How to Play Baccarat: Rules, Gameplay, and Strategy
Baccarat is a game that offers more bang for your buck, costs you less in the long run, & even allows you to share in the glamour & excitement surrounding it. Out of all the casino games you will find spread across the world, Baccarat is probably the one shrouded by the thickest veil of mystery.
Traditionally known as a game for high rollers, Baccarat is often spread in special VIP areas of casinos and only offered for higher stakes in live venues.
However, many live casinos — and all US online casinos — offer Baccarat in different forms across various stakes, making it more accessible for recreational players. This means it is high time you learned how to play Baccarat.
In this extensive Baccarat Guide, we will teach you how to play the game, how to choose which side to bet on, and what you can expect from this popular table game.
You will discover that Baccarat is one of the easiest casino games to play, that it offers a very low house edge, and is a game that requires very little actual strategy to get the best possible results.
What is Baccarat?
Baccarat is a card game commonly played in casinos. Players bet on the “Player” or “Banker” hands, aiming for a total value closest to 9. Cards 2 to 9 hold their value. Aces are always counted as 1 (never 11), while 10s and face cards are worth 0. It is a simple and popular game of chance and strategy.
In live casinos, baccarat is usually played at large tables that can accommodate up to 14 players. The dealer will often use a wooden or plastic instrument called a palette at particularly large tables. The palette allows the croupier to move the cards around the table and collect them at the end of the hand with ease, without having to leave their spot.
Baccarat House Edge Explained
Baccarat is one of the best games you will find in any casino in terms of casino edge. The first thing you should look at when learning about any gambling game are the odds and probabilities of different outcomes and the advantage those odds give to the casino.
In professional terms, this is called the house edge. This number represents the casino’s overall advantage over you if you play the game optimally, and in the game of Baccarat, that number is very low.
In fact, out of all the gambling games available, only Blackjack offers a lower house edge — but only if the player plays the perfect Blackjack strategy in every situation.
To explain the low house edge in Baccarat, we should first explain that there are three possible outcomes in this game, and you will be betting on any one of the three at the start of the hand.
You can bet on the Player, the Banker, or a Tie. Note that in either case, you will not have any influence over how many cards are dealt or anything else in the hand, unlike in Blackjack.
Instead, all cards are dealt according to a preset dealing system that the dealer knows to perfection and applies in every situation.
With this system, the Banker wins about 45.8% of the time, and the Player wins about 44.6% of the time, while the remaining 0.6% of all hands end in a Tie.
It is also worth noting that if a hand ends in a Tie, and no one placed a bet on it, it will be declared a push. Any player who did bet on Tie will get paid 8:1, while all Player or Banker winners are paid at 1:1.
So, if we factor out the Ties — we will later explain why you should never bet on these — the Banker will win about 51% of all hands, while the Player will win about 49% of all hands.
The casino also charges a 5% commission, vigorish, on all Banker hand winnings, which means you will have to pay a 5% fee anytime you win when betting on the Banker.
When all these numbers are taken into consideration, we come up with a Baccarat house edge of 1.06% when betting on the Banker and 1.24% when betting on the Player.
However, the house retains a massive 14.36% edge on the Tie bet, making it one of the worst plays you can make at the Baccarat tables and in a casino in general.
The Banker and Player bets remain among the most favorable you could make in any casino game, which is one of the main reasons Baccarat became so popular over the years, especially among high rollers.
Rules of Baccarat: Bets, Dealing, and Payouts
The first thing to consider in Baccarat is the objective of the game and the way a hand of Baccarat is actually won.
For each hand, you will have the option to make one of the following bets:
- Banker — Bet that Banker’s hand will win
- Player — Bet that Player’s Hand will win
- Tie — Bet that the two hands will Tie
Once you bet on either of these three options, you will have no further control of the hand, unlike in Blackjack, where you can decide when to draw more cards or stand on your current total.
Instead, the dealer will deal and draw cards for both hands, with the hand whose final total is closest to 9 being declared the winner.
A maximum of three cards are dealt to each hand, and the maximum value of each hand can only be 9. If the total value of the cards is double-digit, the second digit becomes the new score. All tens (10) and face cards (J, Q, K) have the value of zero, while Aces always count as one (1).
6 + 3 = 93 + 2 + 5 = 10 — Becomes 0
2 + 2 + 8 = 12 — Becomes 2
Since no hand can bust, the hand that comes closest to 9 will be declared the winner. The dealing process is described below but is always the same and cannot be influenced by players.
At the start of each hand of Baccarat, both the Player and Banker are dealt two cards each. The dealer will sum up the scores of the two hands and first decide if the Player should receive the third card.
The following rules apply:
- If Player’s total is 5 or under, a card is drawn
- If Player’s total is 6 or 7, the Player stands
- If Player’s total is 8 or 9, Natural is declared
Whenever the Player’s hand is worth 8 or 9, the dealer will declare a Natural and end the hand right there, without a chance for the Banker to get the third card.
While the rules regarding the Player’s hand are very simple, the ones regarding the Banker’s hand are quite a bit more complex and detailed.
The Banker will never draw if the total of their first two cards is 7, 8, or 9 and must always draw if their total is 0, 1, or 2.
In all other cases, the draw will depend on whether the Player has three cards and what the value of the third card in the Player’s hand is, as follows:
- If Banker’s total is 3, Banker Draws unless Player’s third card is 8
- If Banker’s total is 4, Banker Draws unless Player’s third card is 1, 8, 9, or 0
- If Banker’s total is 5, Banker Draws unless Player’s third card is 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, or 9
- If Banker’s total is 6, Banker Draws unless Player’s third card is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, or 0
Same as with the Player’s hand, whenever the Banker has 8 or 9, a Natural will be declared, and there will be no further dealing.
