Baccarat is a game that has been played in casinos around the world for centuries, but has recently been experiencing something of a revival. The classic game of European origin has found its way into American casinos in a big way, especially since the advent of online gambling, and is often featured in movies and TV shows like the James Bond franchise. Whether you’re playing the traditional “punto banco” or the more modern “chemin de fer” version of the game, there is one thing that remains the same: the goal is to bet on whichever hand has a score closest to nine.
There are from seven to 14 seats at a baccarat table, with two hands of cards dealt. The players do not get their own cards; instead they bet against the banker, and can choose to bet on either the Player’s Hand, the Banker’s Hand or a Tie. The cards are dealt from a six or eight-deck shoe. Picture cards and Tens are worth zero points; cards numbered from 2-9 have their face value, while the Ace is worth one point. Points are added up to a final digit that is close to nine; the first digit is always the total of the hand that won. If the player or the banker wins, no further cards are drawn. If a tie is determined, the hand that has the highest total wins.
Despite the popularity of baccarat, it is not a game that is easily won. The game has a house edge of about 1.2% for the Banker’s Bet and 8.8% for the Player’s Bet, meaning that it is very expensive for the Player to win. The Tie bet, which pays 8 to 1 if both hands equal 9, has a much higher house edge of over 14 percent, and is therefore avoided by most serious players.
While there are no guaranteed ways to win, there are a number of strategies that can help players maximize their odds. Bill Zender, a former Nevada Gaming Control agent, casino dealer, executive and consultant who literally wrote the book on managing casino games, offers these six baccarat tips for players:
1) Practice free baccarat before betting with real money. Free baccarat games online offer players the opportunity to make mistakes without any pressure, and to learn new rules and strategy before making real money bets. They are also an excellent way to test out different betting methods and to see which bets work best for you.
2) Understand the importance of bank streaks. Whenever possible, aim to follow bank streaks in baccarat, as they will significantly increase your winning chances. However, it is important to balance this with good stake management, as baccarat has an unusually volatile house edge.
3) Avoid side bets. Although many online baccarat games offer a variety of side bets, they are rarely worth your time or money. These bets usually cost more than the main wagers, and can quickly drain your bankroll.