Baccarat Guide: A Low-Edge Casino Game That’s Easy to Learn
Are you looking for a fair casino game?
Good luck – they don’t exist. However, a few games come close.
One of those games is baccarat. It has one of the lowest house edges in the casino.
Baccarat is a popular casino table game that first appeared in 19th century France. Baccarat chemin de fer is the original version. It’s also known as baccarat banque and punto banco.
Despite its popularity and low house edge, many people avoid learning how to play baccarat because they think it’s a difficult game to learn.
But that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Baccarat’s an easy game to learn. In fact, you could make the argument that baccarat’s easier to learn than blackjack. If anything, it’s because there’s little to no decision making or strategy involved in baccarat, whereas blackjack is the complete opposite.
You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Just read the next section and see for yourself.
How to Play Casino Baccarat
Baccarat’s a relatively easy game to learn.
The object of the game is to bet on who you think will have the best hand – the banker or the player. Or you can bet on whether you think they’ll tie. You can also bet on any two or all three of these outcomes.
Here’s what a sample hand will look like:
You and anyone else playing will place your bet(s). You can bet on the banker, player, tie, or any combination of those three options.
Once the bets are made, the croupier will deal two hands – one for the player, and another for the banker.
The player hand is dealt with first. The dealer gives it a point value so he can decide whether you’re given a third card or not.
That’s based on the value of your hand, which is based on the following values assigned to each card:
- 10, J, Q, K = 0
- 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 = face value
- Jokers = not used
- Aces = 1
- Suits = doesn’t matter
The highest score possible is nine points.
Whenever you have two cards that make a higher (double-digit) score, only the right digit is used.
For example, say you’re dealt two 6s for a total of twelve points. Only the furthest right digit – the two – is used. Your score is two points.
Here are more examples. On the left is the actual (double-digit) value of your hand. On the right is what your score will actually be once the left digit is dropped.
- 11 = 1 point
- 12 = 2 points
- 13 = 3 points
- 14 = 4 points
- 15 = 5 points
- 16 = 6 points
- 17 = 7 points
- 18 = 8 points
Once there’s a point value assigned, a third card may or may not be dealt. In punto banco baccarat, this is determined by the croupier and done automatically (based on somewhat complicated rules).
Don’t worry; there’s no need to panic. We list the rules for both the player and banker below. But you don’t need to memorize them because whether you play online or off, the croupier or software will do it all for you.
But it’s a good idea to have a vague understanding so you know what’s going on and why so you’re not confused about why sometimes you’re dealt a third card and other times you’re not.
Here’s what happens based on the value of your hand:
- 0-5 – The player draws another card.
- 6-7 – The player stands.
- 8-9 (natural) – The player stands.
Once the player hand is dealt with, the dealer is next. Here’s what happens based on the total of their hand:
- 1-2 – Draws another card (no matter the player hand).
- 3 – Draws another card when the player hand is 1-7 or 9-10, and always stands on player 8.
- 4 – Draws when player’s hand is 2-7 and always stands on player 1 or 8-10.
- 5 – Draws when player’s hand is 4-7 and always stands on player 1-3 or 8-10.
- 6 – Draws when player’s hand is 6-7 and always stands on player 1-5 or 8-10.
- 7 – Stands (no matter the player hand).
- 8 or 9 (natural) – Stands (no matter the player hand).
Once both hands are done, they’re compared. You’ll win the hand if you:
- Bet on the tie and both the player and banker tie. This pays 8:1 or 9:1, depending on the casino. That means that for every $1 you bet, you’ll receive your $1 back PLUS an additional $8 or $9.
- Bet on the player and that hand wins. This pays even money. That means for every $1 you bet, you’ll receive your original $1 back PLUS an additional $1.
- Bet on banker and that hand wins. This pays 0.95:1. That means that for every $1 you bet, you’ll receive your original $1 back PLUS an extra $0.95. That’s because the casino takes a 5% commission on banker bets.
Bet on the wrong outcome, and you lose.
