Rules & Strategy
Set apart from the rest of the casino floor, baccarat has long cultivated an aura of sophistication, almost as if the game is out of reach to all but the wealthiest casino patron. In reality, baccarat may be the ideal game for the less affluent, more frugal player—the house edge for the best bet is a low 1.06% and playing is about as easy as betting on a coin toss. Care to give it a try? Here’s everything you need to know.
The baccarat table is about the size of a standard craps table, and is manned by three casino employees: two dealers taking the bets from as many as 14 players, and one croupier who directs the play of the game and calls the hands. There are seven numbered positions on each side of the table, 1-7 and 8-15 (excluding the number 13) with three betting options associated with each number—banker, player and tie. The object of the game is to bet on the hand with the highest total, the best hand value being 9.
The betting action in Baccarat is simplistic. If you place your chips in the “Player” area, you are betting on the player’s hand, which pays 1-1. Likewise, if you opt to wager on the “Banker’s” hand, you win even money (minus a 5% commission) if the banker’s hand wins. The third option, “Tie” is betting that the value for both the banker’s and the player’s hand will be identical. Winning Tie bets pay 8-1, and in a tie situation, both “Player” and “Banker” bets are returned.
Baccarat Rules and Card Values
Once you’ve made your Baccarat betting selection, how the cards are dealt and determining if you’ve won or lost are governed by a series of strict rules.
1. At the start of the game, the Player and Banker hands are each dealt two cards.
2. If the total of either hand is 8 or 9, called a natural, the game is over and no further cards are dealt.
3. If neither hand scored 8 or 9, the game proceeds as follows:
4. The Player goes first and draws another card if its total is 0-5, otherwise it does not draw another card. Play now proceeds to the banker.
5. If the Banker hand totals 7, 8 or 9, the Banker does not take another card.
6. If the Banker’s first two cards total 0,1 or 2, then the Banker draws one card. Otherwise, the Banker draws cards according to the following rules:
Banker Player’s Draw Card
Total – 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
9 – – – – – – – – – – –
8 – – – – – – – – – – –
7 – – – – – – – – – – –
6 – – – – – – – D D – –
5 D – – – – D D D D – –
4 D – – D D D D D D – –
3 D D D D D D D D D – D
2 D D D D D D D D D D D
1 D D D D D D D D D D D
0 D D D D D D D D D D D
During the game, the deal rotates around the table to each player akin to the way the dice rotate in craps. The player dealing keeps dealing for as long as the “Banker” keeps winning. Players who opt not to deal may pass the shoe to the next player. Each player, including the player dealing, may bet on either the player or the banker.
The player dealing puts two cards face down and tucked under the shoe, and gives the person with the greatest bet on the “Player” the other two cards, face down. That player looks at the two cards, and gives them back to the player dealing the hand. The cards are then exposed and the croupier calls the total. Depending on the totals, the dealer may announce the winning hand as either “Player” or “Banker” or instruct the player dealing the cards to deal a third and final card, with the decision based on that card. Afterward, the dealers pay winning wagers and collect losing ones.
Baccarat Strategy: Playing to Win
To assist players, baccarat tables have scorecards and pencils on hand to keep track of outcomes. Most patrons use them with zeal, carefully analyzing the game’s history for trends as the results move back and forth between the player and the banker. Does it work?
Earlier in this article, I likened baccarat to wagering on a flipping coin. And just as with such a scenario, gaining an edge on the game by tracking perceived trends is impossible—the outcome is simply the random flow of the cards. The best strategy for baccarat hinges on two simple principles: lower vigorish and better money management.
In baccarat, the house has an edge of 1.24% for the Player’s hand and 1.06% on the Banker’s hand. Despite the 5% commission owed the house when betting on the Banker, since the Banker’s hand wins more often the smart money is on the Banker—every time. The “Tie” bet, with a 14.36% edge is right out.
Part two of successful baccarat is developing solid money management skills. Develop a program that keeps your wagering in check, allowing you to minimize your losses and maximize any upswings in fortune. One way to do this is to set limits on losses and establish clear attainable goals for winning. For example, players with a $1,000 bankroll could set a cap of $500. Once half of their bankroll is lost they stop playing for the day. On the other hand, if the same player were ahead $500, it’s time to consider either taking those winnings and stopping for the night, or at the least pocketing 50% of your winnings and playing with the excess. This serves to lock-in a profit and keep you in the game should your luck be running particularly hot. Regardless of what limits and goals you decide to set, do so before you start playing and stick to it.
Tips for Successful Baccarat
• Know the game. Baccarat is a game of chance and 99% of the time there is no need to know the third-card rules. However, even though the casino closely monitors play, errors happen—so be able to spot them.
• Avoid the Tie bet. An 8-1 payout may be tempting, but with a 14.36% vigorish, it’s a very bad bet.
• Always bet the Banker. Don’t be put off by the 5% tax on Bank wins. This is compensated by the fact that Banker wins more times than Player.
• Paying the commission. The commission for winning Banker bets is paid at the end of the shoe. Don’t forget to keep some money in reserve to pay the house!
• Establish a pattern of play and stick to it. Don’t keep changing and second-guessing yourself. Whether you always bet the Banker or alternate each hand, have a routine and stick to it. Switching your bet on a whim and losing can lead to frustration followed by poor choices or overly aggressive betting.
• Don’t succumb to emotion. All gambling involves swings in fortune. Sometimes you’re up, other times you’re down. When you lose money, don’t lose your head and try to get it all back immediately. Frustration coupled with rash action has been the ruin of many a gambler.
• Play smart, bet smarter. Learn to properly manage your money. That means playing games with the lowest edge, avoiding bad bets, and betting sensibly at all times.
• Don’t go back for more. If you’re losing, don’t chase after lost money. Chances are you’ll only add to your losses.
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