One of the most popular high roller games at land-based casinos is baccarat. This card game can be very simple or quite complicated, depending on which version you play. However, this game isn’t only for high rollers. If you want to play baccarat with lower stakes, online casinos are your best bet since you can always find tables offering this card game, even for casual players. To get you started, we at GoodLuckMate have created a complete guide to baccarat where we’ll tell you not only how to play the different versions of the game but also how you can maximize your chances of winning.
Baccarat Rules for Card Value
Baccarat is a card game in which all the cards are used, except the joker. Normally, the dealer’s shoe holds either 6 or 8 decks of cards. Each card has a point value:
- Ace: Valued at 1 point
- Cards 2 – 9: Valued at the face value of the card, so you get 2 – 9 points
- 10, J, Q, & K: Valued at 0 points
In baccarat, the total value of a hand can only be one digit. So only the digit furthest to the right in the number combination will count. This means a combination of 8 and 9, which equals 17, gives you a hand worth 7 points. The 1 is removed, and only the 7 counts toward the hand’s value.
This is also why the 10, J, Q, and K are valued at 0. Since their “real” value is 10, removing the 1 means the value of these cards is 0 points. If you have 8 and J, for example, this will give you a hand worth 8 points.
We’re referring to the hand “you” get, but in the most common version of baccarat, which is called Punto Banco, you don’t actually have a hand because only the Player and the Banker have hands. If you choose to play either Baccarat Chemin de Fer or Baccarat Banque, which are the two other common versions, you will get a hand of your own.
Punto Banco – Player & Banker
In Punto Banco Baccarat, you’re playing a simple game of chance. Even though this is a card game, you don’t actually decide how to play a hand yourself because it is determined by the game rules. The dealer at the table plays both the Banker and Player hands, since the way the hands are played is determined by the rules of the game. When you play, you can bet on either the Player or the Banker. New players often get confused by this and think that they can only bet on the Player hand, but it’s not the case.
In a way, the Banker hand in baccarat represents the casino. As always, that means this hand has an edge over the Player’s hand, so the likelihood of the Banker’s hand winning is slightly higher than it is for the Player’s hand. However, this doesn’t mean betting on the Banker is always the best choice. In the standard rules for Punto Banco Baccarat, you have to pay a commission to the bank if you want to bet on this hand, whereas the casino doesn’t charge a commission for betting on the Player’s hand. In reality, the casino banks both the Banker and the Player, which means you’re free to choose which one you want to place your bets on.
When you play online baccarat, chances are you won't find a table marked Punto Banco, but if you find a table that’s simply marked Baccarat, this will be the game that’s played.
Punto Banco Rules
As we mentioned, in Punto Banco, you don’t have a hand. The dealer at the table will deal two hands, one for the Player and one for the Banker. These hands don’t really represent the casino or you as a player; this is just what the hands are called. Before any cards are dealt, you can choose the hand you want to bet on. There’s no extra charge for betting on the Player, but betting on the Banker will usually cost you a 5% commission if you win.
Once the Player and Banker have been dealt two cards each, the cards are compared. If either hand has 8 or 9 points, the game round is over. The hand with the most points wins, or if both have the same number of points, it’s a tie. If neither of the hands has 8 or 9, the game gets a little more complicated.
The Player hand starts, and if the total value of the hand is 6 or 7, the Player stands. If the Player has 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, a third card is drawn. The game round is then over for the Player, and it’s the Banker’s turn.
The Banker’s hand will stand on 6 or 7 points if the Player didn’t draw a 3rd card. If the Banker’s hand is 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, the Player’s hand will determine what the Banker does. The rules for this are called the Tableau.
The Tableau, or table, describing how the Banker plays in Punto Banco Baccarat has set rules. This is basically what makes baccarat a game of chance since neither the Player nor the Banker can decide how to play. The reason the Banker has a greater chance of winning than the Player is that the Banker has the benefit of going last and can therefore decide what to do based on the Player’s result. This is the baccarat tableau:
Player’s 3rd card
Banker always draws a 3rd card
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9
Banker draws a 3rd card
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Banker draws a 3rd card
4, 5, 6, 7
Banker draws a 3rd card
Banker draws a 3rd card
No 3rd card drawn
Banker always stands
Winner – Player, Banker or Tie
There are three possible outcomes in Punto Banco Baccarat. Either the Player wins, the Banker wins, or the result of the round is a tie. If you bet on the Player and this hand wins, you’ll be paid 1:1. This means you’ll get your bet back, plus you’ll get the amount of the bet in winnings – meaning you’ll double your money.
If you bet on the Banker, and this hand wins, you’ll also get a 1:1 return. But, you’ll have to pay a 5% commission to the casino for this bet. This is because the chances of the Banker winning the hand are greater than the Player’s chances, so you’ll essentially have to pay to place the safer bet. The edge for this hand is a result of the rule that allows the Banker to play after the Player is done.
The third option is a tie, which happens when both the Player and the Banker have the same number of points. Usually, this doesn’t work the same way a push does in most other card games, where the players’ bets are returned. The standard rule for a tie in baccarat is that the bets will stay as they are for another game round. Some casinos or tables may allow players to end the game round and refund their bets, although this is not a standard rule. However, you can actually also bet on a tie. If you’ve chosen to bet on this result, your payout is 8:1.
Baccarat Strategy & Odds
Baccarat odds are quite good for players since the house doesn’t have much of an edge, at least not for most bets. Betting on the Player hand will give the house an edge of 1.24%, while a bet on Banker only gives an edge of 1.06%. The real money for the casino is made from tie bets because these give the casino an edge of 14.4%. Since this is extremely high, some casinos choose to pay out tie bets at 9:1, lowering the house edge to 4.85%.
