Online Baccarat Guide

Whether you’re an experienced player at Bovada Casino, or you’re just dropping in for the first time, you’ve probably heard about Baccarat – thanks to James Bond. But let’s forget about our favorite secret agent and look at the game itself. Our Baccarat guide will show you how to get started playing this highly entertaining game; we’ll give you some Baccarat strategy tips along the way, and we’ll take a deep dive into the Baccarat odds while we’re at it. As you’ll see, Baccarat gives you some of the best odds you’ll find at any casino.

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Origins of Baccarat

Baccarat has been around for so long, we might never know its true origin story – but it appears we have either Italy or France to thank for this great game. A man named Felix Falguerein (or perhaps Felix Falguiere) is credited with inventing Baccarat sometime during the 1400s. Whether Falguerein was an Italian gambler or a French croupier is up for debate. Most accounts place him in Italy, where he’s said to have created Baccarat using a deck of Tarot cards to play an old Etruscan ritual from around 800-900 BCE.

The ritual in question involved the ascension of women into the priesthood. Candidates were required to throw dice to see if they’d be chosen; a roll of 8 or 9 would allow the lucky winner to become the next priestess. A roll of 6 or 7 would grant the woman permission to enter the temple. Five or worse, and she’d be forced to jump off a cliff. Falguerein’s version was presumably more forgiving to people who didn’t get a high score.

Whether or not Baccarat was invented in Italy, it soon appeared in France, where King Charles VIII is said to have brought the game to his court during the First Italian War of 1494–98. You had to be pretty well off to play Baccarat back then; the game would eventually spread throughout European aristocracy, spurred on by the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) and other international conflicts. If Baccarat seems like a really fancy game at the live casinos, this is probably why.

With so many possible origins, it’s no wonder that different versions of Baccarat kept popping up. The version still played in France today is called chemin de fer (meaning “railroad”), and it’s the game that James Bond played in the books and movies. There’s also a game called baccarat banque, aka baccarat à deux tableaux (“at two tables”), which you can still find in France and elsewhere in Europe. But the Baccarat game we play today in the United States is called punto banco, and it’s a much more recent invention, with roots in 1950s Argentina.

How to Play Baccarat

Here’s the thing about learning how to play Baccarat, punto banco style: Once you learn the rules, that’s all there is to it. The other variants we’ve mentioned give players the opportunity to act as the Dealer, who’s known as the Banker in this game. You can bet on any of the other players at the table, or you can bet on the Banker. There are enough decisions to be made in these versions that you can, in theory, find an edge and become a professional Baccarat player – and maybe even bankrupt a few super-villains along the way.

The “North American” version of Baccarat is a different animal. This is a standard table game where it’s just you versus the Banker; if you play at a live casino, the other players around the table aren’t your enemies, they’re also playing against the Banker, much like they do at the Blackjack tables. In fact, there are quite a few similarities between Baccarat and Blackjack, starting with the basic rules.

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Baccarat Rules

After you place your bet (anywhere between $1 and $500 at Bovada Casino), you and the Banker each receive two cards, face-up. While the general idea in Blackjack is to make as close to 21 as possible, in Baccarat, the best hand you can make is a 9 – just like that Etruscan ritual with the would-be priestesses. Aces are worth one point in Baccarat, Tens and face cards are worth zero, and everything else is face value.

When you add up the values of your cards in Baccarat, your score can be anywhere between 0 and 9. There’s no going bust; if you have more than 9 points, you simply ignore whatever digit is in the “tens” column and focus on the digit in the “ones” column. For example, if your two Baccarat cards are a Nine and an Eight, which add up to 17, your score is 7. If you have an Eight and a Three (totaling 11), your score is 1.

Ideally, your two cards will add up to either 8 or 9. You won’t enter the priesthood, but if either you or the Banker get dealt an 8 or 9 in Baccarat, that’s called a natural hand, and the round is over. Either you or the Banker has the winning hand at this point. If neither you nor the Banker has an 8 or 9 after receiving two cards, then a third and final card is drawn under certain conditions. It depends on what your score and the Banker’s score is. All draws are decided automatically, using the standard Baccarat tableau as a reference. You can see this tableau by checking out the game description for Baccarat at Bovada Casino.

Since everything is done automatically for you at Bovada, you don’t actually have to memorize the tableau – but you might want to anyway, if you’re curious about the game and you think you’d like to try it out at a live venue. One other important thing about Baccarat: You have three betting options to choose from. You can bet on yourself (the Player) or the Banker, or you can bet on the hand ending in a Tie. Each outcome has its own odds and payouts, so you’ll definitely want to put these different bets in your memory bank.


Here’s the breakdown: Winning bets on the Player pay out at even money. Winning bets on the Banker pay 1:1 minus a 5% commission. And winning bets on the Tie pay out at a handsome 9:1. If you play Baccarat live, you’ll probably only get 8:1 on your Tie wager – yet another reason to play Baccarat online at Bovada.

It might seem like you should always bet on the Tie given these payouts, but the odds of that bet winning are relatively small: 9.53%. The Player will win 44.62% of the time, and the Banker will win the other 45.85%. Since there are no decisions other than which bet to make, it’s easy enough to figure out the Baccarat odds with a little math, and once you know the odds, you can figure out the house edge for each bet.

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House Edge

There’s one other piece of information you need first: How many decks are being used? Baccarat is typically played with either six or eight decks in the shoe, or sometimes just one handled by the Banker. Bovada uses six decks, which creates a slightly higher house edge on the Tie than an eight-deck shoe, since there are fewer cards in the shoe that will leave the Player and Banker with the same score. Crunch the numbers, and you’ll get the following house edges at Bovada:

Player: 1.24%
Banker: 1.06%
Tie: 4.93%

Dealing of Cards

At the start of every Baccarat hand, the Player will receive a card, then the Banker, then the Player, then the Banker again. The Player draws first if a third card is required, then the Banker. Cards are shuffled automatically between hands.

Types of Hands

There’s nothing particularly complicated about what hands you can make in Baccarat – you’ll score anywhere between 0 and 9 inclusive.

Top Three Advanced Winning Strategies

Without any decisions to make other than betting on the Player, Banker or Tie, there’s no real strategy for how to win Baccarat in the long run. But these three tips will help you get you the most value out of your game during any one session:

    1. Respect the house edges.If maximizing your return is important to you, always bet on the Banker when you play Baccarat. If you’re looking for more variety, keeping the above house edges in mind, bet on the Player almost as often as the Banker, and sprinkle in some Tie bets, too.
    2. Manage your bankroll Divide your roll into at least 100 units, and bet one unit per hand only. Stick with that bet size at all times. More advanced players can plan their sessions to last a certain length of time, on average, by doing some math with the house edges and the number of hands they typically play per hour, then choosing an appropriate bet size to meet their targets.
    3. Have fun Baccarat is meant to be played for entertainment, not as a source of income. Play only when you feel like it – and of course, never play with money you can’t afford to lose.

Now that you know everything you need to know about Baccarat, from its murky origins to the specific rules and game play for punto banco, let’s see what you’re made of. Try some play money hands for free at Bovada Casino using the Practice Play mode. Then take your game to the next level and play some real-money Baccarat.