In the list of popular online (and real-world) casino games, baccarat could claim to be third behind roulette and blackjack, but it is a distant third. Across the world baccarat – which was once a more popular casino game than blackjack – is becoming less and less prevalent. This is a shame as not only is it a good game; it’s one that has a low house edge. However, there are plenty of online baccarat casinos that offer many variations of the game. Below is a list where we recommend you should play.
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If you want to play baccarat but are not sure how then our online baccarat guide is here to help. We’ll explain how you can get the most out of your baccarat play.
History of Baccarat
One thing that confuses people immediately about baccarat is how you pronounce the name of the game. It is certainly not ‘back a rat’ as some people seem to think. The correct pronunciation is ‘back a rah’.
The origins of the game are somewhat cloudy. Some casino experts claim that the game originated in Italy towards the end of the 15th century. Others say that the game was created nearly four hundred years later. It seems unlikely that the true origins of the game will never now be cemented.
There is definite evidence that the game has been around in casinos ever since the 1800s. It is a game commonly associated with European and Asian casinos as opposed to American ones. When casinos arrived in the US via the French influence in New Orleans and along the Mississippi, it was the game ‘vingt-et-un’ (that later became blackjack) that caught on as the most popular card game, as opposed to baccarat.
How to Play Baccarat at Online Casinos
To complicate matters, there are a few different versions of baccarat. For this online baccarat guide, we are going to concentrate upon the most popular version, which is also known as ‘punto banco’. You may have seen a game called Punto Banco offered at top-rated online casinos and been confused, but there is no need to be as Punto Banco and baccarat are practically identical.
Baccarat is played with a normal deck of cards with no jokers. The value of the cards is as follows:
- – Deuce to nine: face value (i.e. a deuce is worth two and so on)
- – Ace: one
- – Ten to King: Zero
1 – Dealer 2 – Discard Trays 3 – Dealer 4 – DropBox 5 – Caller (Dealer) 6 – Tips Box
The object of the game is to get as high a score as possible, but unlike blackjack, it is impossible to bust. Only the ‘unit’ value of the total contributes towards the score. For example, a hand of a three and a four is worth seven. A hand of a nine and a six is worth five, as the total is 15 and the ‘tens’ column is ignored. The highest-scoring possible hand in baccarat is therefore nine.
In two-player baccarat (which is the most common kind) each player is dealt with two cards. They must then decide whether to draw a third card or not. Once each player has made their choice, the cards are compared, and the highest score wins. Ties are possible as well.
Punto Banco is the form of baccarat offered by casinos. ‘Punto Banco’ when translated from French means ‘player banker’.
Punto Banco is not played like blackjack, i.e. it is not a case of the player playing against the bank. Two hands are dealt, one for the player and one for the banker, but the player has the option of betting on himself winning, the banker winning or for the game to be a tie.
Also, unlike blackjack, there is no decision-making in the playing process. Both the player and the banker must follow a set of rules to dictate what they must do once all four starting cards have been dealt, as follows, with the player playing first:
- If either player or banker has a total of eight or nine, then no further cards are dealt.
- If the player’s total is between zero and five, they may draw a third card.
- If the player’s total is six or seven, then they may not draw a third card.
- If the banker has a total of zero, one or two, then they draw a third card.
- If the banker has a total of three, they draw a third card unless the player’s third card was an eight.
- If the banker has a total of four, they draw a third card if the player’s third card was between two and seven.
- If the banker has a total of five, they draw a third card if the player’s third card was between four and seven.
- If the banker has a total of six, they draw a fourth card if the player’s third card was a six or seven.
- If the banker has a total of seven, then the dealer does not draw a third card.
Don’t worry if these rules sound complicated as you do not have to worry about them. They are designed to make sure the casino maintains its house edge over the player.
If the player bet on himself winning and he did, he is paid at odds of evens. If the player bet on the banker winning and the banker did, then he is paid at odds of (usually) 19/20. If the player bets that the hand would be tied and it was, then he is paid at odds of 8/1.
Chemin De Fer is the most popular version of baccarat in France and plays faster than the Punto Banco version. It is also not usually offered by online casinos.
Here a group of players play and each take turns in being the banker. All players who are not the banker play the role of the player, but only two hands – the player’s hand and the banker’s hand – are dealt. Players and bankers have the choice in whether to take a third card or not, but skilled chemin de fer players will automatically know what they should do in every possible situation.
If the banker wins then, he collects all bets and remains the banker for the next round if he wishes to. If the players win then the banker role is passed along to the next player at the table.
This is similar to Chemin de Fer except that the banker can remain the banker for a much longer period. This version is usually played three decks of cards all shuffled together. The banker can remain as the banker until all these cards have been dealt, at which point all cards are gathered, and a different player can become the banker.
