The Basics of Baccarat


Baccarat, that elegant casino game favored by Sean Connery in the James Bond movies, is slowly becoming one of the most popular table games in American casinos. The casino game, once played for high stakes by high rollers in private rooms tucked away from the main floor, is now available at regular tables with lower minimums than blackjack. Baccarat’s simple rules and low house edge (1.2 percent on banker and player bets) have made the game a favorite of players and casino managers.

In a game of baccarat, players place their bets on whether the Player hand, the Banker hand or a tie will win. Once the bets are placed, two cards are dealt to both the Player and Banker hands. If either of the hands has a total closest to nine, it wins the round. Sometimes, a third card may be drawn for the Banker or Player hand if the original total is too close to nine. The banker must follow a set of rules to decide when to draw a card and when to stand. These decisions are based on the banker’s knowledge of both the Player and Banker’s second cards, plus the fact that they have not been exposed yet. These decision tables represent the best basic strategy for both the Player and Banker with this limited information.

When a hand is finished, the score is determined by counting the value of the cards, only taking the rightmost digit into account. A pair of tens makes 16 points and a seven and eight make 15 points. The maximum score is 9. A player can also place a bet called the Super Six Bet, which pays out 12x the original bet amount if the first two cards are a Banker or Player pair.

There is a third bet, called the Tie, which pays off eight to one if either the Banker or Player hand wins. The Tie bet has a higher house edge than the banker or player bets, so intelligent players avoid it altogether.

The introduction of commission-free baccarat and mini-baccarat made the game much more accessible to mass casino players. It was a big change, but it didn’t alter the base game of baccarat. “It added volatility in a really smart way that kept the game looking like baccarat,” Snow says. It also introduced electronic displays that show all the trend information once recorded on paper and bead plates.

The electronic displays can be connected directly to automatic shoe reading systems so they can display the full suite of trend information instantly without any effort on the part of dealers. This streamlined the process of the game, which had previously been a ritualistic and slow-moving affair that required special rooms for high stakes play. These new electronic displays were quickly adopted by the industry and today are considered standard in most casinos.