It is possible to have visited casinos numerous times and still be unfamiliar with the game of baccarat, despite its worldwide popularity, because it is often played in the “high-limit” rooms that casual gamblers never dare to set foot in. Despite being surrounded with well-dressed and professional-looking players, baccarat tables are actually home to one of the simplest games in the entire casino.
Though there are three different versions of baccarat, this discussion will refer to North American baccarat, or punto banco, which is played in the U.S, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and Macau. A round of punto banco starts with the casino patrons betting on which of the two hands, known as the ‘player’ and the ‘banker,’ will have a higher total at the end of the round. These betting options are arbitrary, as the hands do not actually belong to either the human player or the house. Patrons may also bet on both hands having equal value, known as a tie. Some online casinos offer varying options of the game, but most of the time, its pretty straightforward.
Each hand initially consists of two cards, which are then totaled before play proceeds to the next stage. Hand values in baccarat are calculated adding up the point total of all cards, but since the scores only range from 2-9, the tens digit is ignored. A card’s point value corresponds to its number except for aces, which are worth 1 point, and for tens and face cards, which are worth zero. For example, a starting hand consisting of an ace and a six would be worth seven, but a hand consisting of a seven and an eight would be worth five (total of 15 with the tens digit dropped).
After the first two cards are dealt, if either the ‘player’ or ‘banker’ has a ‘natural’ (an 8 or a 9), play stops and that hand wins immediately. If the hands have the same value, the dealer—or croupier—will pay off all tie bets at 8 to 1 (sometimes 9 to 1), while the ‘player’ and ‘banker’ bets will push. When neither of these outcomes occur, play proceeds as follows:
- The player stands with a hand of 6 or 7; with a total of 0-5, the player draws an extra card
- If the player stands, the dealer draws with a 5 or lower
- Depending on the card drawn the player and the banker’s total, the banker either draws another card or stays with the current total
- The banker always stands on 7
- The banker only draws with a 6 when the player draws a 6 or 7
- The banker draws on 5 if the player draws a 4-7
- The banker draws on 4 if the player draws a 2-7
- The banker always draws on three unless the player gets an 8 on the third card
- The banker always draws on 0-2 regardless of the player’s action
Winning bets on both the player and the banker pay 1 to 1, but the casino collects a 5% commission on all winning banker bets. Unlike in games of skill like poker, baccarat is mathematically unbeatable so whenever you sit down at the table, youre expecting to lose money!