In the Old Testament, Moses climbed Mount Sinai at the direction of God and spent 40 days and nights on the top of the mountain.  After those 40 days, Moses said, “The LORD delivered unto me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.”

We don’t have to climb a mythical mountain or have any type of divine intervention to understand the game of baccarat. A lot of people became familiar with baccarat by watching James Bond films in the 1960s and 1970s. The movies gave the game an air of sophistication. In fact, many believe that the game is hard to learn.

It isn’t hard to learn, though. You start a game of baccarat starts by choosing a banker and a player. The term banker and dealer are not synonymous. In some games, a player is the banker, and another is the player. In fact, this is one way the game confuses people. In video game terms, you’d consider the banker “player 1” and the player “player 2”.

Before any cards are dealt, you can place 3 types of standard bets:

  • Player wins
  • Bank wins
  • Tie

Both players are dealt 2 cards each, face up. The hand with the score closer to 9 wins. This is where it gets complicated. All cards 2 through 9 are totaled at face value.  10s, Js, Qs, or Ks have no value. An ace has a value of 1. When 2 cards are dealt, you total the cards. If the total is above 9, you subtract 10 from the total to get your score.  This means the score is always a single digit.

Here’s an example:

You get a hand of a 5 and 8, which totals 13.  You subtract 10 and your score is 3. Now that you have the basics of the game, it’s time to learn some strategy.

Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Know How to Play Baccarat

Baccarat isn’t a complicated game, but it’s unique in the world of card games. You’ll encounter problems from the get-go if you walk up and try to bet without understanding the basics of the game.

If you’re betting on the game, you need to understand the terms banker and player. You need to understand how to bet. You need to understand card values. You need to understand the scoring. And that’s just the beginning.

There are many baccarat variations.  Before you start, you’ll need to know which variation you are playing or betting on and the rules for that particular variation.

Some of the variations you may encounter are:

  • American Baccarat
  • Mini Baccarat
  • Punto Banco
  • Chemin De Fer
  • Progressive Baccarat
  • Super Bacc
  • Baccarat en Banque

Each of these versions has its own rules and betting strategies. Because of this, it is important to know the variant of baccarat you are playing. This will allow you to adjust your strategy to match the gameplay.

For any variation of the game of baccarat that you try to bet on, you need to do some research. There are many online tutorials and videos that show you how to play these games. These tutorials and videos provide an in-depth analysis of the rules, strategies, and the etiquette of each game. Take advantage of the free resources you have at your fingertips or you may wind up losing a bundle.

Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Know Baccarat Betting Odds

Every casino game that you can bet on has certain odds of winning. These are usually determined by the house edge. The house edge is the statistical advantage that a game has over a player over time. This means that the casino will see a return over time and the player will have a loss over time. This does assume perfect gameplay.

So knowing the house edge and the odds help players better understand what type of bet to place and when. It also helps them to better budget their money when placing these bets. The house edge and the odds of certain bets can vary based on the variation of the baccarat you are playing. They also depend on the venue you are playing. This is due to commissions and rounding which I will talk about a little later.

In general, the standard game of baccarat, with a 5% table commission has the following house edges:

  • Banker: 1.06%
  • Player: 1.24%
  • Tie: 14.36%

The odds of winning each of these bets are:

  • Banker: 45.83%
  • Player: 44.62%
  • Tie: 9.54%

These numbers can change. Reasons for variations can include:

  • The number of decks being used in the game
  • The variation of the game you are playing
  • Table commissions
  • Commission rounding

So memorizing these numbers will not help you in every situation. For example, a game of baccarat with 6 decks instead of 8 will change the house edge to 14.44% on a tie bet. But the banker and layer bets remain the same.

If you can get lucky enough to find a baccarat game with only 1 deck, you can expect the house edges to be:

  • Banker: 1.01%
  • Player: 1.29%
  • Tie: 15.75%

Once again, these are all based on a 5% commission (and does not factor in any rounding). So find out these factors in the specific casinos you play at so you can make educated bets.

