Baccarat is played with either six or eight complete decks of cards. All cards, ace through nine, are valued according to their count. Tens and face cards count as zero. When any two cards total over a 10 count, 10 must be subtracted and the remaining total is the card count. The cards are shuffled by the dealer and then reshuffled and placed in a covered box called the shoe. As part of the formality, each player gets a turn to handle the shoe, and the caller explains exactly what to do. The player is expected to bet the bank when holding the shoe, but any player may decline the shoe and pass it along to the next player. The caller receives the cards from the player with the shoe, places them in the appropriate boxes and then calls for another card or declares the winner, according to the rigid rules of the game.
The fixed rules of baccarat apply in all American casinos:
The highest total any baccarat hand can have is nine. A two-card total of nine is called a natural and cannot lose. An eight is the second best hand and is also called a natural. If both player and bank are dealt identical hands, it is a tie and neither bank nor player wins.
If neither hand has a natural, the player’s hand is always the first to be played, followed by the dealer. If the first two cards total five or less, another card is drawn. If they total six or seven, no further cards can be drawn.
No more than a total of three cards can be drawn for either hand, and when both hands have been played out, the hand closest to nine wins.
Players bet by placing their chips in either the player, bank, or tie spot in the numbered box opposite their seat. Winning bets made on the player or bank are paid off at even money. The only other bet that can be made is a tie bet, which is paid off at 8:1. In most games, bets range from a $20 minimum to $2,000 maximum. The type of wager and the amount are the only decisions a player must make, after which point the dealer’s actions take over. After the winner is announced, the two other dealers at the table pay off the winning bets and collect from the losers. If the bank was the winner, players who won must pay a 5% commission on their winnings. A record of the commission owed by each player is kept with plastic lammers in a numbered box. Players can pay this vigorish at any time, but it must be paid when the shoe is completed. Each time the shoe is depleted of cards, all decks are thoroughly shuffled and replaced in the shoe.
The house edge in baccarat is the lowest of any casino game. With only a 5% commission on winning bank bets and nothing taken from winning player bets, the player’s disadvantage is only 1.37%. The payoff for ties is 8:1, but it is a bad bet as the house edge is increased to 14.1%.
A number of casinos have installed a smaller version of the baccarat game played on standard blackjack-sized gaming tables. It is played by the exact same rules, but lacks the accoutrements of the formal version. The table is staffed by only one dealer who is responsible for handling the cards. The layout, however, conforms to the regular baccarat table and each of the seven seat positions correspond to a number and betting box with spots for banker, player, and tie. The limits are lower and usually range from a $2 to $5 minimum, up to $500 maximum. Lacking the formality and large group of players, mini-baccarat is played fast and is a good place to learn how to play.
hint: counting cards in baccarat is not advantageous.
hint: betting in a tie is a long shot.