The first mention of Baccarat dates back to the early 15th century when, under the reign of the King Charles VIII, it travelled from Italy to France. The name ‘Baccarat’ comes directly from the Italian word “baccarat”, which means zero. Over the next few centuries, baccarat was the game typically played by the nobility of France, the nation symbolised by the Gallic cockerel.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the game spread to Great Britain and the United States via South America. Baccarat quickly took root in the local casinos, especially among players wanting to place more substantial bets. It still holds a certain cache and elegance with its rituals linking it to the romantic myth of its past, making the live version of the game still very attractive to those of a higher social class.
The game runs at a slow pace, in an atmosphere where players feel fully immersed in the experience. It is not unusual to witness, in a Las Vegas or Macau lounge, a game of Baccarat taking place where several million US dollars changes hands. Due to the development of the Internet, the game has become increasingly popular in online casinos, but in a more accessible version and for players betting with considerably lower budgets.
Variants of baccarat
Several modified variations of baccarat have developed over the centuries. Three of these, as described below have survived until the present time:
Baccarat Chemin de Fer: This is the original baccarat based on the fundamental roots of the card game historically played in France. Nowadays, it is a real rarity to find a casino offering Chemin de Fer. You might come across this variation, but only in France. It is virtually impossible to find in the United States. The rules are less conventional and the player can affect the outcome of the game by his own decisions. The players can approach the game more actively as they, throughout the game, take turns in shuffling the decks and in drawing cards.
Baccarat Banque: This variant is very similar to Chemin de Fer, the only difference is in the role of the banker, who is usually the player with the largest pot of money to gamble. Baccarat Banque can be played in some European casinos, but this variation is much less popular than Punto Banco.
Punto Banco: The game is also known as Nevada Baccarat or American Baccarat. This is a game of chance, with no skill or strategy involved. The whole game depends purely on luck. The course of the game is pre-determined by precise rules. Therefore the fact that this version of baccarat is currently the most popular sounds rather paradoxical. Unlike the following variations, Punto Banco can be played in the vast majority of online casinos. Due to the high popularity of this version of the game, the rest of the article will be devoted to this form of baccarat.
Different versions of Baccarat can sometimes be played in a few casinos, so be advised to check the individual casino rules before playing. To check the game rules, simply click on the game description
In the case of Punto Banco, we can further distinguish two types – one with a large table and one with a smaller table. The large table format may have up to 14 players at any one time; the cards are shuffled by the dealer and handed out by individual players, taking turns clockwise. However, in almost all online versions of the game, you will be playing at a small table, where all aspects of the game like shuffling and dealing the cards, will be handled by the casino itself. Your only task is to place your bets.
First of all, it is necessary to explain the value of the cards. An ace is worth one point. Cards 2-9 are worth their face value. The Tens, Jacks (J), Queens (Q) and Kings (K) have the value of zero. In all cases, the colour of the card is of no importance.
The game is played either with six or eight decks of cards mixed together, of course, without any jokers. The odds of winning are very similar in both cases, with only a small difference measured in a thousandths of one percent. Therefore the further analysis here will deal solely with the eight decks version that predominates in online casinos.
The game itself is initiated by placing bets. You can bet on either the banker – Banco, on the player – Punto or on a tie – Tie. You place a bet before your first card has been turned face up. The result of the game thus depends purely on chance, so Baccarat is very similar to throwing a dice or spinning the ball in roulette.
After all bets have been placed, two cards are dealt to both the player and the banker. The winner is the one who has a score of 8 or 9. This state is called “natural” while having a score of 9 is more than 8, and a tie is possible as well. If the player or the banker holds cards with a total that exceeds nine, then the last digit of this total is taken into account. Thus for example, 8 + 2 = 10, the resulting value is 0, or for example 5 + 7 = 12, leaving 2 as the value of this hand.