An edge of 4.85% is still high, but considering the house edge in some other popular online casino games, it’s not that bad. For instance, the house edge in American Roulette is 5.26%, so your chances in baccarat should be better, and it generally doesn’t matter what you choose to bet on.
The difference between Punto Banco Baccarat and most other card games is that it’s almost impossible to use a real strategy to increase your chances of winning per game round. The only strategy you can use, which will work long term, is a progressive strategy. This may be possible for bets on either the Player or the Banker, but not for tie bets.
In this case, the strategies would be the same ones you’d use when you play roulette with outside bets since your chances of winning are almost 50%. However, remember that even if you’re using the popular Martingale strategy, you can still lose because you might run out of money, which will prevent you from following the strategy, or you might hit the betting limit on the table. So, there’s no sure way of winning with a baccarat strategy, but you can still use some strategies to increase your chances of winning in the short term.
No Commission Baccarat
As with any major card game, new versions of baccarat are appearing with a few tweaks in the rules. An alternative version of Punto Banco is No Commission Baccarat, which has become a very popular online baccarat game at live casinos. This is a game where no commissions are required to place a bet on the Banker. However, every time you get an advantage of some sort in a new version of a game, you also get a disadvantage.
The rules for No Commission Baccarat are exactly the same as for normal Punto Banco, but the payouts for a win might be smaller. So although you don’t have to pay the 5% commission to bet on the Banker, your overall winnings, in the long run, won’t be greater. Betting on the Banker will still pay out 1:1 for most wins, just like the standard game, but if the winning hand for the Banker has 8 points, the payout will only be 1:2. This means you’ll only get 50% of the win compared to playing Punto Banco with a commission paid to the house. In other words, the house gets its edge back whenever the Banker wins with a hand of 8 points.
Another version of Punto Banco Baccarat is Mini Baccarat. In reality, there aren’t many differences in how these games are played. The rules are the same, but Mini Baccarat is often played on a smaller table. The bets you can make on the table are smaller too. The minimum and maximum bets in Mini Baccarat are often targeted more towards casual players. At many casinos, the “real” baccarat tables can have minimum bets starting as high as several thousand euros, so if this is a bit more than you want to bet, Mini Baccarat could be the game for you.
Other than the betting limits, the only real difference for players is that in Mini Baccarat, players aren’t allowed to pick up the cards.
In fact, when you play baccarat online at online casinos, you’re playing Mini-Baccarat, although the tables will usually be called Baccarat or Punto Banco.
Chemin de Fer
Chemin de Fer is a baccarat game where there’s no house since both the Player and the Banker hands are played by actual players. For every game round, one player is the Banker and all other players are the Player. The Player is only one hand. One of the players is the representative for all players, and this person actually plays the hand. The Banker designation goes anti-clockwise around the table, while the representative Player is determined by whoever makes the biggest bet.
The game round starts with the Banker placing a bet. The other players can then make their bets. The total bet for the players has to be as much as the Banker’s bet. If the players bet more than the Banker, the bets are returned according to their positions at the table, unless the player with the Banker position chooses to match the player’s bets. If the total bet for the Player hand isn’t enough to match the Banker’s bet, other players are able to join in and bet.
This is what’s known as Betting Behind. A bet behind is a bet placed by someone who isn’t participating as a player at the table but simply betting on the results other players might achieve. Once the bets are placed, and an equal amount is bet by both Banker and Player, the game can begin.
How to Play Chemin de Fer Baccarat
At casinos, the dealer deals the cards on behalf of the Banker, and the Banker and the Player get two cards each, face down. The player with the biggest bet in the players’ pooled bets represents all of the other players and can play the cards as they wish. If either the Banker or the Player has 8 or 9, this is called out, and the hands are compared. The game round ends, and the result is either a win by the Banker, the Player, or it’s a tie.
If neither the Player nor the Banker achieves 8 or 9 points, the Player will play their cards. Unlike Punto Banco, there are no rules dictating when the Player must stand or draw a card since the representative player can choose how to play the hand. In practice, however, there are some common rules for how to play Baccarat Chemin de Fer. If the Player has 1 to 4 points, the norm is to draw a 3rd card and stand on 6 or 7. There are no norms for what to do with 5 points. Once the Player hand is played, it's the Banker’s turn to make their choice.
If the Banker wins, the initial bet is paid back, in addition to the pooled bet from all players. If the Player wins, all of the players who bet will have their bets returned, along with any winnings correlated to their bet. If there’s a tie, all bets remain as they are for a new round. If it’s a tie, the same players will represent the Banker and the Player again. If it’s not a tie, the player to the right of the current Banker becomes the new Banker.
Baccarat Banque is closely related to Chemin de Fer Baccarat. There are two differences, though. First, the Banker will either be the first player at the table or the player with the highest bet, depending on the house rules. Second, there are two Player hands. The total number of players, not including the Banker, is 10. In addition, it’s also possible to bet behind if the 10 players at the table cannot, or will not, match the Banker’s bet.
Once a Banker is chosen, the player selected has the right to hold this position until all the cards in the three decks have been played. However, it’s also possible for the chosen Banker to run out of money to fund the Banker’s bets or to decide to give up this position.
The dealer at the table will deal six cards: two cards for the Banker and two cards each to two sets of Player hands. The bets made by players follow the same rules as in Chemin de Fer Baccarat, meaning the Player’s bets will have to match the Banker’s bet. If one player wants to bet the entire amount, they can. This means no other players get to bet on this round. This bet is called “going Bank”. Since the cards are all dealt face down, playing against two hands should not affect the Banker’s choice of how to play the hand.
Neither Baccarat Banque nor Chemin de Fer Baccarat are commonly found as live table games at online casinos. The baccarat games you’ll find there are normally different versions of Punto Banco.