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Baccarat is one of the two most popular card-based casino games in history, and it beats out most other games combined in many Asian countries. Once considered exclusively for high roller action, it’s a game that has been brought to the masses thanks to its availability in online casinos.
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Introduction to Online Baccarat
Baccarat is actually the name of a group of different but similar games, but these days, most people know the game punto banco as Baccarat. Along these lines, you’ll find a few different styles of it online that all fall under the punto banco banner that are all referred to simply as Baccarat.
This is one of the few casino games where the social conventions that surround it are more complicated than the game itself, but when you play Baccarat online, you don’t have to worry about most of that. Instead, you can simply place your bets and enjoy the outcome, and if you prefer the social atmosphere that comes along with the game, there are tons of live dealer Baccarat tables available around the clock as well.
The History of Baccarat
For punto banco, the game we’ll be referring to as Baccarat here, the history of the game doesn’t run that deep. Its earliest appearances come from the 1800s in various gambling houses in Europe. However, other related games under the same banner have been seen as far back as the 1400s, so there’s definitely some history there as rule sets would change over time as the game spread from place to place.
The more recent history of the game over the past few decades is more interesting to most players. Baccarat used to be played primarily at very large tables that required three or more casino croupiers to operate the game. These games would be played in high roller-only areas, and it was very much a social event as much as it was about the gambling.
Because the games were kept at higher stakes almost exclusively, Baccarat gained a bit of an air of mystique and status to it, which was helped by its inclusion as the favorite game of fictional secret agent James Bond and its subsequent inclusion in several of the resulting novels and movies.
This was busted open in the mid-late 1990s as online casinos had their initial surge of popularity. For the first time, people could enjoy online Baccarat games no matter where they were located, even if they had never stepped foot inside of a land-based casino. This was the first time that low stakes Baccarat tables were made available on a large scale, and it’s something that contributed heavily to the current level of popularity of the game, particularly in the online sector.
Baccarat Game Procedure and Rules
One of the cool things about Baccarat, and something that very much contributes to its popularity, is that you can jump in and play with a fairly low house advantage even if you don’t know how the game actually works. The rules for how the game proceeds themselves aren’t incredibly complicated (with one key exception, see below), and they follow the basic structure that we’re going to outline here:
- All face cards count as 0 or 10 (it doesn’t matter which), all aces count as 1 and all other cards count as their given value.
- Players make their bets, and no matter how many players are at the table, two hands are dealt in front of the dealer. These are called the “banker” and the “player” hands, but the player can actually bet on either of them winning.
- A given procedure that we’ll cover below is followed to decide if the banker or player hands are given additional cards.
- The result is decided by the “ones” digit of the total of the cards in each hand. For example, a hand of 8-2-4 would add up to 14, but its score would be the “ones” digit of 4.
- All bets are resolved, and then bets are accepted for the next hand.
That all might said pretty simple, and it’s not incredibly complicated, but there’s a lot more to know to build on that basic structure.
The Available Wagers
Players have a choice of a number of different wagers before the hand is dealt. On the most basic level, you can place a wager on which of the two hands you think will win (or if there will be a tie), but it’s slightly more complicated than that.
Here is a list of the most popular available bets, though not all bet types will be available in every type of online Baccarat, and the pay schedules can vary:
- Player Bet – A player bet is a bet that the player hand wins. If it wins, you get paid out at even money. This is the most basic bet that there is in the game.
- Banker Bet – This is similar to the player bet except you’re betting that the banker hand wins instead. Because of the drawing procedure, the banker hand actually has slightly better odds to win. However, you’re only paid at 0.95:1 instead of 1:1 in most games to compensate.
- Tie Bet – A tie bet is a wager that the “ones” digit for each of the player and banker hands will be the same, resulting in a tie. Aside from the player and banker wagers, this is the only option usually guaranteed to be found in all Baccarat games. The payout for winning with a tie bet is usually 8:1, but it can be higher at some tables or with games from certain software providers.
- Pair Bet – A pair bet allows you to place a bet that one of the player or banker hands will initially be dealt with two cards of the same rank. You have to bet on one or the other hand with this wager since it doesn’t count for both, but it pays out at 10:1 at most tables. Some games will offer a bet that wins on a pair for either hand, but the payouts vary wildly since it’s a non-standard wager.
You’ll sometimes find side bets that play parallel to the normal wagers available above. These can be for things like a progressive jackpot pool or specific winnings based on different bonus combinations of cards. There is no standard set of options for these types of side bets, so it will simply vary based on where you’re playing.
