Playing Baccarat Online For Real Money
Baccarat is the world’s biggest casino game in terms of revenue, although it’s not one that a lot of players are all that familiar with. Baccarat tables don’t have anywhere near the presence on a casino floor like roulette and blackjack is, and a lot of the action with baccarat goes on at private tables, but you don’t have to be a high roller to play and enjoy it.
Like any game, you have to be familiar enough with it to want to try it, and you have to try it to see what you may have been missing. While older forms of baccarat like chemin de fer and baccarat banque do require a familiarity with the game to play, the most popular form of real money baccarat by far, punto banco, requires no more skill other than to know how to put chips on a table.
Games are more fun if you understand them fully, so prepare to learn everything there is to know about baccarat and let us prepare you to see why this game is such a favorite of those who know it well.
It is unclear where the card game of baccarat was derived from, but some believe that it may have its earliest roots in the Chinese game of pai gow. Pai gow uses the number 9, as baccarat does, and pai gow means “make nine” in English, so there are some similarities, and baccarat, in a roundabout way at least, seems to have borrowed the idea from the ancient Chinese tile game that is still popular today.
Another game much more similar to baccarat, called macao or Italian baccarat, started to be played in the 14th century, and while the two games do differ, they are quite similar in many respects. Macao is thought to be brought to Europe by sailors visiting Asia as well, where several card games such as Japan’s Oicho-Kabu, which means eight and nine, were played, and these games were strikingly similar to baccarat, which also uses eight and nine as “naturals” which concludes the deal.
French soldiers returning from battle in France brought Italian baccarat back home with them, where the French developed the forms of baccarat known as baccarat banque and chemin de fer, two variations that are still played today, even though both have been well-eclipsed by the version known as punto banco.
These two early forms of baccarat became popular with the aristocracy, and baccarat today remains a preference among wealthier gamblers. In spite of being made illegal in France in 1837, the game retained its popularity and simply moved underground. 1847 saw the first mathematical analysis of the game, and the die was cast for the growth of one of the world’s most popular casino games.
Baccarat has been played in America since at least 1871, when we had the first printed record of the game. It was brought over from France by immigrants and there is a record of 30 Frenchman being arrested for playing it in 1899. Even though it took its place among faro, blackjack, and roulette, it was more of an acquired taste for Americans at the time.
Baccarat didn’t really catch on very well until in the U.S. until 1959 when a new version of the game called punto banco hit Las Vegas, and punto banco has gone on to be the most popular version of baccarat by far, although chemin de fer and baccarat banque are still played in Europe, and chemin de fer remains the most popular form in France.
As testimony to the higher stakes of this game, baccarat is played considerably less than blackjack and roulette, but no casino game comes close to baccarat as far as money wagered on it. Baccarat comprises almost half of the table game profits in Vegas, and provide even more profit than slots, and almost all of it in Macau, where it is tremendously popular.
Baccarat In Other Countries
Punto Banco Baccarat
We will go over all three variations of baccarat for you, starting with punto banco. This is the most popular variety and what is normally referred to by players and casinos simply as “baccarat.” You can easily tell if the game is one of the other variations because they will be referred to by their names chemin de fer or baccarat banque. We will stick to that convention where our use of baccarat will indicate the punto banco version and the other two will be referred to specifically.
Baccarat has a fairly complex chart of when cards are drawn, but given that baccarat is played in casinos and dealt by dealers, including virtual ones, players do not have to be familiar at all with these rules or do anything but sit and enjoy the action unfold, as the play proceeds from start to finish automatically, with no need or possibility of player intervention beyond the period prior to the dealing when the bets are made.
It does make the game more entertaining to understand what goes on with a baccarat hand, otherwise we’ll just be watching a bunch of cards being dealt without any meaning and then even be surprised when our bets get paid. This is not what players would generally deem very entertaining, so we’ll start with the principles of the game and even go over the drawing rules for you.
While baccarat pits a player versus a dealer, this does not mean that players play against the house, as the banker in baccarat is simply a designation of a hand, the hand that moves second, where the hand called the player goes first. The banker has different drawing rules, and the odds of the banker winning are a little different, but players are free to bet on either the player or banker winning, or ties.
What Makes Baccarat So Interesting
The drawing rules are set up to provide a small advantage to the banker hand, just as you would expect if the banker represented the house. Normally, you would be the player, the banker would be the house, and the player would play against the banker with some sort of numerical disadvantage, like with playing against the dealer in blackjack.
What is so unique about baccarat is that you can bet on either the player or the banker’s hand. The house edge on the player is only 1.24%, not quite as low as blackjack and most crap bets but much better than even single zero roulette with its 2.70% house edge.