No matter how many are in the game (maximum ten), only two players can play against the banker at any time. Players continue to play until they lose, at which point play passes to the next player at the table. The losing player then must wait for his next turn.
Macau is a version of baccarat that became popular in Asia in the 1600s, although it is rarely played today other than in some areas of Europe and Russia. This version is like Baccarat Banque except that it uses only two decks. All players are in play at all times, and the banker remains the banker until the decks run out.
In some versions of Macau, it is possible to bust – just like blackjack – if your total is greater than nine.
Successful Baccarat Strategy at Online Casinos
Despite what anyone might tell you, there is no real successful strategy to use at baccarat, but it is an entertaining game to play. Basically, you are betting on the flip of a coin with a decent-enough chance that the coin will end up on its edge.
The odds of betting and being on the winning side are as follows:
- Banker – 98.94%
- Player – 98.76%
- Tie – 85.6%
Looking at those numbers you’d think it obvious that it pays to bet on the banker all the time as the banker has a slightly better chance of winning. There is an issue though – when the banker wins, you only win 95% of your bet (typically) while betting on the player will win 100% of your bet. If we do the maths on a $10 bet we get the following:
- Banker: $9.50 (winnings) = $9.50 x 98.94% = $9.40
- Player: $10 (winnings) = $10.00 x 98.76% = $9.88
As you can see, it’s better to bet on the player in terms of return, but the banker wins more often. If you want to factor in ALL the mathematics, then it is better to bet on the banker but that only increases your chances of winning by 0.36%. You would have to play thousands of baccarat hands for that to make even the tiniest bit of difference, though.
But – you might be asking – what about betting on the tie? The tie pays 8/1 at some casinos, and 9/1 at others. This may sound like good odds, but actually, it isn’t. The true odds of a tie occurring are actually only around ten percent, so ‘fair’ odds would be around 10/1. The difference between 8/1 (or 9/1) and 10/1 may not sound that much, but it’s a significant one. If you wagered on a tie on baccarat for an extended period a tie does not happen enough to make the returns worth it – you would eventually lose all your money. This is how casinos operate – for example, in European Roulette, the odds of a specific number coming up is 1/37 (0.027), yet the casino only pays 1/35 (0.028).
Our baccarat strategy suggestions are, therefore:
- Always bet on the banker … or sometimes bet on the player if you want as it makes little difference.
- Never bet on the tie.
- Manage your bankroll properly
- Enjoy the game for what it is – entertainment!
A word on baccarat betting pattern strategies
If you hunt around the internet, you will discover plenty of baccarat betting strategies. Typically, these strategies involve a player keeping track of the winner of each hand and then tailoring their bet passed on successive ‘punto’ wins, or successive ‘banco’ wins. These are called pattern strategies because when you recognise a specific pattern, you change your bet – this could be the value of your bet or the whether you are betting on the player or the banker.
It will not surprise you to learn that ALL baccarat betting pattern strategies are bogus. They do not work, and here is why.
Here are the odds of banker/player/tie for the first game of a baccarat session:
- Banker – 45.86%; Player – 44.62%; Tie – 9.52%
And here are the odds of banker/player/tie after the banker has won that first hand:
- Banker – 45.86%; Player – 44.62%; Tie – 9.52%
And here are the odds of banker/player/tie after the banker has won ten hands in a row:
- Banker – 45.86%; Player – 44.62%; Tie – 9.52%
And here are the odds of banker/player/tie after the banker has won one million hands in a row:
- Banker – 45.86%; Player – 44.62%; Tie – 9.52%
As you can see – just as with most other casino games – the odds never change. The millionth hand of baccarat has the same odds as that first game of baccarat. No matter the ‘pattern’ of the previous hands, the odds of the next are the same as … well, we are sure you have understood by now.
The only people who make money out of baccarat betting pattern strategies are the people who create them … as they often want money to share ‘their special secrets’ with you.
If you are still not convinced that such strategies do not work, then consider this – do you think casinos would offer a game in which a player could adopt a winning strategy and take money from them, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
Baccarat can be a thrilling game to become involved with, but should only be played for entertainment purposes as skill-wise, there is as much skill involved as playing roulette.
Remember to manage your bankroll at all times, and as ever, only bet with money that you can easily afford to lose.
What is the actual difference between Baccarat and Punto Banco?
Why is Baccarat or Punto Banco so popular in Asia?
Why am I charged 5% commission if a bet on the Banker and I win?
Who decided in Baccarat that tens and court cards are worth zero?
Why do online and real world casinos use shoes with several decks of cards?
Is it better to play live casino Baccarat or a software-based, RNG version?
Why is Baccarat called ‘baccarat’ ?