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Baccarat

Last update: October 20, 2009

Introduction

Baccarat is one of the oldest and most popular casino games. It is especially popular among Asian and high-limit players. While it looks very serious and intimidating, it is as easy to play as betting on the flip of a coin. In short, you’re betting on which of two hands will have a higher point value when the dealing is done. The house advantage is fairly low, so it makes for a good game choice if you want good odds without having to memorize a strategy.

Rules

  1. Eight 52-card decks are used.

  2. Aces are valued as one point, 2 to 9 according to pip value, and tens & face cards are valued as zero points.

  3. The score of a combination of cards will be the terminal digit of the total points. For example, a 6, 7, and 8 would add up to 21, so the hand is one point.

  4. There are three bets available: the Banker, Player and Tie. The Player bet should not be confused with the player himself, nor the Banker bet with the dealer. The names of the bets are capitalized to avoid confusion.

  5. After the bets have been made, the dealer will deal two cards face up to the Player and Banker hands. If either or both hands total 8 or 9 points, then it is called a "natural," and neither side will draw any more cards. This rule overrides rules 6 to 13.

  6. If the Player has 0 to 5 points, and the Banker does not have a natural, then the Player will draw one more card.

  7. If the Banker has 0 to 5 points, and the Player stood on two cards, then the Banker will draw a third card.

  8. If the Banker has 0 to 2 points, and the Player took a third card, then the Banker will draw a third card.

  9. If the Banker has 3 points, and the Player took a third card, then the Banker will draw a third card, unless the Player's third card was an 8.

  10. If the Banker has 4 points, and the Player took a third card, then the Banker will draw a third card if the Player's third card was a 2 to 7; otherwise, the Banker will stand.

  11. If the Banker has 5 points, and the Player took a third card, then the Banker will draw a third card if the Player's third card was a 4 to 7; otherwise, the Banker will stand.

  12. If the Banker has 6 points, and the Player took a third card, then the Banker will draw a third card if the Player's third card was a 6 or 7; otherwise, the Banker will stand.

  13. If the Banker has 7 points, then the Banker will stand.

  14. The hand with the higher point value shall win.

  15. If the Banker hand has more points, then Banker bets shall win, paying even money, less a 5% commission, and Player and Tie bets will lose.

  16. If the Player hand has more points, then Player bets will pay even money and Banker and Tie bets will lose.

  17. If the Banker and Player have the same number of points, then the Tie bet will pay 8 to 1 and Player and Banker bets will push.

The following table summarizes the Banker's third card drawing rules in rules 8 to 13.

Banker Drawing Rules
Banker's
Score
Player's Third Card
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
7 S S S S S S S S S S
6 S S S S S S H H S S
5 S S S S H H H H S S
4 S S H H H H H H S S
3 H H H H H H H H S H
2 H H H H H H H H H H
1 H H H H H H H H H H
0 H H H H H H H H H H

In addition, some casinos also offer two additional bets, on a Player and Banker pair in the initial two cards. Winning pair bets pay 11 to 1.

Strategy

Contrary to popular belief among baccarat players, for all practical purposes, each hand is independent of past hands. It does not help to keep track of a hand history, looking for trends. The lowest house edge is the Banker bet, but is not much less than the Player bet. The Tie and Pair bets have a very high house edge and should therefore be avoided.

So optimal strategy would be to simply bet the Banker every time. However, if you don't want to give up your freedom of choice, go ahead and bet the Player too. Avoiding the Tie and Pair bets is the important thing.

House Edge

The house edge is 1.06% on the Banker Bet, 1.24% on the Player bet, 14.36% on the Tie bet, and 10.36% on the Pair bets.

Further Reading

My companion site, WizardOfOdds.com, has lots of additional information about baccarat, including commission-free variants, and lots more detail on the odds.

Bovada is the only Internet casino endorsed by the Wizard.
Here are my reasons why and my promise of support.