While baccarat is a popular game, it isn’t the most intuitive one for beginners. Plus, if you previously gambled mainly at brick-and-mortar casinos before switching to online gambling, there is a good chance that you were intimidated out of trying baccarat at all.
Baccarat traditionally is played in a roped-off area.
Many players are deterred by the rigid dress code and the typically high stakes. So you may have little or no experience with baccarat.
Previously, I have shared some tips for winning baccarat, but I want to teach you more about the basics. If you are totally new to baccarat, this is your crash course.
A Brief History of Baccarat
The origin of baccarat is shrouded in the mists of time. Nobody is entirely sure when and where it was invented, but theories abound that it may have its roots in ancient Rome (source), Etruria, or China. Regardless, it became popular in Europe before making its way to the New World, and both Italy and France claim credit for inventing it in its modern form.
No one can be entirely sure which country has a right to that claim, but an earlier version of baccarat was referred to as “Chemin de Fer.” This is noteworthy, because this is the French phrase for “railway.” Railways didn’t appear in France until 1832, which suggests that “Chemin de Fer” baccarat was developed sometime after 1832.
Still, baccarat probably existed in some other form under some other name before that time, and seems to have played an important role in both French and Italian gaming history.
Historians also are not positive exactly when and how baccarat made its way to the New World. While it is most commonly asserted that baccarat was first played in the United States in 1911, there are scholars who have discovered records alluding to baccarat in the US dating as far back as 1871.
It did take some time for baccarat to catch on in the States. In 1931, Nevada passed Assembly Bill 98. This legalized gambling in casinos in the state, but baccarat wasn’t even mentioned. During the 50s, a couple of key events took place in quick succession:
- 1958: Gamers start playing Chemin de Fer in Nevada.
- 1959: Tommy Renzoni brings Punto Banco to Las Vegas from Cuba.
Punto Banco took off, making baccarat very popular. Unfortunately, Vegas was slow to catch up. There were a mere 15 tables open in the 1970s, so the stakes shot through the roof and the game became very elite.
There are now around two dozen variations of baccarat approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. But what really has skyrocketed the popularity of baccarat in recent years is the internet.
Thanks to online card rooms, you can now play baccarat no matter where you are around the world. You can choose from numerous different variations of the game, selecting rules and stakes which fit your playing style and your bankroll. In short, baccarat is no longer an exclusive game fit only for the affluent. Even low stakes gamblers can participate and take advantage of one of the lowest edges in the house.
How To Play Baccarat – How is Baccarat Played In a Casino?
At a land-based casino, a baccarat table is roughly the same size as a craps table. Up to 14 players can participate in a game, and there are 3 casino dealers.
The job of dealing rotates around the table, just as it does with craps. Players who do not wish to deal have the option of passing on the shoe. So long as the banker continues to win, the same person will continue to deal.
- Baccarat uses 8 decks of cards.
- Cards are assigned point values. An ace is worth 1 point and face cards are worth 0, as is the 10 card.
Whenever a new shoe begins, the dealer will turn over a single card. The value of the card determines how many cards the dealer will burn. If it is a face card or 10 card, 10 cards (not 0) will be burned.
The cut card goes 16 cards from the bottom of the shoe. When it comes up, the dealer must finish the hand and play one more before starting another shoe. What if the cut card emerges rather than the first card? At that point the dealer must complete the hand and then start another shoe.
When play commences, each player around the table must make a wager. You can bet on either the “player,” the “banker,” or a “tie.”
Next, the dealer gives the banker two cards, and also deals two cards to the player.
Scores can range from 0-9.
To calculate the score, you need to add the values of the cards and then look at the digit which is on the right.
So say for example that the two cards are a 5 and a 7.
5+7 = 12. The score is a “2.”
Based on the score, here is what happens next:
- If the banker or the player has a score of 8 or 9, those scores stand.
- If the above is not true, and the player has a total of 5 or less, the player hits. If not, the player stands.
- If the player stands, the banker’s score is considered. If it is 5 or less, the banker hits. In cases where the player hits, there is a chart which is used to determine whether the banker
stands or hits.
Finally, the two scores are compared. The one with the higher score is the winner.
- If you win on the player, your bet pays out 1:1. If you win on the banker, the bet pays out 19:20 (there is a commission, thus the 5% difference).
- If there is a tie, the player and banker bets push.
Baccarat Odds – Betting Odds For Every Bet in Baccarat
For quick reference, here are your odds of winning the different types of bets:
Bet on Banker
- Odds of winning: 45.843%
- House edge: 1.06%
Bet on Player
- Odds of winning: 44.615%
- House edge: 1.24%
Bet on a Tie
- Odds of winning: 9.543%
- House edge: 14.36%
Keep in mind that the game rules above are a basic overview. There are a number of baccarat variants which include variations on the rules.
Common Baccarat Variants
What are some of the most common variations of baccarat you can play online?
Punto Banco: This is the type of baccarat which was brought over from Cuba in the 1950s and which led to baccarat’s popularity in North America. You will find it throughout the US and Canada as well as in the UK and other European countries. As you might guess, it is also very popular online, and is funded by the casino.
Mini-Baccarat: This is a very popular form of baccarat online, played with only 7 players and one croupier. Offline, the table is smaller as well. Stakes are traditionally lower with mini-baccarat. This was one of the first “non-exclusive” forms of baccarat in land-based casinos.
