The Greatest Gambling Guide to Live Baccarat Online
Four Different Tables
One of the most basic things that a new player needs to learn about baccarat are the differences in the different tables you’ll find at a land based, online or live dealer casino. Historically, baccarat was a game reserved for ‘high rollers’ and associated with high stakes betting and complex, hard to understand rules. Some of the belief that the rules were complicated might have been more perception than reality but baccarat has been simplified considerably and new game options made available that opened the game up to players with a medium sized bankroll.
In addition to these rule modifications, the game started being offered at different tables. More specifically, the ‘mid market’ version of the game began to be offered at a table roughly the same size as a blackjack table. You’ll even see different tables (or graphics to represent the different tables) at many online and live dealer casinos so this is good information to know. Now the good news—despite the multitude of tables the rules of the game are essentially identical from one to another. For what it’s worth, there are several variations of baccarat played internationally that use tables that differ from the four types listed here. We’ll cover these when we talk about game variations. Here are the four different types of baccarat tables starting with the most traditional table variation:
Big Table Baccarat
At one point this was the only type of baccarat table that you’d find in a casino. That is no longer the case and the ‘traditional’ baccarat table is now referred to as ‘Big Table Baccarat’. If you’ve seen the James Bond classic ‘Goldfinger’ you’ve got a perfect reference point for big table baccarat. This version of the game is the one enjoyed by high rollers and often secluded in a separate area of the casino reserved for ‘VIPs’. Although similar rules will be found at other types of tables the limits found in Big Table Baccarat are significantly higher than at the tables for ‘average’ players. Typically, a ‘Big Table Baccarat’ layout can accommodate up to 14 players. These spots are numbered 1 through 12 and then 14 and 15. As is the case with many casino elevators, the number 13 is omitted due to superstitions that it is ‘unlucky’. Some cultures also consider the number 4 unlucky so you’ll sometimes see baccarat table seats numbered 1 through 16 with the 4 and 13 omitted.
Standard Table Baccarat
Standard Table Baccarat has many similarities to the aforementioned ‘Big Table Baccarat’. In fact, the standard table is pretty big itself—similar in size to a craps table—and can also accommodate 14 players (also numbered with the number 13 and sometimes 4 omitted). The deal rotates around the table similar to a poker game or the way that the dice are rotated around a craps table. Some players are superstitious about dealing and will opt to pass the cards to the next player. Tradition dictates that a player will continue dealing until the banker wins. It is also traditional that when a player is dealing that they bet on the ‘banker’ even though players have the option of betting on the player or the banker. Even though the game is technically dealt by the player they are not responsible for the losses of other bettors at the table. The primary difference between ‘Standard Table’ and ‘Big Table’ baccarat is the size of the minimum and limit bets (and the size of the tables).
At one point, video recorders and cameras cost a lot and were typically reserved for the wealthy. Now, they’re commonplace and affordable to everyone. That same concept brought about the creation of Mini Baccarat. As the name suggests, the Mini Baccarat table is significantly smaller than either of the previous two tables we talked about. The ‘Mini’ table is approximately the same size as a blackjack table and in most land based casinos that’s where you’ll find them—in the same general area at least. The Mini Baccarat table can accommodate seven players and the spots are numbered 1 through 7 or alternately 1 through 8 with the number 4 omitted due to it’s status as an ‘unlucky number’. There are two primary differences between Mini Baccarat and the previous versions—the cards are handled by the dealer and the limits are lower. In addition, the game moves faster and players see more hands per hour.
Midi Baccarat is far less common the previous three variations though you might encounter it somewhere. At any rate, we’ll explain it for the sake of being thorough. The best way to explain ‘Midi Baccarat is that it is an ‘in between’ option. A ‘Midi’ table can accommodate up to 9 players (yep—you’ll often see the number 4 omitted) and the stakes are higher than found at the ‘Mini’ table but lower than the ‘Big Table’ version of the game. Like ‘Big Table’ play, the players handle the cards but with fewer players the game moves somewhat faster.
Table Differences In Online And Live Dealer Casinos
Since the names of the various table sizes also serve as proxies for the number of maximum players and size of stakes, you’ll want to know what the terms mean even if you don’t ever play at land based casinos. At an online or live dealer casino, you might not need to worry about how many players will ‘fit at the table’ but the rest of the information is vital. Some online baccarat platforms will have different ‘virtual’ table types as will some live dealer games. One major difference is that the dealer handles the cards in every format. For online play, the most common format will be the ‘Mini Baccarat’ format.
