History of Baccarat
The origins of Baccarat come from Italy. It has been played in one form or another there since at least the 1400s. The word “baccarat” in Italian used to mean “zero”. This refers to the game rule that all ten’s and suited/higher cards (J-K) have a value of zero. This also applies to the total value of the hand.
When Baccarat later made it to France, it became especially popular with the Royal family and their entourage. The version played in France then was called “chemin de fer”, which means railroad in French. In this version, the banker position is rotating and the current banker gets to make small choices of what to do in certain situations.
When the game was embraced by the British, it became popular with the richer crowd, notably aristocrats and the landed gentry. The Brits simplified the dealing of the cards so that the banker is always the dealer and a house rule was added so that neither the players nor the banker has any choice in how the play is determined, their moves are always fixed. This is the version that made it overseas to Cuba and America and is often called “Punto Banco” or “American Baccarat”.
Today, of all the casino table games, card games like Baccarat and Blackjack are the definitely the most popular ones. In fact, Baccarat accounts for more than 90% of profits at certain Asian casinos (Macau in particular). The losses and wins of high-rollers on a given day can show on the balance sheet of the casino’s business. Baccarat is hugely popular with VIPs because of the low house edge. This is also shown in modern online casinos. However, at online casinos, the minimum bets are often smaller than what land-based casinos allow.
How to Play Baccarat
Baccarat has become a very popular card game around the world. It is a game where 2 pairs of cards are dealt. One pair is for the banker and the other one for the punters. The players bet on the outcome by betting on either the banker to have a higher hand, the punter to have a higher hand or that the hands have the exact same value (tie).
The cards are valued at face-value from A-9 and at zero for 10-K. The pairs are added together, but only the rightmost digit in the sum is counted. This means that 9+4=13 has a value of 3, 2+9=11 has a value of 1 and so on. The best hand is 9 and is called a Natural.
The game goes as follows: After being dealt the cards (face down), the players make their bets (banker, punter, tie). Then the cards are flipped. If the hand of either the banker or the punter is 8 or 9 the game ends.
Those players who guessed the outcome right get their bets back and a matching win. If neither have 8 or 9, then the player gets to choose to draw a third card. This choice is automatic in Punto Banco.
If the player has 6 or 7 they refuse the third card. If the hand is 0 to 4, they get a new card. The option of choice in the game is if the player has a hand of 5. However, in Punto Banco, the game is played with fixed drawing rules shown in the “tableau” (Table in French). The player’s rule in the tableau dictates that a new card is dealt on 5 as well. Thus there is no skill-element to the game and Punto Banco is a pure game of chance. The banker does the same thing (draw on 5) if the player has not taken a third card, i.e. “stood pat”.
Where the rules get more complicated, is when the player took the third card. In this situation, whether or not to draw a third card depends on a set of rules drawn out in the tableau. The Ruleset may take new players some time to memorize, though. Do note, however, that it’s usually possible to play baccarat for free online in demo-mode to get a feel for the game and learn the rules.
Variations of Baccarat
As mentioned before there a few variations of Baccarat played around the world. The French Baccarat (chemin de fer) has a rotating banker. So the dealing of the cards is different. Also, sometimes the player has a choice over what to do when he/she has a hand of 5. Some casinos allow the player to make choices in other situations as well, say when a player has 3-4, but this rarely happens, since the social punishment coming from the other players keeps this in check.
Bets on a tie are usually paid out at 8/1 odds. Some casinos especially, in the UK, have house rules that pay out at 9/1 odds. The house edge in Baccarat depends on the bet. To bet on the banker to win has the smallest house edge, only 1.06%. In the case of betting on the player to win, the house edge is slightly higher, set at 1.24%. The highest house edge is when betting on the rather rare situation that the outcome is a tie. How big the house edge is, depends on the payout mentioned above. For 8/1 odds it’s over 14% whereas, for 9/1 odds, it’s a much more reasonable 4.85%.
Usually, if the bet is on the banker to win and a tie results, 95% of the original bet is paid back. There are, however, versions of the game where the player gets his whole bet back. In this case, the house edge is reduced from 1.06% to 1.02%. Online casinos and smaller land-based ones also have versions of the game with much lower betting limits and table sizes, ie. Mini-Baccarat.
Online Baccarat Strategies and Tips
As explained earlier the house edge in Baccarat is either very small or very large depending on what you are betting on. Betting on tie has the highest house edge and should be avoided. With the lowest house edge, the banker is obviously the best bet. When playing Mini-Baccarat, be aware that the game is a lot faster than the regular version. Even with lower bets, your losses can add up quickly.
The main tip we have to give is that you should play only with money that you can afford to lose and if you go on a losing streak, take a break. You should never try to chase back your losses. Try again some other day, when the old losses have already been forgotten. The game is fun and you should not make it an unpleasant experience by losing more than you can comfortably do.