How the Draws Are Handled to Each Hand
The actual procedure for how the draws are handled to each of the Baccarat hands isn’t something you actually need to know just to play the game, but it’s something that a lot of players like to know about, so we’ll break it down here. There is a series of steps followed to determine the result of the hand, and it starts like this:
- The dealer starts by giving two cards to each of the “spots” on the table for the banker and player hands.
- First, the dealer checks to see if either of the hands has a score of eight or nine. If so, the hands ends right then, and the bets are resolved.
- If not, then the dealer looks specifically at the player hand. If the player hand’s score is lower than six (aka five or lower), then one additional card is dealt to the player hand. No more cards will be dealt to the player hand afterwards.
- From here, the dealer looks at the banker hand. If the player hand only ended up with two cards, then the banker will draw an additional card with a total of five or less along similar lines.
- However, if the player was given a third card, then the banker is only given a third card under certain conditions determined by a complex decision matrix that includes the value of the player’s third card and the banker’s score. That matrix can change from game to game in some cases, but there is a standardized method that we’ll look at below.
- After this decision, there’s nothing else left to happen in the hand except for the bets to be reconciled to let the next hand begin.
So if the player receives a third card, the dealer will draw a third card to the banker hand under the following conditions:
- If the player’s third card was an eight, then the banker draws with totals of two or less.
- When the player’s third card is a face card, an ace or a nine, then the banker draws with a score of three or lower.
- Player third cards of two or three cause the banker to draw with a total of four and below.
- The banker draws with a score of five or lower when facing a player’s third card of four or five.
- Finally, a third player card of six or seven means that the banker will draw with six or less.
We’ll be the first to admit that these drawing rules are a bit complicated, but remember that you don’t have to know them to be able to enjoy the game. Moreover, they only come up in a small minority of hands anyway, so they’re usually a non-factor to begin with.
One of the things that can make online Baccarat games a bit weird is that the 95 percent commission rule on winning bets on the banker hand lead to really uneven win sizes. To combat this, you’ll often see commission-free rules that have the casino pay out 1:1 on a banker hand win.
To compensate for this, they’ll usually change something else about the game. A common example is to make some specific result a push when betting on the banker hand instead, but again, there’s no standardized approach for this. With that having been said, it is the driving force behind some of the most popular online Baccarat variants, which is something we’ll look at further in what follows.
There are a few different styles of Internet Baccarat tables and a few different ways to play other than the traditional online table. We’re going to look at a few of these variations here, what makes them stand out and what you should look for.
Live Dealer Baccarat
Live dealer Baccarat games are incredibly popular because they fully embrace the social atmosphere aspects of play that are at its overall core. You can chat with other players, chat with your dealer, tip your dealer and try to come together to find trends that might help you to ride a big winning wave.
Instead of having a virtual table in front of you with virtual cards being dealt and shuffled at random, the live dealer Baccarat tables put you in the middle of a live streamed, real-time play experience that combines the best of the land-based and online worlds. It’s generally considered by a lot of players to be the best way to enjoy Baccarat because of how important the social interaction is to the experience of the game as a whole, so we have to recommend that most fans of the game at least try it if they’re going to play online. This is especially true if you’re playing online Baccarat because you enjoyed it in a land-based capacity and wanted to continue playing on your own.
Most of the variations of Baccarat that we’re going to talk about here are primarily found within the live casino environment, and that’s something to keep in mind since it’s where many players will find the best experiences for the game.
We mentioned in our rules section that there are some styles of the game that have “no commission” styles of rules that put a banker win at 1:1. EZ Baccarat is a game that does that. In exchange for this increase in payout on winning banker bets, it becomes a push if the banker hand wins with three cards that make a score of seven.
EZ Baccarat often allows for one or both of a pair of the most popular side bets found in all of Baccarat: the Dragon 7 and the Panda 8. The Dragon 7 wins at a rate of 40:1 if the banker hand wins with three cards that create a total of seven. Likewise, the Panda 8 pays players at 25:1 if the player hand takes down a win with a score of eight created by a three-card hand.
If you find the Dragon 7 or Panda 8 side bets available in live dealer EZ Baccarat games online, then you should be aware that there are ways to card count these side bets to gain an edge over the casino if that’s the kind of thing that you enjoy looking into. This will exclusively be available in live dealer Baccarat games because you need there to be a shoe with some degree of penetration instead of the deck being shuffled after every hand like what happens with the usual online tables.
Super 6 Baccarat
Visionary iGaming is a live dealer software provider that offers a game they call Super 6 Baccarat, though you can also see it called Commission Free Baccarat, Nepal Baccarat or Punto Banco 2000 by other software providers just depending on where you’re playing.