Basics Of Baccarat Rules, Odds And Gameplay
With numerous variations baccarat can appear overwhelming to newcomers. The good news is that most of the variations that you’re likely to encounter at a North American land based casino, an online casino or a live dealer casino have similar rules and odds. There are some minor differences in gameplay from one variation to another.
The Basic Rules Of Baccarat
In this section we’ll look at the most common rules of baccarat. Keep in mind that there are minor variations in some forms of the game and we’ll cover those later in this section. Most of the casino baccarat games you’ll encounter are played with eight decks though you might find games that use six decks. Obviously, a game played with fewer than eight decks will have slightly different odds but for the sake of simplicity we’ll look at the odds for eight deck games.
Like blackjack, the value of all face cards and tens are the same. Unlike blackjack, in baccarat all face cards and tens have a value of ‘zero’ (0). The rest of the cards are equal to their numerical value including the ace which has a value of ‘one’ (1). Players can choose to bet on the ‘player’, the ‘banker’ (dealer’s hand) or a tie. Side bets are becoming increasingly common in baccarat but these are the fundamental bet types.
After the players at the table place their bets the dealer hands two cards to the current ‘player’ (which rotates around the table whether or not the ‘player’ handles the cards) and two for the ‘banker’. The value of the hand is determined from the total of the cards. If that number is greater than 10, only the right digit is used. For example, if the player is dealt a 6 and a 7 the total value of the two cards is 15 but for purposes of baccarat the ‘score’ of these cards is 5 (right digit of 15). This means that all baccarat scores are between zero and nine. Unlike blackjack, a player or dealer is unable to ‘bust’ though if the two hands are equal a tie or ‘push’ occurs. Once a bet is made it cannot be ‘rescinded’ or folded—it must be played out according to the house rules.
Third Card Rule
There are some instances where a player or dealer may receive a third card. In blackjack, a player can hit whenever he wants but in baccarat this decision is determined by the rules of the game. If the player or bank has an 8 or 9 after the first two cards are dealt this is called a ‘natural’ and no further cards are played. If the player’s total is equal to or less than 5, the hand is dealt a third card. If the player takes a third card, the banker also determines whether or not he takes an additional card with a similar decision made by the rules of the game.
If the bank’s total is less than or equal to 2 he takes a third card. If the player does not draw a third card, the bank stands on 6 or more and draws on 5 or less. If the bank’s total is 3 he draws a third card if the player’s third card is not an 8. If the bank’s total is 4, a third card is drawn unless the player’s third card is a 0, 1, 8 or 9. If the bank’s total is 5, a third card is drawn if the player’s third card is a 4,5,6,7. If the bank’s total is 6, the bank takes a third card if the player’s third card is a 6 or 7. The bank stands on a total of 7 or higher.
By now you’re probably thoroughly confused. Don’t worry—after you play the game for awhile you’ll start to memorize the third card rule for both banker and player. At a land based casino, the dealer will explain these rules and tell you when you should and shouldn’t draw. At an online casino or a live dealer casino you’ll also be alerted by your betting interface if you’re to draw a third card. A good way to learn these rules quickly is to find a ‘third card rule table’ online or in a land based casino gift shop. These are similar to blackjack basic strategy charts and help flatten the ‘learning curve’ for this non-intuitive part of the game.
One of the things about baccarat that can be confusing at first is the fact that winning banker bets and winning player bets are not paid out identically. Winning bets on the player are paid even money (one to one). Technically, so are winning bets on the banker but these wagers are charged a 5% ‘commission’. This lowers the odds on the banker bet to 0.95 to one (95% of your original wager). Alternately, you can say that winning banker bets are paid off at 19 to 20. Sometimes casinos of all types will offer a lower commission on winning banker bets as a competitive edge. Tie bets are usually paid off at 8 to 1 though some casinos will pay off at 9 to 1. With the exception of ‘tie’ bets the player and banker have their bets returned.
Odds And ‘House Edge’
Assuming that a casino offers the most common rules and payouts (8 decks, 5% commission on winning banker bets, ties pay 8 to 1) the house edge in baccarat is 1.06% for banker bets plus the 5% commission, 1.36% on player bets and a whopping 14.4% on tie bets. The house edge for ‘player’ and ‘banker’ bets rank among the lowest of any casino game. On any hand, the player hand has a 44.62% probability of winning, a 45.85% probability of losing and a 9.53% probability of ending in a tie. Keep in mind that any deviation from the above rules will change these odds.
