Baccarat is one of the most popular casino games, and for good reason. It has a reputation for being a swanky game that only high rollers play, but it’s actually quite simple and accessible to all players. Most people first encounter baccarat in films like James Bond’s “Casino Royale” where the protagonist plays against Le Chiffre, but it’s also enjoyed by countless players at live casinos. In fact, baccarat generates over 80% of all casino profits in Macau and is widely considered the highest paying casino game.
The game of baccarat is played with six or eight standard decks of cards and dealt from a shoe. The goal is to correctly guess which of the two hands, Banker or Player, will win the round. The Player hand and the Banker hand are dealt two cards each, with a third card sometimes being drawn in the case of a Tie bet. Whichever hand has a total closest to 9 wins the round. All cards with the exception of 10s and face cards (Queens, Kings, etc.) hold their numerical value, while the second digit of a hand’s total is added together, dropping the initial digit in the process.
Before the cards are dealt, a wager must be placed. Players can bet on either the Player, the Banker or the Tie hand. The Banker bet is usually the best option, as it offers a higher percentage of winnings than the Player and Tie bets. The minimum bet varies from casino to casino, but $20-$25 seems to be the most common minimum in Las Vegas.
When the first two cards are dealt, the croupier must decide whether to draw another card for the Banker or Player hand. The decision is based on the strength of each hand, the relative strengths of each side’s third card and whether it is a natural. In general, the Banker hand is more likely to be a winner if the player’s third card is 6 or 7 and the banker’s is 8 or 9.
A three-card hand that beats the Banker hand is called a “natural.” It also pays 9 for 1 on the bet that it wins. It can be difficult to determine the strength of a three-card hand because of the nuances in calculating a total. However, a strong hand can be expected to have the following characteristics:
When a hand has a total in double digits, only the second digit is counted. For example, a hand of 8 and 3 is worth 16 points. In a case where the total is in triple digits, subtracting 10 from the total is required to obtain the true value of the hand. For this reason, a total of 9 is the strongest hand in baccarat. In most baccarat games, the total is not displayed on the table. However, some live games do display the true totals of each hand. If a player calls for an additional card, the croupier will turn the cards, calling out the points and dealing any additional cards as needed.