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Baccarat

Introduction

Baccarat is one of the most widely available casino games in the world and is considered one of the big four in terms of table games (the others being Blackjack, Roulette and to a lesser degree Craps). Baccarat is a simple game to play and is especially popular with high rollers and players of an Asian demographic.

 

General Rules of Play

Baccarat in its standard form is a card game normally played with 8 decks though the number of decks in play does vary when playing at online casinos (usually 6). Similarly, on and offline, cards are assigned the following values: Ace = 1, the pip cards 2-9 = their pip value, and all face cards (royal cards) and tens = 0. Beyond this the rules vary for on and offline players. See the appropriate section below for the necessary information for your preferred means of play.

 

Offline Play

As with many casino card games – burn cards are an integral part of Baccarat. In Baccarat the number of burn cards is not regular, but instead is decided by the drawing of a card by the dealer at the start of a shoe, to determine how many cards should be burned. These values, barring tens and faces, correlate with the values assigned to the cards in the game of Baccarat. Tens and faces, ordinarily valued at 0, signify that ten burn cards will be drawn. The dealer will then place the cut card 16 cards from the end of the shoe allowing him/her to finish dealing that hand and then one other before the reshuffle commences. If the cut card makes its appearance during the penultimate hand then the dealer will reshuffle after that round due to an inadequate number of cards remaining to play another complete round. When the shuffle, restack and burn card elements are complete for the new round it then falls to all players to decide on their bets for that opening round. Players can either bet on “Banker”, “Player” or “Tie”. Additionally, under some circumstances, a player may also be allowed to place their money on either “Banker Pair” or “Player Pair”. Once the betting is complete it is the responsibility of the dealer to allocate cards to the players and the banker at the table. The banker and each player receive two cards and the total for each hand can be determined by adding the values for each card outlined previously (Ace = 1, 2-9 = pip value, faces and tens = 0). The player’s score for that hand is then derived by allocating them the number that appears on the right hand side of the addition. Therefore if a player is dealt two nines then the total for the hand would be 18 (pip 9 + pip 9) but the player’s score would be 8 – the number on the right of the addition. What happens next is determined by the following factors:

    • If any of the players, or indeed the banker, scores an 8 or a 9 then everyone stands. No other rule will take precedence over this one.
    • If a player’s score is 5 or less then he/she hits. If the player’s score is 6 or 7 then he/she stands.
    • If an additional card is drawn then an eight or a nine scored over three cards will never win over an eight or a nine scored over two cards. Such two card combinations that give nine as a total are what are known as ‘naturals’ by European and American players of Baccarat.
    • If a player stands then the banker should hit if his/her score is 5 or less. If a player hits then the chart below will allow you to determine whether the banker should hit (H) or stand (S):
Player’s 3rd Card
Banker’s Hand 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 H H H H H H H H H H
1 H H H H H H H H H H
2 H H H H H H H H H H
3 H H H H H H H H S H
4 S S H H H H H H S S
5 S S S S H H H H S S
6 S S S S S S H H S S
7 S S S S S S S S S S

Legend

H Hit
S Stand

 

  • The scores of players and banker are then inspected with the winner being the person scoring the highest number. A winning bet placed on the banker rewards the player with a pay-out of 19 to 20 (a 5% non-discretionary commission makes this just less than even money – the banker (who may or may not also be the dealer depending on the system of play used by the hosting casino) keeps track of commission owed and then collects this when a player wants to leave the table) whereas a winning bet on a player will pay-out at 1 to 1. If you bet on a tie and win the pay-out will ordinarily be 8 to 1. If you bet on banker or player and a tie results during play then banker and player bets will push (be returned).

