The game of baccarat can't be touched when it comes to exuding an aura of elegance and sophistication. Much of this is due to the game being featured in numerous James Bond movies, as well as the fact that many land-based casinos host real-money baccarat in private rooms where hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands during a single round of play.
Fortunately, you don't have to be a millionaire or meet a stuffy dress code to enjoy this classic casino game. All you need to do is visit your favorite online casino, select the baccarat gaming option, and feel like a VIP while wagering as little as $1 per hand.
How Baccarat Is Played
There are a couple of versions of baccarat available, but the most popular is Punto Banco. It's so common, in fact, that it's usually just referred to as "baccarat." Due to its overwhelming popularity at online casinos, this version is the focus of our article.
The game is commonly played with eight decks of cards, although this varies by location. The scoring system for each card is unique to baccarat and includes the following:
- Face Cards = 0 points
- 10 Cards = 0 points
- 2 - 9 cards = face value
- Ace = 1 point
Each round begins with players being able to make one of the following wagers: player, banker, or tie. Once all bets have been made, the dealer and the player receive two cards apiece, with each trying to achieve a higher score than the other.
In order to determine the score of a player's hand, add their two cards together. Next, look at the right digit of the total to determine the hand value. For example, two cards that add up to 13 would be worth 3 points (since 3 is the digit furthest to the right). Scores will always range from 0 to 9 points.
After the player and dealer (also known as the "bank") have each received two cards, their current totals are tallied. If either participant has a total of 8 or 9, then they both stand and a winner is immediately determined.
If the player's total is 5 or less, then they must receive another card. If the player stands, the bank must hit if their total is 5 or less.
Things get a bit more complicated when the player hits. At this point, a chart must be consulted to see whether the bank stands or hit. Luckily, gaming software controls the bank during online real-money baccarat sessions, so it's taken care of automatically.
The final scores of the player and dealer are compared, with the higher total being declared the winner. Using Bovada as an example, here are the payouts you can expect:
- Tie Bets - This bet pays 8 to 1 (banker and player bets push in the case of a tie).
- Players Bets - A successful bet on the player pays 1 to 1.
- Banker Bets - These bets pay 19 to 20, which amounts to even money minus a 5% commission. Since this wager carries the lowest house edge, casinos have installed the commission to make sure they get their piece of the action.
An alternative, yet simple explanation of how to play baccarat is at www.ildado.com.
What's the House Edge for Baccarat?
In order to determine the advantage that the casino holds over the player, you first need to know the number of decks being used. Most online casinos use six, but one or eight decks are also possibilities.
- Eight Decks - The casino edge on the banker bet is 1.06%, while wagering in favor of the player gives the house a 1.24% edge. Betting on a tie is the worst option for players, as the edge rises to 14.36%.
- Six Decks - Much like the eight-deck game, the house advantage is 1.06% for banker bets and 1.24% for player wagers. The tie bet is slightly higher than the previous entry, with 14.44% compared to 14.36%.
- One Deck - For the rare baccarat game that uses a single deck of cards, the edge is 1.01% for banker wagers, 1.29% for player bets, and 15.75% on a tie.
As you may have noticed, the tie bet is always the worst option for the player. Sure, it offers a larger payout, but the chance of winning is significantly smaller.
For players looking to give themselves the best possible odds, the suggested strategy is to wager on the banker every hand. The house still has a mathematical advantage in the long term, but it's the lowest of the three wagering options.
The following strategies can help you have a more enjoyable time at the table when playing baccarat for real money, but no amount of advice is going to overcome the inevitable house edge. With that sobering thought in mind, peruse the following tips, never gamble what you can't afford to lose, and have fun.
- Bet on the Banker - As I discussed in the section on the baccarat house edge, wagering on the banker to win always gives the casino the lowest advantage possible.
- Forget about Trends - Some players obsessively keep track of the results for each hand, and land-based casinos often provide cards and pencils for just this purpose. The same thing can be accomplished online, although it's a pointless exercise. Looking for trends in baccarat is a flawed strategy, which should be obvious when you consider that the casino actually encourages it. Your best option is to bet on the banker every hand and hope for the best.
- Learn the Rules - Even though experienced players are working at a statistical disadvantage, rookies can make things even worse by sitting down at a table without the slightest clue of what's going on. This is especially true at brick-and-mortar casinos, where several versions of baccarat may be offered. Luckily, online players usually have fewer versions of the game to select from. And even if you do have to choose between Punto Banco and Chemin de Fer, an online tutorial is only a click away.
- Manage Your Bankroll - This tip should come in handy with any casino game, as it's all about stretching your bankroll in order to maximize the gaming experience. When you play baccarat online, determine the length of time you wish to play. Next, take your bankroll and calculate the wager size that allows you to meet this goal. Even if you lose every "coup" (round of play), you'll still be able to enjoy a lengthy session.
- Savor the Experience - There's a definite elegance to baccarat, especially when you're playing at a land-based casino surrounded by people in formal attire. While you don't need to wear a dress jacket at home, you can still recreate the experience at your computer by lighting a few candles, cranking up some classical music, and imagining that you're James Bond or some other sophisticated baccarat enthusiast. This might sound silly, but remember that baccarat is based entirely on luck. Since you have no control over the outcome of the cards, the best you can do is wring every ounce of enjoyment from the experience.
Long on Luck, Short on Skill
All actions in baccarat are predetermined for the player and dealer, so it all comes down to random chance. That doesn't mean the game is boring, however, especially when high rollers are dropping small fortunes in a single round.
Even if you don't have thousands of dollars to spare, you can still enjoy the thrill of baccarat from the comfort of your own home. Sure, you'll miss the opportunity to rub elbows with 007, but the thrill of victory should more than make up for that inconvenience.