Baccarat has been a fixture in high-roller areas at brick-and-mortar casinos for decades. The attraction is a low-house edge compared with other games: close to 1% for one bet type. Now, you can enjoy baccarat online or live with our detailed guide.
Betting on baccarat is simple. On each hand, you’ll decide whether to back “player,” “banker” or “tie.” There are complex rules for how the two hands are dealt; though, when you play the game, the croupier handles this side of things. There are variations of baccarat which simplify the rules. The best known is called Punto Banco.
Online baccarat is available either against software or via live dealer casino rooms. However, you’ll need to be in a state that offers legal real money casinos to take advantage.
Our baccarat guide provides you with everything you need to understand the bets and rules. We look at how to play baccarat online, as well as the strategy for placing those all-important bets.
How to play online baccarat legally in the US?
Regulation for online gambling is expanding at a rapid pace. Many states have started with legal sportsbooks, and a handful of states offer or are in the processing of offering online casinos. Presently, these states are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia.
If you are in a legal state, you’ll be able to enjoy online baccarat and Punto Banco.
First, there are computer software versions. These are fast, easy to play and start at surprisingly small stakes (or even for play-money while you learn the game).
At some online casino sites, you can find table games at live dealer studios. Casinos stream these games in real-time from their brick-and-mortar casinos. You can find live dealer casinos at the bigger online casinos, including Golden Nugget and 888 Casino, in regulated states.
Details of the online casino laws vary by state. Generally, you’ll need to be at least 21 years or older to play. There is no need to be a permanent resident of the legal gaming state, though you will need to be inside state lines where the casino is licensed to play.
Casino apps include the geolocation technology to verify that you are inside the state borders.
How online baccarat works
We describe a typical baccarat game in which a dealer handles the cards, with one or more players betting on the outcome. However, there are variations where the dealer position rotates around the table.
Before a hand is dealt, each player will place bets on one or more of the three outcomes. The choices are player, banker or tie. You can choose to bet on any of these outcomes (as a player, you are not forced to bet on the “player” option).
Here are the odds of winning based on those bets:
- Player: 1.24%
- Banker: 1.06%
- Tie: 14.36%
Note that the “tie” option has terrible odds compared with either the player or the banker bets. More on that in the side bets section below.
The dealer deals hands to both the player and banker. There are complex rules for whether more cards are added to each hand. You don’t need to memorize these to enjoy the game.
Baccarat drawing rules
The winning hand out of the player and banker is the one closest to (or at) 9 points.
Each hand is dealt two cards with the following rules:
- Non-picture cards are worth their point value.
- Tens through kings (all the picture cards) are worth zero.
- Aces are worth one.
If a hand goes over 10, then 10 points are removed.
For example, two 7s = 14, take the 10, and you have a score of 4.
- If either hand shows 8 or 9 (also known as a “natural“), the hand ends and no extra cards are dealt.
Any time there is no “natural” (8 or 9) on the two-card deal, then the following chart is examined, with more cards being dealt under the following criteria:
- The player stands on 6 or 7 and draws a third card with a score of zero to 5.
- If the player stood with a 6 or 7, then the banker draws a card with zero to 5 and stands with a 6 or 7.
Banker rules on 3rd card
When the player draws a third card, the rules for the banker become more complex:
- If the player total is zero, 1 or 2, then the banker will always draw a third card; otherwise, the rules depend on the banker’s current total.
- Banker Shows 3: Draws a third card unless the player’s third card was an 8.
- Banker Shows 4: Draws a third card when the player drew 2 through 7 as a third card.
- Banker Shows 5: Draws a third card when the player drew 4 through 7 as a third card.
- Banker Shows 6: Draws a third card when the player drew 6 or 7 only.
- Banker Shows 7: Always stands.
You don’t need to remember these rules to enjoy the game.
From a player’s perspective, you can enjoy online baccarat by merely deciding whether to bet on the player, banker or tie squares.
How to reduce the house edge in Baccarat
Baccarat is a favorite among high rollers because of the lower house edge. There are variations in payouts and details of the rules which make a difference.
The golden rule for baccarat is to avoid the tie bet. This does have a bigger return than either the banker or the player bet but comes with a horrific house edge. The tie bet can be more than 20% in some games and, typically, more than 14% (it depends on the return in each game).