 

 

Online Play

Online Baccarat generally uses 4, 6 or 8 decks of cards and this varies according to the software provider. Specific information about the number of decks used in a particular game can be found in the Game Help Files provided by the software company. Unlike offline play there are no burn cards and no cut card since the stack is shuffled after every round. As a general rule the Baccarat played online is the lower stakes version of the game. Any games specifically offered for higher rollers than the common gambler would take place in a separate virtual room on the online casino site – this normally happens by invitation of the casino in question – a high stakes room is rarely offered at the request of an online player but if the circumstances allow casinos will try to meet the needs of their individual players – particularly if they are high rollers. Baccarat is commonly excluded from bonus play by online casinos so be sure to check the allowed games before accepting a bonus and making a deposit if you intend to fulfil the bonus requirements by playing Baccarat.

 

House Edge

Online a variety of paytables are offered by different casino software providers. Below are the paytables and House Edge figures for the software providers we have encountered.

 Paytable 1House Edge
8 Decks
Player 1 to 11.24%
Banker19 to 201.06%
Tie8 to 114.36%

Used by Amaya*, DGS*, Net Entertainment*

*Amaya – Not shuffled every round. Approximately 2/3 penetration.
*DGS – Not shuffled every round. Approximate 1/2 penetration.
*Net Entertainment Baccarat game

 Paytable 2House Edge
6 Decks
Player 1 to 11.24%
Banker19 to 201.06%
Tie8 to 114.44%

Used by BetOnSoft, Boss Media, Dragonfish (888 group)*, GamesOS, Net Entertainment*, PlayNGo, Playtech, SkillOnNet

*Dragonfish list the payout of the tie bet as 9 to 1 but pay out at 8 to 1. This issue is detailed here.

*Net Entertainment Punto Banco game

 Paytable 3House Edge
8 Decks
Player 1 to 11.24%
Banker19 to 201.06%
Tie9 to 14.48%

Used by Rival

 Paytable 4House Edge
8 Decks
Player 1 to 11.24%
Banker1 to 1/1 to 24.07%
Tie8 to 114.36%

Used by Amaya*

*Amaya ‘No Commission Baccarat’ game. This game pays 1 to 1 on a non-8 Banker win and 1 to 2 on an 8 Banker win.

 Paytable 5House Edge
1 deck
Player 1 to 11.29%
Banker19 to 201.01%
Tie8 to 115.75%

Used by Microgaming

 Paytable 6House Edge
6 Decks
Player 1 to 11.24%
Banker389 to 4000.02%
Tie8 to 114.44%

Used by Betfair in the ‘Zero Lounge’ version of Baccarat.

Betsoft and Realtime Gaming do not define the number of decks they are using this leads to a House Edge range for the Player/Banker bets as follows;

Player 1 to 11.24-1.29%
Banker19 to 201.01-1.06%

For the Tie bet Betsoft pay at 8 to 1 and Realtime Gaming pay at 9 to 1 which leads to the following House Edge ranges;

8 to 114.36-15.75%
9 to 14.48-4.93%

It should be noted that RealTime Gaming are the only software provider advertising a payout of 9 to 1 on the Tie bet that actually payout at 9 to 1.

 

Online Side Bets

Offline there a vast array of side bets offered at the Baccarat tables. Online there are relatively few which we’ve detailed below;

Side BetDragonfish*House EdgeDragonfish*/PlaytechHouse Edge
Player Pair12 to 13.859%11 to 111.254%
Banker Pair12 to 13.859%11 to 111.254%
Either Pair5 to 114.54%
Perfect Pair25 to 117.07%
Big (5 or 6 total cards dealt)0.54 to 14.35%
Small (4 total cards dealt)1.5 to 15.27%

*Dragonfish list the payout of the Player/Banker bets as 12 to 1 but pay out at 11 to 1. This issue is detailed here.

