Baccarat is the most glamorous, if not
mysterious, game in the casino. The playing tables are usually roped off, and
the croupiers staffing them are typically dressed in tuxedos. Three croupiers
service the game. The one in charge is the callman, who handles the cards,
decides the draw and announces the winning hand. The other two, who remain
seated throughout the game, pay off winning bets and collect losing bets.
The object of the game is surprisingly
simple. Baccarat is played with multiple decks of standard playing cards. Two
hands composed of two cards each are dealt ”” one for the “player” and one
for the “bank.” Players can bet on either hand. The winning hand is
determined by the point totals of the respective hands. All 10s and face cards
are valued at 0. The rest of the cards retain their face value (the ace counts
If the two-card total exceeds 10
points, you simply count the last digit of the number as your score. For
instance, if a hand contains a 6 and 8 for a total of 14, the hand is valued at
4. The winning hand, either the “bank” or “player,” will have a higher
total value than the other.
The rules determining whether
additional cards are drawn are complicated, but it is not necessary for the
player to memorize them. The croupier will decide if and when a draw is
necessary; the player is never required to make that decision. They are included
here so you will understand the reasons behind the croupier’s action.
1. If either hand has a value of 8 or 9
(these scores are called “naturals”), no further cards are dealt. The higher
of the two hands is declared the winner. Should both hands have the same value,
a tie is declared and neither wins.
2. If neither hand is a natural, a set
of complicated rules comes into play. Again, the croupier will make the
decisions on drawing cards. Basically, the player’s hand will take a third
card if its value is from 0 to 5. It must stand on 6 or 7. The bank’s hand
must draw if its value is from zero to 2. When the bank has a value of 3 or
more, draw is determined by the printed rules.
3. A bet on the player’s hand pays
even money. But, because the bank hand has a slightly higher percentage of
winning (50.7 percent), winning bets on the bank hand are subject to a 5 percent
commission paid to the casino. (In practice, the bank bets are paid at even
money, and the accumulated commissions are paid to the house at the end of the
deal or when the player leaves the table.)
4. Players can also bet that the hands
will end in a tie. This bet pays at odds of 8-1, but it is a poor bet because
the house has an advantage of nearly 15 percent.
Because players cannot decide when to
draw cards, there is no skill involved in playing baccarat. It is purely a game
of chance. However, streaks do occur, and a winning strategy can take advantage
of these cycles.
A reliable winning strategy calls for
placing bets on the bank hands. This surprises many players because bank bets
are subject to the 5 percent commission. However, the bank should win 50.7
percent of the time. And the 5 percent commission is paid only on winnings and
not on losing bets. So, a player has a slightly better advantage by playing the
As with other table games such as
blackjack and craps, flat bets will, at the very best, even out over the long
run. To be successful at baccarat, you should increase bets after winning hands
in order to take advantage of short streaks that often occur. Conversely, losing
bets should never be increased.
A sound betting system for baccarat
calls for increasing your bets after a previous win over a cycle of five hands,
according to the following schedule:
1. An initial bet of one unit is made.
2. The second bet is three times the
3. The third bet is four times the
4. The fourth bet is five times the
5. The fifth bet is six times the
After the fifth bet, the cycle reverts
to the original bet. Although this system calls for increasing bets in the ratio
of 1-3-4-5-6, no bet beyond the second one is ever double the previous bet. This
prevents the player from being wiped out by a losing bet.