When you know a game is James Bond's favourite, you'll have already guessed that it is full of mystery, intrigue, skill, risk and reward. A Japanese online casino will usually follow the route of all the major casinos in the real world and have a separate place for baccarat and you can be sure that there are thrills to be had with every turn of the cards.
Pronounced bah-cah-rah with no 't' sound at the end, it is both entertaining and rewarding which is why from the high-roller rooms of Monte Carlo through to enthusiastic players online it is so popular with millions of admirers all over the world.
Well before the James Bond films and books brought baccarat to a wider public it had a very long history. Although some historians disagree about the origins of the game, many believe it was invented in Italy in the 1400s and was initially called 'zero' (which is the Italian “baccara” and the game's lowest score).
The game then became popular in France with the aristocracy and by the 1800s baccarat was popular throughout Europe among the higher echelons of society. In England a variation of the game called 'Punto Banco' was adopted and today this is the version that is loved around the globe and is what you will find when you play baccarat online.
Any well-established game with a long history and lots of rules and strategies can seem daunting to a beginner, but everyone has to start somewhere! Even the best players in the world one day took the first steps to finding out how to play the game.
One of the reasons for the huge popularity of baccarat is because at its core it is a relatively simple game to play. You don’t need special skills to win, because like most other card games there is an element of chance. However, by knowing the rules and learning about some established techniques, you can nudge the odds in your favour just as you can in other card games or when playing online roulette.
Why is Punto Banco the most popular version?
One of the reasons that Punto Banco became the most popular version of the game worldwide is that it was first adapted in England in the 1800s and was then exported to America. The words translate to “player-banker” and in this version of the game hands are played based on standard rules using eight decks of cards presented in a shoe.
Mini-Baccarat, Three-card Baccarat, Baccarat en Banque and Chemin de fer are variations that are all still played in some casinos, but once you know the basics of Punto Banco you can apply yourself to the others.
One of the first things you might notice about baccarat is that it is somewhat unusual for a casino table game. That is because it can be played on two different types of table. One of those is a horseshoe design where a single dealer (croupier) is in control of the game. That is the most conventional form. It brings a more informal feel to the gameplay.
In higher-end casinos a big table shaped like a kidney is often used and this can take up to three dealers. The players take turns in dealing the cards and are known by the number of the seat they are occupying.
How to play
Although to the total novice everything might seem a little complicated, in fact baccarat is a suitable online casino game for beginners because it gives the house a low edge in terms of odds. it also really needs no skill because the actual gameplay revolves around simply betting on the outcome of two hands between the dealer and the player.
Two two-card hands are taken from the shoe by the dealer (or banker) who takes one and deals one to the player. The values of the cards in the hand are counted and the aim is to get a total as close to the number nine as possible.
As with any other card game you must learn the values of the cards:
- Tens and face cards are zero value
- Aces have a value of one
- Cards numbered two to nine are face value
- Suits don't matter
Each round of dealing is called a coup and can have only three possible outcomes, namely the player wins, the banker wins or there is a tie. After the first round if neither player or banker holds a hand with a value of eight or nine a third card is drawn. If both player and banker have the same total, the round is a tie.
Counting the value of a hand is easy as the initial hand only has two cards to be added together. If the total is more than nine, 10 is then deducted from the total for a true value. So, if a player is dealt a six and seven, they have a total of 13 but 10 is subtracted and the true value becomes three.
Hitting the target of nine is known as a natural (le grande) and it is the best hand you can have in baccarat. A value of eight is called a natural too, or le petit, and it is the next best thing to a nine.
So, a nine beats all hands except another nine, an eight beats a seven, and so on. A hand worth only one can beat another with a value of zero. Obviously in a round of baccarat the game often goes beyond the first two cards dealt.
Although unlike many other card games it is impossible to exceed the highest value, depending on the first totals, the player or the banker hands, or both, might be able to draw a third card. However, a hand in baccarat is never made up of more than three cards. One hand’s total relative value in comparison to the other decides whether a third card is drawn. The dealer compares both hands and uses a set of rules known as the 'tableau' so that neither player or dealer actually decides how the third cards are dealt. Check out the benefits of baccarat over traditional online play right here.
After the player and the banker add up the value of their two cards there are many baccarat rules for what comes next. If the player or the banker holds a total of eight or nine both hands stand.
When the player’s cards have a total between zero and five, they must draw another card, but if they have a total of six or seven, they cannot draw another.
The banker’s hand rules are more complicated because if the player doesn’t draw a third card, the banker plays to the same rules as the player, but if the player does draw a third card then whether or not the banker draws one as well becomes more complex.
If the banker’s cards have a points total of between zero and two, they must take another card, but if it has three, they will get a third card unless the player’s third card was an eight. If the banker's total is four, they receive a third card unless the player’s own third card turned out to be a zero, one, eight, or nine.
Further, if the banker's total hand value is five, they draw another card only if the player’s own third card that was dealt is a four, five, six, or seven. If the banker’s first two cards have a total value of seven it stands, and they do not draw another card.