 

House Edge Calculator

You can use the below tool to calculate the House Edge of the various bets and commission structures you encounter when playing Baccarat:

 

Fairness Calculator

 

The History of Baccarat

Baccarat is one of the most mysterious of all casino games – its origins are veiled in the mists of the past and to this day it is not entirely possible to define exactly where or when its early incarnation came into being (despite hours of independent research by interested parties). Some claim that its roots reach as far back as fourteenth century France, others that it is fourteenth century Italian in origin, the possibilities are varied and numerous, ranging from the tile game Pai Gow and the Roman process of electing a High Priestess from amongst the vestal virgins of a locale, through the Italian card games Tarrochi and Macao, the French games Le Her and Vingt-et-un, to the American game Blackjack (previously known as Juggernaut). Common sense suggests that Baccarat is a development of one or more of these variants, leaving us with the current game that many players engage with regularly. Needless-to-say the game is a good earner for many casinos – both on and off-line – and particularly in Macau and the Asian markets where it is a firm favourite. Baccarat seems to have firmly cemented its place in the affections of modern day players and it is safe to say that it will endure. Part of its appeal surely lies in its comprehensive nature.

Baccarat is a comparatively simple game in terms of the choices players must make during play; the thrills that come from wagering on its outcome together with its ability to transform the fortunes of a player with great rapacity are what make it attractive. Without the financial incentive Baccarat could in fact be considered fairly staid and somewhat dull. Theodore Whiting in his paper for The University of Las Vegas: The History of Baccarat, notes that, to the best of his knowledge, in the whole of Las Vegas during the 1970s there were only 15 Baccarat tables open for play. A fact that is perhaps hard to believe now that it is a familiar presence both on and off-line. The increasing number of online Baccarat opportunities in the 21st century has seen a rapid rise in the game’s popularity. It is likely that the game’s increased renown stemmed (at least in part) from the noted author Ian Fleming’s use of it in his very first James Bond novel: Casino Royale. Many loyal Bond fans were irked that Hollywood dared to replace Baccarat with Poker in its 2006 dramatization of the original novel. Whether you decide Baccarat is for you or not its longevity as a game cannot be disputed.

The game is both loved and feared by casino groups due to its huge financial volatility. A single winning streak on any given night can rapidly deplete any casino’s cash reserves. This is the sole reason that the game is beloved by high rollers – winnings can be accrued at pace. Happily for casino groups losing streaks can also deplete player funds with equal rapacity banking up casino coffers once again. Baccarat can never be accused of failing to thrill!

 

The History of the Layout

As is normal with table games, the casino layout for Baccarat has developed over time and even today there is more than one possible layout depending on the type of Baccarat being played on a given day. In days gone by – namely the 1960s – players used cash bets as opposed to the casino chips that are used to make wagers during modern day play. Now cash games are no longer played and in fact they began to die out during the 1970s – probably because cash transactions slowed down the play rate and casinos – impatient to maximise their profit margins – saw that introducing chips meant an increase in profitability due to a reduction in the time spent fussing over cash bets and their associated implications. The initial 1960s version of Baccarat also had a side bet option available – this was on naturals – but nowadays this has been replaced by the “Tie” option displayed on the table felt. In order to facilitate the easy pick-up of the bank notes by croupiers, the surfaces of the playing tables were waxed causing the bills to adhere slightly to this tacky surface thus maintaining their prone position. Reportedly both banks and casino frequenters and owners in Las Vegas continued to encounter some bank notes with a slightly waxy feel sullying their surfaces into the late 1980s. Since notes are no longer used the waxed surface is also a redundancy and now regular unwaxed felt is used instead – the same quality as that found on a regular Blackjack table.

 

Variants

Punto Banco

Many people consider Punto Banco to be the forerunner of the modern Baccarat available in modern casinos – the name Punto Banco being substituted for Baccarat instead. It originated in Latin-America and it is the form of Baccarat most popular today throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. It is played on a table highly comparable to that used for Chemin de Fer (see below). It also features a rounded design and is normally staffed by three members of casino staff who each fulfil a specific role: one overseeing the progress of play and any issues arising from play – another calculating tax and the last collecting bets laid down by players and paying out on subsequent wins. The logistics of play are fairly fluid and the number of players and stakes set for a particular table dictate whether or not players are involved in dealing or whether a croupier deals throughout the game. As a general rule smaller player numbers and lower stakes mean that a croupier will be solely responsible for card distribution.