In case neither the Player nor the Banker are dealt a “natural hand”, with a total of 8 or 9 for the first two cards, a third card can be dealt under strict conditions. These rules are the only complicated part of the game. There is no great need to learn these conditions as they are automatically implemented by the casino, but it is still good to have some understanding of them:
- If the player has an initial total of 6 or 7, he stands. The banker then draws a third card, but only if he has an initial total of 0-5
- If the player has an initial total of 0-5, he draws a third card
If the player draws a third card, the banker will also draw a third card. This depends on the value of the player’s third card and the initial total for the banker:
- if the banker’s total is 0,1 or 2, then the banker always draws a card
- if the banker’s total is 3, then the banker draws a third card, unless the player’s third card was an 8
- if the banker’s total is 4, then the banker draws a third card, unless the player’s third card was 0, 1, 8, 9
- if the banker’s total is 5, then the banker draws a third card, if the player’s third card was 4, 5, 6, or 7
- if the banker’s total is 6, then the banker draws a third card, if the player’s third card was a 6 or 7
- if the banker’s total is 7, then the banker stands and doesn’t draw a third card.
When the player and the banker have both been dealt their cards, as set out by the rules mentioned above, the outcome of the game is announced. The hand with the highest value is the winning one, and if the hands are of equal value, there is a tie.
Winning odds in baccarat
If you bet on the player or on the banker and the game ends in a tie, your bet is returned.
If you bet on the player and the player actually wins, the payout ratio is 1: 1. So you get your bet back plus your winnings of the same amount. The bet on the banker is in this case the losing one.
If you bet on the banker and the banker actually wins, the payout ratio is 0.95: 1. The 5% represents the commission for the casino and ensures the casino´s profitability even under these types of bets. To put it more clearly, if you bet 100 chips on the banker and the banker wins, you will get 195 chips in return. The bet on the player is in this case the losing one.
If you bet on a tie and the player´s and the banker’s hands are of identical value, you can enjoy a substantial win amounting to eight or nine times your initial bet. However, the win is considerable only at first glance. As will be explained below, if you want to play for the longest possible time, the bet on a tie should be avoided like the plague. In the case of a payout ratio being 8:1, a bet on a tie is literally financial suicide, but also even if a payout ratio is 9:1, it is still statistically the least favorable bet.
Finally, there is the most important part. How should I bet to win at Baccarat? On the banker? On the Player? Or on a tie? If we want to answer these questions in an honest and trustworthy manner, we need to tackle the problem of calculating the probability of various outcomes. The odds of winning at baccarat are not as simple to calculate as the odds of winning at roulette, where it is clearly known what the chances of getting a zero are. In Punto Banco baccarat, there are billions of different combinations of cards that you can be dealt. To get a little help with calculating these odds, analytic software has been used.
Punto Banco Baccarat is merely a game of chance that you cannot influence by your decisions. Nevertheless, there is a huge number of guides available on the Internet, which claim the very opposite. We shall take a closer look at them in the following passages. To start with, here is a very important piece of advice: do not pay for any strategies found via the internet. Spend the money on playing baccarat instead. The only ones to profit from these strategies are the people selling them.
Martingale is a bible of all the online scammers who make false promises about how to get rich quick. I remember my own experience as a college student, when I had to create mathematical proofs to convince my crazed classmate about the erroneous claims of Martingale. It makes no difference whether it is a roulette or baccarat. When applying Martingale’s strategy, you select either the banker or the player and you bet. You will start with betting one chip and you will always double your bet in case of losing. If you win you start betting a single bet again. Initially, the strategy will be working for you and you will be enjoying the game. After each win you are at a slight profit. “Great!,” you tell yourself. However, there isn’t a casino where infinity exists. Although the probability is low, a series of losses of any length will occur sooner or later, and you suddenly find yourself having to bet a huge amount. You only hope the unfavourable sequence of bets will end. Such a situation is always a matter of time, believe me. Martingale would only work under the theoretical concept of infinity. When applied to a concrete number of games, the player always ends up at a loss. Moreover, your bank is limited and the maximum bets are limited by the casino. Martingale would also be profitable if the probability of the banker´s or the player´s win was higher than 50%. Just one millionth of a percent would be sufficient. But we already know that the advantage is on the side of the casino. This is the reason why you should avoid the Martingale strategy; it really is not the miraculous way to beat the casino you have longed for. Even when betting on a game where the likelihood of winning is 50:50, like when tossing a coin, the Martingale strategy would produce a game of zero totals and you would end up with your original bet.
