What is baccarat?
Even if you have no idea how to play baccarat, you’ve probably heard of the game. Not only is it one of the most popular table games in casinos around the world, it is of course the game of choice for the world’s most famous spy, James Bond, as personified in the original Bond movie Dr. No.
Despite this glamorous image which conjures up thoughts of rich, sophisticated gamblers wagering huge sums, baccarat is actually a very simple game.
In the most common version of the game found in casinos, players can bet on the current player winning the hand, the banker winning the hand, or a tie.
And that’s it. What could be simpler?
Let’s now take a look at how to play baccarat in a bit more detail.
How to play baccarat
As we said, baccarat is a very simple game. Apart from just one thing – the way that the values of cards are calculated is unusual. “Picture cards”, i.e. kings, queens and jacks, as well as tens count as zero.
Aces count as one, while 2s through 9s count as their actual values.
The values of the cards are added together and the aim of the game is to get closest to a total of 9.
Most baccarat tables allow up to a maximum of 14 players to play at the same time.
Each player places their bet and then whoever has bet the most is dealt two cards. This player then competes against the banker.
All players can bet on either the banker, the player or the tie, also known as a push. This is where both the banker and the player have the same hand total.
If the player’s hand total is 8 or 9 after their two cards are dealt, they win the hand automatically. This is called a “natural”.
If the player’s hand total is 6 or 7, they must stand.
If their hand total is less than 6, they are automatically dealt a third card.
If this third card results in the player’s hand total reaching double figures, then the total wraps around. For example, if the player’s hand total is 4 and they are dealt an 8, their hand total would ostensibly be 12 but this is wrapped around to become 2.
If you bet on the banker winning, which is the most likely outcome, you are charged a commission of 5% if you win. If this wasn’t done, players would simply bet on the banker winning all the time and eventually bust the casino!
If you bet on the player winning, you are paid at even money if you win.
The third betting option is to bet on the tie. If you bet on the tie and win you are paid at odds of 8 to 1.
If you bet on either the banker or the player and the game is a tie, neither bet wins or loses.
Baccarat side bets
Sometimes casinos allow side bets to add a little extra interest to the game. The two side bets you’ll find most often are the so-called Dragon and the Panda.
The Dragon bet
A Dragon bet is a bet on the banker winning with the winning hand total being a 3-card 7. The Dragon bet pays out at odds of 40-1.
The Panda bet
The Panda bet is a bet on the player winning with the winning hand total being a 3-card 8. The Panda bet pays out at odds of 25-1.
House edge in baccarat
The house edge depends on the number of decks in the shoe. Assuming an 8-deck shoe, the house edge on the banker bet is 1.06%, for the player bet it is 1.24% and for the tie it is a huge 14.36%.