Often seen as more of a gambling and luck-based game than a skill-based one, baccarat is still a hugely popular card game and one that is played by card sharps and gamblers alike. Poker professional Phil Ivey was once reported to have won millions of dollars playing this game in a London card room, and it is the card game of choice for many other high rollers.
So just what makes this game so special, what are the rules and where can you play it?
Popular in casinos and played all over the world, baccarat comes in a number of variants, some of which are more skill-based than others. However, the baccarat you will find in the English speaking world is typically Punto Banco, a variation that is entirely luck based. Still, if you understand the game and can play it well, then you will increase your chances of winning, so there are still many players who fair better than others.
The basic rules of baccarat were established a long time ago, possibly as far back as the late 15th century when they were first noted in an Italian game known as baccara. This is where the card game baccarat originates.
Baccarat, like poker, assigns values to all cards used in the game, but these values are not the same as they are in poker. All cards have a points value, with numbers 2 through to 9 basing their value on the number shown on their face, ace scoring 1 and all other cards scoring zero. A hand is valued based on a unique system whereby the cards are added up and the score is taken from the digit that is the furthest right. So, whilst a hand that shows an ace, a 2 and a 3 would equal 6, based on the sum of all of these cards, a hand showing 5, 6 and 8 would score 9, because the actual score would be 19 and the digit furthest right is 9. Because of this scoring system, the highest possible score in a baccarat hand is 9.
Two hands are dealt and the goal of the player is to bet on which one will win. They can also bet on the game ending as a tie. The payoff for a win bet is even money, with the tie paying much more than that. The odds, of course, are not entirely 50/50, even when choosing which hand will win, because the possibility of a draw changes that.
In many online and offline casinos, the two hands being dealt are to a player and a banker. The player, and the other players around the table, decide whether they are betting on the banker or the player. This is where the name Punto Banco comes from, as this is French for “Player Banker”, and in many games you will actually see the words “Punto” or “Banco” as opposed to “Player” or “Banker”. Because of this betting strategy, baccarat is a game that entices bets even from those players who haven’t been dealt into the hand, making it very much like Craps, albeit usually without the added shouting and excitement.
Baccarat is all about luck, so there are no real ways that you can beat the house. However, it does pay to understand the game. You should also bankroll effectively, because in a game of chance like this it is very easy to get carried away and to lose a lot of money in a very short space of time. So, if you’re hoping to play long-term, then make sure you have set yourself a budget, make sure you have limits in place. You should also keep track of how much money you are winning and losing.
As far as betting strategy goes, try to focus on the simple bets, taking the even money. If you lose a number of hands in a row then do not start increasing your stake and betting on standoffs or ties, because whilst one lucky win might return your losses, it’s much more likely that you’ll just end up deeper in a hole. Only opt for these bets when your luck is in, when you can afford to take a few risks because you’re well and truly in the black. And when you do, be sure to decrease your stake slightly, accounting for the bigger odds.
Where to Play
With a loyalty scheme, some big bonuses and some of the best security around, Royal Vegas Casino cannot be beaten when it comes to online baccarat. Created by Microgaming, the baccarat game on Royal Vegas is perfect for small stake players and for high rollers, and there is also plenty of play through hints if you are new to the game and looking for some advice. The house edge is also one of the lowest you will find, which ensures a decent return.