The best games are simple to play, but difficult to master. The rules are easy to learn, the barrier to entry low. Someone can explain the rules to you in just a couple of minutes without your head spinning. It’s easy to have a fantastic evening playing Baccarat as a complete beginner.
But the game is also incredibly layered; becoming a true expert is not simple. It requires hours of practice. You not only need to know the ins and outs of the rules, you must also do the math, work out the odds, and play the percentages.
In this guide, we’ll run you through what you need to know to play the game and win. It’s not a guaranteed strategy by any means, but expect to work down the house edge by a significant margin.
Back to Basics: The Rules
Baccarat has been around for hundreds of years. Played on simple tables on the street or in bars, then in land-based casinos throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and now Baccarat is also available online. Many online casinos all over the world have adapted this game to its online version so people can enjoy it on the go or while at home. Even some major Canadian online casinos have adapted this game, and you can now find Baccarat in any legit online casino.
Baccarat can look a little complex at first glance, intimidating many new players. But you shouldn’t worry; the rules are easy to grasp. There are only three outcomes possible per hand dealt. For the most part, the dealer does most of the work.
In terms of wagers, you can either put your chips on the dealer, a player, or what’s called a ‘tie bet’. Two cards are dealt to the player, two to the banker, all face up. Your goal is to put your money on the result that gets the closest to 9.
For cards 2-9, the numbers equal their value. Tens and Courts are simply zero. Aces are what you’d expect, 1 per card. Add the value of the two cards, and that’s the total. For example, a 5 and a Ten equals a total of five. Ace and 7 makes eight. Simple, right?
There’s one ‘complex’ element. If the value is more than nine total (e.g. 3 and 8), you subtract 10. In this case, you end up with one. Each hand can go as far as three cards; the limit depends on the casino.
House rules generally stipulate that the player must hold at six or seven. If the value is below five, however, you get a third card. If you’re on five exactly, it’s the player’s choice.
For the dealer, it’s slightly different. If the count is below three, new card. Six or higher, however, the dealer holds. Similar to the player, the dealer can choose under certain conditions.
Payouts in Baccarat
This is where a little bit of math comes into play. For bets on the player, you get even odds. You win if you get closer to nine compared to the dealer. Put $10 on you, and you receive a total of $20 (i.e. you double your money).
For bets on the banker, you also get even odds, except you pay a commission of 5%. So, if you bet a total of $40 and the dealer wins, you ‘only’ get $38 in winnings. $2 goes in the dealer’s pocket.
Finally, there’s the tie bet. This means that both the dealer and the player must have the same total. It doesn’t happen as often, obviously, but you get 8:1 odds. Bet $10 and you get $80 back, plus your initial $10.
Basic Baccarat Strategy
There’s one simple rule to avoid losing your money quickly: do not bet on a tie. Yes, it has that juicy 8:1 payout, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s designed to lure you in, to take advantage of newbies, but the odds are not good.
Throughout the history of Baccarat, this bet has always been the worst one. No matter the rules. Mathematically, we’re talking a house edge of almost 15%. It’s just not worth it, unless you just want to play a hand or two for the fun of it. If you actually want to make money, avoid it at all costs.
The ‘best’ bet, mathematically speaking, is on the banker. The commission is designed not only to retain the house edge, but to push players to bet on themselves. After all, we like backing the player against the ‘enemy’, the dealer.
But in any case, betting on the player is not a bad way to go. The house edge is not ridiculously different. The main ‘trick’ to winning at Baccarat is not necessarily about the game itself, but about how you handle yourself.
Understand the ‘Problem’
We’ll leave you with this nugget. Understand this, and you have an advantage over most: the ‘problem’ with players is that they are human. We always make bets that we regret. Losses annoy us, leading to gung-ho playing strategies that will just lead to a bankroll of zero.
You need to have mastery over your psychological state. Always handle your bets according to your system, accepted bankroll losses, and a strict betting strategy. Never chase losses, don’t bet more than you can lose, and stay disciplined.