How to Play Baccarat

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Steeped in 500 years of history, baccarat is the card game played by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s much-loved books. But how exactly do you play it? Read on to find out the rules, how to play a hand, and a few tips and tricks to keep you on track. 

Baccarat Rules

With a low house advantage and relatively simple rules to follow, it’s quite easy to understand how to play baccarat. In any one round there can be several players betting at the same time, but the game focuses on two hands of cards — known as the ‘Player’ hand and the ‘Banker’ hand. The overall aim is to bet on which hand you think will end up with a hand value as close to nine as possible. Let’s take a look at a few of the key rules for baccarat. 

  • Number cards are worth their printed value. Face cards and tens are worth zero, and aces are worth one.
  • If a hand’s value is over nine, deduct 10 to get your hand. For example, if a pair of eights totals 16. Minus 10 and the hand value is 6.
  • Both the Player and Banker hands are paid at even money, but the Banker bet is usually subject to a 5% ‘commission’ if it wins. That means it’s essentially paid at 19-to-20. 
  • If the hand ends in a tie and no-one placed a bet on this outcome, it’s called a push and nobody wins or loses — all stakes are returned.
  • If you bet on a tie, you’ll win a payoff of 8-to-1, or 9-to-1 in some games.

How a Hand of Baccarat is Played

When it comes to actually playing the game, what’s the usual format? Let’s go through the steps you’ll take throughout a full round or ‘coup’ of baccarat. 

  1. Bets are placed. You can bet on either the Player or the Banker. The bet you’re making is on which hand you think will be nearest to nine. 
  2. Cards are dealt. The Player and Banker hands receive two cards each.
  3. The point totals are announced. If one hand scores an eight or a nine, this is called a natural and it instantly wins. If neither hand has a value of eight or nine, proceed to the next step.
  4. Player’s third card is drawn. If the Player’s total is less than six, a third card is drawn.
  5. Banker’s third card is drawn. There’s a set of rules called the ‘tableau’ that is used to decide if the Banker hand draws a third card:
  • If the Player’s third card is nine, ten, a face card, or an ace, then the Banker draws a third card on 0–3 but stands on 4–7. 
  • If the Player’s third card is eight, then the Banker draws on 0–2 but stands on 3–7. 
  • If the Player’s third card is a six or seven, the Banker draws on 0–6 but stands on 7. 
  • If the Player’s third card is a four or five, the Banker draws on 0–5 but stands on 6 or 7. 

The Different Types of Baccarat

Similarly to other table games like blackjack and roulette, there are a few different versions of baccarat. Each follows a similar format but with a slight difference in rules. So, which are the most commonly available baccarat games to play online? Let’s take a look at some of them now.

Punto Banco

The most popular baccarat variant, Punto Banco is played between two hands — the Player or ‘punto’, and the Banker or ‘banco’. Believed to have been developed in Mexico back in the 1940s, Punto Banco is typically played with six decks of cards, with the rules following the original version of baccarat. Many online baccarat games you’ll encounter are, in fact, Punto Banco. It’s also a regular feature at live dealer casinos, with one of the most popular versions being Lightning Baccarat by Evolution. 

The French translation of Chemin de Fer is ‘railway’, and the game is called that because it’s typically a bit faster than Punto Banco. The rules differ in that players draw hands against each other rather than against the dealer — one player holds the banker hand and puts a wager to one side, which other players can try to better or match. The bank position is passed on to the next player when a hand is lost. Because this game is played between individual players and not against a dealer, you won’t typically find it available at online casinos.

Also called Baccarat à Deux Tableaux or Baccarat on Two Tables, this is another popular version at land-based casinos and is rarely seen at online baccarat sites. It’s played with only three decks as opposed to the traditional six or eight, and can involve as many as 16 players sitting at the baccarat table to either side of the dealer. The two sides bet on their own individual hand against the bank, or both hands at a value of half the stake. 

As the name suggests, Mini Baccarat is a version of Punto Banco that’s played on a smaller scale and at a smaller table. It’s also a little faster-paced. Up to seven people can play, and eight decks are used. Mini baccarat is perfect for when you fancy a quick game of cards but don’t have time for a full session of Punto Banco.

Baccarat Card Values

When counting the total of your hand, the number cards are worth their face value. Ace cards are worth one, and face cards are worth zero. When calculating your total, if you go above nine, you simply deduct ten to reach your final hand. 

  • Say a hand is made up of the nine of hearts and two of spades. 
  • 9 + 2 = 11 and 11 – 10 = 1.
  • The hand’s final total is 1. 

Another way to think of it is only the right-most digit is used to work out the hand total. 

Baccarat Strategies

As with most forms of gambling, the outcome of baccarat mostly depends on the luck of the cards that are dealt. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can be employed to maximise your chances of winning. 