These differences are primarily in layout. For online gaming purposes Punto Banco is simply another name for Baccarat.

Big Table Punto Banco

Big Table Baccarat is often considered to be the game of high rollers – hence the reputation of the game itself. The table is large – comparable with a Craps table – normally seating between 12 and 14 players and 3 casino dealers. Synonymous with wealth, such Baccarat games are often found in a sectioned off area of the casino floor – usually bordered by ropes. The people playing are ordinarily well turned out – designer labels are frequent – successful businessmen and women are the norm in terms of player demographic and with such comes the expectation of a very high minimum bet.

Mini-Baccarat (Mini Punto Banco)

This version of Baccarat began to surface during the 80s as a direct result of players requiring a game that had more pace. The “mini” in the name derives from the fact that this version of the game is played on a smaller table – generally seating 7 players – and situated out-with the exclusive roped off haven set aside for high rollers and “whales” – the highest wagering of all casino patrons. The game proceeds at speed – no longer is the necessity to pass the shoe from one player to another – this means that no time is lost since the dealer distributes all cards. This version of the game makes it affordable for nearly all gamblers since the table minimums are considerably lower than those on the full-size tables. It is common to find $10 minimums in place and it is far from uncommon to find $5 minimums of you are betting on a budget. Luckily Mini-Baccarat, like its larger brother, demands little in the way of skill from its players and this makes it an attraction for inexperienced gamblers looking for the thrills associated with gambling without the need for putting in any work such as demanded by a player looking to win (or at least minimise loss) in Blackjack or one of the other strategy games.

Chemin de Fer

This is one of two forms of early Baccarat – the other being Baccarat a Deux Tableau which can be read about below. Chemin de Fer (also referred to as Shimmy, Chemmy, Chimney and Chernay – translated from the French as “railway” in the modern idiom or “iron road” from the archaic) seems to have originated in France in the early 1820s where it most probably derived from Italian Baccarat – the game is the non-banking permutation of Baccarat with the casino profit coming from them raking a portion of the cash raised from successful bets in a way that is more typically associated with poker nowadays. Since players act as banker this form of Baccarat is most often favoured by groups of people already socially connected or by those players favouring a more social feel to casino play. An indeterminate number of players can play this variation.

Chemin de Fer is the version of Baccarat that first appeared in Las Vegas in the 1950s – initially in the Sands casino – but it never fully popularised and fell out of favour finding itself replaced by the version of Baccarat that we are familiar with in the modern day. In France Chemin de Fer is still the favoured version of Baccarat. It can also still be found in European casinos. The layout appeared on a kidney shaped base and the table could host up to 12 players most typically. The sole objective of Chemin de Fer was to try and achieve a hand incorporating two or three cards that totalled nine. The total is achieved in the same way as regular Baccarat in that an Ace is valued at one, a pip at the number shown in the corner and picture cards are valued at ten but counted as zero. The total is always the second number in the total if a double digit is achieved.

Chemin de Fer sees players bet in rotation against each other rather than the house as in Baccarat. In a clockwise motion the position of banker moves from player-to-player around the table and a player remains banker only as long as his/her winning streak continues. As soon as a loss occurs the position rotates to the next clockwise player. In Chemin de Fer casinos do charge a commission though be aware that this can vary a great deal, both as a result of the geographical location of the game, and the betting parameters (stakes) instituted by different organisations. Always check the commission to ensure you are comfortable with it when playing this variant.

