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HOW TO PLAY: Baccarat

Baccarat is actually fairly easy to play, both on-site in casinos and online.

James Bond made baccarat cool in the 1960s. But, the game remains mysterious to many players, likely because of its reputation for being complicated. Baccarat is actually fairly easy to play, both on-site in casinos and online. It takes no skill and requires no decisions after you place your bet.

Baccarat is one of the most popular games for risk-takers in the casino because it has the lowest house edge off all the games: 1.06% on the Banker bet and 1.24% on the Player bet. Although the game was invented in Italy and popularized in France, it is a favorite of Asian gamblers. In Macau, 95 percent of the tables on the floors of the large casinos are baccarat games.

How to Play Baccarat

Baccarat tables have evolved greatly over the past 20 years. Where tables once featured 14 positions (seven numbered seats) on each side of an oblong table, today, they are mostly a blackjack-sized table with 6-7 positions. Unless you’re playing a high-limit game, players are not allowed to touch the cards.

Here’s an overview of the game:

  • You can bet on the Player, the Banker or a Tie.
  • Two cards are dealt to both the Player and Banker.
  • The dealer, which may be a player in a high-limit game, but most frequently the casino dealer, slides one card out and places it face up in the Player’s box.
  • The next card (the first for the Banker) is placed in the Banker’s box.
  • The house then deals another Player card, and then the second Banker card.

All cards are worth their face value. The exceptions are 10s and face cards, which are worth zero points, and aces, which are worth one point. If the total exceeds 10, the second digit is the hand’s value. (For example, if you get a 9 and a 6, totaling 15, it’s a five-point hand.)

To win, the bet must be on the hand that totals the closest to 9. If there’s a Tie, neither hand wins or loses. The third-card rules are a bit complicated, but the player doesn’t need to know them because there are no options on whether or not to take a third card. The game proceeds according to these pre-set rules.

Winning hands are paid even money and Ties pay 8-1 if you bet them. In a standard baccarat game, however, the winning Banker bets owe the house a 5% commission. That commission is owed to the house because there is a slight advantage to the Banker wager as a result of the way the rules are set up. For example, if you win a $20 Banker bet, you owe the house a $1 commission. The dealers will keep track of the commission and you are required to pay it when the shoe is emptied. A Player win pays no commission.

However, there are no-commission baccarat games where both the Banker and the Player are paid even money without any commission being charged. There are various rule changes that make up for that bank advantage.

The most widely used version of commission-free baccarat takes one specific event—Banker winning with a three-card total of 7 points—and makes it a push. The second-most widely used version takes another specific event—Banker winning with a point total of 6—and pays it 1 to 2. While both methodologies result in similar house advantages, the former is considerably faster, because when that three-card 7 comes along, the dealer doesn’t have to give chips to anyone, let alone go around the table to make an awkward 50 percent payout.

The commission-free baccarat, however, raises the house edge to 1.46%.

Online Baccarat

Baccarat is not as prevalent at online casinos as other cards games, but players interested in the game will find it at many real-money and social online casinos. Here a few things to know about playing baccarat online:

  • Like in brick-and-mortar casinos, legal online baccarat offers the highest possible score of 9, and the lowest of 0.
  • Players are only responsible for placing bets. This simplicity makes it well suited for online play.
  • Playing online can be less intimidating and distracting because there are no physical casino personnel or fellow players.
  • Most of the online baccarat games are no-commission games since taking a commission from a winning bet would be unwieldy, especially with the often odd amounts bet online.
  • There are sometimes bonus payouts at online baccarat games for certain hands. For example, the popular EZ Bacc brand—available at several online casinos in New Jersey—has a “Dragon” bet that pays 40-1 when the Banker hand wins with a three-card total of 7. There are other bets for other totals that pay similar bonuses.

Baccarat Promotions and More

Legal online casinos offer baccarat, and individual online casinos also offer promotions, bonuses, free play, deposit matches and more. sportsquare.com features all the best sign-up promotions in one place. Click on the links for each casino to see the top sign-up bonuses offered today.

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