Baccarat is a card game, played at casinos, where the aim is to beat the Banker and get a hand of two or three cards with a score total as close as possible to nine. The correct pronunciation of this game is bah-kuh-rah.
The history of Baccarat begins in Italy some 800 years ago, continues in France around the 15th Century, and then sees the modern game emerge in the New World after it was brought there by English immigrants.
Its Italian origins are still seen in the name Baccarat, which literally means 'zero' in old Italian. This refers to the value of zero given to any ten, jack, queen or king card, and this rule has remained the same ever since the game was first developed.
Chemin de Fer was the version popularized in France, where the royal family, and nobility used to enjoy it until the revolution. In England, the version known as Punto Banco was favoured, and it is this game that was brought to the United States as English settlers began cross the Atlantic.
In the 20th century, Punto Banco remained a game for the rich high rollers in the new gambling meccas of Las Vegas and Reno, but like so many casino games that are still played today, it was this continued popularity that kept the game alive.
The online casinos that began to spring up at the end of the century have brought Baccarat to millions of new players around the world, and it is no longer an exclusive game for the rich. the rules now followed are those developed in the US, and most online sites now provide a Mini Baccarat game for their customers.
Much of the terminology associated with Baccarat is due to its French and Italian origins. There are also many newer American terms used, that reflect the influence on the game made in that country.
Baccarat: This literally translates to 'zero', and is a possible, if unwanted, total hand score.
Banker: A wager that the banker, or dealer, will win the hand. This is one of the three decisions that can be made in a game, and pays out at 1:1, with the banker taking a small 5% commission. Can also be referred to as banco.
Coup: One baccarat round, made up of the player and banker each getting a hand of cards.
Dealer: The cards are drawn by the dealer, who may also be known as a croupier.
Mini Baccarat: In this version, popular at online casinos, the dealer draws each card. There are usually fixed limits on the size of bet allowed, and it is a quicker game.
Natural: This occurs when the first two cards received by the player have a total score of either eight or nine.
Player: A wager on the players hand winning the round. As with the banker bet, this pays out at 1:1, but there is no bankers commission to pay, while the house edge for this bet is around 1%. This is also termed punto.
Run: An optional side bet that the player or banker will win the next few hands, or that they will end in a tie.
Standoff: This occurs when both the player and the banker have hands of equal value.
Tie: A wager that a standoff will occur. With a tempting payout of 8:1, a tie bet looks like a good choice, but the house edge on it is about 15%.
In a baccarat game, each card is given a value, with aces having a value of 1, cards 2 through to 10 having their face values, and the jack, queen and king also each having a value of 10. At a casino, the game is played with up to 14 people around the table, and up to eight decks of cards.
A round, or 'coup' starts with each player making a bet on their predicted outcome of the game, placing a stake on the banker or player getting the highest score, or on a tie. Each player, and the banker, then receives two cards. If any hand scores a natural eight or nine, no further cards are dealt to that hand. Should the hand value be 10 or more, the first digit is not counted, ensuring that no total is over nine. The player may then be dealt a third card depending on the value of the first two received.
The shoe, from which the cards are dealt, moves around the table clockwise, with each round, in the same way as it does in Poker. Unlike Poker however, it does not move when the banker wins.
Mini Baccarat is slightly different in that the dealer turns all of the cards over, usually using six decks of cards. This speeds up the game, while also changing the odds a little. Other than this, the rules are identical to the base game.
There is little room for developing a baccarat strategy, as there are only three possible choices, and only the player or banker bets are recommended. All that needs to be remembered is that the payouts for these are 1:1, but there is no commission to be paid on the players hand.
Provided the tie bet is avoided, this is a game with a small house edge. Managing your bankroll is an important factor, so set a limit to what you are prepared to spend and stick to it. By doing this, you will enjoy the games more, and perhaps walk away with a profit at the end.
The older versions of baccarat give players more scope for using strategies and systems, and anyone looking for a more challenging game may want to search for them. Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque can still be found at some casinos, mostly in Europe, although there are a few online casinos that feature these games.
- Try to learn the game with no risk to your bankroll by playing the free versions offered by many online casinos. This applies to any game, not just baccarat.
- Unless you can really afford to lose the money, and enjoy the added risk, don't make a tie bet, as despite the 8:1 payout, the house edge is just too big.
- A big attraction of baccarat is its simplicity, but the older versions offer something different for lovers of the game. However, both blackjack and poker give greater opportunities for using advanced strategies and skills.
- Online casinos often provide special deals or bonuses for baccarat players. Although the rules and payouts will remain, there can be a chance to get extra funds from the casino to enjoy the game, and this will make the most of your funds.
- Manage your money by setting a limit and not going over it. With a low house advantage, and the knowledge that only the banker or player bets should be made, you have a good chance of winning many hands and being able to play for longer and have more fun with a well managed bankroll.