Baccarat may be best known as a game played by rich VIPs in secluded areas of the casino, but don’t let that reputation fool you. It is a game of simple rules and limited strategy, meaning it can be played by anyone – not just a select few. And since you can play baccarat online for real money at much lower limits than in a live casino, you don’t have to be a VIP to enjoy the great odds baccarat offers for casino gamblers!
Where to Play Baccarat Online
Baccarat will be fairly similar no matter where you choose to play it. Every online casino we’ve run into has offered the same 5% commission on banker bets, and while some casinos may offer slightly better odds on the tie bet, we still don’t recommend making it (more on that below). This means that if you want to play baccarat online, you’ll probably want to make your decision based on which casino you believe has the best software, bonuses, deposit options, and other features.
How to Play Baccarat
In contrast to the reputation the game has received over the years, baccarat is actually really simple to play. The object of the game is to predict whether the player or the banker will have the better score at the end of each hand. The names of the hands are used to distinguish them, but players are free to bet on either; in most versions of baccarat, the dealer controls both hands, meaning the player only has to make a bet and then watch the action.
Play begins with both hands receiving two cards. Hands are scored based on the value of their cards; tens and face cards are worth zero points, aces are worth one point, and other cards (2-9) are worth their rank. To score a hand, add up the value of all cards in that hand, and then take only the last digit of that total. For instance, if a hand has cards totaling 15 points, the score for that hand is 5. The best possible hand is a 9, while the worst possible hand is a 0.
After both hands are dealt their initial two cards, one or both may be given a third card depending on several rules. The rules for dealing additional cards to each hand are as follows:
- If either the player or banker hand has a score of 8 or 9, both stand and the hand ends immediately. Otherwise, look at the remaining rules.
- If the player hand has a score of 5 or less, it will be given a third card. Otherwise, the player will stand.
- If the player stands, the banker will follow the same rule: hitting with 5 or less, and standing with 6 or more. If the player hits, the value of the player’s third card, along with the banker’s score, will determine if the banker takes a third card.
- If the player’s third card is 0 or 1, the banker will hit with a hand of 3 or less.
- If the player’s third card is 2 or 3, the banker will hit with a hand of 4 or less.
- If the player’s third card is a 4 or 5, the banker will hit with a hand of 5 or less.
- If the player’s third card is a 6 or 7, the banker will hit with a hand of 6 or less.
- If the player’s third card is an 8, the banker will hit with a hand of 2 or less.
- If the player’s third card is a 9, the banker will hit with a hand of 3 or less.
After any third cards are dealt, the two hands are compared, with the higher score winning. Winning player bets pay even money, while winning bets on the banker hand win even money minus a 5% commission (in other words, they win $19 for every $20 wagered). If the two hands tie, both bets push. However, there is a separate Tie bet that typically pays 8-1 and wins only if the player and banker tie.
There is very little strategy that can be employed when playing baccarat online for money. Sure, at a live table, you’ll probably see most of the “serious” baccarat players making notes of every single hand, tracking the numbers that are coming out in order to figure out which hand is most likely to win next. Don’t bother joining in; tracking numbers won’t give you any insights into future results.
Instead, if you want the best odds possible when playing online baccarat, simply bet on the banker every time. The banker bet has a house edge of just 1.06%, as compared to an edge of 1.24% for the player. Both of these are among the best odds you’ll find anywhere in a real money online casino. On the other hand, we highly recommend avoiding the Tie bet; that one has a house edge of approximately 14.36%, and has a rather high house edge even if the bet pays 9-1, as it does in some online casinos.
Does Card Counting Work Playing Baccarat?
Many players wonder if, as in blackjack, card counting can be an effective strategy in baccarat. Because the game is dealt out of a shoe, and there are some cards that benefit the player or banker hand more, it is possible that the remaining shoe could at any given time tilt in favor of one side or the other.
Unfortunately, from a practical perspective, card counting simply doesn’t work in baccarat. Even if you could count perfectly – meaning that you memorized the exact values of every card and used no approximations – and the penetration of the shoe is very deep, you’re likely to find a spot where either the banker or player bet no longer has a house edge only once every few hundred hands or less. Even this isn’t a very exciting proposition, and these conditions aren’t likely to pop up very often, meaning card counting isn’t really an option in baccarat.
Even if the above sounds like something you’d like to try, it’s not something to attempt in an online casino. Online baccarat games reshuffle the cards after every hand, making card counting an impossible task – the same problem that card counters encounter in online blackjack games.