Then the money’s collected and/or paid out. Then another round starts.
That’s all there is to playing punto banco baccarat. There’s no strategy and no decision making. So this variation is easy to learn and play.
But there are other variations, including variants where you do make decisions. Let’s look at those now.
There are many different baccarat variations, including the three core games, additional variants, and side bets. The first list covers the most popular variations you’ll find and what makes them unique. After that, we list the most common side bets.
- Baccarat Chemin De Fer
- This is the original version of baccarat and the most popular variation in France. This is the version used in the James Bond books. One player is designated as the banker and will deal. The banker will need to be able to cover all the bets made. The role passes counterclockwise around the table, giving everyone the opportunity to be the banker.
What’s unique about this variation is that when there’s an opportunity to receive a third card, it’s up to the player and banker to decide to accept or decline it. This is the only opportunity for any “strategy.”
- Baccarat Banque
- In this version, the banker only continues as long as he’s winning. Once he loses, the position is passed to another player.
What’s unique about this is that three hands are dealt – one to the first player on his right, one to the second player on his left, and then a third to himself. Each hand represents that side – the dealer, the left side (five players) and the right side (five players).
From here, the remaining rules – including whether to accept or decline a third card – are the same as baccarat chemin de fer.
- EZ Baccarat
- This is identical to classic baccarat, with one exception: winning banker bets are paid even money (1:1) instead of 19:20, except for when it wins with a three-card point total of seven points. Then it’s a push or barred hand. This changes the house edge from 1.06% to 1.018% (for the banker). This rule is the same as the casino taking a 4.912% commission instead of 5%.
- Super 6/Punto 2000
- Even money is paid on winning banker bets (instead of 95%). The exception is when the banker wins with a 6 – in this case it’s paid 50% of the bet. The house edge is 1.46% compared to the standard 1.06%.
- Mini Baccarat
- This is a smaller, lower-stakes version of punto banco baccarat. The biggest difference is that it’s usually played at lower limits. Players also don’t pick up the cards.
- Midi Baccarat
- This is identical to mini baccarat, except the size of the table is larger. It’s also usually found in high-limit rooms instead of on the casino floor.
That’s it for variations. However, you’ll also find baccarat games with different rules depending on where you play. Here are some of the different rules you’ll find:
- Liberal Banker Rules
- Liberal Player Rules
- Liberal Tie Rules
- Three Card Baccarat
- 2-to-1 Baccarat
- 7 Up Baccarat
- Power Baccarat 98
- Double Fortune Baccarat
- Dragon Tiger
- Chemin de Fer
Baccarat Side Bets
Here are some of the most common baccarat side bets:
- Dragon 7
- Found in EZ baccarat. This pays 40:1 if the banker gets a winning three-card 7. This has a 7.61% house edge.
- Panda 8
- Found in EZ baccarat. This pays 25:1 if the player gets a winning three-card 8. This has a 10.19% house edge.
- Royal Match
- Reportedly offered in some London casinos. This is a bet on the player or banker getting a king and queen in the first two cards. This pays 75:1 for a suited king/queen and 30:1 for off-suit. This has a 2.13% house edge.
- Bellagio Match
- A game where multiple players play against an animated dealer. This bet pays 75:1 on a player three of a kind and 68:1 for the banker. This has a 5.27% house edge for the player and 8.57% house edge for the banker.
- Dragon Bonus
- A side bet most often offered in mini baccarat. The payout depends on what you “win by,” with a win by 9 paying 30:1 (the max). This has a 2.65% house edge on the player and 9.37% house edge on the banker.
- This is a side bet (rumored) to be seen/played in Atlantic City. There are three bets available on the total value for each hand. 4 pays 3:2, and 5 and 6 pay 2:1.
- Big and Small
- This is found at online casinos using Playtech software. This is the same as the 4-5-6 bet – a “small” pays 3:2 if the total player and banker cards equal 4. The “big” pays if the total equals 5 or 6. The house edge is 5.27% for the small and 4.35% for the big.
