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Baccarat – the facts

Baccarat is a casino game that is usually associated with high rollers and those lucky enough to have sufficient disposable cash to gamble hundreds of dollars per hand. It’s a simple game that’s made to look complicated by use of the third card rule.

When you play baccarat, you do not have a hand yourself. Instead, the dealer deals two hands – the ‘player’ or ‘punto’ hand, and the ‘banker’ or ‘banco’ hand. You have the choice of betting on the hand you think is going to win, or if you think it is going to be a tie. Guess right and you receive back double your stake, or 8-1 if you bet on the tie. If you bet on the banker’s hand, you have to pay a five percent commission if you win. This is because the banker wins more often than the player.

The object of baccarat is to score the most points. Aces are worth one, all tens and face cards are worth zero and all other cards are worth their point total. A hand is made up of two or three cards, and its value is the ‘units’ total of the hand. For example, a hand of a seven and an eight is worth five, not fifteen.

A little bit of history

Like many card games, it seems that baccarat may have originated in either France or Italy. There were two versions of baccarat around as long ago as the 1400s – ‘Chemin de Fer’ and ‘Baccarat en Banque’. Chermin de Fer is French for ‘railway’, and Baccarat en Banque means ‘baccarat in bank’ – ‘baccarat’ itself is an Italian word that means ‘nothing’.

When Chemin de Fer made its way into early American casinos, the game was renamed ‘Punto Banco’ which simply means ‘player banker’. This refers to the hands than can be wagered upon. In modern parlance, ‘baccarat’ and ‘punto banco’ are precisely the same game. Punto banco differs from Chemin de Fer in that strict rules dictate what happens when the cards are drawn. In Chemin de Fer, a player can choose whether to take a third card or not, for example.

Baccarat – some terms explained

Baccarat

Not only the name of the game, but also the worst possible hand. Any hand that has a value of zero (for example, a king and a jack) is known as ‘baccarat’.

Banco

The banker, or the banker’s hand

Big and small

A side bet on the number of cards that will be dealt. The ‘big’ side bet pays out if a total of five or six cards are dealt, and the ‘small’ side bets wins if only four cards are dealt.

Dragon bonus

Another side bet that is popular in Asian casinos that have baccarat. If you bet on the ‘Dragon Bonus’, you are betting on winning hand winning by at least four points. The bigger the win, the more the side bet pays up to a maximum of 30-1 for a win by a nine point margin.

Dragon seven

A side bet that pays 40-1 should a dealer have a three card hand worth seven, and the dealer’s hand beats the player’s hand.

Either pair

Another side bet that pays 5-1 should the player or the banker be dealt a pair.

La grande

One of the names for the best hand in baccarat, which is any hand with a value of nine, such as a nine and a queen. ‘La Grande’ is French for ‘the big one’.

La petite

A name for the second best hand in baccarat, which is any hand with a value of eight, such as two fours. ‘La Petite’ is French for ‘the little one’.

Lucky bonus

A side bet that pays 18-1 if the dealer has a hand worth six and still beats the player’s hand.

Natural

Any hand that totals eight or nine. In punto banco or baccarat the player does not receive a third card if they are dealt a natural.

Panda eight

Another side bet. This one pays 25-1 if the player achieves a three card winning hand that totals eight.

Perfect pair

A side bet that pays 25-1 if either the player or the banker is dealt a hand containing two identical cards in both suit and denomination.

Punto

The player, or the player’s hand.

Punto banco

Simply another name for baccarat.

Royal match

A rare side bet that pays 75-1 if the player or banker is dealt a king and a queen of the same suit, or 30-1 if either of them are dealt a king and a queen of different suits.

Them’s the facts, now hit the tables

There’s something of an air of mystery surrounding baccarat, as it’s a game that isn’t always readily available to ‘normal’ punters at real world casinos. Why there is this mystery is a wonder as, basically, baccarat or punco banco is a very simple game once you become accustomed to the ‘third card’ rules. Why not head to a baccarat table now and brush up your punto banco skills? Pick right, and you can be enjoying a nicely swollen ‘banco’ pretty swiftly!

Baccarat Gold

This is a slightly odd and involved version of baccarat with several quirks, and with extra side bets.

This game begins with a little bit of fanfare. The cards are animated so they appear on the table spread out, then they are shuffled before being despatched to the shoe.

Your chip values are 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 200. You just click on the areas of the board you want to wager on to lay your bets. The baccarat gaming table itself has been designed in an oriental fashion – marking, no doubt, this game’s popularity in Asian markets.

Hit the deal button to start the game. Unusually, the ‘Player’ cards are dealt to you. You can even play with them, if you want – squeezing and rotating them. Once you’ve flipped them both over, they return to the banker. The banker’s hand is revealed, and if you wagered correctly, your winnings are delivered.

The normal bets are available: Player (evens), Banker (19-20) and tie (8-1 in this game). There are also some side bets:

  • Banker pair bet: bet that the banker will be dealt a pair
  • Player pair bet: bet that the player will be dealt a pair

The gaming table has ten positions in which you can place bets. You cannot bet on the player and the banker in the same deal, though, although you can bet on either the player or the banker and a tie.