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Never Make a Tie Bet

You’ve more than likely heard of the term “sucker bet” before. In baccarat, the sucker bet is the tie bet. As I explained in commandment 2, the house edge on a tie bet is 14.36% on a tie bet. The odds of winning are 9.54%. The casinos try to fool you on this bet. They provide the eye candy of 9 to 1 odds. Remember, they can afford to give such great payouts on this bet because it rarely wins.

Whenever you bet, you have a slightly less than 50% chance of the banker or player winning. But the banker is the better bet. Unless you can summon Moses or the Almighty Himself to tell you when a tie will occur, then avoid the tie bets. This will break your budget faster than when Moses broke the original stone tablets.

Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Understand That Betting on the Banker is Usually Best

You’ve seen the house edges. You’ve seen the odds. In the scenario presented, the banker always has a better chance of winning. Please don’t take that as the banker always wins. I said the banker has the always has the better chance of winning.

While on the subject of the banker, let me clear up a misconception here. The banker and the dealer are not always the same. They can be. But the banker is just the name for one of the participants. They have no control over the money on the table or the bets (unless they are also the dealer). They can place bets on themselves or the player.

So don’t let the term banker intimidate you. By betting on the banker, you give yourself almost a 46% chance of winning. It’s the best in the game. It also has one of the lowest house edges of any bet in the casino at slightly above 1%. Your strategy needs to include betting consistently (not always, but more often than not) on the banker to win the hand.

Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Practice Playing Baccarat to Develop Proficiency

Any skill needs to be learned and developed. The same is true with playing baccarat. After researching the game and watching some tutorial videos on the subject, watch some real games online. See how the players in real games act and react to the hand they are dealt. Learn the rhythm of the game.

I like to watch games on YouTube. I find everything from beginners to experts playing. Some of the games are for high stakes. It gave me a good idea of what to expect when I went to play in a real brick and mortar casino.

When I started learning to play, I spent dozens of hours online at the free play sites. I played thousands of hands on these sites. I learned the jargon, the gameplay, and the etiquette.  I’m not one to want to throw money away when I don’t have to, so I try to play for free as much as I can while learning. I know that actual gameplay will differ, but I build the confidence I need to play effectively. This prevents me from getting gun shy or making poor betting choices when cash is on the line.

The next step I took is to find friends that know how to play the game and set up a little baccarat session in the basement of my house. This allows me to get a first hand, real-world knowledge of the game. I set a small budget as I know that my friends with more experience may well have wiped me out, so I didn’t want to lose too much, and I knew I would lose.

But the experience and knowledge I gained were immeasurable. This gave me the confidence to play at online casinos. I found that they varied a lot as far as odds and the versions of baccarat they offered. So I had to pay close attention to where I played to make sure that my strategy would work properly.

Once I felt comfortable with betting at online casinos, it was time to conquer the brick and mortar casinos. Once again, I had to research the types of baccarat offered at each casino. I had to pay close attention to the house odds and commissions. But it was definitely worth it.

You may not take the route I did. You may decide to watch some videos and play online to learn. And that’s fine. Not everyone has the same goals. But don’t fly blind. Learn the game and practice in some way.

Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Budget and Manage One’s Bankroll

Every month I sit down and set up a budget. I take into account how much money I should bring in and how much my bills are. I set up an Excel sheet with all my expenditures. I try to budget things like my mortgage, my insurance, my utilities, internet, etc., tightly. So when something such as my internet bill increases (which it did 4 months ago) I notice it. Even if it was just a $2 fee that they tacked on for some nonsensical reason.

My budget always includes a gambling allowance. I will vary from month to month depending on the amount I plan of bringing in that month. But once that budget is set, it’s set in stone. I never want to tap into my savings to allow me to gamble.

Has it happened where I had to tap into savings?  Yes, I had an instance where I went into the hospital and didn’t make the amount I intended that month. So my savings covered gambling and the hospital bill that month. But that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Within my monthly budget, I set daily budgets for gambling based on the number of days I plan to play. This can be a bit tricky. Sometimes I play in tournaments where I just have to pay entry fees. Sometimes I play cards with friends. Either way, I need to adjust my budget accordingly.