1-3-2-6 system, Fibonacci, d`Alembert, Avant Dernier
All of these strategies are in fact only Martingale variations. The only difference consists in the system of adding bets. The fact that these strategies do not work was clearly demonstrated by simulations in our article on roulette.
This strategy sounds really attractive. We will track the dealt cards and choose the best bet regarding the remaining ones. This is the theory. Unfortunately, the practice is different. Although the house edge of a bet placed at the banker is only 1.06%, and we could turn this over to our advantage by the mathematically correct counting of cards, we would get an edge over the casino only to a negligible extent. The reason is that, unlike blackjack, baccarat does not have any cards that could tilt the scales significantly on the side of the player or the banker. The ineffectiveness of the card counting strategy was proved mathematically by Edward O. Thorp in his book, “The mathematics of gambling”. Anyone interested can simply download the book for free from the Internet. Peter A. Griffin, who also devoted a part of his work, “The Theory of Blackjack” to card counting in baccarat, says:
,,Playing baccarat at an optimum way in the Atlantic City casino, you can win 70 cents an hour at the bet of 1000 USD.”
You could only bet in approximately one in five hundred games; that would leave you betting twice every 8 hours. Pretty boring just for a few cents, don’t you think? John May, another author of books on baccarat, developed a system of card counting when the bet is placed on a tie. Theoretically, of course, it would be amazing if the same cards with a value of zero (i.e. tens, kings, etc.) remained in the deck. We would bet on the tie which would mean a sure win. This is true. However, the truth also is, that a situation when the bet on a tie has a statistical advantage over the casino occurs approximately once in 10 000 games. If we considered 80 hands played per hour, eight hours of playing per day, we would bet once every two weeks.
Games on series
Everyone will make up what he enjoys the most. Someone might think that a series of wins by the banker must come to an end. On the contrary, someone else might think that the banker will continue winning as he is just lucky with his cards. Such a strategist keeps standing at the table, carefully watching everything and recording the results. This strategy is absolutely unnecessary. What really matters is that the result of an actual game is completely independent of the previous result, and as the casino has a statistical advantage at Baccarat, the application of such strategies are doomed to fail.
As you can see, there exists no working strategy for playing and winning over the casino at Punto Banco baccarat. Please forget such strategies. If you follow them, your enjoyment of the game will be spoilt by the limitations such strategies set. There will be no financial benefit for you. Do not look for the non-existent, get-rich-quick scheme, the Holy Grail for the gambler. Despite all of this, there are certain rules that would be sensible to follow. I would definitely not name these rules as a strategy, but rather as basic principles.
Principles of playing baccarat
- do not bet on a tie
- bet on the banker more often than not
- find a casino with the most advantageous conditions (low commission, lower number of decks of cards)
- keep your money well managed–bet the lowest possible sums
- define the maximum acceptable loss in advance
What is there left to say? Baccarat is not a bad game. If you follow these principles, you can have fun and you will not lose too much. Most recreational activities cost something these days, whether you go to the cinema, to the pub, or to the tennis court. Just do not expect to get rich by playing Baccarat. You would have to be extremely lucky to do so. If you do go to the online casinos in order to make a profit, I can only recommend to you one very simple piece of advice – set your goal, define the amount of profit you want to gain. As soon as you have it in your account, run away! Why? Because you were just lucky, and this lucky streak will not last forever.