What sets this variant apart is that it uses a commission free structure where the banker gets paid at 1:1. In exchange, winning with totals of six with the banker bet (no matter how many cards are used to get that score) pay at 1:2. For example, if you placed a bet of Ä10 and won with a score of six, then you would take down a profit of Ä5 instead of the usual Ä10 that you’d receive from an even money or 1:1 win.
Baccarat Strategy and House Advantage
In general, there is no way to get a consistent advantage over the house in the normal versions of Baccarat. However, there are some pretty simple ways to keep the house edge pretty low (lower than most slots or other casino games), and there are situations where you can get the advantage with a payout rate of more than 100 percent, particularly with exploitable side bets.
Basic Strategy for Baccarat Online
Almost all regular online tables for Baccarat use an eight-deck shoe that is shuffled after each hand. While this makes card counting opportunities impossible, it does create a straightforward environment where you can know the house edge on each possible betting option ahead of time with a high level of consistency.
The house edge for each of the four standard betting options with an eight-deck game are as follows:
- Banker Bet – 1.06 percent
- Player Bet – 1.24 percent
- Tie Bet* – 14.36 percent
- Pair Bet** – 10.36 percent
* This payout percentage assumes that the win on a tie bet is 8:1.
** This is for a pair bet on the banker hand or the player hand, not both.
It’s pretty easy to see that players should always stay away from the tie and pair bets and that the banker and player bets have some of the lowest house edges of any bet in the entire casino, particularly for games that don’t require complicated betting strategies. With that having been said, the difference between the banker and player bets are minimal, and switching between the two to have fun trying to guess which way the deck goes on that hand is a big part of the experience for most players.
Avoiding Banker Commission Problems in Online Baccarat
The banker bet is almost always your best option from a pure payout perspective at most online Baccarat tables. However, the 0:95:1 commission-based payout for this win can cause some problems because of rounding if you’re not careful.
One example of how this can hurt you is with the Baccarat game offered by Realtime Gaming. Winnings on the banker bet are rounded down to the nearest even quarter amount, so if you were to place a banker bet of $1 and win, you might expect your prize to be worth $0.95. However, that gets rounded down to $0.75 instead so that your payout can be given in quarters. This means your commission goes from 5 percent to an absolutely massive 25 percent.
You can avoid this in the RTG games by only placing banker bets in increments of $5. Other software providers online will do similar types of things, but the RTG example is one of the worst that we’ve ever seen, and we want to make sure that players are aware of it.
If you do play with the Realtime Gaming Baccarat software or some other software with a higher than usual banker bet commission because of rounding and want to play low stakes Baccarat, then you should go with the player bet instead.
Baccarat Card Counting
Players who are familiar with blackjack card counting may wonder if Baccarat can be beaten with a similar type of system. Standard Baccarat games online that shuffle the shoe after each hand can’t be played with any type of card counting at all because counting requires several hands to be played out of the same deck or shoe of cards before they are shuffled, so that eliminates everything but live dealer Baccarat players right out of the gate.
At live Baccarat tables, both online or in land-based casinos, it is possible to devise a card counting system that will let you know when the player has an advantage on either the player or banker bet. The problem with doing this, and the major difference between how this works for Baccarat and how it works for blackjack, is that implementing such a system at Baccarat tables doesn’t alert you to an advantage often enough to overcome the house advantage as a whole.
In short, Baccarat card counting simply cannot work out on a mathematical level in a way that gives the player an edge over the house.
However, there are certain side bets like the Panda 8 and the Dragon 7 from EZ Baccarat games that can be subject to card counting in live dealer games with enough shoe penetration (ie: enough hands are dealt from the same shoe before shuffling). It takes a lot of work and practice to get an edge, but it can be done.
Single-Deck Baccarat Games
Blackjack and Baccarat get a lot of comparisons because the games look similar on a superficial level, and there are some limited gameplay similarities. One of the things that a well-studied blackjack player might know is that a single-deck blackjack game has a lot of opportunity for players to get more strategic edges over the casino. Knowing that, it’s natural to wonder if some sort of similar edge can be had in Baccarat games that only use one deck.
Long story short: There’s no way to get an edge over the house in a single-deck Baccarat game with standard rules.
The house advantage for each of the four standard betting options will change a bit if there is only one deck. However, the banker and player bets stay almost exactly the same (1.01% and 1.29%, respectively, for reference), and the only major changes are that the tie and pair bets become much worse for the player and much better for the house.
Baccarat is so incredibly popular because it’s easy to learn how to play in a way that keeps the house advantage low and the payout rate high, but it also offers a really fun social atmosphere in live dealer games with players grouping together to try to guess correctly which way the next hand will go for either the banker or player. As a result, players often win together or lose together, and that’s the kind of thing that you don’t typically get from most other casino titles.