The astonishing popularity of baccarat in Asia has turned the casino game into a monster, with turnover dwarfing that of all other table games.
Casinos live and die by their baccarat results, while the low house edge makes it a firm favourite among high-rollers from China and elsewhere.
It has been estimated that in the gambling mecca of Macau, one of the special administrative regions of China, more than 80 per cent of casino floor space is dedicated to baccarat. Hundreds of millions of yuan are won and lost there every week.
Looking on, baccarat tables can seem a riot of action, with plenty of card squeezing, blowing on the cards and urging on from fellow players.
It can seem daunting, but the truth is it is a simple game and one in which skill plays little part.
Why is baccarat so popular?
James Bond loves it, so it should be good enough for the rest of us, right?
But the most compelling reason to play baccarat for real money online or at a bricks-and-mortar casino is the low house edge.
You are basically betting on flip-of-the-coin odds. To be more precise, in your standard game of baccarat, using an eight-deck shoe, the house edges are as follows: banker bet 1.06%; player bet 1.24%; tie 14.36%.
It’s not just Macau where baccarat is beloved. It is also enormously popular online, both the games powered by random number generators and live-dealer versions which are becoming more frequently available.
Short history and how to play baccarat
Baccarat is believed to be derived from a dice game and, depending on who you believe, flourished in Italy or France around 800 years ago.
The word baccarat itself is taken from the Italian baccaro meaning zero, though others will argue it is from a French dialect and means bankrupt!
The game was popular among France’s elite, though at various times was outlawed there along with all form of gambling.
In the 1800s the game arrived with immigrants to the United States, though it did not really capture the imagination there until Las Vegas became the centre of the gambling world.
How to play
Baccarat is a banker v player game in which player and banker receive a minimum of two cards and the object is to get as close to a total of nine as possible, without exceeding that number.
Each coup begins with interested parties placing wagers on one of three options: a banker win (banco), player win (punto) or tie (stand-off), though we cannot recommend the latter as it hands a hefty house edge to the casino.
After betting is complete, the dealer will give two cards each to the player and banker.
Aces have a value of one; picture cards and 10s are worth zero, and the numbered cards their face value. For example, a four and a king would give you a total of four.
The dream result is a total of eight or nine with your first two cards, which is know as a “natural’’. An eight or nine tally for either player or banker ends the hand.
If neither player nor banker has a natural, the drawing rules come into play, whereby under certain circumstances player and banker will draw a third card.
Player’s drawing rules
These are quite simple: player stands on 6-7 or draws a third card when the two-card total is zero to 5.
Banker’s drawing rules
If the player did not draw a third card, banker follows the same rules as the player: stand on 6-7, draw a card on 0-5.
If the player drew a third card the following rules apply for the banker. (The figures on the left of each line indicate the banker’s two-card score).
0-2 Banker will always hit
3 Banker hits unless the player’s third card was an 8
4 Banker hits if the player’s third card was 2-7
5 Banker hits if the player’s third card was 4-7
6 Banker hits if the player’s third card was 6-7
7 Banker always stands.
After this exchange the scores are compared and the higher score wins, or it is a tie (standoff). Banker win pays even money less 5% commission. Player wins pays even money. The tie generally pays 8-1.
The three types of baccarat
There are three main types of baccarat widely played nowadays, with most differences revolving around how the cards are dealt and the fact punto banco is a game of chance and there is some player skill involved in the others.
Punto Banco: Also known as North American baccarat, this is the most widely played online and at land-based casinos in New Zealand, the United States, Asia and Australia. It is also popular in Europe. The casino plays banker in this version.
Chemin-de-fer: This is French for “railway” and the game is often referred to as “chemmy”. It still rules the roost in European casinos. Here the banker puts up their own money and has more flexibility when it comes to the third-card rules.
Baccarat banque: Also common in Europe and the big difference is that there are two player hands dealt as well as the one for banker. And participants can bet on either or both of the player hands but not the banker hand.
Baccarat live-dealer options for Kiwi players
If you can’t bring yourself to trust online baccarat powered by random number generators or simply want a more authentic casino experience, live dealer may be the solution.
At our recommended casinos you will find live dealer games, with attractive females and males based in respected foreign jurisdictions delivering the cards.
The live dealer versions of baccarat will often have table limits far in excess of what is available in the RNG games.
Leo Vegas is among the best operators and, for example, has table limits of $1-$100 on its Baccarat Pro, while you can bet up to $2000 per coup in its live-dealer baccarat offering.
Leo Vegas offers new players up to $700 in bonus bets. Join here now to start playing.