How to Play Baccarat
I grew up on James Bond – the books first, then the movies. So, of course, I love baccarat. The very first Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale (1953), gives us Bond in his purest form: chain-smoking and details-obsessed, a thoroughly English human being. This version of Bond spent a lot more time studying baccarat than he did killing people or getting fitted for tuxedos. That’s why he was the “finest gambler available to the Service.”
Baccarat is played with six decks and two players, you and the Banker. One hand is dealt to each of you. To win, you must pick the hand with the highest total, the highest score being 9, and the lowest a zero. If you bet on a tie and win, you get paid 9 to 1 for bigger wins. Even better. Baccarat is James Bond’s preferred game, and now it’s yours.
The thing is, baccarat is a very simple game. Bond was playing chemin de fer, the original version of baccarat, which has a certain element of skill to it. They still play that game in France, but in Vegas, and just about everywhere else, it’s punto banco. There is no skill in this form of baccarat. It’s like playing blackjack, but without having to make any decisions. Even counting cards won’t do you much good. It’s a social game, in other words.
Each hand of baccarat starts with a shoe, usually with eight decks in it, sometimes six. The dealer acts as the Banker (banco), dealing cards both to himself and to the Player (punto). You can bet on either hand to win; if the Player wins, the casino pays out at even money, but if the Banker wins, it’s even money minus a 5% commission fee. You can also bet on a Tie, which pays 9-1 at Slots.lv. Most Vegas casinos pay out at 8-1, although you might find some promotions involving lower commissions and higher payouts for the Tie.
In blackjack, you want your hand to add up to 21. In baccarat, the magic number is 9. Aces are worth one point, Tens and face cards are worth zero, and everything in between is face value. After the bets are placed, the Banker and the Player(s) receive two cards each, face-up. Add together the value of those two cards, and take the number in the “ones” column of the total; for example, a Nine and a Seven would give you a hand value of 6 points. There’s no busting in baccarat.
It’s Only Natural
At this point, if either the Banker or the Player has an 8 or 9 (also known as a natural), the hand is over, and the winner is declared. Otherwise, everything proceeds according to the drawing rules (also known as the tableau) at your casino. At Slots.lv, the Player goes first, and either stands pat on a 6 or 7, or receives a third card if the hand value is anywhere between 0 and 5. Then it’s the Banker’s turn. If the Player stood pat, the Banker also stands on 6 or 7 and hits once with every other hand. If the Player drew a third card, the Banker either stands or hits, depending on the value of his hand and the value of the Player’s third card.
That last bit can be difficult to remember, but again, everything is automatic in punto banco baccarat. If you like, you can study the tableau at Slots.lv and play for free in Practice Mode until you get the hang of it. It’s good to know the rules by heart, just in case the dealer at your bricks-and-mortar casino makes an error with the payouts. One tip before I go: Betting on the Banker reduces the house edge to 1.06%, compared to 1.24% for the Player and 4.85% for the Tie. And remember, martinis are actually better stirred, not shaken.
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