Baccarat is really popular among casino table games because it features simple rules, a low house edge, and low stakes.
This is an irresistible combination to anybody who wants to beat the casino without pouring hours into strategy.
If you enjoy gaming but haven’t played baccarat, then we highly recommend that you do so. Here are 10 things that you should know about the game before you start playing.
1. Mini Baccarat is the Most Popular Version
Baccarat is one of the oldest casino table games in existence. Despite its age, baccarat’s popularity continues to increase in casino hot spots like Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.
A large part of this is due to mini-baccarat, which differs from the traditional version.
Mini baccarat is played on a smaller table with seven seats for players. A traditional baccarat table, on the other hand, has 12-14 spots.
Another difference is that mini baccarat doesn’t allow players to deal or even touch their cards.
This may take some of the fun away for certain players. But mini baccarat derives its popularity from the fact that the stakes are lower than a regular baccarat table.
Many Las Vegas mini-baccarat tables feature $10 or $25 minimum bets. Contrast this to bigger tables, where you must often bet $50 or more.
You also don’t have to dress up to play mini baccarat. This is a change from the days when baccarat was only for high rollers in roped-off areas.
The smaller bets and lack of dress code are big reasons why mini baccarat is so popular.
2. Baccarat Only Has 3 Different Bets
Beginners can pick up baccarat right away because the game only has three possible wagers. These include the following:
- Betting on the banker hand to win.
- Wagering on the player hand to win.
- Betting that both hands will tie.
You’ll see circles marked player, banker, and tie on land-based and online baccarat tables.
A land-based table puts the player circle closest to players; the banker circle in the middle; and the tie space near the dealer.
Online baccarat tables have different layouts that feature larger betting circles because you’re the only one playing.
In any case, you put your wager in the respective circle to play.
The player and banker bets both pay 1:1 on your bet. The tie wager pays either 8:1 or 9:1 because it has a smaller chance of occurring.
Most people don’t make the tie bet since it has a high house edge. This means that you really only have to keep track of two different wagers.
3. Baccarat Strategy is Easy
Baccarat has the easiest strategy among any of the table games. You achieve perfect strategy by literally making the same bet every hand.
You can see this by checking out the house edges below:
- Banker bet = 1.06% house edge
- Player bet = 1.24%
- Tie bet = 14.36% (8:1 payout) or 4.84% (9:1 payout)
The banker bet has the lowest house edge at 1.06%. And this includes a 5% commission being taken out of winning banker wagers.
Even with the 5% commission factored in, the banker bet is still your top option.
Some people also bet on the player to win based on patterns. Here’s an example:
- You notice that the banker wins three times in a row.
- Both hands have roughly a 50% chance of winning (not counting ties).
- You think that the player is due to win soon, so you bet on them.
This line of thinking is incorrect and embodies the gambler’s fallacy, where people think that past events can predict future results. Furthermore, the player hand never has a better chance of winning than the banker.
But even if you embrace pattern betting, you’ll only be facing a 1.24% house edge with the player bet.
The one wager that you want to avoid at all costs is the tie bet.
You’re facing a horrific 14.36% house edge when the payout is 8:1. You’re still facing a 4.84% house advantage in the case of a 9:1 payout.
One more thought on strategy is to watch the land-based mini baccarat tables.
These might be low stakes, but you’ll see around 130-150 hands dealt per hour. Even with a 1.06% house edge, the risk can add up due to the high volume of hands.
4. Drawing Rules & Scoring Are Confusing
You only have to know three bets to play baccarat.
But you’ll probably want to know how the banker and player win hands at some point. And this process is confusing because of the scoring and drawing rules.
Let’s go over what you need to know about the scoring and drawing rules to clear everything up.
The highest possible score is a 9. The banker or player hand closest to this number wins.
Here’s the score of each individual card:
- Ace = 1
- 2 to 9 = Face value (i.e. 3 is worth 3)
- Jack, queen, king = 0
When a hand is worth 10 or more, the first digit is dropped and the second digit represents the score. A 14 is actually worth 4 in baccarat due to the first number being dropped.
