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How to play – and hopefully win – at baccarat

Baccarat has been around for hundreds of years. Traced back to the late 15th century, it was hugely popular among the French nobility and was introduced to the casinos of Las Vegas in the 1950s. But despite its longevity, baccarat remains a mystery to many.

There’s no doubting that the lack of general knowledge about this game is largely down to its adoption by the upper classes and high rollers. Even today, it’s not uncommon to see a casino’s baccarat area roped off, with only the biggest spenders offered the opportunity to play.

But with the introduction of online baccarat, this historic game is now open to everyone. And with baccarat coming much closer than other casino games to offering players a genuinely even shot (the house edge is just 1.17 per cent for bets on the banker and 1.36 for wagers on the player), it really is worth your while learning the ropes.

How to play

Before we take a look at baccarat strategy, it’s first important to ensure that you actually have a firm grasp on how to play.

One aspect that can appear a little confusing to newcomers is the fact that only two hands are dealt, regardless of how many people are playing. Of these, one is designated the ‘banker’ hand and the other the ‘player’ hand – but neither has any actual association with the player or the house themselves. Bettors are allowed to wager on whichever hand they think will win.

The aim of the game is to bet on the hand of the highest value. Two cards are dealt for each hand; the point totals determine whether either is given a third card, with the player hand completed first. Points are worked out accordingly:

  • Tens and face cards – worth zero.
  • Ace – worth one.
  • All other cards – worth their face value.

The highest possible baccarat hand is nine. Any double-digit sums are only worth the right-most digit of the total (so a hand of six and seven adds up to 13 and is therefore worth three).

As well as lending its name to the game, the word ‘baccarat’ refers to anything with a zero value – so in a hand of king, four and six, the king is a ‘baccarat’ and so is the hand value.

A score of eight or nine is referred to as a ‘natural’ and results in the ‘player’ receiving no more cards. Unless the ‘banker’ draws a natural nine or ties the natural eight, no more cards are dealt in this situation and the naturals are declared automatic winners.

The ‘player’ also stands – or draws no more cards – on six or seven, but takes another card on any other value (unless the ‘banker’ has a natural, in which case they win).

For the ‘banker’ hand, the rules are a little more complicated. The ‘banker’ also stands on seven, eight or nine and draws on zero, one or two, but other plays are dictated by the value of the third card drawn by the ‘player’:

 

  • Banker’s value is three – draws if player’s third card is between one and ten, but not eight.
  • Banker’s value is four – draws if player’s third card is from two to seven, stands if player’s third card is one, eight, nine or ten.
  • Banker’s value is five – draws if player’s third card is from four to seven, stands if player’s third card is one, two, three, eight, nine or ten
  • Banker’s value is six – draws if player’s third card is six or seven, stands if player’s third card is one, two, three, four, five, eight, nine or ten.

After the hands have been played out, the winner is the one closer to nine, with winning bets paid out at even money. In the event of a tie, neither hand wins or loses.

Maximise your winnings with a baccarat strategy

One simple way to potentially land a profit – while minimising losses if you’re unlucky – is the 1-3-2-6 Strategy.

Using this system, gamers start with a £1 bet, following it up with wagers of £3, £2 and £6 if they keep winning. Should they lose at any point, the cycle restarts and the bettor returns to £1.

In this way, the highest amount that can be lost is £2; if the first bet loses, you’ll end up £1 down, while losing the second bet returns a £2 deficit, the third would still leave you with a £2 profit and the fourth will see you break even.

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