Learn baccarat for beginners
With its low house edge, and no real skill needed for playing, baccarat is an incredibly popular game in both online casinos and brick and mortar gaming venues. Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to play baccarat, from different baccarat rules to how you can wager on hands, and everything in between.
How to play baccarat
The big question of the day: how do you play baccarat?
Although different variations of baccarat have some minor rule changes, the main objective of the game generally remains the same: bet on the hand that’s closest to nine. But, beyond picking the hand they want to bet on, the player doesn’t actually have to do much in baccarat. How to play:
Find a game
When you’ve signed up with a suitable baccarat casino, you can load up a (once you know how to play!) baccarat table and get ready to enjoy the action of the game.
Place your bet(s)
Next it’s time to decide how much you’d like to wager and place a bet on the banker hand, player hand, or the tie (as well as any side bets that are calling your name).
The cards are dealt
The player and the banker hand will each receive two cards. Those numbered 2-9 are worth the value on the card, Aces are worth 1, and face cards are worth 0. Using these figures, each hand is given a value between 0 and 9.
More cards are (sometimes) dealt
Based on the value of each hand – more on this below – the player and/or the banker hand may receive a third card that will close out the round.
The winner is revealed
By totalling the score of each hand, eliminating the first digit of any double-digit hand values, we can see which hand has the value closest to nine. This hand wins, ending the round.
If any of the above sounds complicated, it’s worth pointing out that the player doesn’t have to calculate anything themselves; all you need to worry about is picking the hand you want to bet on. With that said, you might like to check out our free baccarat page to use practice mode and familiarize yourself with the rules of baccarat outlined on this page.
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How baccarat hands, cards, and points work
There are two hands in play when using standard baccarat game rules: player and banker. The player can actually bet on either hand. A win on the player hand will pay out 1:1, while a bet on the banker hand, due to slightly better odds, will cost you a 5% commission from your winnings. Despite that, many players still swear by the banker bet.
Baccarat hand values
Once bets have been placed, both hands receive two cards. Any card between 2 and 9 is worth the value shown on the card, aces are worth 1, and face cards count for 0. Based on these figures, a hand is worth between 0 and 9. For hands worth 10 or more the first digit is ignored. So hands of 16 and 23 are worth six and three respectively.
In most variations of baccarat game rules, the player does not choose whether the player/banker hand receives a third card or not. On a total of eight or nine, the player hand will get no additional cards. The player hand also stands on totals of six or seven, and draws a third card on any total of five or under - unless the banker hand totals eight or nine.
Whether or not the banker hand receives a third card depends on the player’s third card. See the chart below, where S is stands and H is hits, for more information:
Baccarat hand chart
For baccarat betting, all you need to think about is whether to bet on the banker hand, player hand, or tie. With a house edge of more than 14%, many players choose to ignore the tie bet entirely. This makes the game pretty straightforward, although as a result many variants switch up the rules of baccarat gambling by offering a range of side bets, too.
These include everything from betting on the suit of cards in a hand – all red/all black, with a payout of 22:1 or 24:1 – to the Bellagio match – a 75:1 payout (or 68:1 on the banker hand) if a hand contains three cards of the same rank. There’s also the dragon bonus, a bet on a hand being a natural 8 or 9 and beating the other hand by a certain margin, which pays out up to 30:1.
As for whether or not side bets are “worth it”, that’s very subjective. They typically have a high house edge and may only hit very rarely, but if you put one on at the right time you’ll feel like the smartest gambler on the planet. We’d recommend using them with caution and only after you’re familiar with the game’s main bets.
Different variations of baccarat rules also help give the game a slightly different flavor. In European baccarat, for example, players can choose whether they want to stand or draw if the value of their hand is five. The banker can choose whether to draw a third card or not. Although European baccarat isn’t very common online, some software providers throw equivalent quirks like this one into their games.
Baccarat hints and tips for beginners
Our experts have shared their top five baccarat tips for beginners learning how to play for the first time.
- 1The banker hand has a lower house edge - This means it has better odds of winning. Just remember, however, that you’ll need to pay that 5% commission on any banker hand wins.
