The origins of baccarat are somewhat disputed. Some claim that it can be traced back to Italy, where the game originated (apparently ‘baccarat’ means ‘zero’ – for the face cards, which have that value assigned to them, somewhat controversially so in a mostly aristocratic society) and then moved to France. This is said to have happened back in the 15th century.
There is, however, the possibility that the game has been mistaken for a somewhat similar game, which has indeed been around that long.
As it is, solid evidence for the game can be found in the first half of the 19th century, where we know versions such as ‘Baccarat en banque’ and ‘Chemin de Fer’. The latter version arrived in America in the early 20th century, at a time when gambling was illegal. Thus baccarat and other games could only be played in illegal gambling rooms.
The game only saw a rise in popularity when it first appeared in Las Vegas. But there you will still find slot machines vastly outnumbering any other type of game. Head on over to the Las Vegas of the East – Macau – however, and you’ll find the situation to be reversed. Somehow baccarat is hugely popular in Asia.
And it is also quite popular among high rollers.
You may encounter different version of baccarat. At online casinos ‘Punto Banco’ is one you will frequently find, but at other casinos other versions may also be available.
Big Table Baccarat – So-called because of the big table it is played at, which seats three dealers and up to 15 players. It’s the standard baccarat you get to play at brick-and-mortar casinos. Interestingly bankers and players draw one another’s cards in this version.
Punto Banco – This is the version you’ll find almost everywhere as well. Here six to eight decks of cards are in the shoe and players never touch the cards.
Baccarat Banque – A favourite among high rollers, especially in European casinos, where the table limits may be very high. In this version a player is the banker for the duration of the game.
Chemin de Fer – This is an old version, which you will rarely find these days. Here six decks of cards are used and the player is the one distributing the cards, face down. Bankers only shuffle the cards.
Baccarat is a fairly easy game. Most will tell you that it is a card comparison game similar to blackjack, though it does differ significantly in how the card value are counted. The aim is to reach a value as close to 9 as possible.
Whilst you may have between 12 and 14 players around a baccarat table, there’s only one player hand and one dealer hand that are being played. The players sitting around the table will either bet that the banker’s (dealer) hand is winning, that the players hand is winning or that it is a tie, meaning both hands end up with the same value.
The dealer will hand out one card to the player, then take one themselves, deal another to the player and then take a final one for themselves. All cards are initially face down, then the dealer turns them over and there’s a first evaluation of the cards’ values.
Card values are quite different in baccarat than they are in poker or blackjack. They’re also added up differently.
In order to determine the final value of each hand, all numerical values are added up. And then the left digit is dropped, leaving only the right digit as the actual result.
A ‘natural’ can only happen, if either banker or player get an 8 or 9 with their first two cards. If that happens, the hand is concluded and wins are paid out according to bets.
However, if a ‘natural’ does not occur, more cards will be drawn. We’ll get to that in the next section.
One would assume that odds for banker and player are exactly the same, but that’s not the case. The player’s house edge is slightly worse than the bankers, which can hardly be surprising. Below numbers will give you the house edge, though you may see them slightly differently elsewhere.
Payouts for winnings bets on banker and dealer are 1:1, whereas a tie will be paid out at 8:1 (though sometimes at 9:1), making it the most lucrative bet.
Whilst the initial gameplay is pretty simple and straightforward, things get a little bit more complicated and strict when it comes to drawing a third card (or more, if it applies). Indeed, the banker will usually just follow the rules, because the player doesn’t get to have a say here.
You can find odds charts similar to the ones for blackjack that illustrate when a player or dealer hand may have to stand or draw. Below you’ll find a slightly more simplified version to give you an overview.
|Draws a card
|Natural – stands
|First two cards total:
|Draws when player’s third card is:
|Stands when player’s third card is:
|Natural – stands
Since you won’t be making any of the decisions yourself, you don’t really have to know these rules. But when it comes to gambling, it is usually beneficial to know the rules and pay attention to what’s going on at the table.
Once again this is a subject much discussed. You can easily google “baccarat systems” and read through thousands of pages full of promises that there is a perfect system to play baccarat and win most of the time.
Most of these sites are scams and you should simply not pay them any attention. Whenever you’re asked for money to pay for a fool-proof strategy, you should definitely stay clear.
Since the odds of betting on the player’s hand versus betting on the banker’s hand are very close indeed, you’ll be doing alright one way or the other. The odds of betting on the banker might be better, but it’s not a bet that’s necessarily appreciated.
And then there’s the tie. The house edge is highest here, but so are the payouts. If you’re hoping to walk away with more cash than you put in, you might want to bet on a tie. There’s more risk in that, of course, and you’ll have to be willing to lose as well.
Once again we recommend you learn the game, observe a few rounds and then simply try your luck. All gambling is a game of chance anyway, and you should play for fun, not for gain.
So, what’s preferable, playing baccarat online casinos or at brick-and-mortar casinos? Actually, this time around we may actually opt for the online casino. Let us tell you why.
Baccarat tables are in many places considered high roller tables. That means you may not even find a table that suits your budget at a normal casino. There’s not an awful lot of excitement or action at a baccarat table either. You don’t even get to decide on whether or not you want another card, because the rules are pretty much set in stone.
At an online casino you may very well just pick a baccarat game, choose your bet and let the hand play out. The difference is not that big and you get to learn the rules for the game in a comfortable environment. Also, you’re sure to find a table limit that suits you. Or you could play for free in the demo mode and first learn the game that way.
Baccarat is among the games you can easily play live at an online casino. Most live casinos feature at least one baccarat version as well, though some offer quite a selection of different tables. Since the difference to playing at a land-based casino is not that huge, playing it live is making for a nice change. You can almost imagine being there at the table without being deprived of the atmosphere you usually get in a casino.
Playing baccarat mobile is also not a problem at all. You will almost always be able to find a mobile baccarat version in your favourite mobile casino. There may only be one or two games available, but that’s enough anyway.