- Either Pair
- Found at casinos using Playtech software. This pays if the first two cards (for either the player or banker) form a pair. This pays 5:1.
- Perfect Pair
- Found at casinos using Playtech software. This pays if the first two cards (for either player or banker) form a suited pair. This pays 25:1.
- Lucky Bonus
- Found at commission-free baccarat games at the Pala Casino in California. This pays 18:1 if the banker gets a winning 6. This has a player advantage of 2.34%.
But due to the player advantage, you cannot bet more than 10% of your banker bet on the Lucky Bonus. Between both bets (banker and Lucky Bonus), the combined house edge is 1.11%. This is pretty good considering it’s not much more than the standard house edge for a side bet.
- Three-Card Six
- Found in the same games at Pala Casino. This pays 100:1 if both the player and banker get a three-card 6. It pays 8:1 if only one does. It loses otherwise. This has a 13.37% house edge.
- Super 6
- Found in UK casinos and some (online) live dealer casinos. This pays 12:1 on a winning banker total of 6. This has a MASSIVE 29.98% house edge. This is one bet you probably want to avoid.
- Color in Majority
- Available at some live dealer casinos online. This pays when one color is the majority. The payouts are 1.5:1 for red cards, 1.53:1 for blackjack, and 2.87:1 for equal of both.
- All Red/Black
- This is also available at live dealer casinos. This is the same bet as above, except you want the cards to be all red – which pays 22:1 – or all black – which pays 24:1.
- First Two Banker/Player Cards Same Suit
- This is available at live dealer casinos. This pays if the first two player or banker cards are the same suit and pays 2.87:1 (player) or 2.86:1 (banker). The house edge is 3.95% for the banker and 4.20% for the player.
- Total Points Over/Under 9.5
- This is available at live dealer casinos. It pays on the sum of the final player and banker points, and is sort of like an over/under sports bet. If both hands are under 9.5 points, the bet pays 1.23:1. If both hands total over 9.5 points, the bet pays .66:1.
- Total Points Odd/Even
- Also available at live dealer casinos. This pays on the sum of both the player and banker points being odd or even. If the total is odd, the bet pays .92:1. If the total is even, it pays .91:1.
- Matching Dragon
- This is a side bet found in Macau. There are actually thirteen bets, one for each rank. The player is paid based on the number of cards of the chosen rank that appear in the net hand. It doesn’t matter how many cards are dealt the next hand (4-6).
Here are the payouts:
|Matching Cards||Pay Table|
Consider the following hands:
Player: Q22 Banker: KQ2
A bet on a 2 would have paid 20:1 for three 2s, Q 3:1 for two queens, K 1:1 for one king, and the other ten bets would have lost.
Found at the Palace Casino in La Center, Washington. This pays on various outcomes where the player and/or banker have a total of 8.
- Double suited three-card 8 – Both the dealer and player have a suited three-card 8. The suits don’t have to be the same. This pays 200:1.
- Suited three-card 8 – Only the dealer or banker have a suited three-card 8. This pays 25:1.
- Double 8 – Both the dealer and player have eight points. This pays 15:1.
- Unlucky 8 – The chosen hand (player or banker) has a losing total of eight points. This pays 8:1.
- Lucky 8 – The chosen hand (player or banker) has a winning total of eight points. This pays 4:1.
This has a 13.65% house edge (player) or 16.60% house edge (banker).
Found in Las Vegas. This pays:
- Suited three-of-a-kind | 500:1
- Unsuited three-of-a-kind | 50:1
- Suited pair | 15:1 – Based on first two cards only.
- Unsuited pair | 7:1 – Based on first two cards only.
This has an 8.07% house edge (player) or 9.31% house edge (banker).
This is based on the combined total of the player and banker points. If the combined points are:
- 0 – It pays 50:1
- 18 – It pays 25:1
- 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 17 – It pays 1:1
- 4 to 14 – It loses.
This has an 8.155% house edge.
Those are the most common side bets you’ll find. Now let’s look at playing baccarat online and what you should expect.
