How to play baccarat

Learn how to play baccarat and discover why it’s a favourite of high-rollers (and James Bond!)

Baccarat (that’s back-ah-rah) is one of the most ancient games still popularly played in casinos and remains a favourite of Asian players. Whereas online slots take up the lion’s share of casino floor space in Las Vegas, baccarat dominates in Macau.

The game is starting to gain ground with Westerners and its appeal is based on three important characteristics: it is simple to play, classy and has an extremely low house edge. Our introductory lesson will take you through the basics and help you to get to grips with the rules of play.

The baccarat table

The table shown below is the full ‘big table’ version, featuring two dealers and a croupier. ‘Mini’ tables are also common, using only half the board and a single croupier.

Baccarat table

How to play

Most live baccarat tables use three dealers and up to 12 or 14 players. The table is labelled with numbered segments, indicating players’ positions. In land-based casinos, three dealers handle the cards. In online games, the dealers are replaced with a computer and the table with an electronic interface.

Two hands are dealt: one for the player and another for the banker. Both receive two cards. Players begin by betting on either the ‘player’ or ‘banker’ hand. Every time a player wins on a banker bet, they must pay five percent commission to the house.

The winning hand will have a value closest to 9. 1-9 are based on pip value (the number displayed on the card). Tens and face cards are worth zero and aces have a value of one.

In hands with a value exceeding 10, the second digit will be the total (e.g. two 7s = 14, meaning a hand value of 4). A player hand total of 8 or 9 is called a ‘natural’ and the player gets no more cards – these pay instantly unless the banker can match them. The player must also stand on a value of 6 or 7. A third card is drawn for any other total.

The banker is subject to the same rules, but will have to ‘hit’ (draw a third card) on a hand value of 3 unless the player’s third card is an 8. He/she will also hit on 4 if the third card is a 1, 8, 9 or 10, hit on 5 if the third card is a 4, 5 or 7 and hit on 6 if the third card is a 6 or 7. A natural stops all further draws.

Player can also wager that the two hands will play equal points. These bets pay out at odds of 8/1, but the 9.5% house edge makes this one to avoid. All other bets are even money (with the exception of the 5% commission on winning banker hands).

To recap...

Baccarat bets

Bets are placed and player/banker hands are drawn

Everyone bets on whether they think the banker or player hand will have a value closer to 9 (or if the hands will tie) by placing chips in the respective table square. The ‘player’ and ‘banker’ hand receive two cards each.

Baccarat cards

Which hand is closer to 9?

The winning hand is the one with a value closest to 9. In the event of a hand exceeding a total value of 10, the second digit will be the hand value (so a total value of 14 is actually 4). ‘Naturals’ (a hand total of 8 or 9 with two cards) pay instantly with no draws. All other drawing rules are illustrated in the table below.

Baccarat chips

Winnings distributed

Players will receive winnings or have bets collected based on which hand they guessed would win. Normal bets pay even money; tie bets pay 8/1 and winning bets on the bank hand must include a five percent commission (this ensures the house edge).

Drawing rules

The table below contains a summary of conditions under which the player and banker must draw a third card.

Player hand

1/2/3/4/5/10 Draws a card
6/7 Stands
8/9 Natural - stands

Banker hand

First two cards total: Draws when player's third card is: Stands when player's third card is:
3 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/9/10 8
4 2/3/4/5/6/7 1/8/9/10
5 4/5/6/7 1/2/3/8/9/10
6 6/7 1/2/3/4/5/8/9/10
7 Stands  
8/10 Natural - stands  
0/1/2 Always draws  

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Now you know the rules, put your skills to the test at our highest-rated casinos for baccarat.

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