History, Popularity and How to Play
Baccarat is steeped in history. It's thought that it first came to prominence way back in 1400's Italy and was the creation of a man named Felix Falguiere. 'Baccara' means 'zero' in Italian, in reference to the fact that in the game of baccarat both face cards and tens are worth zero. As with many modern day casino games though, the origins of baccarat are disputed. Some say that it heralds back to another casino game, Chinese Pai Gow. In both games the aim is to make nine so this led to the thought that the two games may share the same origins.
The popularity of baccarat speaks for itself. Although it had a slow start in reaching countries like the US in the 1950s (where even noteworth figures such as Mark Twain used to enjoy playing), it's now a mainstay of casinos big and small. It's known to draw in casino goers, even though there are numerous other games to play, such as slots, poker and roulette. In 1959 a US version of baccarat, called Punto Banco, opened at the Las Vegas Sands. In the 1970s, there was an exclusive feel to the game with only a handful of big money tables on the Las Vegas strip. From there though its popularity has rocketed with big and small stakes players alike, in the US, Europe and Asia. $10 minimum tablets are pretty common nowadays so everyone can enjoy playing.
How to Play
You don't need analysis or a poker face to play as baccarat doesn't require skill or years of knowledge. It's a straightforward, luck and fun based endevour.
The house edge is a lowly 1.4% so it's one of the better casino games to play if you're looking to have a fair shot at winning. The probability of a tie is 9.53% (this pays 8-1 or 9-1 deopending on the casino). Without the tie, the bank has a marginal 51% win rate. Minimum bets in baccarat differ from establishment to establishment so it's important to, whether online or offline, find a good fit with your level of gambling.
The game is simple to play, you're required to make a bet on either the bank, the player or the tie. Two cards and dealt to each player and the banker. The two cards are added up with the aim of being closest to nine in total. Tens and facecards are counted as zero, while others are counted at face value (so Ace, King would be One for instance, and Six, Jack would be six). If a hand is over the value of nine (7,7 for example) you must subtract 10 to determine its value (so the aforementioned 7,7 would be 4).
- If either player has a total of nine after their two cards are dealt, also known as a 'natural', they are the winner.
- If neither player does, then the closet to 9 wins.
- If both players have the same total, it's a tie.
- If neither player has an 8 or a 9 total, bacarat rules can dictate that a third card is drawn.
As much of the house edge is on the tie, it pays to avoid this, and to instead bet on either the bankers or players hand.
There are similarities to another casino game, roulette, in that many people note down trends of how many hands the banker wins vs the player and make their bets according to this. Much like red or black on a roulette wheel though, each outcome is entirely independent of the previous and so there is no way of gaining an advantage by anticipating that a trend will either emerge or come to an end. Still, for some this anticipation, or almost superstitious aspect of playing, is part of the fun and it doesn't result in a worse outcome as such, just not a better one either.
As with blackjack, card counting is or rather was possible in baccarat too. This involves counting the value of cards that are dealt in order to ascertain who is likely to be dealt the best hand. In the modern game though, multiple decks (often 8) are used, purposefully to annul this activity.
Ultimately baccarat is a fun game to play, that doesn't involve much strategy and instead relies more on whether or not lady luck is on your side!
Gareth The Gambler