- 2Don’t rely on betting with, or against, streaks - The result of previous rounds has absolutely no bearing on future rounds, whatever the superstitious who live among us might argue.
- 3Beware of live dealer baccarat games - We say this not because live dealer games aren’t fun, but because players lose all control over how quickly they can play through a round.
- 4Consider practicing first - Try free baccarat games before you start using real money casinos, especially if you’re playing an unfamiliar variation of the game like 3-card baccarat or European baccarat.
- 5The tie bet has a high house edge - This means that it’s best avoided. Feel free to sprinkle it in if you have a hunch, but the odds of winning on it aren’t great!
Baccarat odds, house edge, & payouts
Baccarat’s house edge is much lower than that of both slots and many other table games. Your odds of winning, or at least making your bankroll last for a while, are higher than plenty of other options available in the casino.
But the house edge and odds of winning at baccarat can vary considerably depending on several factors. For punto banco, the house edge of betting on the player hand is 1.24% and the banker hand is 1.06%. The house edge of the tie bet is a high 14.4%.
In a single deck game, however, these numbers change to 1.29%, 1.01% and 15.75% respectively, and you might want to stick with the banker bet. Generally speaking, though, the number of decks used is unlikely to have much impact on any one session.
Elsewhere, in Dragon Tiger, players face a house edge of 3.73% on 1:1 payouts and a whopping 32.77% on the tie bet. In 3-card baccarat, you’ll see a house edge of 2.41% and 20.80% on the tie.
Some players are hesitant about wagering on the banker hand for one key reason: the 5% commission. No doubt, it can be frustrating to hand over your precious winnings to the casino…especially if you’ve already given them some of your hard-earned cash.
However, if you’re really lucky, you might be able to find 4%, 2.75%, or even 0% commission on banker bets in some versions of baccarat rules that will lower the game’s house edge even further.
Baccarat rules explained
It's pretty easy to learn the gameplay etiquette in baccarat and what you can and can't do with your cards and bets. Below, you can find a quick run down of the main baccarat game rules.
- 1Cards numbered 2 to 9 are worth their face value, e.g. 4 is worth four points
- 210s and face cards (Kings, Queens, Jacks) have a value of 0, Aces are worth 1
- 3Winning wagers are paid even money, minus a 5% commission on banker bets
- 4A winning bet on the tie pays 9:1 or 8:1 depending on the casino you’re using
- 5Depending on their values, the player and/or the banker hand may receive a third card
Baccarat odds vs. other games
Once you know the odds of baccarat, we can look at how they stack up against other games. So, let’s start by looking at the odds of the main bets in standard baccarat, when played with eight decks:
Baccarat odds vs. roulette
There are tons of different bets you can make at the online roulette table, from placing an even money bet through to wagering big on a single number. Let’s stick with talking about even bets like black vs. red, or odd vs. even.
In European roulette the odds of winning such a bet stand at 48.60%, compared with 47.4% in American roulette. Whichever version of roulette you’re playing, that means an even money bet has slightly better odds of victory than a comparable bet on a game of baccarat.
Baccarat odds vs. blackjack
Depending on the variant you’re playing, the base odds of winning a hand of blackjack are 42.22%. In other words, a few percentage points lower than a round of baccarat. That number can also vary depending on whether or not you’re using basic strategy and how many decks are in play.
Of course, it’s also worth observing that playing online blackjack games effectively requires knowledge of the best move to make depending on the hand you have in front of you. With baccarat, all you need to do is pick a hand to bet on, place your wager, and hit deal.
Baccarat odds vs. craps
Craps has a huge variety of bets available, which can make the game quite daunting to new players. The most popular bets in craps – Pass/Don’t Pass and Come/Don’t Come – are also the ones it makes the most sense to compare with betting on the player or banker in a round of baccarat.
Pass and Come bets have a house edge of 1.41%, while wagers on Don’t Pass and Don’t Come have a house edge of 1.36%. As you can see from the table above, that means all of these bets have a slightly more punishing house edge than either of the main bets most players make on baccarat.
Baccarat odds vs. poker
We could hit you with facts like the odds of landing a Royal Flush are almost 1 in 650,000 here, but that’s probably not particularly useful. It’s actually very difficult to nail down the odds of winning at poker because they can vary massively depending on a number of different factors.
