Baccarat is one of the most glamorous of casino table games. It is played for high stakes, with the table often set apart in a special alcove away from the rest of the casino action. It is usually played with $100 bills – in American casinos – and high-denomination chips (oblong “plaques”). High rollers love it because the game requires no skill. It also has one of the lowest house edges in the casino — about 1.2 percent on banker and player bets. But it is not without its risks.
The game has a long and complicated history, starting in medieval Europe with popular tarot cards and eventually making its way to France where it was renamed chemin de fer (the road of fate). By the 19th century, baccarat was popular in the United States as well and enjoyed a reputation for glamour and elegance, with the dealer dressed in tuxedo and the table covered with green felt marked with numbered areas where players place their bets.
As the popularity of the game spread, a number of variants developed. In a typical round of baccarat, eight standard 52-card packs are shuffled and then dealt by the dealer from a box called a shoe or dealing area. The dealer reveals the first card for the Player box, then a second card for the Banker box. After each hand, the player and banker must decide whether to ask for a third card or not.
In the game of baccarat, the goal is to get a hand total closest to 9. The Player and Banker hands each receive two cards. A third card may be drawn for either hand if the first two cards are a ten or an Ace. A ten or an Ace is worth nine points, while any other number is worth less.
The Player and Banker hands are compared to determine the winner. If the Player or Banker hands have a total closer to 9, the winning hand is declared. If the Player or Banker has a higher total, but it is not close to nine, the winning hand is declared a tie. The Banker must draw a third card if his or her total is 7 or more. If the Banker’s total is 8, he or she must draw a third card if the Player has asked for a third card.
Whether you play in the elegant high-limit room at a luxurious Las Vegas hotel or on a smaller baccarat table on the casino floor, be sure to understand the rules and strategy of this fast-paced game. Make sure you know how much you want to spend in advance and only wager what you can afford to lose. If you’re a high roller, treat it like the money you would spend on a night out and don’t let yourself get carried away. The most common mistake is to bet too much on the Banker, and that can quickly turn into a big loss.