How to Play Baccarat

Baccarat is a fun, engaging and accessible casino card game that can provide hours of entertainment and camaraderie among gamblers. The rules are fairly straightforward once explained, but there are a few specifics gamblers should know before sitting down at a table. This how-to guide will explain the basics of Baccarat, including how the cards are dealt, the betting process, the hand, the final results and the house odds.

How to Play Baccarat

Baccarat, also referred to as “Punto Banco,” is often played on a table roughly the size of a craps table, usually with 3 dealers and 12 to 14 gamblers gathered around. A player faces off against the bank to see who is dealt the hand with the highest value. This hand value is easily calculated by tallying up all the cards and dropping the tens place. Other gamblers at the table bet on either the banker or player, or whether a tie, or “standoff,” will occur. After the losing bets have been collected and the winners are paid out, a new hand is dealt to a different person at the table. The game will eventually work its way around the table, allowing all gamblers who wish to play a hand a chance to enter the action.

How to Wager

Bets are placed on the player, the bank or a tie. The odds for betting on the player or bank are similar to those of betting red or black on a roulette table, with the payoff being even money, 1:1. Betting on a tie, however, has worse odds, but pays out 8:1 or 9:1. Betting on the bank, though statistically a safer bet in the long run, will often cost a 5% commission or tax put in place by the casino to give them a built-in advantage.

The Hand

Every hand played by both the player and the bank will consist of a minimum of two and a maximum of three cards. The dealer will place two cards, which will be the bank hand, beneath the shoe. They will then remove another two cards and place them face down in front of the player.

The player will then look at their hand, sliding the cards back to the dealer after examining them. The dealer will flip both hands face up, announcing the results to the table.

How the First Two Cards are Counted

The first two cards are counted by ignoring any card higher than 9, such as the 10 and face cards. Aces are counted as one. So, if a hand consists of a Jack and a 3, the total hand value is 3. If the hand consists of a 10 and an 8, the total is 8. Another trick to scoring is to add the total sum of all the cards and then drop the numeral in the tens place. For example, 14 would turn into 4, 22 into 2 and so on.

If either hand has a total of 8 or 9 after the first two cards, they are referred to as “naturals,” and stay at their current value without taking a third card. If the hand is not a natural, the casino dealer will decide, using the following standard rules, whether each hand will draw a third card. These rules do not need to be memorized, but knowledgeable gamblers should be able to reference them if necessary.

The Third Card Rules for the Banker

If the hand’s total is 2 or less: Draw against any hand with 3 cards.
If the hand’s total is 3: Draw against a hand with 1-7 or 9 and stand against a hand with 8.
If the hand’s total is 4: Draw against a hand with 2-7 and stand against a 1, 8 or 9.
If the hand’s total is 5: Draw against a hand with 4-7 and stand against a 1-3 and 8-9.
If the hand’s total is 6: Draw against a hand with 6-7 and stand against 1-5 and 8-9.
If the hand’s total is 7-9: Stand.

The Third Card Rules for the Player

If either hand has a natural: No further cards are drawn.
If the hand’s total is 1-5: Draw a third card.
If the hand’s total is 6-7: Stand. The bank will draw at 0-5 and stand at 6-9.
If the hand’s total is 8-9: Stand. The bank will react according to the rules above.

The Final Result

If a natural is obtained with the first two cards, or if three cards have been dealt, the dealing process is over and the total of both hands are tallied. The player with the higher total is the winner. After a winner is declared, losing bets are collected and winning bets are paid out. If the hand ends in a tie, then any gambler who placed a bet on tie/standoff is paid and all bets that were placed on either the player or the bank are left on the table for action during the next hand.

House Edge and Baccarat Payouts

As with most all casino games, the house has an advantage in Baccarat. Compared to other games though, the advantage is quite small, coming in at 1.06 percent. In order to make up for the tightness of the Baccarat odds, casinos will charge a commission for betting on the dealer, or bank player, of 5 percent, essentially making paying out .95:1. Bets placed on the player pay out 1:1 and ties pay out 8:1 or 9:1 depending on the house.

Baccarat is an enjoyable, straightforward game that can really get the heart racing with the right group of people at the table.

Baccarat Strategy