The basic gameplay in baccarat is more or less identical for all of the versions outlined previously. The primary gameplay differences between versions are mostly a function of whether the players handle the cards or not. To begin play, the dealer turns one card over at the start of each new hand. This determines the number of cards that will be ‘burnt’ off the deck before the deal begins. The cut card (similar to the cut card in blackjack) is placed 16 cards up from the end of the shoe. Once this card appears, the shoe is considered done after which the dealer will play one more hand and then start a new shoe.
There is a sequence in which the hands are dealt similar to blackjack. The dealer will first deal two cards and tuck them under the shoe. These become the ‘Banker’ hand. After that, he deals two cards to the player with the biggest wager on the ‘Player’ hand (alternately, this responsibility can rotate). The recipient of the two cards looks at them and then returns them to the dealer. At this point, the dealer turns them over face up and play continues according to the game rules.
In the big picture, baccarat is similar to flipping a coin. Despite this reality many players insist that they have a ‘strategy’ or ‘system’ to their game. Many casinos have computerized toteboards that keep track of the previous hands. Some land based casinos offer players pencils and ‘scorecards’ for this purpose. A surprising number of players ‘analyze’ this information looking for ‘trends’. Others follow some arcane money management system.
Realistically, the odds of the game remain the same no matter the system or how rigorously players analyze the results of previous hands. To win at baccarat you need to be mindful of the commission percentage—if you have the opportunity to play with a commission lower than 5% by all means do so. Bet either the ‘Banker’ or the ‘Player’ and do it consistently. Theoretically, there is a slight advantage to playing the ‘Banker’ even after the commission. Some players alternate ‘Banker’ and ‘Player’ bets from one hand to another and that works just as well. Besides that, it’s a good idea to establish a bankroll stop/loss where you’ll walk away from the table.
In addition to the baccarat variations we outlined previously there are some others played in different places around the world.
Chemin De Fer (French Baccarat)
Chemin de Fer is the most common version of the game in France and can be found as an option elsewhere in Europe as well as at some online and live dealer casinos. Occasionally, you’ll hear this version of the game referred to as ‘Railroad Baccarat’. Although the fundamental premise of the game is similar to other versions of baccarat it does offer a few unique twists. Players compete against one another as well as against the dealer and the croupier sets the stakes for the banker hand. The game begins with an opening round of betting. The croupier sets the stake and if a player wishes to match this exclaims ‘Banco’. The player who does this becomes the next banker. Wagers are made in amounts smaller than the banker’s stake with each player allowed to bet up to that amount. If a player tries to make a bet that exceeds the banker’s stake the croupier will refuse the bet.
Once the betting is completed the cards are dealt with the player with the biggest bet handling the cards for the ‘Player’ hand. If the total of these cards is 8 or 9 they turn over their hand. If the banker’s hand exceeds nine, the dealer pays the players. If the total is lower, the dealer collects the losing bets. If a hand value is 5 the player and banker have the option of ‘drawing’ or standing’. Interestingly, the casino does not ‘bank’ the game—it only provides the dealers and equipment.
Punto Banco (Spanish Baccarat)
Punto Banco is the variation that is closest to the common versions of baccarat that we discussed above. In fact, you might hear classic baccarat referred to as ‘Punto Banco’. Technically speaking, the differences between classic baccarat and Punto Banco are minor. The game is played with 8 decks and players bet on the ‘Bank’ (‘Banco’), ‘Player’ (Punto) or a tie. Punto Banco is typically run by a single dealer at an oval table that accommodates 12 players.
Another variation with some unique twists. You’ll sometimes hear players refer to this version of the game as ‘a deux tableau’ which translated literally from French means ‘two tables’. Unlike most variations of baccarat the role of the banker is ‘auctioned off’ before each round. The banker hand competes against two separate players hands—one representing the left side of the table and the other the right side of the table. Players can choose to bet on either left or right or both hands. Third card draw rules vary from one casino to another. The game is found at some European brick and mortar casinos but not many other places.
Another variation found at some European land based casinos. The gameplay is similar to the more common forms of baccarat discussed earlier but there are a couple of differences. If a player draws a five he can choose whether to hit or stand. Also, the banker can choose whether to take a third card. The banker’s hand is fully backed by the casino which means that once player bets have covered this amount the wagering round is over and the rest of the table is not allowed to bet until the next hand.