The key is I never spend more than budgets. I also do not include winnings in that budget. For example, if I set the budget at $1000 for the day, and I win $50,000, the $50,000 isn’t touched. But I’ll drain every bit of that $1000. Budgeting is important. You cannot be so reckless as to put your vehicle, house, or your family living situation in danger. Set limits and stick to them.

Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Understand Table Commissions and Rounding

In baccarat, each table charges a “commission” to play. This happens in other games too, such as pai gow poker. Casinos typically charge this commission when the games have a low house edge. This is to compensate for the money they need to cover the operation of the game.

The typical commission for baccarat is 5%, but this can vary depending on the casino. It can also vary based on the variation of baccarat you are playing. To make sure your strategies will work, you must factor in the exact percentage of the commission.

That can be hard sometimes because there’s a practice known as commission rounding. With commission rounding, any bet on the banker is rounded to the nearest quarter.  So if you win $20.60, the payout will only be $20.50 because the win is rounded down to the lower quarter. There are tables that do not round, but they are few and far between. On a 5% commission, it’s best to bet in $5 increments to avoid any extra funds going to the house due to rounding.

Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Know that Not All Baccarat Tables are the Same

I’ve mentioned to look for variations and check to odds at each table. There’s a reason for this. And it’s not to read my own words or fill the page that you are reading. It’s because different casinos operate differently.

First, not all casinos offer the same version of baccarat. As I mentioned before they could offer any number of games. It’s important to know which one the casinos offer. American casinos and European casinos differ in their baccarat offerings. France and Monte Carlo have different offerings from the rest of the European Union.

Next, I mentioned that the standard commission is 5%. But some casinos charge anywhere from 10% to 25% on the game based on the version and house edge. Some commission rounding may not be in 25 cent increments. Some may be in dollar (or in Europe, Euro) increments. If you want to save that bankroll, know what you are getting into before you dive in. Know that tables can differ everywhere you go.

Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Look for Games That Use Fewer Decks for Gameplay

It’s usually standard that a casino has 8 decks of cards in the shoe (a shoe is a device that holds the decks of cards). But that isn’t always the case. Some only use 6 decks. Some may only use 4. Rarely, you will find casinos that use only 2 or even 1 deck. If you find a casino that uses 1 or 2 decks, you have struck gold.

Why is this important? Because with fewer decks used, you have a better chance of winning. You can even play longer because the odds increase in your favor.  An online casino will always use 8 decks, so that’s out. But in a brick and mortar casino, you can find some that use less. There’s not a lot, but there are some.

Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Know When to Walk Away

As Kenny Rogers sang in his legendary hit song The Gambler, you need to know when to walk away and know when to run. Wiser words have never been written about gambling.  It may seem obvious, but, if you’re losing and keep losing, it may be time to take a break. Maybe for the day or maybe a month. Gambling is a mindset. If you develop a defeatist attitude, you have already lost.

It’s best when you feel like you are having a string of bad luck, a bad day, or that the cards are against you to take a breather and do something else. If you are at a brick and mortar casino, go check out a show. Enjoy a buffet. Go for a swim in the hotel pool. Visit an amusement area. Just don’t keep throwing good money after bad. Even if you are within your budget, it’s still a bad idea.

But the same can be said for winning. In the cult classic movie Empire Records, record store lackey Lucas discovers that the store he works at is being sold to a chain store. He was put in charge of closing up that night. He decided that he would take the $9,000+ in sales for the day and instead of dropping it off at the bank for deposit, he traveled to Atlantic City to make the money he needed to save the Empire. He walked up to the craps table and he bet all the money. He threw a 7 and doubled his money.

Had Lucas stopped, he would have had over $18,000 and been a good ways towards saving the Empire. If he had taken half away, he would have still had enough to cover the deposit. He let it ride and lost everything. Of course, by losing everything, it allowed for a funny and endearing story to be told. But the real lesson is that if you are winning, it might be good to walk away and enjoy the money.

Baccarat isn’t like other card games. It’s not a version of poker. It’s not a game you can sit at a casino table and learn. You need to put in the effort to understand the game. Learn its nuances, its variants, its rules, its etiquette, and its odds. It requires a lot of practice too. It’s a great game once you get the hang of it. So take the time to understand the rules, and develop a strategy. Doing so can be very lucrative.

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