Baccarat – the basics

Baccarat – The Basics

Although baccarat has never been as popular as roulette and blackjack, it is typically considered to be just behind the two games in terms of both tradition and popularity. In recent years, the game has started to attract plenty of high-rollers thanks to its uniqueness, which in turn led to many casinos adding new baccarat tables to their offers.

Since chances are that you’ve never had the opportunity to take a closer look at the game, we’ve prepared an article that will give you all the basic info that you need to get up and running.

History

It is sometimes said that baccarat is even older than roulette and blackjack, but such claims can most likely be successfully disputed. Some sources say that it first appeared in Italy in the first half of the 15th century, but it seems that it rose to fame only in 19th century France, so the odds are that the game is actually much younger than many players believe.

The other big baccarat boom came when gambling became popular over in the United States, with most casinos there adopting the punto banco version of the game, as it’s not only the most fast-paced of them all, but as it also allows players to join and leave tables freely. This version of the game has eventually become the most popular one in casinos all around the world, with baccarat carving a bit of a niche for itself in casinos in Macau. That’s where the best baccarat tables in the world are nowadays – and many European and American high-rollers flock there to get a piece of the action.

As far as the house edge is concerned, baccarat is one of the best games for the players, with the typical house edge being just slightly above one percent. Bets on ties are significantly worse, however, so they are virtually never taken by advanced players.

Interestingly, baccarat is also the favorite game of the famous James Bond – it even plays a major role in the 1953 novel Casino Royale. The original 1967 film adaptation features it as well, but the modern 2006 treatment doesn’t, as baccarat has been replaced by Poker Texas Hold ‘Em in that one.

The Rules

Although baccarat doesn’t look nearly as intuitive as roulette or blackjack at first glance, its actual rules are very straightforward and little input is required from the players when it comes to the punto banco variation, which is basically the only variation that you’re going to find in casinos.

Usually, eight decks of cards are used for a single round of the game (although there are different rules concerning how many cards are burned at the beginning and when exactly the given round ends), with the cards having different values. Aces count for one, twos through nines count for their numbers, and tens and face cards count for zero.

Before the action begins, the player has to bet either on The Player hand, The Banker hand, or a tie. The dealer then deals out two cards to the Player and two to the Banker. The score of the hands is the right digit of their total and, unlike in blackjack, it is impossible to bust.

The terms ‘The Player’ and ‘The Banker’ really have nothing to do with you or the dealer. They could just as easily be called ‘Hand A’ and ‘Hand B’. The only thing that you need to know is that winning bets on the Banker Hand pay a little bit less, about 5%, than winning bets on the Player Hand. The reason for this is that the odds of the Banker whand winning are slightly greater than those of the Player hand.

As a player you can bet on either hand, and you do not have to make any decisions – the game will be dealt by the dealer according to a strict set of rules.

Additional cards can then be dealt according to the widely-accepted table that’s too hard to transcribe into words, but this is basically of no concern to the player, as these actions are made automatically with no exceptions allowed.

Once the dealing phase is over, the scores of the player and the banker are compared, with the higher score winning. Winning bets on the Banker pay 19:20, winning bets on the Player pay 1:1, and winning bets on ties typically pay 8:1 (note that non-tie bets are voided in case a tie occurs).

Variations

Baccarat comes in three main variations, although most casinos offer just one of them, the popular punto banco variation that doesn’t really require much input from the players. It’s fast-paced, it’s packed with adrenaline and it can be played for stakes that are seen only very rarely in other games – and that’s what makes baccarat so very unique.

The second variation of the game, which is called chemin de fer, is pretty popular in France and involves players making decisions of whether to draw additional cards or to stand. A single player designated as the banker deals and leads the action, while others are betting against him. The position of the banker changes whenever he or she loses a hand.

To round things off, we’ll also mention the banque variation of the game that’s basically just a sub-variation of the aforementioned chemin de fer. Put simply, the banker position doesn’t change whenever the banker loses a hand, but until all the cards from the starting pack are dealt.

It should be said that the chemin de fer and banque variations are typically played in a less formal setting between players that know each other or at least trust each other. Moreover, there are no well-defined rules for many of the situations, so you may find some interesting subtleties being enforced in certain baccarat clubs or among certain groups of players.

Playing Online

Although baccarat has always been present in the biggest brick-and-mortar casinos, it is possible that you might actually struggle to get a game in some of the smaller ones. There’s no reason to worry, however, as you can easily enjoy a bit of baccarat even without leaving your couch thanks to all the great online casinos out there.

The good news is that you can enjoy the game not only in many different shapes and sizes, but that you can also benefit from some bonuses and promotional offers, which means that you’ll always get a bit more bang for your buck than you would at your regular land-based casino. That is of course assuming that you choose an online casino that allows Baccarat as part of their permitted games for bonus requirements.

What’s more, you can also take advantage of the various live baccarat tables that most online casinos are offering and get as close to the action as possible. We’re certainly not bluffing here – modern studios filled with tens of HD-quality cameras will allow you not only to feel like in a real casino, but also to get a closer view of the action. The real highlight? You may even watch the famous baccarat squeeze from more than just a single angle and enjoy a truly thrilling experience!