Baccara Deux Tableaux (Baccara with Two Tables)

As the name suggests this version of Baccarat was developed in order to allow more players to be seated at the table – hence the eponymous “two tables”. In actual fact the kidney, or oval shaped, layout seated 12 – 16 players – normally half the total number of players on each side of the dealer. Known to have developed from the earlier Baccarat en Banque (or Banker’s Baccarat) this variant of the game is such that no player has to take responsibility for being the banker at any time. Instead a casino dealer acts as the banker for all players. The dealer begins by dealing to the table on his right, then to the one on his left, and he finishes by dealing to himself. Cards are dealt singly – that is one-at-a-time – but two rounds in total are dealt to begin so that players and dealer alike are left with hands comprising two cards when the first round of play is ready to commence. In Baccara a Deux Tableaux players are entitled to bet that both tables will beat the bank or indeed they can bet that both tables will triumph. As with other variants the single objective is to achieve a total as near to nine as possible without going over this number. This version of the game is not widely available in America – it is most prominent in France.

 

Baccarat in Literature and Film

Baccarat has featured in the arts almost since its very conception as a game – namely because writers and filmmakers are taken with the idea of it as a game that can result in the rapid gain of enormous wealth, or equally, a game that can result in almost instantaneous ruin. It is a useful game to have on hand should you require a plot device that builds tension whilst accelerating the narrative. It allows villains to be punished and heroes to be rewarded; it is the perfect pivot point for a narrative turned upside down to ensure a surprising and impacting ending.

Since people have played Baccarat, writers have wanted to write about their experiences of it. In the late nineteenth century – 1878 to be exact – Alphonse Daudet (a French writer) – in his novel The Nabob – wrote about Baccarat. Thematically the inclusion of Baccarat by Daudet makes complete sense since the main theme of his text centres upon the acquisition of wealth. It makes sense that a game renowned for its ability to help someone make a fortune should become the pastime of characters obsessed with financial gain. The characters are involved in making money through the trading of stocks on the stock exchange during their working days and therefore it is in keeping with their financial motivation that they would indulge in the playing of a game connected with the acquisition of wealth in their leisure time. Other writers making use of Baccarat in their works are: Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, Arnold Bennett, Ian Flemming and John Galsworthy. Films featuring Baccarat include: A Hard Day’s Night, Dr. No, Goldenye, Thunderball, Rush Hour 3

 

Interesting Additional Information Connected to Baccarat

  • Crockfords (part of the Genting casino group) refused to pay out on winnings of almost £8 million accrued by the professional poker player Phil Ivey in August 2013 alleging that he and an accomplice used cheating tactics to win whilst engaged in a game of Punto Banco Baccarat. A court case was brought against Crockfords by Ivey at a High Court in London but the judge, Justice Mitting, ruled against the player and Ivey’s lawyer, Matthew Dowd stated that Ivey would be launching an appeal against the decision based on the fact that the judge was incorrect both factually and legally to conclude that ‘edge sorting’ is illegal. Ivey is quoted as saying, “It’s not in my nature to cheat and nor would I risk my reputation by acting unlawfully in any manner. As a professional gambler, my job is to seek to lawfully reverse or reduce the perceived house edge. My integrity is infinitely more important to me than a big win, which is why I have brought these proceedings to demonstrate that I have been unjustly treated.”Based on the success of Crockfords, The Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City have also filed a lawsuit (April 2014) against Ivey to reclaim $9.6 million dollars he won whilst playing Baccarat on four separate occasions in 2012 they also claim he was edge sorting in their establishment during these sessions.
  • In 1890, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Prince Edward, later to become King Edward VII was caught up in a baccarat scandal that damaged his reputation for many years. The Prince’s friend Sir William Gordon-Cumming was accused of tampering with his bets after play had commenced and as such was brought to trial for the crime in the June of the subsequent year, 1891. To the scandal of the Royal Family the Prince was called in court as a witness and Gordon-Cumming was found guilty of the charges brought against him, despite the best efforts of Sir Edward Clarke, his solicitor.