In addition to the variant you’re playing, you also need to consider who you’re playing against and whether tells, bluffing, etc. will be a big factor in the game. Not to mention that playing poker effectively requires skill and knowledge of the game! You’d have to be very lucky to find yourself at a poker table where your odds of winning are as close to 50-50 as they are when playing baccarat.
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Term that stands for Bank or the House. Also refers to a wager made on the Banco hand – the hand that the dealer always bets on. This bet is slightly more likely to win than Punto, but requires a commission be paid. Even in spite of the commission, this is still the smartest bet in the game.
The total sum of money that a player has designated for use in gambling at any point in time. Bankroll management is one of the most important parts of a winning baccarat strategy.
Refers to discarding the first cards of a shoe – an action used to confound would-be cheats by disrupting the order of the cards. This simple measure is taken in all card games.
Term used to refer to the dealer – the casino employee that “calls” the baccarat game.
A sum of money that must be paid to the casino for the privilege of making a Banco bet. Typically worth 5% of the bet (with rounding favoring the house), but can occasionally be only 4%. Make sure that 5% of your Banco bet's value can be paid using casino chip denominations to avoid paying more due to rounding.
Short hand term for a card that is facing down.
A category of cards that includes Kings, Queens, and Jacks. These cards, along with tens, are totally worthless in baccarat.
French term for a natural hand worth nine. In English, it means “The big one,” as opposed to its smaller counterpart, which is worth eight.
French term for a natural hand worth eight. In English, it means “The small one,” as opposed to its larger counterpart, which is worth nine.
Describes a two-card baccarat hand that is worth either eight or nine. If only one of the two hands is a dealt as a natural, then the round comes to a close and that hand is automatically the winner.
The player. This term also refers to the baccarat hand that sits opposite of the Banco hand. Betting on the Punto hand is not advised, due to its higher house edge.
This is the box that is used to hold the decks of playing cards that are used in the baccarat game.
This occurs when the two hands are of equal value. It can also refer to the Standoff wager, where a player may bet that the hands will tie. This wager pays either eight to one or nine to one.
Term used to describe a card which is facing up.
What's the highest possible score in baccarat?
A baccarat hand that’s worth nine is the best possible result – the closer your hand is to nine, the better. A nine or eight in a two-card hand is called a natural, but natural nine beats natural eight.
What is a typical baccarat wager?
Most players will wager on the banker hand. You can wager as much or as little on a round of baccarat as you like, casino limits permitting. High rollers might wager thousands per hand, while other players wager just a couple of bucks.
How do baccarat rounds work?
A round of baccarat begins with banker and player hands being dealt two cards each. Depending on the value of those hands, one or both hands may receive a third card to finish the round.
What are side bets in baccarat?
Side bets in baccarat are additional bets to those made on the player, banker or tie. They might be made on the nature of the winning hand, or the amount of points a hand wins by. Some variants of baccarat have a range of different side bets – Pairs, Big/Small, Red/Black, Suit, etc. Generally speaking, these bets have a higher house edge but are associated with bigger payouts.
Is there any baccarat strategy I should learn?
Not really, as the game is purely based on luck. Players do sometimes use strategies like Martingale or Labouchere to manage how they bet, though. This aims to end a session with them breaking even or in profit. There are a few baccarat strategies out there, but none of them can guarantee success at the tables.
Are baccarat odds good compared to other casino games?
In a word, yes! Along with other table games like blackjack and craps, your chances of winning when playing baccarat can be close to 50% – baccarat odds are much better than hitting the slots!
How do baccarat cards and points work?
Baccarat cards have particular values that contribute to your points total, which aims to be as close to nine as possible and beating the banker's hand. Cards of 2-9 are worth that figure, face cards are worth 0, and Aces are worth 1. If a hand exceeds 10, the first digit of its value is ignored, e.g. hands of 13 and 21 are worth three and one respectively.
Alexander Korsager has been immersed in online casinos and iGaming for over 10 years, making him a dynamic General Manager at Casino.org. He uses his vast knowledge of the industry to create content across key global markets.