Baccarat is an interesting and popular card game that is probably one of only a few you are likely to come across in a casino that allows you to bet against yourself to win. Here is a simple guide on how to play Baccarat, including the rules and probabilities involved and the strategy you should bear in mind when you are playing.
The objective of Baccarat is to successfully bet on whether the next round will be won by yourself, the banker or a tie.
A round is won if the value of the player or banker’s initial hand is worth eight or nine (referred to as a natural, with nine beating eight) or tied if both get a natural of the same value.
If neither achieve this, the round is won by whoever’s hand has the highest value up to nine after they have been dealt a third card, if they are allowed to receive one. If the two hands have the same value after this stage, the round is tied.
In most casinos, a successful bet on the player has a payout of 1:1, a successful bet on the banker has a payout of 1:1 minus 5% the value of the original bet (195% of the original bet), and a successful tie bet has a payout of 8:1. Generally, if a round is tied, any bets on the player and banker are carried through to the next round.
Baccarat often uses eight decks and can have a single player up to as many as fourteen (not including the banker).
Baccarat card values
Face cards (Kings, Queens and Jacks) and 10 are worth zero, Aces are worth one and cards from two to nine are worth their pip value (the value stated on the card).
The maximum Baccarat value a hand can have is nine, meaning hands with a value up to nine count as such. For hands that have a value of 10 or more, only the last digit of their value is used (for instance, a hand comprised of a six and seven would not be worth 13, but three).
There are multiple variants of Baccarat, although by far the most popular and used at casinos is Punto banco, which is outlined below. Common alternatives include Chemin de fer (sometimes referred to as chemmy), Baccarat banque (also known as à deux tableaux) and Macao, which are covered in our guide to Baccarat variants.
How to play Punto banco
In punto banco, the decks are shuffled in a shoe with a cut card placed in front of the seventh from last card. The banker burns the first card face up and depending on its value (with Aces worth one and face cards worth 10), then precede to burn that many cards face down. Bets are placed at the start of the round before the cards have been dealt. At this stage a player may also place a Baccarat side bet, which is covered in its own article.
The player (‘punto’) and banker (‘banco’) are then dealt two cards, alternating between the player and banker.
If either the player or banker has a natural worth eight or nine and the other does not, or one has a hand worth nine and the other’s hand is worth eight, the person with the higher valued hand has won the round. If both have a natural of the same value, the round is tied.
If neither has a hand worth eight or nine, it is then determined whether the player can receive a third card. If the player’s initial hand is worth zero to five, they can do so, and if it is worth six or seven, they must stand.
If the player stands, the banker must then determine if they can receive a third card according to the same rules. If the player has received a third card, whether or not the banker can receive a third card is decided by the following:
- If the banker’s hand is worth two or less, they draw a third card.
- If the banker’s hand is worth three, they draw a third card unless the player's third card was an eight.
- If the banker’s hand is worth four, they draw a third card if the player's third card was between two and seven.
- If the banker’s hand is worth five, they draw a third card if the player's third card was between four and seven.
- If the banker’s hand is worth six, they draw a third card if the player's third card was a six or seven.
- If the banker’s hand is worth seven, they stand.
This is summarised by the table below:
When can the banker draw a third card in Baccarat?
After all of this has been determined and any cards have been dealt, the winner is the person who has the hand with the higher value up to nine. If the player and banker have hands with the same value, the round is tied.
Baccarat round example
Here are is an example of a Baccarat round based on a game featuring three players and the banker:
- At the start of the round, Player 1 bets €100 on themselves to win and Players 2 and 3 bet €100 on the banker to win. The banker then deals everyone their cards – the banker gets two sevens (14), giving them an initial hand value of four.
- Player 1 is dealt a five and four, for an initial hand value of nine. They have therefore beat the banker via natural and win their bet on a 1:1 payout, receiving €200.
- Player 2 is dealt a 10 and a Jack, for an initial value of zero. They are thus dealt a third card which is an eight, meaning their hand finishes with a value of eight. The banker is not allowed to deal a third card against them, meaning they beat the banker by eight to four but lose their bet, as they bet on the banker to win.
- Player 3 is dealt a nine and a seven (16) for an initial value of six, meaning they are required to stand. The banker is allowed to deal a third card against them, which is a five, giving them a final hand value of nine. This means that Player 3 has lost the round but won their bet, receiving a 1:1 payout minus 5% the value of their original bet, equating to €195.
Baccarat odds and probabilities
Whereas probability has a less pivotal role in Baccarat than other card games such as Blackjack, it is still useful to be aware of the probabilities and odds involved. To start, the probability of getting a card of any value from Ace through to King is approximately 7.69%. As there are four cards worth zero (10, Jack, Queen and King), the probability of getting a card worth zero is 30.76%.
Based on this, the chance of getting a natural eight or nine from your opening two cards and winning is 16.25%. The probability of the player and banker getting a natural of the same value is 1.79% and the odds of a player getting eight and banker getting nine is 0.90%. Not getting an eight or nine and losing to the banker is a 15.35% chance and neither the banker nor player getting an eight or nine is the most likely outcome at approximately 65.72%.
Furthermore, the law of probabilities dictates that for an eight deck game in Baccarat, the banker wins approximately 45.86% of the time, the player wins around 44.62% of the time and 9.52% of rounds finish as a tie. This means that of the rounds that are not tied, the banker wins 50.68% and the player wins 49.32% of the time.
As the odds favour the banker, the casino secures a house edge by charging a 5% commission on winning bets on the banker. The respective house edges for betting on the player and banker and a tie can be calculated as follows:
House edge on player bets
Probability of player winning - Probability of banker winning = House edge
0.446247 - 0.458597 = -0.01235 = 1.24% house edge
House edge on banker bets
(0.95 x Probability of banker winning) - Probability of player winning = House edge
(0.95 x 0.458597) - 0.446247 = -0.01057985 = 1.06% house edge
House edge on tie bets
(8 x Probability of tie) - Probability of player winning - Probability of banker winning = House edge
(8 x 0.095156) - 0.446247 - 0.458597 = -0.0143596 = 14.36% house edge
On rare occasions, casinos may offer less than a 5% commission rate on banker bets. That affects the house edge on banker bets as follows:
As most of time the player’s only action in a round of Baccarat is to place a bet at the start, there is limited strategy that can be applied to the game. However, there are tips informed by the probabilities and house edges involved that are helpful to consider.
In Baccarat, it is important to not fall into the trap of reading into patterns that are not there.
Firstly, the most sensible approach is the bet on the banker in any given round, as it is the most likely outcome and offers the smallest house edge irrespective of the commission applied. Whilst the latter still dictates that you are likely lose €1.06 for every €100 bet on the banker, this is a better predicted return than betting equivalent amounts on the player and a tie.
Indeed, betting on ties is very difficult to justify. Whilst the 8:1 payout may suggest it is a proficient route to boosting your winnings, a 9.52% probability translates to it occurring only once every 10.5 rounds. This offers the aforementioned very large 14.36% edge to the house, underlining that it is firmly a poor value bet.
It is also important to not fall into the trap of reading into patterns that are not there. Even if the banker has just won ten rounds in a row, their chances of winning the next is still 45.86%, so treat each round as independent.
Finally, if a casino uses less than eight decks and charges less than 5% commission on banker bets, playing at their tables will allow you to enjoy a narrowly better banker win probability and more favourable house edges respectively.
Learn more about Baccarat
If you’re interested in alternative ways to play Baccarat, check out our guides to Baccarat variants and Baccarat side bets. If you want to learn more about Baccarat beyond how to play the game, you can read about the history of Baccarat.