You can keep tabs on the cards with the history recorder on the left which records the last one hundred hands. The ‘roadmap’ screen is slip into four sections and records details as well but in more detail so you can see if any trends are active.

Eight decks are used in this game, and the house edge is 1.06 percent (banker) and 1.24 (player). The house edge is over ten percent for tie and pairs bets.

This is very nice-looking game that has been designed thoughtfully, and definitely with Asian casino players in mind. The extra bits of animation do seem a little superfluous though, and it’s hard to see – beyond novelty value – what the ability to squeeze, rotate and flip the player’s cards brings to the table as it doesn’t affect the outcome at all. Also, 8-1 on a tie is lower than the 9-1 offered by most online baccarat games. Does ‘Baccarat Gold’ deserve ‘Gold’ status? We think not, but we think it deserves a place on the podium.

Baccarat Pro

Baccarat Pro is one of the games from NetEnt’s collection of ‘Professional Series’ casino games. It follows fairly standard baccarat rules.

Each deal starts with a bet. There are 1, 5 and 10 value chips to use in your chosen currency, and you can bet per hand from 1 to 100. You drag the chips to the table to bet. Annoyingly, you can’t drag them off again – you have to select a chip with a cross through it and drag that to the table to make your existing chips disappear.

The game is played with a shoe containing eight decks, and there are only three bets available: Player, Banker or Tie.

Winning bets on the player pay 2:1, while winning bets on the banker pay the same with a five percent commission charge removed. Ties pay out at 9:1.

Naturally with baccarat the trick is to bet on the winning hand (or a tie). Once you have made your bet click the ‘deal’ button. Cards flip nicely out of the shoe and onto the table, two cards for the player and two for the banker. The player draws a third card if their hand is worth five or less. The banker draws a third card if the player stands and their total is five or less. If the player does not stand, the banker gets a third card depending on the player’s total.

A list of the last ten hands played is maintained on the left hand side of the game screen.

The timing of the cards is set nicely so you are able to work out the status of the hand before any third cards are dealt. The graphics look great and the animations are super smooth.

The theoretical house edge for this game is 1.04 percent.

This is a great-looking game with only one annoyance – the inability to drag chips off the table. Everything else is spot on, though, as you would expect with any type of NetEnt software. We also like the way the game can be configured to work one of three ways – low roller, standard and high roller, and chip values and min/max values are adjusted accordingly. There’s certainly enough here for any baccarat fan.

Baccarat (Real Time Gaming)

Often, casino software companies put too many bells and whistles on their games. You can understand why – there is a hell of a lot of competition out there. So here, it is kind of nice that RTG have just created a baccarat game that … well … plays baccarat.

The only bonus with this game is the 9-1 payout for a tie. This is an improvement on the 8-1 payout offered by most other online baccarat games. Six decks are used in the game, and they are re-shuffled around two thirds of the way down the shoe.

The game starts with your choice of the hand to bet on – banker, player, or a tie. You can bet on any combination of all three, although betting on the banker and the player at the same time is a guaranteed loser in the long run. Chip values run from 1 to 500. Select your nomination and click on the table to place your bet.

Click ‘deal’ to set the dealer off. Graphics are basic but functional. The dealing of the cards is a little too fast, so there’s hardly any tension when third cards come into play, as the deal is over in three seconds. There is no option to slow down the game.

Player and banker bets pay evens if successful, although winning bets on the banker come with the typical five percent commission. As mentioned above, a tie pays 9-1.

The only other aspect of this game is the history tab on the left hand side, which shows you the outcome of the previous twenty-two hands.

The house edge in this game is 1.06 percent (banker), 1.24 percent (players) and 4.93 percent (tie).

A baccarat game for baccarat players. There are other versions of baccarat available with better graphics and distracting side bets, but this game is nicely authentic and has a decent (although still disadvantageous) 9-1 payout for a tie. That’s really all that can be said.

Baccarat (Rival Gaming

This game is Rival Gaming’s version of the casino stalwart baccarat. All the normal rules apply.

Your first step to play this game is to select your chip size from the array of chips at the bottom of the screen. You can combine chips to make any size bet you want up to the maximum permitted. You make your bet by clicking on one of the three betting circles – banker, player or tie. You can bet on more than one if you want, and all three if you choose to, although that’s a loser in the long run, due to the five percent commission paid whenever the banker wins.

The object of the game is of course to bet on the winning hand (or for it to be a tie if you have bet on a tie). The dealer plays both hands. The winner is the hand with a total that is closest to nine. If the total of the hand is more than nine, then only the right-hand digit is considered to contribute towards the hand’s value. So a hand that’s a nine, a five and an eight is worth two, not twenty-two.

The dealer plays the player’s hand first after both player and banker have been dealt two cards. The player receives a third card if his first two are worth less than six. The banker has some complex rules to follow to ascertain whether he receives a third card.

When both hands are complete, you are paid if you chose the winning hand.