Playing Baccarat Online
Playing baccarat online is a little different than playing it live.
For one thing, you won’t have the chance to be the dealer, because you’ll be playing the punto banco variant.
In fact, for most online games, you won’t have a dealer at all. The casino’s software will handle all that, except for live dealer baccarat.
Most punto banco games are straightforward. Some will pay 9:1 on ties. Others will pay 8:1. Some offer commission-free games. Others don’t. Some call it punto banco. Others call it baccarat.
Betting limits will vary, though. Most online casinos start stakes at $1. From there, you’ll find limits that range from $100 to $250 to $500 per hand. Depending on the casino, though, you can find limits that exceed $1,000. Pinnacle is one of those casinos – they offer limits as high as $5,000/hand.
One thing that makes these games unique is the dealers. They come from different backgrounds, ranging from European to Asian countries. There are different themes, too, such as dealers wearing Playboy costumes.
Live dealer games tend to have higher stakes because they have more overhead. That’s not always the case, though. Stakes can vary wildly from $1 to as much as $75,000. Some even offer side bets and commission-free games, too. You can see a list of live dealer baccarat options here.
And though it depends on where you play, you can find baccarat for your mobile device. Some casinos, especially ones with smaller selections of mobile games, won’t have it. But if you stick to larger casinos like Bet365, you’ll find it.
One other thing – another unique aspect of online gambling is that most casinos offer bonuses. However, since baccarat’s a low-edge game, you’re going to find that most casinos will either not let you participate in their bonuses, or they’ll severely handicap the offer.
We’ll give you an example:
888Casino.com offers a 100% match bonus up to $200. This means that for every dollar you deposit, they’ll give you an additional dollar. You can receive as much as $200, for a total of $400.
To be able to keep and eventually cash out that dollar, you’ll need to wager so much money. Casinos call this “rollover” or “playthrough requirements.” The exact amount you’ll need to wager depends on the casino, offer, and games you’re playing
Slots have the lowest playthrough since they have the highest house edge. But we want to play baccarat, which has a lower house edge.
And at 888Casino.com – and most other online casinos – if you want to play baccarat while clearing a deposit bonus, your wagers will count less than wagers made on slots. In 888 Casino’s case, your wagers will count as only 10% of what a slots wager will.
So say you’re supposed to wager 50x for slots. Here’s what that looks like for baccarat players:
- Slots = 100% or 50x rollover
- Baccarat = 10% or 500x rollover
A big difference, right?
And that’s BEFORE you can request a cash-out.
You’ll have to decide if that’s worth it before you make a deposit. And for most players, it won’t be.
How to Win at Baccarat: Strategy and Systems
There’s no way to win at or beat baccarat. Not really.
Brick-and-mortar casinos give you score cords and pencils you can use to keep track of the outcome of every hand. Online, they have what looks like a (live) keno scoreboard that tells you the outcome of the last several hands.
Players will track these religiously. They look for patterns like “big road,” “bead road,” “big eye road,” “small road,” and “cockroach road.”
However, experts say that this is a waste of time – that there’s really no way to gain an edge over the casino. Card counting doesn’t work, either.
And according to Jim Thorp (a known gambling analyst, blackjack player, and author):
Betting systems don’t work, either. Many players will use the popular Martingale betting system. This strategy may be somewhat effective because the likelihood of you losing six to ten or more hands in a row is rare. However, this or any other type of negative or positive progressive betting system won’t help you beat the casino. If anything, it’ll help you lose your money faster.
Nope, none of it works. The biggest advantages you’ll find are in borderline tactics like edge sorting. Some consider this cheating. Others don’t. We talk more about it in the following section.
Other than that, there’s not a ton you can do gain an edge at baccarat, other than maybe make a few wise decisions. Here are some tips for what you can do or do better than your peers:
- The banker bet is the best one you can make. It has the lowest house edge (1.06%). Therefore, this is where you’ll make the most or the lose the least.
- Don’t bet on a tie. We want to emphasize this, as it has a 14% edge, which is a relatively terrible edge – one that’s on par with some slot machines.
