Baccarat is a well-established and always popular game of chance that can be found in any casino world wide. Like poker and blackjack, it’s a game of cards that involves betting on certain outcomes and like blackjack, in particular, it’s about one hand coming closer to a certain number than another. In blackjack that number is 21, in baccarat, the magic number is 9.
Baccarat, however, has many of its own idiosyncrasies, especially in the way it is scored and, unlike any other casino games, by the way you can bet on your hand winning, the dealer’s hand winning or the two tying.
It may not be played professionally quite as often as poker but it is still an incredibly popular game with high-rollers and is often played on a professional level. You may not want to do so yourself, but if you want to know how to play like a pro, here are a few easy tips to keep in mind.
It’s a Game of Pure Chance.
It’s worth mentioning that unlike poker, baccarat is a game of pure chance, based on blind betting – as in, betting before you see even a single card. And, like all gambling games, it’s absolutely crucial that you practice responsible gambling by playing only within your budget and only if you can actually afford to lose that amount of money.
True professionals know to quit when they’re ahead and to gamble responsibly and in a game like baccarat this is crucial.
Understand How the Scoring Works
Though the basics of baccarat are, well, exactly that: basic, the ins and outs of how it is played can be quite complicated. One of the trickiest aspects of baccarat that most new players might find particularly confusing is how the scoring works. Understanding this aspect alone can give you a real heads up at the baccarat table.
First, you need to understand the point values of each card. They break down as follows:
- Cards between 2 and 9 are worth their face value
- Aces are worth 1 point
- Jack, Queen and King are all worth zero points
- There are no Jokers and the card suits are irrelevant
Now, this is where it gets much more complicated. Each hand of baccarat starts with two cards and often includes the dealing of further cards (see the next section) but the absolute maximum score that any hand can reach is 9. While cards that add up to less than 9 are scored just by adding them up, once you have sums of 10 or more, you minus 10 from the total.
- A 2 and a 5 will equal 7
- A 2 and a picture card will equal 2
- A 7 and a 5 will equal 2 (12-10=2)
- An 8 and a 2 will equal 0 (10-10=0)
Understand When the Player and Dealer Stand and Hit
Though the scoring is rather odd, undoubtedly, it’s not actually the trickiest aspect of baccarat’s gameplay. The part that really gets confusing is trying to figure out when the dealer deals more cards (hits) after the first 2. It should be super straightforward as a hand of 2 and 5 should simply beat a hand of 7 and 5; a pair of picture cards will lose to virtually every hand that does not equal zero. But there’s actually quite a bit more to it than that.
As an aside, you don’t actually have to know this as the dealer will handle all this for you themselves, but if you want to look like you know what you’re doing or if you want to actually know what’s happening, this is crucial.
Here’s how it breaks down:
First in terms of the initial hand, a third card is only drawn on the following conditions:
- Either hand is 8 or 9 (in total): both hands stand.
- Player’s hand is 5 or less, the player gets another card.
Once the player is dealt a third card
- Player’s third card is 9, 10, face-card or Ace: dealer draws on 0-3, and stays on 4-7.
- Player’s third card is 8: dealer draws on 0-2, and stays on 3-7.
- Player’s third card is 6 or 7: dealer draws on 0-6, and stays on 7.
- Player’s third card is 4 or 5: dealer draws on 0-5, and stays on 6-7.
- Player’s third card is 2 or 3: dealer draws on 0-4, and stays on 5-7.
Understand the Betting
The only thing that players actually have any control on in baccarat is the betting so it helps to understand a few basic things of the pros and cons of each bet. This is actually easy enough, as it breaks down as follows:
(Note payouts and fees can vary from casino to casino but these are the average amounts that most casinos use)
- Betting on the dealer: The small just over 1% house advantage means that the dealer’s hand always has a very slightly higher chance of winning than the player’s. To counteract this, casinos charge a small fee of 5% if the player wins. This is the safest but least profitable bet. The payout is 1:1 minus 5% of your bet.
- Betting on the player: On the flipside, betting on the player has a very slightly lower chance of winning, but there’s no penalty at all if you win. The payout is 1:1.
- Betting on a tie. This is by far the riskiest option as it comes with a house edge of a whopping 14%! This is actually one of the worst house edges in the entire casino. However, to counteract that the payout is 8:1.
And there you have it. The difference between playing like a professional and a rank amateur comes down just to these few simple tips. Anything else to do with “advanced betting practices” are, fundamentally, nonsense and comes down to superstition rather than actual statistics. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but don’t let anyone tell you how you should bet – just do what feels right within the above limits and have fun.