The game of baccarat is one of the oldest casino games still played today, going back more than 500 years. It was first created in the 1400s in Italy by gambler Felix Falguiere. The name ‘Baccarat’ was chosen because “baccara” is the Italian word for “zero,” and the face cards and tens in the game are all worth zero. It wasn’t until years later that the French spelling of the game was globally adopted.
From Italy, baccarat arrived in France, where it was referred to as ‘Chemin de Fer’ or “Chemmy.” It was frequently played by noblemen and King Charles VIII himself. It was highly popular among French aristocrats. In time, the game migrated to the Caribbean and South America, where it was known as Punto Banco.
Baccarat never became as popular as slots or roulette, leading casinos to set high minimum bets. As the game became more exclusive, it led to its rising popularity. Today you can find baccarat in nearly every land-based and online casino.
The rules of baccarat are fairly simple. Three possible outcomes can result from a game. A player has the option of betting on the Banker’s hand, the Player’s hand, or on a Tie. Whichever gets closest to a total of 9 points is the winner.
Each card is worth a certain number of points.
- Ace is worth 1 point
- 10, Jack, Queen, and King are worth 0 points
- 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are worth their face value
Once bets are made, the dealer deals two cards. The player must then determine the value of their cards. This is done by simply adding the two cards together. For example, if you receive a 2 and a 5, your total point value is 7.
However, if your hand exceeds a total value of 10, you must determine the ‘true’ value of your hand. You can do this by simply adding the two cards together and dropping the second digit. For example, if you receive a 5 and an 8, the total would be 13. You would then drop the first digit for a total value of 3.
Depending on the total, a third card may be dealt. If a player receives a total of 8 or 9 points with their initial two cards, it is referred to as a “natural” and the player automatically wins.
Betting on the Banker is the most common choice, as this wager gives the player the best odds of winning. A player’s bet pays out 1:1. However, if you place a bet on the Banker, there is usually a 5% commission (known as the vigorish) to the house. In most cases, Ties are paid at 8:1, but this can vary among casinos.
The vigorish helps prevent the Banker bet from giving a player a more than 50% chance, giving the house the edge.
There are several popular variations of baccarat that you may come across at an online casino. While the basic rules of all these games are the same, there are some distinct differences to be aware of before you start playing for real money.
- Mini Baccarat – This “mini” version of the game can accommodate only seven players versus the usual eight. In addition, mini baccarat is only played with one croupier instead of the usual three. The croupier acts as both the banker and dealer. What makes mini baccarat so popular is its low bet rates.
- Chemin de Fer – This is the French version of baccarat and has some slight differences from the standard game. Chemin de Fer is played with six decks, and only the croupier shuffles the cards. The players get to take turns being the banker, and the cards are distributed face down instead of face up.
- Puncto Bunco – Puncto Bunco is the Cuban version of baccarat. The game can accommodate up to 14 players, and the banker is referred to as the Bunco. The croupier does the shuffling and the distribution of cards, and the players do not get to decide if a third card is drawn.
While baccarat may seem simple enough, it can actually be tough to maintain a winning streak. Like most casino games, baccarat is based entirely on luck. However, there are some strategies and tips you can use to help increase your odds.
- Never make the “Tie” bet. There is a very low chance of getting the Tie bet. You usually want to stick with the Banker bet.
- Avoid playing mini-baccarat. If you are new to baccarat or have a limited gambling budget, steer clear of mini-baccarat. The game goes very fast, and more than double the number of decisions are made in an hour compared to standard baccarat. This can result in significant losses.
- Learn money management. Before joining a table, decide how much you are willing to lose. If you reach this amount, stop playing. It’s important to know when to walk away, even if you’re winning.
Baccarat has become so popular in land-based casinos that there are often not enough tables to meet demand, resulting in an increase in minimum bets. Fortunately, that is not a problem with online casinos, where players can join a table anytime. Try the game of baccarat for yourself and see if you can walk away a winner.