- Skip the progressive jackpots or side bets. Many of these have large house edges, like 3-5x what the standard (1.06%) house edge is.
- Skip commission-free baccarat. Based on the more than six different games we found, the house edge (for banker bets) was always 0.25% to .50% higher, if not more, than the normal 1.06% house edge.
- Find a casino that allows you to play baccarat to clear their bonus AND doesn’t handicap you (too severely) relative to their normal rollover requirements. Between that and simple cash-back programs, this is really the only way to “beat” the casinos…IF you run good.
- Find baccarat games with smaller shoes. By joining a six-deck game over an eight-deck game, you’ll only pay 4% commission on winning banker bets. This reduces the house edge to 0.50%.
Other standard casino “tips” also apply. You should only play what you can afford to lose. You should have a bankroll and/or stop-loss. And you shouldn’t chase your losses.
The bottom line is that gambling is a form of entertainment and baccarat’s no different. This is stuff you should know already.
One final thing: please don’t buy “systems” or other programs which guarantee to show you how to beat baccarat for a profit.
They claim to show you how you can consistently beat the casinos for $300+ per hour. And if you sign up today, you’ll also receive tips on how to beat keno. All for a measly $67.
If the $300/hour wasn’t a dead giveaway that you’d be wasting your money, the fact that you’d also get winning keno secrets should be.
These systems just don’t work. They probably don’t use the tips themselves, but instead make their money by preying on people stupid enough to buy them.
Cheating at Baccarat by Edge Sorting
The most common form of “cheating” in baccarat is edge sorting.
We put cheating in quotation marks because not everyone feels that edge sorting is cheating. Some people feel it’s fair since it’s a flaw or mistake that the casino can look for and catch, but didn’t.
Edge sorting is a tactic where you look for subtle and intentional differences on the backs of playing cards, and then figure out whether they’re a high or low card.
Once the player figures this out, they’ll ask the dealer to flip the cards around (rotate them 180 degrees) so all low cards face one way, while high cards face the other. They say it brings them luck.
Edge sorters will also ask the dealer to use an automatic shuffler, as it doesn’t rotate the cards 180 degrees like manually shuffling will. That way the low/high cards are in the same position.
Players who pull this off can gain a big statistical edge over the casino, even in a game where there’s usually no advantage to be found.
Phil Ivey, a popular high-stakes poker player, is one example of someone who used edge sorting to gain an edge. In 2012, Ivey and an accomplice won $9.6 million USD playing baccarat at the Borgata. The Borgata filed a lawsuit against Ivey in 2014 for his winnings.
Also in 2012, he reportedly won $11 million USD playing punto banco at Crockfords in London. Crockfords refunded his $1 million stake and agreed to send him his winnings. When they later refused, Ivey sued for payment. He lost the case in the UK High Court.
The UK High Court ruled that edge sorting is cheating in civil law and that casinos are justified in refusing players their payment.
While Ivey thought he gained an edge fairly, since the casino easily could’ve protected themselves, the judge said that Ivey used the croupier to gain an edge, rather than simply finding an error or anomaly.
It’s a small difference, but it’s enough of a difference to where Ivey wasn’t getting paid. Not yet, anyway.
It was reported at the end of 2015 that Ivey was given permission to appeal his case after a judge ruled that his case “raises an important question of law and has ‘a real prospect of success.’”
Instead, we’ll tell you that if you use edge sorting, you do so at your own risk.
That’s baccarat in a nutshell.
The rest is out of your hands – at least for punto banco. The only reason to understand the other stuff is so you know what’s going on, can follow along – which is where all the excitement will come from – and so you’re not confused as to why you were paid or not.
That’s why it’s sort of funny to us how people mistake this for a hard game to learn. If anything, it’s one of the easiest and most hands-off casino games out there, between the lack of decision and strategy.
If you’re into that sort of thing – a game where you can place your bets, relax, and enjoy the lower house edge – then you should give baccarat a shot. Because few other casino games can say the same thing.