Before each deal in baccarat you need to predict whether the player or the banker will hold the winning hand. Both sides have almost an equal chance of winning so pay-outs are even money minus a commission on banker bets. However, you can also bet that both hands will have the same total and the round will end in a draw. That result is called a ‘standoff’ and the wager is known as a 'tie bet'. As the odds are longer for this outcome it usually pays out at 9 to 1.
The house edge is 1.06% on the banker bet and a 5% commission is paid to the dealer on each winning bet. A player bet sees the house edge at 1.24% although when the commission paid to the dealer on a banker bet is taken into account it has the same odds as the banker bet.
A house edge of 14.36% applies to the tie bet and as such is often one of the biggest house edges in the casino. Some casinos also only pay out at eight to one. If you do find a nine to one payout the house edge falls to 4.85%.
Taking all of this into account baccarat has two of the lowest house edges which is why online casino baccarat games are already extremely popular and more people are finding out about them all the time.
So now you know the *baccarat rules*, here's how to win!
By tracking the outcomes of previous rounds some who play baccarat think they can spot trends or “streaks” and work out the results of future rounds based on that. This really just relies on the way that humans interpret a series of events being connected. In fact, each round of baccarat is like tossing a coin (although there is the outside chance of a tie) so the outcome of each game
is a separate event which means the odds each time are unchanged.
Of course, fortunes have been won on superstitions and intuitions, and how many times in a row can you toss an unbroken run of heads or tails? But in the long run there's little to support this way of doing things as being better than a random guess.
So, if the odds are essentially the same, why choose to be on either the player or the banker? The banker bet, although it pays a higher commission to the house, has a small percentage advantage that balances this out. Over time the banker bet typically wins 50.68% of the time against 49.32% for the player bet.
For beginners it is important to remember that baccarat is unlike other table games because blackjack, poker and others, do need a degree of skill that ensures a player remains in a game in order to avoid insurmountable losses. Baccarat players can have short winning streaks with a following drop. Experienced players know that the longer they play the greater their chances of winning nothing.
Manage your bankroll
A successful gambler, either online or in a physical location, knows that managing his or her bankroll is the key to success whatever game is being played. Quite simply this means never investing or betting more than you are willing to lose. By setting a loss limit and sticking to it you can effectively manage your finances and not chase losses.
The 5% rule is a tried and tested method and it means you only ever designate 5% of your total gambling budget on all bets. As your bankroll increases so your wagers get bigger. If your budget decreases your wagers become smaller.
Less is more
As mentioned previously, the most popular type of baccarat and the one you are most likely to come across at a Japanese online casino is Punto Banco. The version uses eight standard card decks delivered from a shoe during real-world gameplay. Playing online relies on computer software and uses random number generators (RNGs). What this means is that a Punto Banco table that has the option of using fewer shoes can work in your favour. That is because card counting is not an illegal technique and in fact some big name players, such as professional gambler Phil Ivey, have been known to “break the bank” playing at tables with only four to six decks of cards in a shoe. Ivey famously won almost $20 million playing Baccarat at Crockfords and The Borgata, two of the most renowned casinos in the world.
Baccarat betting, like any other game, does have various strategy and tactic options that you can employ to try and gain that all important edge over the house. The famous Martingale, Paroli and Fibonacci betting systems all have the same fundamentals across three main categories, positive, negative and flat progressions which can be employed in an aggressive, neutral or defensive way.
Flat betting means using the same amount on each wager without taking into account the previous outcomes. A Positive Progression would see an initial sum placed as a bet and then after each win the bet amount doubles, although with a set maximum limit of x8. If this limit is reached it continues until a loss. After a loss the wager amount drops back down to the initial figure. In practise this would be say 10 units, 20, 40, 80, 80 until a loss when it drops back down to 10.
A Negative Progression works the same as a positive progression, but the difference is that the bet amount doubles after each losing play to a maximum limit of x8. After a win, the wager amount is dropped back down to the initial value. So, in this case the bets placed for a series of losses would for example be 10 units, 20, 40, 80, 80, until a win occurs.
Negative progression betting works particularly well if it is used with a system called Trend Anti-Trend Betting (the TAT Betting System). A player places alternate bets and always bets on the opposite of the previous bet. TAT betting therefore goes against the idea of increasing the amount of a wager after a win and uses the negative progression concept in its place. With baccarat, a large bankroll and plenty of time, this has been proven to work well, but it is only really suitable for advanced and experienced players.
Playing baccarat online offers many advantages that can't be found in physical casinos. Privacy is a big reason many like to play online and choosing your own time and location is another major bonus point. Most good online casino options will allow you to choose to play with a live dealer or you can use an online table game where you deal the cards. With AI, virtual and augmented reality features now becoming more common, hooking up a VR headset can make for a truly immersive online experience.
Baccarat is for beginners
Because baccarat could be described as an exciting guessing game and the odds and gameplay are so straightforward, it really is perfect for beginners. You don't need to remember lots of different rules and laws of the game and the tableau listed at each baccarat table is there for all to see, so there can be no confusion as to how the game is played.
Baccarat is the only casino table game that needs no specialist knowledge or experience to get fully involved right from the start - you can be playing alongside someone who has been at the tables for years and they won't have any advantage over you at all - so what are you waiting for?