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. However, 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 it’s a seemingly 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’s the complete opposite.
You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Just read the next section and see for yourself.
Most casinos offer punto banco as their baccarat game. So that’s the game we’ll explain the rules for below. We cover additional variations and side bets later on in this guide.
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 3 options.
Once the bets are made, the croupier will deal 2 hands – one for the player, and another for the banker.
The player hand’s dealt with first. The dealer gives it a point value so he can decide whether you’re given a 3rd card or not.
That’s based on the value of your hand. Which is based on the following values assigned to each card:
The highest score possible is 9 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 6’s for a total of 12 points. Only the furthest right digit – the 2 – is used. Your score is 2 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.
Once there’s a point value assigned, a 3rd 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 even a vague understanding so you know what’s going on and why. So you’re not confused about why sometimes you’re dealt a 3rd card, and other times you’re not.
Here’s what happens based on the value of your hand:
Once the player hand’s dealt with, the dealer’s next. Here’s what happens based on the total of their hand:
Once both hands are done, they’re compared. You’ll win the hand if you:
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, 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 3 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.
The original version of baccarat and the most popular variation in France. This is the version used in the James Bond books. One player’s designated 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 when there’s an opportunity to receive a 3rd card, it’s up to the player and banker to decide to accept or decline it. This is the only opportunity for any ‘strategy’.
James Bond played baccarat chemin-de-fer in several books, including GoldenEye, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderbolt and Casino Royale. However, baccarat was swapped for Texas Holdem in the movie, Casino Royale, because poker’s popularity was skyrocketing at the time.
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 3 hands are dealt – one to the first player on his right, then one to the second player on his left, then a 3rd to himself. Each hand represents that side – the dealer, the left side (5 players) and the right side (5 players).
From here the remaining rules – including whether to accept or decline a 3rd card – is the same as Baccarat Chemin De Fer.
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 3-card point total of 7 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%.
Even money’s 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%.
This is a smaller, lower stakes version of punto banco baccarat. The biggest difference is it’s usually played at lower limits. Players also don’t pick up the cards.
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:
Here are some of the most common baccarat side bets.
Found in EZ baccarat. This pays 40:1 if the banker gets a winning 3-card 7. This has a 7.61% house edge.
Found in EZ baccarat. This pays 25:1 if the player gets a winning 3-card 8. This has a 10.19% house edge.
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.
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.
A side bet most often offered in mini baccarat. The payout depends on what you ‘Win by’, with 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 3 bets available on the total value for each hand. 4 pays 3:2, and 5 and 6 pays 2:1.
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 equals 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.
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.
Found at casinos using Playtech software. This pays if the first two cards (for either player or banker) forms a suited pair. This pays 25:1.
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.
Found in the same games at Pala Casino. This pays 100:1 if both the player and banker gets a 3-card six. It pays 8:1 if only one does. It loses otherwise. This has a 13.37% house edge.
Found in UK casinos and some (online) live dealer casinos. This pays 12:1 on a winning banker total of 6. This house a MASSIVE 29.98% house edge. This is one bet you probably want to avoid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a side bet found in Macau. There are actually 13 bets, one for each rank. The player’s paid based on the number of cards of the chosen rank that appears 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 to 1 for three twos, Q 3 to 1 for two queens, K 1 to 1 for one king, and the other 10 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.
This has a 13.65% house edge (player) or 16.60% house edge (banker).
Found in Las Vegas. This pays:
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:
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 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 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 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.
An interesting baccarat variant you’ll find online are live dealer baccarat games. These are games dealt by a real human dealer. Baccarat is one of the more common live options (as is blackjack and roulette).
One thing that makes these games unique are 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, since 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. And it looks like some offer side bets and no commission 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 to 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.
To be able to keep and eventually cash out that dollar, you’ll need to wager so much money. Casinos call this rollover or play through 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:
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.
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 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 6-10+ 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.
The WizardOfOdds.com mentions multiple times how negative or progressive betting systems DO NOT change your odds of winning at baccarat. He also shows why betting systems are flawed (in general).
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:
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 – gambling’s a form of entertainment; baccarat’s no different. This is stuff you already should know.
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 for 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.
Not unless you cheat.
The most common form of ‘cheating’ in baccarat is edge sorting.
We put cheating in quotation marks because not everyone feels edge sorting is cheating. Some people feel it’s fair since it’s a flaw or mistake 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 figuring 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 find an error or anomaly.
It’s a small difference, but it’s enough of a difference to where Ivey’s not 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 you use edge sorting 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.