The banker wins more hands over time, but the rub is that winning hands on the banker pay a 5% commission to the casino, which is their stake in the game. This commission together with the game’s design yield a house edge of 1.06%, clearly better than the edge with the player’s hand.
We may wonder why, with this being the case, anyone would want to ever bet on the player in baccarat, but people do anyway, perhaps not being familiar with the odds and which bet is better is far from intuitive. This involves an extremely complex calculation, but people have worked this out for us and we should always be aware of the odds while gambling.
Perhaps some people may derive additional satisfaction from beating “the man,” by betting on player, and especially not sharing your wins with the house, but the man collects his money regardless, and prefer you bet on player in fact because they make a little more that way. It does turn out that teaming up with the casino in this way works out a little better for us and a little worse for the casino, if we really do want to stick it to the man more, but they would be happy enough to pay out all bets to the banker side and keep collecting their commissions, as sure as if you handed them a $100 bill and they gave you back $95.
You can also bet on a tie, which usually pays 8:1 and has a huge house edge, 14.4%. Some casinos will pay you 9:1 on this but the odds are still too high at 4.85%, although a cheaper thrill than 8:1 for sure.
The Baccarat Deal
Players take a seat at a baccarat table where they have three areas to put their chips on, player, dealer, and tie. After the betting concludes, each of the player and banker’s position are dealt two cards face down. The entire game is dealt by the dealer who will manage the deal completely, while the bettors watch the action.
The player’s two cards are turned over, followed by the banker’s cards. The value of the hand is derived from adding up the card values, with face cards being worth 10, and dropping off the first digit to get a single digit score. A 12 becomes a 2, a 21 becomes a 1, and so on. If the player has a total of 8 or 9, a natural, the hand ends and no further cards are dealt, with the two sides standing on what they have. This applies as well to the banker having a starting hand of 8 or 9.
The highest score wins, with the maximum possible being 9. Depending on the results of this first deal, either the player or the banker or both may draw cards, according to a set of rules. The rule for the player is simple. If the player has 0-5, an additional card is drawn, otherwise the hand stands.
The drawing rules for the banker are more numerous. People teaching baccarat often don’t even discuss them, and there is no real need to because the dealer will always deal to the rules, but we’ll share these anyway.
If the player does not draw cards, the banker proceeds as the player, drawing with 0-5. If the player draws a third card, the banker draws or not depending on what they have and what the player has.
If the banker has 0-2, a card is always drawn. A card is drawn with 3 unless the player’s third card was an 8. Another card is taken with 4 if the player’s third card was a 2,3,4,5,6, a little less than half the time. 5 works the same way other than the cards are 4,5,6, and 7, where 6 requires a 6 or 7. A total of 7 stands, and if either player had an 8 or 9 cards would not be drawn, so these never come up.
After third cards are drawn as indicated, the hand ends and scores are compared. Bets on the winning hand are paid 1:1, with payouts on winning banker hands surrendering 1/20 of the won amount as the house’s commission. The actual payout is therefore 0.95:1, but aside from having to hold smaller denominated chips, it is correct to bet on the banker because the banker side wins a little more often and this just works out better overall.
It’s not that the difference is that big between player and banker in real money baccarat, and if this was only about the odds they would be playing blackjack or craps or even video poker which all have better odds than either side at baccarat, and no one would ever play roulette, but games have their own charm and this can be pretty influential. It’s all about being entertained, and this aspect always needs to be taken into account before we should want to second-guess even players who take the most inferior of side bets.
Baccarat banque is the original version of real money baccarat, and reveals where the idea of bank and banker got its name. In punto banco, the hand called the banker is merely the hand that acts second, where with the banque version, French for bank, banque earns its name.
Baccarat banque uses a three card deck shuffled together, and players start by bidding on how much they will risk as per hand to decide who will be the bank. The banker will always bet on banker and this auction is to determine how much the banker will bet on his hand. Once the banker is decided and the amount that they will risk as the bank on hands is determined, three two-card hands are dealt, one to each side of the table and one to the banker.
The players at the table then get the opportunity in turn to declare that they will “go bank,” matching the full bet of the amount that the banker has risked. Going bank is a direct challenge to the banker, where if you go bank and go head to head against the banker and win, you win the banker role. One player on each side of the table can go bank, and if one on each side does, the banker’s role is not challenged and each play for a half share of the bank.
