Baccarat is an ideal choice for players looking for an alternative card game experience to traditional blackjack or poker. With easy-to-understand rules and the lowest house edge out of all standard casino games, baccarat is an attractive game for both newcomers and experienced players, but it can be deadly for those who are uninformed.
Baccarat is unique in terms of player participation, skill and luck. Cards are dealt to two sides, referred to as the ‘banker’ and ‘player,’ neither of which represents actual people who are betting. We are essentially bettors and not the player. We can choose to bet on either of the two sides who we think is going to get closest to a total of nine points, which ultimately determines the hand which wins and gets paid out. The game also has three unique rule variants which significantly alter the skill and luck involved: the main type, Punto Banco, relies strictly upon chance, while the other two incorporate player choice, which subsequently brings skill in to the game.
The majority of land-based and online casinos around the world utilise the Punto Banco version, so for clarity, we focus on that variant unless otherwise specified.
Baccarat is a casino game with the objective of betting on the hand that acquires the highest total points value, which is the hand closest to nine. Each baccarat round has three possible outcomes: a player win (player has the score nearest to nine), a banker win (banker has the higher score) and a tie. You can wager on all three outcomes.
Baccarat, one of the most widespread casino games, comes with its fair share of slang and jargon. As a newcomer or an experienced player to online casinos, it’s helpful to recognise the most common phrases used at the table in order to accurately understand each move.
When the total of either the player’s hand or banker’s hand is equal to zero
- Banker Hand
One of two hands in the game which you can bet on to win
A round of play
- Dealing Shoe
The device from which cards are dealt
The cards the player or banker is holding
- House Edge
The advantage (as a percentage) the casino has over a player in any game.
An initial two-card total of eight or nine for either the player or banker hand
A side wager on a player pair or banker pair, which may be offered in some variations of the game.
- Player Hand
One of two hands which you can bet on to win
The player and banker hold the same total in their hands and no-one wins or loses
The side bet offered so we can wager on a push
- Traditional Baccarat
The main form of Baccarat played where the winning banker and player hands have payouts of 11 (less 5% commission for banker winning hands).
While baccarat is an easy-to-understand game, it does have a few idiosyncrasies which take some time to get used to. The most important distinction needed to be made is the differences between the bettor, player and banker.
In a game of baccarat, two hands are dealt, no matter how many people are actually playing; the banker hand and the player hand. Bettors/gamblers place their bets on the hand they think will win. Neither hand actually represents the human players who are betting, which essentially distinguishes participants as a bettor rather than a player. To avoid confusion, don’t think of the banker as the house or the player as the players, but as two separate hands to bet on. You, as a participant in the game, are unrelated to either party.
Playing punto banco
A standard punto banco game is played with four to eight decks, each with 52 cards and no jokers. In online baccarat, cards are dealt automatically by a virtual dealer. In land-based casinos, cards are usually dealt by a dealer, but some venues allow players themselves to handle the cards. Each card has a particular value:
- All numbered cards from two to nine are worth their face value.
- All face cards (Jacks, Queens and Kings) and 10s are valued at zero.
- Ace cards are worth one point.
Before the game begins, bets are made on either the banker hand, player hand, a tie, or one of a few side-bets like Perfect Pairs (obviously more than one wager can be made. For example, on the player and a tie). Once wagers are placed, the croupier deals two cards to both parties. The player is dealt a face-up card first, followed by a first face-up card to the Banker. The second cards follow the same style and order. If after the first two cards, the sum of a hand is more than 10 points, the hand gets valued according to the right-most digit of the total. For example, a hand of a three and a four is totalled at seven, while a hand of nine and five is worth four, rather than 14 (four being the right-most digit of 14).
With the aim to get nearest to a total of nine, if either or both party’s hands total eight or nine after the first two cards have been dealt to both sides, the coup ends, the result is called (a player or banker win, or tie), and all winning bets are paid out.
If neither party has reached the eight or nine total after the first two cards, specific third-card rules for player and banker are followed, first by the player and then the banker. For a complete run-down of the rules, please see our baccarat third-card rulings page.
Payouts and house edge in baccarat
Bets placed on the winning party (banker or player) are paid out at 1:1 odds. If you wagered $10 on either the banker or player and win, you receive a $20 payout ($10 profit and your original $10 bet returned).
The game itself has some of the lowest house edges available among casino games. The Punto Banco variant offers an attractively low edge of 1.24% for the player and 1.06% for the banker. These are even better odds than the edge offered in single-zero European Roulette (2.7% house edge). Betting on a tie puts the house edge at around 14%. If you’re playing baccarat to take advantage of its low house edge, avoid making consistent tie wagers in order to maximise your returns. The payout for a winning tie wager will be no less than 8:1. The baccarat pairs wager which is often allowed in online games sees a typical payout of 11:1 for a player or banker pair.
Note: Winning bets on the banker’s hand are often subject to a commission percentage (usually 5%) from the casino, due to odds favouring the banker’s hand over time. Commission does not apply for bets made on the player’s hand.
Strategies for Beginners
If you’re new to the game, the main baccarat strategy is to have fun first and foremost and remember, the outcome of your bets in the Punto Banco version is left in the hands of the Gods. Here are some additional tips for your casino playing session, with these designed to help you minimise your baccarat strategy mistakes:
- Steer Clear Of Tie Bets
A minimum 8:1 payout sounds tempting, but the subsequent 14.4% house edge is not great. Ties don’t occur frequently enough to be worthy of the risk. However, if you’re feeling lucky, you can certainly have a go once in a while.
- Be Picky About Commission
While the majority of Baccarat games hold a 5% house commission on bets made on the banker, some land-based and online casinos charge more. Avoid these inflated tables and stick to the standard rate. You may find a table or website offering even less than 5%, so look around. Crown Casino actually offers games without any commission, but the minimum bets are higher than usual.
- Don’t Disregard The Banker
It’s understandable why people often like to avoid banker bets because of the 5% house commission if it wins, but the commission is in place because of the banker’s proven advantage in wins over time. So in the long-run, it’s sometimes the better bet to make.