European Baccarat: As the name indicates, this form of baccarat is more popular in Europe than in North America. Unlike Punto Banco, it is financed by the banker. The banker sets the cap, which is typically lower than it is in Punto Banco.
Chemin de Fer: This older form of baccarat needs a minimum of two players and is funded by the banker, like Punto Banco.
Baccarat en Banque: This unique form of baccarat is played mostly in Europe, but you may find it elsewhere around the world in land-based casinos and online. The banker deals three hands—one to himself and the other two to players. Players may only wager on one another’s hands. This version of baccarat is casino-funded.
Film Trivia: If you watched the 2006 film adaptation of Casino Royale, you were following a fictional game of Texas Hold’em. Texas Hold’em exploded into popularity in 2003 when an ordinary accountant named Chris Moneymaker qualified online for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and won the main event.
But in the original book Casino Royal, James Bond wasn’t playing Texas Hold’em at all. He was actually playing Chemin de Fer baccarat. In fact, the book actually provides a pretty solid beginner’s lesson in how the game is played, included so that those unfamiliar with baccarat would know what was going on.
Why Play Baccarat Online?
Just reading about the history of baccarat hopefully has provided you with the perspective to grasp immediately why online baccarat is such a great opportunity. Baccarat hasn’t always been the most accessible game in land-based casinos.
In any case, here are a few key advantages:
You do not need to get all dressed up to play baccarat online like you do at a lot of brick-and-mortar casinos. No dress code means you can play in your pajamas if you want. Focus on the game instead of on whether you are wearing the right brand of tailored suit at the table.
Avoid feeling intimidated. It isn’t just the dress code which lends an air of exclusion to the baccarat tables. It is also the ritual of having to play inside a roped-off area. While some people enjoy this, a lot of players do not. Online, there is no rope, nothing separating “exclusive” players from “everyone else.” Players approach each other as anonymous equals.
You can afford to play baccarat. While mini-baccarat has made for an affordable form of baccarat offline, it does not change the fact that in land-based casinos, baccarat still tends to cater to the high rollers. Not every brick-and-mortar casino offers mini-baccarat, and at some casinos, you simply cannot afford to play unless you walk in with cash to burn.
You can choose any form of baccarat you are interested in. At a land-based casino, you may be severely restricted in regards to your options. Online, you can play Punto Banco, mini-baccarat, Chemin de Fer, or any other variation.
Play a game with a low house edge. Only a few other games in the casino can compete with baccarat when it comes to house edge. If you are actually interested in winning money and winning it often, baccarat is by far one of the best options.
Develop your skills without risk. Many online casinos offer a “play for free” mode for their games. This allows you to try a game as many times as you want without staking any real money (you may even be able to play for free without registering an account at some sites). Offline you are never going to find an opportunity like this to practice baccarat!
Enjoy promotions. At some casinos you may find promotions which are tailored exclusively for baccarat players. Play often and get rewarded—and be sure to join several casinos to maximize your bonuses.
Finally, let’s wrap this up with a quick glossary covering some basic baccarat terms. Beginners often struggle with baccarat terminology because many of the words are in Italian, French or Spanish.
Action: This is the amount of money you are betting.
Baccarat: the name is Italian and translates to “zero,” which is a reference to the value of the face cards and tens.
Banco: The “banco” (“banker” in Spanish) is the dealer with the shoe. This person is responsible for dealing and is playing the game as well. In some versions, the banco finances the game. But even in versions where the casino is funding, the dealer is still called the “banco.” As you might figure, this can get confusing for newbies.
Banque: North American baccarat is alternately known as “Banque.”
Burn Card: As discussed previously, this is a single card which is removed from the deck after each shuffle and discarded.
Coup: A “coup” is a single round of play. The word is French.
Croupier: This is also a French word, referring to the dealer in the game. The role of the dealer varies from one from of baccarat to another.
Cut card: This is a plastic card which is used to cut the deck following shuffling. The player is responsible for cutting the deck.
Dealer: Depending on the form of baccarat you are playing, the dealer may or may not actually be dealing! The dealers in American baccarat actually have no dealing responsibilities at all. Their only job is to collect and pay out on bets.
Discard tray: Burn cards are placed in the discard tray. Played cards also go here.
Down card: These are down-facing cards.
Face card: As in other card games, face cards are your Jacks, Queens, and Kings. Unlike in other card games, they carry a value of 0.
Flat bet: If you wager the same amount repeatedly, you are placing a flat bet.
Ladderman: The “ladderman” is the employee in charge of supervising a baccarat game.
Natural: When an 8 or 9 card is dealt right off the top, it is known as a “natural.”
Palette: In a land-based game of baccarat, this refers to the long paddle which is used to push the cards.
Punto: This word is both Spanish and Italian, and means “point.”
Shoe: In land-based baccarat games, the “shoe” is a wood or plastic container which can hold up to 8 decks of cards.
Shuffle-up: If you deal early in the game, you are “shuffling up.” This is done to prevent card counting.
Stand-off: This refers to a tie.
Up card: This is an up-facing card.
Now you know all about baccarat, one of the most exciting games you can play online! Even if you never felt comfortable approaching those roped-off tables in land-based casinos, you can now take a seat at the virtual baccarat table without sweating the dress code or worrying about your social status. Whether you are a high-roller or you are playing conservatively with low stakes, baccarat is a game which can bring you endless hours of enjoyment and profit.