Hands begin with both the player and banker receiving two cards. The score of each hand determines whether the banker or player receive another card.
Here’s how this works:
- When the banker or player draw an 8 or 9 with their first two cards (a.k.a. natural), they can win with no more cards being dealt. The player and banker can also tie in this situation, or one party can win with a 9 versus an 8.
- The player automatically receives a third card if they have less than 5. The player stands on a score of 6 or 7.
- The banker draws if they have less than 5 and the player has a 6 or 7. The banker stands if their total is 6 or 7.
If the player draws for a third card, the banker draws (“D”) for a third card based on what’s seen in the table below:
5. Baccarat Has a Muddled History
Casino games like blackjack, craps, and roulette have debatable origins because they’re so old. Baccarat is no different in this regard because it’s also an old game.
According to UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, baccarat’s origins can be traced back to Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
One fact that supports this theory is how baccarat translates to “zero” in Italian. The zero billing relates to how face cards and 10 have a zero value.
Of course, this wasn’t the same baccarat game that we see today.
The cards were handcrafted and expensive. And neither the player nor banker drew for another card to improve their score.
Another baccarat origin theory involves France in the early 1400s. This is supported by records that show French nobleman playing a variation of the game.
King Louis XIV would eventually ban baccarat and other card games in France in the late seventeenth century. This helped create the underground French version that we know today as chemin de fer (a.k.a. chemmy).
Hoyle’s Official Rules of Cards offered a description of modern-day baccarat in the nineteenth century. This is the same century that the game began appearing in more Italian and French casinos.
Baccarat was introduced to Las Vegas in the 1950s as chemin de fer. This quickly became a high-roller game due to the complex rules, players acting as the banker, and three required dealers.
The high stakes prevented low rollers from enjoying this game. And this kept baccarat from achieving the same popularity as blackjack and roulette.
But casinos have since remedied this situation with mini baccarat (a.k.a. punto banco).
The dealer controls the action, and players only have to worry about making their bets. Speaking of which, the low stakes allow more people to enjoy this game.
The advent of online baccarat has only made the game more popular. Now you can play via a PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet for as little as $1 per hand.
6. James Bond Loves Baccarat
The 2006 movie Casino Royale was the last James Bond flick to revolve around a gambling game. Texas Hold’em is featured in the film to reflect the poker boom happening at the time.
But Bond has historically preferred chemin de fer above all casino games.
Ian Fleming’s series of novels often feature 007 playing chemin de fer at some point. This includes the 1953 novel Casino Royale, where Bond must beat SMERSH operative Le Chiffre in baccarat.
The 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale (Climax!) features Bond bankrupting Le Chiffre so that his Soviet bosses will eliminate him.
Dr. No is the first time that baccarat is introduced in a James Bond film. This 1967 movie shows Sean Connery playing chemin de fer with Sylvia Trench (Eunice Grayson).
After losing a hand to Bond, Trench suggests that they raise the stakes. Trench draws an 8, but Bond beats her again by drawing a 9.
Other movies where baccarat appears include Thunderball (1965), Casino Royale (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), For Your Eyes Only (1981), and GoldenEye (1995).
7. Macau Loves Baccarat – And They Love Superstitions
Baccarat is by far the most-popular casino game in Macau.
According to Quartz, 91% of Macau’s 2014 gambling revenue came from baccarat. Compare this to 24% in Las Vegas at the time.
This was when the game was at its popularity peak. But baccarat still retains the attention of most Macau visitors.
What makes baccarat so exciting in this Asian gambling destination is the superstitions. CNN reported that players are allowed to do certain things that they can’t in American casinos.
This includes touching cards, slowly peeking at them, and creasing cards. The purpose of slowly peeking and creasing is to create suspense while hoping for a 9.
Players also like to blow on the cards in an effort to blow away low numbers. Another superstition involves betting with a player when they win, and against them when they’re losing.
“They look for trends of three or more straight wins for the banker or player and then bet for a 4th or 5th straight win,” said Ray Rody, a gaming professor at Macau Millennium College.
