Casino chips on a table

What Is the Object of Baccarat?

Baccarat is arguably the third most popular card game you can find at a casino, ranking only behind staple favourites, poker and blackjack. It also comes with a certain glitz and glamour to it that it has actually shown up in a number of movies and TV shows over the years, with a James Bond type (or 007 himself) sitting at a table, cool as a cucumber, placing bets on this strange card game, while scoping out the scene for femme fatales or bad guys.

For all of its popularity and pop culture cache, though, baccarat is not a very widely understood game, outside of baccarat aficionados. That’s no doubt in large part because though the player doesn’t actually have to do much more than place bets, the actual gameplay can be trickier than a straightforward game like blackjack. Which is ironic as it has a lot in common with blackjack and may well appeal to very similar players. 

If you want to understand how it works and what, for that matter, you’re trying to achieve, here is a very simple guide to the game.

3 Kings on a playing table

How It Works

The object of the game of baccarat is to get the total value of cards in your hand to come as close to 9 as possible. It’s very much like blackjack in this way, with 9 being the goal rather than 21. The catch is, though, that you can’t actually go bust like you do in blackjack, and this is because the way the game is scored is very different, as is the role of the player. 

To start with, the value of each particular card is that each numbered card is worth their face value, the Ace is worth 1 and all other picture cards are worth zero. The other catch is that when adding the cards, if the sum total of the cards being added is 10 or more, you minus 10 from the total. In other words 6 and a King would equal 6 (6+0), but 6 and 6 would equal 2 (6+6=12 so 120 minus 10 equals 0). 

The other big difference is that the player doesn’t actually play the cards in most versions of baccarat, and the dealer plays according to certain rules that dictate whether to hit or stand on either the player’s hand or the dealer’s hand. It helps to know those rules, but it’s absolutely not crucial, and there are plenty of guides on how the dealing works, specifically.

But here’s the biggest difference between baccarat and any other card game: in baccarat you can bet on your hand winning, on the dealer’s hand winning or on both hands tying in value. This is why the player doesn’t actually play their hand. Baccarat is 100% a game of chance so the only input the player has is on how much they bet and on what hand. 

Though even here there’s a tried-and-true formula: always bet on the dealer’s hand, because that’s where the house advantage is lowest. To even out this advantage the casino actually takes a 5% commission from your winnings if you bet on the dealer, but it is the safest bet. The highest paying bet, though, is to bet on a tie, but that’s because it has a much lower chance of coming up.

And that’s baccarat. It’s all as simple as that.

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