The Basics   The Player   The Banker    Wins, Losses, Ties   Comments

Baccarat has always enjoyed a decidedly glamorous image. In Las Vegas, the game is often played in special rooms that are roped off from the regular casino. Typically, a baccarat room is occupied by beautiful women (employed by the casinos to attract players) and high rollers, who frequently bet thousands of dollars for endless hours of play. Baccarat dealers sometimes wear tuxedos, giving the game an additional air of exclusivity. 

While the game attracts many notable high rollers, especially from Asian countries, it has simultaneously scared off less affluent players, who view the game as overly sophisticated. Although baccarat may seem intimidating to those unfamiliar with the rules, it is, in fact, one of the easiest casino games to play. There is only one decision you have to make for each hand, and the dealers handle the rest, playing out the hands according to strict, predetermined rules.

Some casinos also offer a game called mini-baccarat, which actually has the exact same rules as regular baccarat. The only real difference is that mini-baccarat requires only one dealer, and the bets are typically made in much smaller denominations. 

 

The Basics

There are two hands played in baccarat: The player hand and the banker hand. You can bet on either one, and if the hand you bet on wins, you receive an even money (1:1) payoff. There is one other bet you can make, called the tie bet.  If you make this bet and the two hands tie, you receive an 8:1 payoff. Ties, however, occur less than once out of every ten hands.

Each hand receives 2 cards at the beginning. When necessary, the dealers will draw additional cards according to the rules. The hand closest to a value of 9 wins. 

10s, jacks, queens, and kings all have a value of 0. The ace through 9 cards have values of 1 to 9, respectively. To determine the value of each hand, you simply add the cards. If the total is over 10, the first digit is ignored. So an 8 and a 6, when added up, would normally equal 14, but in baccarat, we disregard the first digit, and instead end up with a value of 4. Similarly, a 6 and 4 would equal 0, and a 10 and 9 would equal 9.

  baccarat.jpg (16061 bytes)
(Baccarat layout at the Cybersportsbook and Casino)

If the first two cards total 9, the hand is called a natural, and it automatically wins. A two-card hand totaling 8 is also referred to as a natural, and it wins automatically too, unless the hand it is playing against has a natural as well. When both hands have a natural, the higher natural hand wins (9 beating an 8). If the hands have equal value, it is a tie. 

When neither hand has a natural, there is no automatic winner, and the dealers draw additional cards to determine the winning hand.

 

The Player Hand

The player hand draws cards first, according to the following rules:

When the first two cards equal....

...the player must

6, 7, 8, or 9

stand

any other value

draw one card

The player hand can never receive more than one additional card. The hand must stand after the third card, regardless of its value at that point.

 

The Banker Hand

The banker hand is a bit more complicated. How the banker hand gets played is usually determined by what the player hand's third card is. If the player hand did not draw a third card (i.e. the player had a 6 or higher), then the banker draws a card only if the first two cards total less than 5. Otherwise, the banker stands. 

If the player did draw a third card, then the banker plays as follows: 

When the banker's first two cards equal...

...the banker draws ONLY if the player's third card is

3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, or 10
4 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
5 4, 5, 6, or 7
6 6 or 7
When the banker's first two cards equal... ...the banker will
2 or less always draw
7, 8, or 9 always stand

 

Wins, Losses, and Ties

The hand closest to nine always wins.

Bets made on the banker and player pay even money when won. A winning banker bet, however, is subject to a 5% house commission. So, if you made a $5 banker bet and won, you would receive $5.00 minus 5% ($0.25), which would actually be $4.75. If the two hands tie, neither bet wins nor loses any money. If you made a tie bet, however, you would receive an 8:1 payoff.

Although winning banker bets are subject to a 5% commission, they are still good bets to make since banker hands actually win more frequently than player hands. All things considered, the banker and player bets give you about the same odds. In both cases, the house edge is quite small. In fact, it is only 1.17% for bets on the banker, and 1.36% for bets on the player. From a statistical standpoint, you are slightly better off wagering on the banker, albeit not by much.

 

Comments

While the rules may seem a bit confusing, keep in mind that there really is no need to know them precisely. Baccarat is pretty much a game of chance, and all you really have to do is decide which hand you think will win, and bet accordingly. However, knowing the basic rules will certainly help you follow what is going on, making the game a lot more enjoyable.

It is a good idea to avoid tie bets altogether, since they give the house a significant advantage (close to 20%). By sticking to only the banker and player bets, the house advantage will remain at a minimum, thereby maximizing your chances of winning.  

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