As we just went through Blackjack, you know that there’s choices to make within the game; choices that aren’t set in stone. You have to decide when to hit, stand, double, or surrender and you’re free to make that choice, even if it’s not the best choice to make statistically. Although if you’re the anchor at the Blackjack table you’ll be opening yourself up to criticism if you do something like not take a card with a 16 when the dealer has a face card.  In Baccarat, the only choice that you make is which hand to bet on. The rest of the way the cards fall is up to the rule set that determines how the game plays out. You simply make a choice: Player, Banker, or a tie. Keep in mind, Player and Banker, although they sound like proper first person labels, do not commit you to playing as one or the other. This is not a situation of player hand vs dealer’s hand. That’s just the naming convention on each position. They could be just as easily called player 1 and player 2 and you’re free to select which of the positions will win the hand, or you can also take the tie, which is a much bigger payoff as it’s obviously far more rare to happen.

Player and banker do determine the pecking order of which hand is played first, and the way the rules are set on how each hand has to play, does give the Banker a slight mathematical advantage, and that is why if you bet on the Banker and you win, you have to pay a commission. This is how the house makes their money. With Player being the first hand to be dealt and established, betting on the Banker is the most dramatic as you have already seen the player hand results. Well, betting on a tie occurring would be the most dramatic, but in terms of the order of the operations, you watch a tie play out or a Banker win/loss at the same pace.

As stated earlier, there aren’t any decisions to make in Baccarat other than which hand to bet on: player, banker, or tie. You make your choice, and you watch it play out. Now, this is where it takes some time and understanding to figure out what’s happening as the cards come out.

Baccarat derives its name from the Italian word for zero: Baccarat  Here’s what that’s relevant to the game:

You can only be dealt a total of 3 cards, and those cards are dealt according to a defined rule set depending on if you are betting on the Player or Banker.

Zero is the assigned value to all tens and face cards. Players are dealt two cards to start the game, and a third if the rules determine an additional card to be drawn for the Player or the Banker.

In Baccarat A Natural: this is when the first two cards dealt equate to an 8 or a 9. Pretty much a 4 and a 5, a 4 and a 4, or a Jack and an 8, for example. The hand will stop when it reaches an 8 or a 9.

The total is always a single digit: so if you draw 8 and 7, that’s 15. So you drop the 10, as that’s worth zero, so you have 5 as your final count.

The Player and Banker are each dealt two cards. If either Player or Banker or both achieve a total of 8 or 9 with the first two cards (known as a “natural“), the coup is finished and the result is announced: Player win, a Banker win, or tie. Natural 9 beats natural 8. If neither the Player nor Banker is dealt a total of 8 or 9 in the first two cards, the table is consulted, first for Player’s rules, then Banker’s.

Here’s how the rules of the game are applied to each position:

  • Player’s rules

If Player has a total of 0–5 after the first two cards, a third card is drawn. If Player has 6 or 7 in the first two cards, player stands.

  • Banker’s rules

If Player stayed on two cards (has 6,7,8, or 9), the banker applies the same rule as the Player, meaning the Banker takes a third card if the count is 0–5 and stays if 6 or 7.

If Player has to take a third card, the Banker rules are as follows:

  • If a Player has 2 or 3 after two cards, Banker draws with 0–4 and stays on 5–7.
  • If a Player gets a 4 or 5, Banker draws with 0–5 and stays with 6–7.
  • If a Player gets a 6 or 7, Banker draws with 0–6 and stays with 7.
  • If a Player gets an 8, Banker draws with 0–2 and stays with 3–7.
  • If a Player gets an ace, 9,  or a 10, J, Q, K (valued at zero), the Banker draws with 0–3 and stays with 4–7.

Put another way for ease of remembrance:

  • If the banker’s total is 2 or less, then the banker draws a card.
  • If the banker’s total is 3, the banker draws a third card, unless the player’s third card was an 8.
  • If the banker’s total is 4, the banker draws a third card if the player’s third card was a 2 – 7.
  • If the banker’s total is 5, the banker draws a third card if the player’s third card was 4 – 7.
  • If the banker’s total is 6, the banker draws a third card if the player’s third card was a 6 or 7.
  • If the banker’s total is 7, the banker stays.
  • If a player bets on tie and the hands tie, the player wins 8:1 or 9:1 depending on the house rules.

Like anything, theory and reading are great for an initial understanding of the game and the rules. But the only way to truly understand (and enjoy) is to play the game!