Baccarat is one of the most glamorous casino games, featuring in countless James Bond movies and often played for very high stakes. But it’s also one of the easiest casino games to play and maintains a low house edge, which makes it an ideal choice for many players.
Baccarat is a game of chance where players bet on the Player, Banker or a Tie. Each round starts after all players have placed their bets. Then the dealer reveals one card at the Player box, then another card at the Banker box. If your bet matches the winning combination you win that round. If it doesn’t, you lose. The game is dealt from a six- or eight-deck shoe. All cards in a baccarat hand are worth their face value – nine equals nine, eight equals eight, and seven equals seven. The rules of baccarat determine which hand wins each round and what the payouts are.
Historically, baccarat was a highly ritualised and secretive game, played in a separate alcove in casinos with a table set for eight players. This made the game feel special and exclusive, with a minimum bet of $25 or $50 and $100 bets being common. In modern times, the game has become less flashy but still retains a sense of exclusivity with the table being positioned in an alcove away from the general casino floor and players playing with real cash (although European casinos use oblong ‘plaques’ that look just as fancy).
A baccarat table is covered in black cloth to ensure privacy and each player is provided with a separate betting area. Unlike blackjack, which uses chips, baccarat is a true game of chance and requires no skill. The game has a long history and is known by many names, including chemin de Fer (railway baccarat) for the way the dealing shoe travels around the table like a train. It is believed to have originated in the 1950s at the Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba.
The most popular form of baccarat is Punto Banco, which has been simplified to the point where the decision process is completely automatic. The game is most often found in casinos in the US, but it can also be played online at sites licensed in the five states where it is legal to do so.
Online baccarat sites usually offer a variety of side bets that can be added to the initial wager. These include Super Six and Pair Bets, with the former paying out if the Banker hand scores 6 points while the latter pays out if the Player or Banker hands make a pair. The side bets generally cost more than the main bets and should be avoided.