These rules are not easy to memorize, but the good news is, you do not need to do it. It is the croupier’s job to know all of them and conduct the game accordingly, so once you place your bet and the hand starts, you can sit back, relax, and wait for the result.
Once all the cards have been dealt according to the fixed dealing pattern described above, the dealer will declare the results of the hand.
The following outcomes are possible in Baccarat:
- Banker Wins: Bets paid at 1:1 – (5% Commission is deducted)
- Player Wins: Bets paid at 1:1
- Tie: Bets paid at 8:1
Keep in mind that if no Tie bets were made, all hands that end in Tie will be declared a push, so you don’t need to worry about losing your bet in case of a Tie.
How to Win Baccarat: The Best Baccarat Strategy Explained
If you were to ask some of the high rollers who flock to the Baccarat tables at the casinos, they might tell you all sorts of strategies that involve tracking how many hands in a row Banker or Player has won or similar concepts.
However, the truth is that Baccarat is an extremely simple game that requires only one simple strategy that you should never deviate from.
Always bet on the Banker!
The Banker bet comes with the lowest house edge, despite the commission being taken on it. In the long run, it will cost you $1.06 per $100 wagered on Banker to play Baccarat, and that is the best theoretical result you can get in this game — or in any casino game.
If you were to always bet on Player, you would be losing about $1.24 per $100 wagered, and if you were to mix the two, you would be losing somewhere in between.
In the meantime, you can get all the perks from playing the game, whether that’s free cocktails and comps at the live casinos or various cashback deals, rewards programs, and other promotions at online casinos in the US.
With the help of promotions, it may be possible for a player to be a short-term favorite at the Baccarat tables, but the house is always the favorite in the long run, so make sure to remember that.
While you will not devise a strategy that will beat Baccarat in the long run, nor can we teach you one, we can tell you that keeping your bets reasonable and always betting on Banker (or Player if you can’t help yourself) will yield reasonable results and a steady source of entertainment for many hours.
Is Baccarat the Right Game for Me?
This all brings us to the most important question: whether or not you should start playing Baccarat and if this is the right game for you.
Baccarat is one of the best games you will find in any casino in terms of casino edge, as you will be losing only just over 1% every time you play, which is reasonably close to breaking even.
On the other hand, if you enjoy making decisions and devising a strategy, Blackjack might be a better game for you.
Yet, compared to Roulette or Slots, Baccarat is a game that offers more bang for your buck, costs you less in the long run, and even allows you to share in the glamour and excitement surrounding it.
We recommend trying Baccarat online to get a feel for the game and master the rules even further, before making your first trip to a live casino to play Baccarat at the high roller tables.
Where to Play Baccarat Online
Back in the day, baccarat was an exclusive game typically found only in restricted VIP areas of land-based casinos. The advent of online gambling has changed all this, making the game accessible to everyone and skyrocketing its popularity.
Today, you can play at any US online casino and find at least a few baccarat options. There are both live dealer versions played in real-time as well as electronic games played against the computer, with stakes ranging from just a dollar or two per hand and reaching as high as $1000+ at high-roller live tables.
While different versions of online baccarat are available, all of them feature the same fundamental rules, and the differences are primarily cosmetic.
Some versions, such as Baccarat Squeeze, try to mimic the live experience as much as possible by allowing players to “squeeze” their virtual cards. This is a popular practice in live casinos that helps build up the excitement and makes the game more enjoyable for the players.
The Best Online Baccarat Casinos
What is the house edge in Baccarat?
The house edge in Baccarat depends on which bet you make. If you bet on the Banker, the house edge is 1.06%. If you bet on the Player, the house edge is 1.24%. If you bet on a Tie, the house edge is a massive 14.36%.
What is the best Baccarat strategy?
The best strategy you can have in Baccarat is to always bet on the Banker. While you will lose some hands with this strategy, you will be getting back the highest possible percentage of your bets in the long run, which is the only thing that matters.
Where can I play Baccarat online?
Major online casinos in the US offer a range of options for Baccarat action, including Classic Baccarat, Live Dealer Baccarat, Lightning Baccarat, and First-Person Baccarat. Some casinos also feature exclusive specialty versions like NHL Baccarat, which is only available at BetMGM Casino & Borgata Casino, or DraftKings Casino, where you will find several unique Baccarat games you won’t find elsewhere.
Who wins in Baccarat?
The hand that comes closest to 9 points wins. If one hand has a total in double digits, the second digit becomes the new total. For example, if a hand is dealt two Eights, the real total is 16, and the second digit becomes the new total, making the total 6.
Tens and all face cards have the value of zero (0) in baccarat, so a hand containing a King and a 9 is a nine.
Can a hand bust in Baccarat?
No! Cards are always added together, and the second digit becomes the total. So, if a hand goes over 9 points, the new total will always revert to a smaller single-digit number.
Should I ever bet on Tie in Baccarat?
No! Ties don’t happen nearly enough to justify the relatively low payout offered for them. If you bet on a Tie, you will be giving the casino a huge edge over you for that hand. If you bet on the Banker or the Player, and the hand ends in a Tie, you will get your money back.
Is Baccarat better than Blackjack and Roulette?
Baccarat offers a significantly lower house edge than Roulette but a higher house edge than Blackjack for players who play their Blackjack strategy perfectly. However, you cannot make any mistakes in Baccarat, making it the perfect game to play when you just want to relax and unwind.