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Baccarat is a classic casino card game that can be traced back to 15th century France. There are several different varieties of baccarat, but by far the most popular is called 'punto banco', which will be the focus of this page.
Punto banco baccarat is commonly played in casinos all over the world and is also available at many of the best real money online casinos. With online play, cards are dealt using random generator software to mimic the actions of a croupier.
What is the aim of baccarat?
The aim of punto banco baccarat is to bet correctly on one of three main outcomes. These are victory for the player's hand, the banker's hand or a tie. The 'player' in this case does not refer to an actual person. It is just the name given to the hand dealt opposite the banker's hand. The same is true of the banker's hand.
The hand that wins is the one that scores highest on a scale of 0-9, with 10-cards (10s, jacks, queens, kings) counting for zero and aces counting for one. All double-digit totals count as the number in the right column. So a hand totaling 17 actually counts seven, while one totaling 10 counts zero.
Should both hands score the same (after play is concluded), the result is a tie that pays out to those who bet on that outcome. Those who bet on the banker's hand or the player's hand see their bets roll over to the next game.
How are punto banco baccarat cards dealt?
The croupier will start by dealing two cards each to the symbolic player and banker. We then get into the business of standard rules to determine what happens next, which are explains in rough terms as follows:
If either the banker or the player's initial two-card hand makes for a score of eight or nine, the game ends there and the result stands. Either the banker's hand wins, the player's hand wins or it ends in a tie.
If the player's card scores six or seven it stands as is, and no further cards are drawn.
If the player's hand scores between zero and five, another card is drawn.
Whether the banker's hand draws a third card depends on the initial score of the player's hand and the banker's hand, and also whether the player's hand has drawn a third card. There is a detailed outline that specifies the respective scores of each hand required to demand a draw for the banker's card.
How are bets placed on punto banco baccarat games?
Players who have gained a seat at a baccarat table are allowed to place bets before every hand dealt. In a casino this is done by placing chips to signify whether you're betting on the player, the bank, or a tie. If you're playing at an online casino this is all done virtually, moving funds from your casino deposit account before each hand.
A winning bet on the player's hand pays 1:1, so you get your stake back and a matching amount ($25 stake pays out $25 in winnings, plus your stake back). A winning bet on the banker's hand typically pays out slightly less, with a 5% cut taken as 'tax' on your winnings. A tie, otherwise known as 'Egalite', pays out at odds of 8-1.
What other types of baccarat are there?
There are some other forms of baccarat you may come across online, or in a land-based casino:
EZ baccarat is very similar to punto banco, but with some subtle differences and with better odds when you bet on the banker's hand. There is a straight 1:1 payout for a win, instead of the 5% tax you pay in punto banco when you bet on the bank
Super 6 baccarat is on an almost identical theme, but if you bet on the bank and it wins with a six, you get just half of your stake in winnings.
Chemin de fer baccarat is the type you'll see played in early James Bond films and differs in a number of ways from punto banco. These include the fact cards are dealt face-down and players get to make their own choice on whether to draw a third card
Why is baccarat so popular?
One big reason for baccarat's popularity is the straightforward betting involved. You have three options - bet on the bank, bet on the player, or bet for a tie. While the dealing of cards and subsequent permutations are more complex, the simple fact remains that there are only three outcomes.
Another big reason for baccarat's popularity, cited by many, is the fact its 'house edge' is low. By house edge, we mean the amount a casino game is statistically weighted in favor of the bank. Baccarat's house edge is amongst the lowest you'll find.
How to get started playing baccarat
Playing online baccarat is a great way to get started. There are lots of sites to choose from and you can always start with free play games to get acquainted with the format and develop a good understanding.