Rival’s version of baccarat has a number of configurable options. You can play fullscreen, and you can change the volume of the background sounds or turn them off completely.

There are also two speed settings, ‘slow’ and ‘medium’. In our opinion these should have been more suitably labelled ‘painstakingly slow’ and ‘just a little bit too fast’. Another annoyance is that you cannot remove chips from the virtual baccarat table by clicking on them – you have to hit the minus key on your keyboard instead.

The best thing that can be said about this game is that it plays baccarat. We have found better versions of RNG baccarat elsewhere, and we have found a few worse.

The fact you have to use the minus key to remove chips is a real pain, we think. Why not use the right mouse button, or at least provide a clickable option?

Not the greatest version of RNG baccarat ever produced, then.

Mini Baccarat

The Swedish software developers Play’n GO have yet to hit the big time when it comes to casino software development. This is a bit of a shame, as all their games tend to be very nicely developed, play well and look great. Mini Baccarat is another wonderful example of this.

We’re not really sure what’s ‘mini’ about this game though. In real world casino terms, ‘mini’ baccarat is usually offered as a gambling option for players who simply want to play baccarat but not at the high stakes usually associated with the game. You can also ‘dress casual’ while playing mini baccarat – high roller baccarat players expect people at the table to adhere to strict dress codes.

In this version of the game by Play’n GO, there are only three bets you can make – player, banker or tie. Player and banker bets pay evens – aside from the five percent commission taken off bets made on the banker. A tie pays 8-1 here, which is about average but we have seen other baccarat games that pay 9-1.

You bet by selecting your chip size and then placing them in one of the three betting circles, depending on how you wish to bet. When you’ve made your selection, hit ‘deal’. The dealer of course plays both hands, and the object of the game is to score as close to nine as possible. Each player receives two cards initially, and then a third is added depending on the total of the two. Once the deal is complete the winner is announced and you win chips or lose them depending on your bet.

This game has some oddities. Firstly, among the stats listed at the bottom of the screen are the number of ‘banker pairs’ and ‘player pairs’ dealt. This is where the banker or player is dealt a pair. Some games of baccarat allow you a side bet on this happening, but this game doesn’t, so why is it included?

There is a ‘bead road’ display in the bottom left hand corner of the screen that lists the results of the last forty-eight hands dealt. You can turn this off, as well as the commentary on each hand that’s provided by a female voice. You also have two game speeds – fast and slow.

There’s not really a lot else to say. The graphics and animation in this game are perfectly acceptable and pleasingly smooth. We’re still not sure what purpose the info about the amount of banker and player pairs serves, though – maybe it’s to encourage you to play a different version of baccarat where such bets are available (hint: side bets in baccarat are hardly ever worth taking).

If you’re a low rolling baccarat player, then this version of baccarat is certainly as good as any!

Punto Banco Pro

Punto Banco is a very pleasantly-realised version of baccarat from NetEnt. The immediate question you are probably asking yourself is what is the difference between punto banco and baccarat? The answer, effectively, is very little!

‘Punto Banco’ simply means ‘player banker’, and refers to two of the three bets that are typically available in baccarat, namely betting on the player to win, or betting on the banker to win. The other bet is to bet on a tie, which in this version of the game wins you 9-1 when a tie occurs.

Punto Banco is effectively the version of baccarat that became popular in North American casinos. In the two other versions of baccarat – chemin de fer and baccarat banque – the player decides how to play their hand. In punto banco there is no decision-making involved as the dealer plays both hands, and follows a strict set of rules that dictate what happens in all possible circumstances.

To play this nice-looking game, you simply select your chips from the stack in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and place them in one of three spots, marked ‘Punto’, ‘Banco’ and ‘Tie’. Once you’ve made your selection, hit the deal button. The dealer will then deal the player’s hand, then the banker’s hand. The object of the game of course is to score as close to nine as possible. You cannot bust in baccarat as if you go beyond nine then it is just the right-hand digit of your score that counts, so a nine and an eight is worth seven, not seventeen.

Once both hands are dealt the player may receive a third card depending on his total. There are then other rules that dictate whether the banker gets a third card or not. When the deal is complete the winning hand (or a tie) is declared, and you get paid if you picked correctly. A player or banker win is paid at evens, less five percent commission if you bet on the banker.

Punto Banco is played with six decks as opposed to the eight used in NetEnt’s Baccarat Pro game. This decreases the house edge for a banker win from 1.058% to 1.056%, but increases the house edge for the player bet from 1.235% to 1.237%. The house edge for a tie increases as well, from 14.36% to 14.44%. As you can see from those odds, betting on a tie is never a good idea.

Punto Banco or baccarat has yet to take off in the online casino realm – or at least it is not as popular as blackjack or roulette. It’s quite an autonomous game, but plenty of punters do find it enthralling, particularly gamblers in Asian casinos.

If you enjoy your baccarat, then this version of the game is well up to NetEnt’s usual standards. If you’re going to go ‘banco’, then you’ll find a more favourable house edge here than most online baccarat games, thanks to only six decks being used.