  • Avoid the tie bet – While the higher payout of 8-to-1 can be tempting, there’s far less chance of you winning on a tie bet and the house edge is as high as 14.36%.
  • Bet with the banker – Betting on the Banker hand gives you the highest odds of winning and has a low house edge of 1.06%. This is an easy strategy to follow and one that’s often recommended by those in the know. 

Baccarat Betting Systems

While the following strategies won’t increase your chances of winning or lower the house edge, they can be used to help manage your bankroll. Keep in mind these systems have their own pitfalls, often running up against table limits or burning through your bankroll. In any case, you should always bet responsibly within your own limits. 

  • Martingale strategy – Originating from the 18th Century in France and devised by mathematician Paul Pierre Levy, the Martingale strategy is one that sees you adjusting your bets when you win or lose. Put simply, it involves doubling your bet wager after losing in order to recoup all previous losses, resetting to the base bet once you win. 
  • Reverse Martingale – This betting strategy is like the Martingale, but in reverse. Every time you win, you double the value of your bet, and reset to the base unit when you lose.
  • Fibonacci strategy – Most people have heard of the Fibonacci sequence, where each number in the sequence is calculated by adding the two that came before it. The sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…) is used to determine how many betting units to wager. After each loss, the player moves one number down the sequence. After a win, they move two numbers up the sequence. 
  • D’Alembert strategy – Created by Jean le Rond d’Alembert, this positive progression is similar to the Martingale but doesn’t increase quite so steeply. For example, you could start with £1 as your base unit and start wagering at £5. If you lose a bet, you increase the stake by one unit (in this case, £1). Once you hit a win, you then decrease your bet by one unit until you reach your starting wager. 

Baccarat Glossary

Banco – ‘Bank’ or ‘banker’ in Spanish.

Bankroll – The amount a player has set aside to spend on gambling.

Burning – Right after shuffling and before the start of a new game, the top three to six cards are discarded.

Carte – A French word that’s used to request another card. 

Commission – Usually 5%, this is the amount deducted from winning Banker bets.

Coup – A French word that refers to a single round of baccarat.

Cut Card – A plastic card that’s used to cut the deck after the cards have been shuffled.

Dealer – The person responsible for dealing the cards. Sometimes synonymous with the Banker. 

Deux Tableau – An alternative name for Baccarat Banque.

Down card – When a card is placed face down, also referred to as a hole card.

Face cards – The Jack, Queen, or King cards.  

Face up – Usually refers to the cards being shown face up on the table at the end of a hand, but can also mean whether they’re face up when dealt.

Hand – All the cards that are dealt to the Player or the Banker in one round.  

Hole card – Alternative name for a card placed face down. 

House edge – The mathematical advantage the online casino has over the player. In punto banco, it’s 1.06% for Banker bets and 1.24% for Player bets.

La Grande – Meaning ‘the big one’ in French, this refers to the best hand in baccarat, a total of nine.

La Petite – Meaning ‘the little one’ in French, this is the second best hand in baccarat, a total of eight.

Mini Baccarat – A game played on a smaller table and at a faster pace than traditional baccarat. 

Natural – If the Banker or Player’s first two cards are worth eight or a nine, this is called a natural and automatically wins.

Palette – The tool used by a croupier to move the cards around the table. 

Punto Banco – The most commonly found version of baccarat at online casino sites

Shooter – A word sometimes used to describe the banker/dealer.

Tie – When neither the Banker or Player hand wins the round due to holding the same value. Also called a draw or push.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The odds of winning at baccarat depend on how you bet. The Banker hand wins 45.8% of the time and the Player hand wins 44.6% of the time, whereas bets on Tie win 9.6% of the time.

  • Both of these table games are hugely popular at online casinos, but differ in the rules and bets involved. At a basic level, blackjack requires some level of decision making and strategy, whereas the outcome of baccarat is entirely dependent on the cards dealt. You’ll also need to choose which hand to bet on, whereas in blackjack, you always bet on yourself.

  • The aim of baccarat is to bet on the hand you think will have the value closest to nine as possible — either the Player or Banker. The best hand is therefore any hand totalling nine, although hands worth eight are also valuable and quite likely to win. 

  • There are many strategies in baccarat, but these usually relate to betting strategies rather than playing tactics. You’ll find more details about betting strategies further up the page, including Fibonacci and Martingale strategies. 

    If you’re looking to minimise the house edge and maximise your returns over the long term, it’s best to bet on the Banker hand. This is the bet with the lowest house edge in baccarat, at 1.06%.


Alice Soule

Alice is a Content Editor at, joining us from Gambling Insider in 2022 with two years and counting in the online gambling space. She has a keen interest in gambling regulations and the promotion of safer gambling measures, and regularly conducts interviews with industry experts from payment providers and software developers to regulators and casino game auditors. Outside work Alice plays lacrosse and supposedly gets haircuts at establishments that serve champagne.


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