“The gamblers who believe in this type of luck walk around the casino searching for tables showing a trend.”
Some casinos have computer monitors at mini-baccarat tables to help players spot trends over the last 20-30 rounds.
8. You Can Find Reduced Commission Baccarat
Earlier I mentioned how the casino takes a 5% commission from winning banker bets. But there are rare baccarat games where the casino only takes a 4% commission.
This may not sound like a big difference. But it actually drops the house edge from 1.06% to 0.60%.
Reduced commission baccarat is comparable to Jacks or Better video poker (0.46% house edge) and good blackjack games (0.50%) in terms of the house edge.
And the best part is that you don’t even need to use strategy in reduced commission games. All you need to do is continue making the banker bet every time.
The only catch is that 4% commission games are nearly impossible to find.
The D casino in Las Vegas used to run a regular reduced commission game. But they’ve since disbanded these tables in recent years.
The lone US casino that offers 4% commissions right now is the Isleta Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Albuquerque isn’t near any other major cities, which makes it out of the way. But if you’re serious about getting the best baccarat house edge possible, then it may be worth a trip.
9. No Commission Baccarat Exists – But You Shouldn’t Play It
If 4% commission baccarat drops the house edge to 0.60%, then no commission baccarat must be a dream, right?
These games are common in Vegas casinos. But you don’t want to play them because they’re actually worse than regular tables.
True to the name, no commissions are taken from winning banker bets. The catch, though, is that if the banker wins with 6 points it will only pay 50% on your bet.
This scenario happens 5.39% of the time, which makes a difference when you’re only getting 50% of the payout.
The banker bet features a 1.46% house advantage with no commission baccarat. This definitely isn’t as good as the normal 1.06% house edge.
If you want to try a cool baccarat variation in Vegas, then check out EZ baccarat.
This game also doesn’t take commissions from banker wagers. And the nice thing is that the house edge is only 1.02%.
This differs from standard no commission games because banker wins on any three-card 7 are a push.
The chances of this happening are 2.25%. Compare this to no commission baccarat’s unfavorable rule, where you get a 50% payout when the dealer wins with 6 (5.39%).
10. Baccarat Offers Fun Side Bets
Baccarat isn’t big on betting variety. This is why many casinos add side bets to spice up the action.
Available side bets depend upon the brick-and-mortar or online casino. But here are some of the most common wagers:
Big bet; 4.35% house edge – Bet on if the player and banker will combine for 5 or 6 cards. Pays 0.54:1 on your wager.
Small bet; 5.27% house edge – Bet on if the player and banker will combine for 4 cards. Pays 1.5:1 on your wager.
Dragon 7; 7.60% house edge – Commonly found in EZ baccarat games, this is a wager on if the banker will win with a three-card 7 total. The payout is 40:1.
Dragon Bonus (player side); 2.70% house edge – Wager that the player side will win with a natural, or by 4 or more.
Lucky Bonus; 1.11% house edge – Bet on if the banker will win with a 6. This wager gives the player a 2.34% advantage, but you must risk up to 10% of your banker wager.
Panda 8; 10.19% house edge – Another common EZ baccarat side bet, this wager is based on the banker winning with a three-card 8 total. The payout is 25:1.
Royal Match; 2.13% house edge – Bet that the banker or player will get a suited or unsuited king-queen combo with their first two cards. The suited king-queen pays 75:1, and the unsuited king-queen pays 30:1.
We’ve covered a lot of different topics involving baccarat. But the main things that you need to know involve the different bets and house edges.
As long as you know these aspects, then you’ll have no trouble playing baccarat and using perfect strategy. And many players appreciate that they can make the same bet every time and play perfectly.
Of course, it’s nice to know how the scoring and dealing work if you’re going to play a lot of baccarat. These concepts seem intimidating at first, but they’re not hard to understand once you go over them.
It’s also fun to know the history behind baccarat and some of the James Bond tidbits. These subjects show that baccarat has a rich history that will continue on in both casinos and movies.