If no one goes bank, players may bet on either banker or the hand on their side of the table. The banker sits in the middle of the table and there are 5 players to the left and 5 players to the right and they can only bet on the player’s hand on the side of the table that they are on. The total bets of all players on both sides cannot exceed the amount risked by the banker, the “bank.”
The hand proceeds like punto banco, with the difference being that the largest bettor on each side takes control of the draw and decides for the group whether to draw another card or not, although there is social pressure to not make the mistake of drawing to a 6 or 7 or stand on 0-4. Drawing to 5 is up to the player’s discretion.
Chemin de Fer
Chemin de fer in French means railroad, and this particular railroad refers to the position of banker moving around the track rather than parked at a station for extended periods as with baccarat banque. Chemin de fer also is a faster game, just as the railroad was the fastest way to travel in the late 19th century when this variation was born.
Real money chemin de fer, also known as chemmy, uses a 6 card deck instead of the 3 card deck with banque, which serves to speed up the game as cards need to be shuffled less often. In this version, a player is designated as banker and then the role of banker moves around the table. The size of the bank is the amount that the banker wishes to wager on their hand in a given round.
The need and the ability to set the stakes for the entire table as banker with both banque and chemin de fer is the main reason why these forms of baccarat are high roller games, as the casino has a particular vested interest in players being able to wager larger amounts, and this is especially the case with chemin de fer because everyone gets a turn to be banker and they don’t want those of more limited means to even be at the table. Setting minimum bets high accomplishes this purpose, and these games are even hosted in private rooms to keep these high rollers together.
In addition to minimum wagers, chemin de fer tables also have minimum bank requirements, where if you can’t handle being the banker, you aren’t deemed suitable to play at all. The game play here is the same as with the banque version, other than there just being one player hand and the player who wagered the most on it on the player side gets to decide whether to draw or not, as well as the banker doing the same, with the same principles applying.
Other Baccarat Variations
The version of punto banco baccarat not only simplified the game but rendered it all automatic and allowed for lower wagering requirements. Punto banco can also be played by a single player, and there are some very high rollers that play at their own private table with a private dealer.
While the game of macao isn’t considered to be an official version of baccarat, it is the game that baccarat evolved from, and is quite similar. Macao only uses two decks, and only one card is dealt initially, and everyone gets their own cards in this game. There are no pushes due to ties in this game, which are broken first by fewer cards, and if not, the banker wins.
Players draw another card at their discretion, and if they receive a card worth 10, which does not change the value of their hand, they may draw another. After the deck is exhausted, the banker role moves to the left.
Victoria is another version of macao which deals two cards initially instead of one, as is the case with baccarat. The game isn’t played anymore but the rules continue to be published in gambling guides.
There are also a couple of other versions in the category of mini-baccarat, called Super 6 and EZ baccarat. Super 6 does away with the 5% commission on winning banker bets but only pays half when the banker wins with a total of 6. This has the effect of raising the commission to 5.87%, and raises the house edge with the banker’s hand from 1.06% to 1.46%, where the banker bet is now the worse of the two versus the 1.24% for the player hand.
EZ baccarat also dispenses with commission calculations by pushing bets when the banker wins with 7 with 3 cards. There are two other versions of EZ baccarat, Dragon 7 and Panda 8, which offer additional side bets.
Real Money Online Baccarat
Baccarat lovers can now enjoy their favorite game any time they wish through one of the many online casinos that offer baccarat online for real money. Baccarat is really not a game that ever makes sense to play just for fun, like you might play blackjack for fun, even though the great majority of the fun with blackjack comes from the staking of real money. With baccarat, it’s the whole thing.
Playing online baccarat for real money is plenty exciting though, and the low house edge compared to the utter simplicity of the game from a player’s perspective playing punto banco, where all you do is bet and watch, is a combination that many casino players find irresistible.
While nothing compares to playing live baccarat, playing baccarat online has the effect of reducing your costs significantly, where you no longer have to deal with all of the associated costs in travelling to a land-based casino, including tipping the dealer. Computers don’t take tips, not that there would be any reason to ever do so.
Live blackjack gives players the advantage of doing at least some card counting, something that online blackjack negates, but there really isn’t an advantage to card counting in baccarat since the count really doesn’t affect the game like it does with figuring out your odds in hitting a blackjack or the chances of the dealer busting. Online baccarat therefore is a true representation of a real game in all aspects, other than your being completely sure that the cards are random, where with real decks, there is always the possibility of variations in shuffling, where cards can run together in clumps.
There is no skill in playing baccarat like there is with blackjack, but there’s no skill in other popular casino games like roulette or craps and trying your luck with baccarat is plenty fun enough to make baccarat the world’s most popular game in terms of amounts wagered, and baccarat is nowhere near ready to give up its title as its popularity continues to endure.
