Baccarat is a very popular card betting game that seems to share a lot in common with games like poker and baccarat. It is, however, quite distinct and nowhere is that clearer than the fact that there actually isn’t a best hand in baccarat. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the player has the best hand, but who they bet on.
Let’s back up a bit and see if we can understand this.
What Is Baccarat?
Baccarat is, as we said, a card game on which you bet, and though it does have quite a bit in common with blackjack (much less so with poker), it’s massively different in a number of crucial ways.
Like blackjack, it’s based on what is known as blind betting in that you place your bets before a single card is dealt, but unlike blackjack, you’re not necessarily betting on your hand being worth more than the dealer’s. What you’re actually betting on is one of three options: that the dealer’s hand will be worth more, that the player’s hand will be worth more, or that they’re worth the same.
I say the player’s hand rather than your hand, because though the dealer deals two hands and one of them is theirs, the other hand represents all the players betting on the game and is, in fact, played entirely by the dealer. The only reason that the two hands are called the “dealer’s hand” and the “player’s hand” and not, say, “hand A” and “hand B” is because the dealer does have a very slight house advantage – which means that their hand will win roughly 51 times out of a hundred on average. Which is also why there’s a small penalty fee if the player bets on the dealer’s card and the dealer’s card wins.
Still, even if neither hand is actually the players’, between the two hands, how exactly does one beat the other?
How Is Baccarat Scored
Though the simple answer is that the highest value hand wins, the way the hand’s value is calculated is done in such a way that the highest value of either hand can only ever be 9.
For a start, though the numbers between 2 and 9 are worth their face value and an ace is worth 1, the picture cards are actually worth 0. The catch is, though, that though adding up your hand when the total is worth 9 or less is very straightforward (as in 3+5=8), when the total is worth 10 or more, you actually subtract 10 from that total. So, having a 6 and 7 won’t equal 13 but 3 and 3+3+5 would equal 1 rather than 11.
As to how many cards are dealt, that’s even more complicated. Two cards are dealt to the dealer and the player and the dealer will add cards to the hand when certain conditions are met. The good news, though, is that you don’t really have to know when the dealer will “hit” or “stand” because, remember, they’re actually the ones who play the cards – you just have to know that these decisions aren’t made by the dealer but the written rules of the game that the dealer simply follows, and it also obviously helps to understand how your hand is totalled up.
Why There’s No Best Hand
With all this in mind, it should be obvious why there’s no one best hand in baccarat. The best hand is always the hand you bet on that wins (or ties) and the hand that wins is simply the hand with a total value that’s closest to 9. That hand could be an ace and an 8 or it could even be when the hand is only an ace and a 2, but the other hand is, say, an ace and a jack (that’s no blackjack!) or a 9 and a 2.
All that really matters is that you picked the “right horse” to bet on.