Hollywood depictions of baccarat invariably wind up presenting the game as complex affair, or a game fit for only the most sophisticated of gamblers. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Playing baccarat requires you to do nothing more than guess which one of two different hands will wind up closest to 9, using either two or three cards. Baccarat is most similar to blackjack, but in this game 10s and face cards are valued at zero. All other cards are valued at their numerical rank, while aces are worth 1. A hand’s total can never move to 10 or above, so when this occurs, the left-hand digit is removed from the total’s value.
As an example, consider a hand that is dealt a 4 and a 9. These cards add up to 13, but because totals can’t eclipse 10, the left-hand digit is removed to give the actual total of 3.
When playing baccarat you’ll have only one decision to make: whether “player” or “banker” will be the hand closest to 9 on any particular deal. The table is lined with betting spaces for both “player” and “banker,” as well as the seldom used “standoff or tie” wager.
This is a bet that both “banker” and “player” will produce identical totals and tie, but even though it pays out at 9 to 1, the 14.36 percent house edge makes it a poor bet overall. In terms of house edge, the “banker” bet offers a 1.06% edge to the house, which is slightly better than the 1.24 percent house edge offered by the “player” bet.
In baccarat two hands are dealt out, one to the “banker” space and another to the “player” space. The first card and third cards dealt go to the “player,” while the second and fourth cards are distributed to the “banker.” In the standard version of baccarat, also known as “big baccarat,” a shoe containing six or eight decks is used, with players taking turns handling the shoe and dealing the cards.
In the “mini-baccarat” game that has become popular in American casinos, a casino dealer will take care of the shoe. In both games, however, the “banker” hand is traditionally dealt near the shoe and slid partially underneath it until the time comes to turn the cards face-up.
The “player” hand is exposed first, and in big baccarat, the croupier (the primary dealer at the table) will offer the cards to whomever has placed the largest wager on “player.” This person is free to squeeze out the cards as slowly as they’d like, which adds an element of drama to the game. Once both hands are turned over, they’re ranked to determine which total currently reaches closest to 9.
Whenever a hand contains a 10-value and either an 8 or a 9, this is called a “natural” and the hand is an immediate winner. A natural 9 always beats a natural 8, however, in the instance both “player” and “banker” produce naturals.
When no naturals are produced the “player” and “banker” hands are compared, and a complex series of drawing rules then takes over to determine if another card should be dealt. In both versions of the game the dealer will take care of all draws, but if you’d like to learn about the baccarat tableau, more information can be found on our baccarat rules page.
After the tableau of drawing rules is applied the “player” and “banker” hands may receive a single additional card, or they may stay pat. When the draw is completed both totals are compared, and the hand closest to 9 is declared the winner. The dealer pays out all winning wagers and collects losing wagers, before the next hand is dealt.