Baccarat is a casino card game which is normally dealt from a shoe containing 8 decks of cards (although in rare cases a casino may use a 6-deck shoe). There are two main versions of regular baccarat. The term “Big Bac” is often used to describe the game which is often found in lavish surroundings in a part of the casino that is separate from the noisy hub bub of regular casino games and activity. Up to 14 players can be seated around the huge Big Bac table.
Three dealers preside over the game. One supervises play making sure the cards are drawn and played properly and announces the winning side while the two other dealers are mainly responsible for settling the bets. Minimum bets in Big Bac are generally higher and the game often attracts high rollers.
Baccarat Rules – How to Play Baccarat
Big Bac is dealt from a shoe which is passed around the table from player to player. Each player has the option of accepting the shoe and acting as the dealer or Bank or he may pass the shoe to the next player. Even though a player is acting as the Bank, he still has the option of betting on Player or Banker.
The term “Mini Bac” is applied to another popular version of the game which moves along at a faster pace and is played at a smaller table usually consisting of positions for about 8 players. In Mini Bac, the players never touch the cards. The game is controlled by only one dealer who deals the cards, announces the winning side (either Player, Bank or Tie) and settles the bets. Minimum bets at the Mini Bac table are usually much lower than regular Big Bac and can be as little as $5 while the standard minimum in most casinos is $10.
Bet on Banker or Player
Of all casino games baccarat is probably the easiest to play since there are only 3 possible bets that can be made. One can either bet on Banker or Player, or you can bet that Banker and Player will tie. The winning side is the side that completes its hand with a total closest to 9. A winning bet placed on Player pays even money but a winning bet placed on Banker pays even money less a 5% commission for the house.
The reason for the house receiving the extra vigorish on Banker wins is the fact that because of the designated hitting rules that govern play, the Banker has a slight advantage over the Player side and if there were not a tax on Banker wins, one could simply bet Banker every time and come out a long term winner. Actually, even with the 5% commission charged, the house edge is still slightly less when you bet on Banker (1.17%) than when you bet on Player (1.36%). Most people approach the game as if the Player and Banker have an equal chance of winning.
As I said, a bet can also be made on the circle marked “Tie”. If this bet wins it pays 8 to 1 but it is considered a very poor bet because you are giving the house an approximate 11% advantage.
A player does not need to know the rules which govern the way the hands are actually played out in order to participate in the game. He has only to bet on Banker, Player or Tie. The dealer will supervise play (as in Big Bac) or will actually deal all the cards and announce the winning or losing side (as in Mini Bac).
When the cards are dealt, one card is dealt for the Player, then one card for the Banker. That is followed by a second card being dealt to the Player then a second card for the Banker. All four cards are then turned face up and the totals for each hand are computed. Each card is counted at face value except for tens and face cards which are assigned a value of zero. Aces, of course, have a value of 1. Therefore a hand consisting of the 6 of Diamonds and the Jack of Spades would be valued at 6. But a hand containing the 4 of Clubs and the 5 of Hearts would be a total of 9. If a hand exceeds a total of 10, then 10 is subtracted. For instance a 7 and a 6 which would normally total 13 is read as 3 or a hand consisting of a pair of nines would be read as a total of 8.
Once the cards are dealt and the value of each hand is established, play continues according to a defined set of hitting rules.
When play of a hand begins, after the dealer has dealt the two cards for Player and 2 for Bank, if either side has a natural (a 2 card total of 8 or 9) then play stops right there and the side which has the natural wins. If both sides are dealt a natural, the side with the highest natural wins or else it is a tie hand.
Now, assuming neither Player nor Bank is dealt a natural 8 or 9 with the first 2 cards, play continues in this fashion. The Player’s hand is always addressed first and whether the Bank hits or stands is in most cases determined by the outcome of the Player hand. If the Bank does not have a natural and the first 2 Player cards total 0 through 5, then the player must take a third card. When the first 2 Player cards total 6 through 9, then the Player always stands. Neither Player nor Banker will ever receive more than 3 cards.
If the Player does not have a natural, but stands on 6 or 7, the Bank draws a third card if it has a total of 0 through 5 and stands on a total of 6 through 9. Bank always draws a third card when holding a total of 0 through 2 unless Player has a natural.
- When the Bank has a 2-card total of 3, it always draws a third card unless the Player drew a third card of 8. In that case the Bank stands.
- When the Bank has a 2-card total of 4, it draws a third card if the Player drew a third card of 2 through 7. Otherwise the Bank stands.
- When the Bank has a 2-card total of 5, it draws a third card if the Player drew a third card of 4 through 7. Otherwise the Bank stands.
- When the Bank has a 2-card total of 6, it draws a third card only if the Player drew a third card of 6 or 7. Otherwise the Bank stands.
The Bank always stands on totals of 7, 8, or 9.
That’s it. It may look a little complicated at first, but after you play through a couple of shoes it becomes fairly easy. It’s actually pretty logical. The main reason I like to be familiar with the hitting and standing rules is that sometimes the dealer will make a mistake that goes against you. I want to make sure that I catch it and get it corrected.
The house edge for baccarat is the lowest of all casino games with the possible exception of blackjack. Under special circumstances in a casino offering very favorable rules, blackjack might be the better game. But otherwise, I would opt for baccarat every time.
With baccarat, the house has an overall 1.23% edge on the even money Player and Banker bets. But the tie bet, even though it pays 8 to 1, carries a whopping 11% edge so it should be avoided.
It should probably be noted that because of the rules that govern how each hand is played, the Banker has a slight advantage over Player. In fact, even with the 5% commission that is generally charged on winning Banker hands, the house edge on Banker is still only 1.17% while bets on Player are at a 1.36% disadvantage. For this reason, some strategies have been developed that bet solely on Banker.