If you contrast this with the player and banker bets, you’ll see how big the difference is. These wagers have a house edge of around 1%.
The standard rules give the following:
- Player: 1.24%
- Banker: 1.06%
Table minimums are often bigger for baccarat than other games. When you see the low house edge, you’ll understand why this needs to be the case.
Casinos balance the lower edge (and easy gameplay where the players can’t make strategy mistakes) with the cost of running the table. Some casinos will have side bets on the hands being pairs or pairs of the same suit. These do add an element of excitement and interest to the game.
These wagers also have a prohibitively large house edge, often upwards of 10%.
Different variations of baccarat
Some baccarat variations are more complex than the original game, involving strategy decisions by players who affect the outcome of hands.
Others are simplified, turning them into an entertaining and simple casino game.
Here are the main variations:
- Punto Banco: This is also known as American baccarat, though it is the single most popular variation around the world. In this format, the casino is the “house” (not each player in turn). This variation is played with a shoe of between six and eight decks.
- Mini Baccarat: This game is designed to work with a single casino dealer who performs all the handling of cards. The drawing rules are slightly different from the main game.
- Super 6 Baccarat: This is also known as Punto 2000. Banker bets are paid at 1-to-1 on all scores except 6, which is paid at 50%. It increases the house edge to 1.46% on banker bets.
- EZ Baccarat: This casino variation includes Dragon 7’and Panda 8 side bets. The banker will win on a total of 7 after the third card is drawn.
- Chemin De Fer: This is a multiplayer form of baccarat, where each player acts as the dealer in turn. This player acts as the banker, making decisions on whether to draw additional cards. All players share a single player hand in this format.
Live dealer baccarat games
Live dealer casino studios take advantage of better network speeds available these days.
You can bet on the outcome of a hand of baccarat dealt in real-time from a studio. These are available in those states with regulated online casinos. The studios are often inside the casinos, where experienced dealers can handle the cards.
To bet, you only need a funded account. You’ll drag and drop wagers using an overlay on the felt. With the dealing rules set, you won’t need to wait for others to make decisions (as you do when playing blackjack) or for the hand to play out to cover players who have bet when you have folded (as you do with live dealer casino poker games).
If the table minimums at live dealer online casinos are too big for your bankroll, you can always choose a software-based game instead.
These have the advantage that you will not miss a hand should you get distracted or disconnected, as well as those lower table minimums.
There are different variations of the history of baccarat. Some historians suggest that the origins of the game go back to the 15th century when France and Italy were at war.
France has a history of inventing gambling games, with roulette appearing there in the 17th century, and poker having a predecessor game in the region, too. The original French name for this game is Chemin de Fer.
Punto Banco was the version that hit the new world. This was the house-banked game, rather than the player-versus-player variation, which started in Europe.
It first appeared in Las Vegas at the Sands Casino in the 1950s. This game has made appearances in James Bond movies. More recently, it moved online, where you can now enjoy it with a live dealer or as a software-based game.
Baccarat and US casino bonuses
Online casinos in legal jurisdictions offer a lot of various bonuses and promotions to attract and retain players. While you can certainly take advantage of them, baccarat is not the best game for bonus clearing.
The super-low house edge means that most casinos will either exclude it or give it a very low “weighting” for the purposes of clearing bonuses.
With no-deposit free play, matched welcome bonuses and other promotions, your best bet is often to take advantage of them using slots, then enjoy baccarat games with the money you win.
Final thoughts on playing baccarat for free or real money
While not in the same league as blackjack or roulette in terms of popularity, baccarat does have its fans.
You’ll find this game in the high-limit area of many casinos, as well as (in simple “mini bacc” form) on the casino floor.
The outcomes are a win for a fictional player or a banker or sometimes a tie. You can bet on whichever outcome you like. The house edge is low on either bet, though slightly lower for banker bets.
Tie bets have a huge house edge; experienced players avoid these. Some variations of the game also have side bets.
Contrasting with the simple outcomes, the rules for dealing are complex.
Unless a “natural” (8 or 9) is dealt, a table of rules that depend on what cards are showing is referenced.
Make sure you check out the new live dealer casino baccarat in states that regulate online gambling. It adds a social element — with a real dealer handling the cards — and lets you bet online.