- Where did the game of baccarat come from?
Baccarat is thought to have evolved from several Asian card games that seem to have been derived from the Chinese game of pai gow tiles, which is still played today. Sailors brought these games to Italy, who modified them to create the game of macao, or Italian baccarat. Once the game came to France, the French modified it further into baccarat banque and chemin de fer, two baccarat games that are also still played today.
- Is baccarat difficult to learn?
Baccarat banque and chemin de fer ended up evolving into an easier and more casino friendly game called punto banco baccarat, known commonly as just baccarat now. Punto banco is a very simple casino game to learn, as you just bet on either the player hand, the banker hand, or a tie, and whichever hand is closer to 9 after all the cards are dealt wins. Betting on ties is not a good bet, and the house edge is lower if you always bet on banker. Players do not even need to know the rules as the dealer will deal the hand with no input from players required.
- Why do high rollers have such a preference for baccarat?
It’s not hard to figure out why the older versions of baccarat, banque and chemin de fer, grew so popular among wealthy real money casino players, as these versions to incorporate a sort of rivalry among players. Those who are able to bet bigger can show up their other wealthy competitors, and casinos of course love this, as it increases the action and their win. The love of baccarat among high rollers has carried over to the new version, mostly because the game is promoted by casinos as a high roller game, with private tables and additional amenities available.
- Is the common form of baccarat today real baccarat?
While punto banco baccarat has simplified the original variations of baccarat considerably, about as much as you could in fact to make the game completely simple, where someone who had no idea about the game can play as easily and as well as the most experienced players, the main elements of the game have been preserved. The only thing that got lost is players playing their own cards and the banker hand being played by players as well, but baccarat decisions are very simple anyway and punto banco does force the correct decisions.
- Does card counting help players at baccarat?
You’ll never be thrown out of a casino for card counting at baccarat, and you can count cards to your heart’s content. Casinos will go to any length it seems to prevent card counting in blackjack, and all they need to do is suspect that you are doing this to toss you and bar you. However, card counting, if done well enough, can create an advantage for the blackjack player, enough to turn the odds in their favor. This scares casinos a lot, but they are not afraid of players counting cards at baccarat, because there’s really nothing you can do with this count.
- Is there any strategy with baccarat?
Like other popular casino games such as roulette and craps, there is no strategy with baccarat, as you just place your bets and wait for the outcome. This still leaves the strategy of playing the odds to minimize the advantage that the house has over you, and in the case of baccarat, this means always betting on the banker’s hand and never on the player, and especially not on ties or any other sort of bet that the casino may offer, such as pairs. These side bets always have a big house edge and the casino hopes that you don’t pay attention to these things and make them more money.
- What are the advantages of modern baccarat over older versions?
Classic baccarat requires that players be both engaged and well bankrolled, as both of these versions actually has a player acting as banker and not just have two hands on the table that play themselves, called player and banker. Casino players tend to prefer simpler games, and they don’t get any simpler than modern baccarat. The dealer runs the entire game and all you do is wait for the dealer to call for bets, place the one you want, and then enjoy the hand. Classic baccarat is complex, where modern baccarat is simplicity exemplified.
- Is there any cheating that goes on with baccarat?
There is a skill known as edge sorting that is sometimes used by sharp players to cheat the casino. Cards are never perfectly created and some players can spot imperfections and use this knowledge to their advantage, and sometimes to great advantage given how high the stakes can go at this game. Poker pro Phil Ivey and a companion famously took over $10 million from the Borgata in addition to millions from other casinos before being accused of edge sorting with demands to pay it back, and obtained a court order. After 6 years, the parties finally reached a settlement.
- Can you play baccarat at real money online casinos?
Baccarat is offered at the majority of real money online casinos, although the offerings are limited to modern baccarat. It’s not only because modern baccarat is a lot more popular, it’s also because you need a quorum to make sense out of these older games, with players bidding against each other for control of the bank and the like. Online casino table games are generally played solo, which suits the punto banco version perfectly, but you need at least two players and preferably a lot more to play classic baccarat.
- How do we know baccarat hands online are legitimately random?
Online real money baccarat at a trusted online casino site is actually more reliable than baccarat with real cards. While the casino does attempt to shuffle cards well, there are real limitations on what you can do. Online casinos with a verified random number generator is like shuffling cards endlessly for years, which of course is not practical and the house needs to balance randomness with time spent on this. Computer generated randomness is as close to random as you can get, and provided that an online casino’s software is regularly tested, they have the fairest game play possible.