" means "0" in old Italian, and most gambling historians agree this is the source of the name. Baccara, as we call it today, historically had slightly different rules, which makes it difficult to pin down a precise point of origin. There was a game very much like baccarat being played as early as the 15th century in Europe. By the 19th century, we know that baccarat was being played fanatically in certain circles in France. 

The version played in France was called baccarat banque (bank), and it corresponds to what we call Chemmy (short for Chemin de Fer) today. Chemin de Fer is French for "railroad track," and it was called that because of the way the shoe (the device that holds the cards) was shuttled between players like a train on a railway.

With Chemmy, unlike the versions of baccarat, you'll find online, players take turns being the bank. So when you watch an older James Bond film and they're playing baccarat, it's usually a version of Chemmy, which is why they're (seductively) dealing the cards and passing the shoe around. 

The most common version of baccarat in the U.S. is Punto Banco; however, you'll rarely see this name used. Almost always, when you see the name baccarat in a U.S. casino (online or brick and mortar), they're playing punto banco. In the following sections, those are the rules and strategies we'll focus on. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you win at baccarat?

Baccarat is a game of chance, but there are still choices you can make to improve your odds. Betting with the Banker gives you a slight advantage with every bet. Betting consistently with the banker over the course of many hands will greatly improve your odds and chances of winning. 

You can also increase your odds by avoiding the tie bet. While the earnings are improved on a tie (around 8x your bet), your likelihood of winning is slim. Some baccarat experts consider the tie bet a sucker bet.

See the Guidelines for Betting in Baccarat above to learn about the smartest (and worst) bets you can make. 

How many betting positions are there on a baccarat table?

There are 14 betting positions on a baccarat table. They are numbered 1-15. Why 15? Because the unlucky number 13 is skipped over. 

What bets can I make in baccarat?

You can bet on the player, the bank, or a tie. Betting on the bank has a slight advantage in the long run.