What is baccarat and how does it work?

The simplest way to define baccarat is as a card game where you have 2 or 3 cards. The winning hand is the one with the higher score. Baccarat is strictly a game of chance; there’s no strategy involved. It’s traditionally a high roller game, although recent versions of the game cater more to gamblers who are playing for lower stakes.

This post includes everything you might ever want to know about the game of baccarat and how to play.

Here’s how to play baccarat

You start by sitting down at the table and buying chips. The card is played from an 8-card deck, and the cards are given point values, just like they are in blackjack. The point values are slightly different though:

You start by betting on one of 2 hands—player or banker. You also have the option of betting on a tie, but never place this bet. It’s a sucker bet with lousy odds, and I’ll explain that in more detail soon.

Depending on where you play, you might have other side bets to choose from, but it’s best to just skip side bets. They almost always have lousy odds.

Unlike blackjack, where you get a hand that you play against the dealer, there are only 2 hands in baccarat, regardless of how many players are there. In blackjack, each player has a hand to play against the dealer. But in baccarat, there’s just a player hand and a dealer hand.

As in blackjack, though, each hand has 2 cards in it to start.

Each hand is scored with a total of between 0 and 9. You arrive at the point total by adding the points for each card in the hand.

If you have a total of 10+, you just count the points based on what’s after the

1. For example, if you have a total of 14, that’s just a total of 4—you ignore the 1.

In blackjack, you get to choose whether to take additional cards or not. For the player in blackjack, this is a matter of decision-making.

For the dealer in blackjack, it’s a matter of which criteria are present—dealers must always hit a hand with a total of 16 or less, regardless of any other factors.

In baccarat, though, both hands are played based on criteria. The player hand isn’t whim to the decisions of the player at all.

In baccarat, there’s a set of rules that determine whether a 3rd card gets dealt to a hand. A total of 8 or 9 is considered a “natural,” and if either the player OR the banker has a natural, neither hand gets an extra card.

If the player hand totals 6 or 7, the hand stands. If the player hand is a total of 5 or lower, that hand always gets an additional card.

If the player hand stood with a 6 or 7, the banker takes an additional card if the banker total is 5 or lower. If the banker has a 6 or 7, the banker hand stands.

Things start getting more complicated if the player drew a 3rd card.

**The banker takes another card based on that hand’s total versus the player hand total, as follows:**

- If the dealer has a 7 or better, the dealer hand stands.
- If the dealer has a 6, the hand stands unless the player has a 6 or 7, in which case the dealer gets a 3rd card.
- If the dealer has a 5, the dealer draws with a total of 4, 5, 6, or 7. Otherwise the hand stands.
- If the dealer has a 4, the dealer draws with a total of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. Otherwise the hand stands.
- If the dealer has a 3, the hand only stands if the player total is 8. Otherwise, the hand draws a 3rd card.
- If the dealer has a 2, 1, or 0, the hand always gets another card.

This might seem complicated. That’s because it is.

Luckily for the player, it doesn’t matter if you understand what’s happening here or not. The odds are the same regardless, and the player has no meaningful decision to make other than whether to bet on the player hand or the banker hand.

The hand that wins is the one with the higher score. If both hands have the same total, a player bet or a banker bet is considered a push, which is a tie. You get your bet back, but you don’t get any winnings.

If you took the tie bet, you only win if the player and banker hands have the same total.

The player bet pays off at even money. In other words, if you bet $100 on the player and win, you get $100 in winnings.

The banker bet pays off at 19 to 20 odds. In other words, if you bet $100 on the banker and win, you get $95 in winnings. (It’s like paying a 5% commission.)

The tie bet pays off at 8 to 1, which means if you bet $100 on the tie, you’d win $800.

All casino games have a built-in mathematical advantage for the casino. This is called “the house edge.” It’s the theoretically perfect amount that the casino expects to win in the long run from each of your bets.

If the house edge for a game is 1%, then the casino expects a theoretical win of $1 every time you place a $100 bet.

The casino gets this edge by paying off bets at lower odds than the odds of winning are.

In some casino games, the house edge is the same regardless of which bet you place. In others, the edge varies from bet to bet.

Baccarat is the latter type of game. The house edge for each of the main bets in baccarat is as follows: