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Why Baccarat Isn’t as Complicated as You Think

Person Placing a Large Bet on a Baccarat Table

Play a game of word association with anyone you know, and I guarantee you that very few of them will think of baccarat when you mention the concept of “card games.”

That’s a shame, because while blackjack and poker are no doubt fun, baccarat is almost always a player favorite once it’s given a chance, and what I and many others love most about it is its simplicity.

While some people are initially confused by baccarat, what you’ll find is that it’s actually one of the easiest games to play in the casino. In fact, the card dealing and outcomes all take care of themselves. Your job as a player is simply to bet on the various possible outcomes.

Let’s start by summarizing some of the things most new players find confusing about baccarat. This will help you understand why it’s nowhere near as complicated as many initially believe.

Why Baccarat Appears Complicated

If you watch people playing baccarat at a real casino, or at live dealer tables, you can be forgiven for being confused.

I remember the first time I joined a game of baccarat at a casino in the Philippines. I wondered what the heck was going on, and after learning more about it, I learned that there were several things that had initially confused me. So, I figured these things may also be confusing to you from the get-go.

  • The banker’s cut can confuse people. The house takes a little slice of your winnings when you bet on the banker. This can be difficult to keep track of in the beginning.
  • The score sheets which players use to keep a record of game outcomes often confuse matters. These can make new players think there’s some sort of importance to these sheets or that they’re a crucial part of the game. In reality, they’re just historical records of recent gameplay which some players feel help them spot patterns and make predictions.
  • The fact that some cards are worth zero confuses lots of new players, particularly since these are high-value in many other popular casino card games.
  • The rule about adding card values together and dropping one of the digits in some circumstances baffles some people, but in reality, there’s a simple rule to understand when this happens and when it doesn’t. I’ll explain more about that below.
  • The rules about when players and bankers should hit or stand can seem complicated. Again, it shouldn’t be. There’s a simple set of rules behind this, and when it clicks, it’ll seem so simple that you’ll wonder how you ever found it complicated.

Let’s take these points one by one and break them down. By the time you’re done reading this, baccarat will make intuitive sense.

Understanding the Banker’s Cut

This one is relatively straightforward to deal with. When playing baccarat, you bet on either the player winning, banker winning, or a tie.

If you bet on the banker winning, the casino takes a cut when you do win. For example, if you bet $100 and win on a banker bet, the casino will take $5, leaving you with $195. This house edge can be greater or lower depending on the casino, but 5% is fairly average.

Be prepared for a small cut out of your winnings when you go in on banker bets. That takes care of that, so let’s move on to the next point.

The Baccarat Scorecards

Baccarat Score Card

When I first saw a baccarat scorecard and noticed the players jotting down blue and red dashes, I was convinced I was missing some fundamental element of the game.

I later learned that this is simply an attempt to spot baccarat patterns by looking at the recent record of gameplay in order to try to determine what might happen next. This is, in fact, a prime example of the gambler’s fallacy and you can play baccarat without ever looking at these sheets. I know, because I do it fairly often.

Some superstitious baccarat players may hate on me for saying so, but what has happened up until now has no bearing on what will happen next in a truly random game of chance. The numbers governing baccarat are set in stone, the random number generators determine game outcomes, and there are no secret baccarat patterns. Keeping these scoresheets confuses many new players, but you can safely just ignore them and go on playing the game regardless.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these sheets, and you can use them if you wish, but don’t let them confuse you as a new baccarat player. They’re nonessential and entirely optional.

Face Cards Are Worth Zero

One of the most complicated things about baccarat is that 10, jack, queen, and king, which are traditionally high-value cards in other games, are worth zero in baccarat.

So, let’s say you get a seven and a queen. Your total hand will be worth seven. The queen counts for nothing at all, which is counterintuitive, I admit.

Aces are worth one in baccarat, which is also different given that they are usually high-value cards in many other card games. If I could give you one piece of advice for making baccarat simpler, it would be to memorize the card values chart below.

Baccarat Card Values Image

Adding Values and Dropping Digits in Baccarat

I’m assuming you already know that the objective of baccarat is to get a hand as close to nine as possible.

However, when you get a hand worth double digits, say two 7s being worth 14, you drop the left one, meaning your total hand value is four.

Just remember that the left digit is always the one you drop from the total if it’s a double-digit figure and this rule will seem easier to wrap your head around.

The Baccarat Rules About Hitting or Standing

In a game where both the player and banker get multiple cards with the objective of getting as close to nine as possible, how is it determined whether or not another card is dealt to either after the first?

There are a couple of easy to remember rules governing this process. Remember, cards are dealt automatically by the dealer, or the algorithm if you’re playing baccarat online. You don’t strictly speaking have to know this to play baccarat, but it does help understand the game as it unfolds.

  • If either the player or the banker gets dealt an eight or nine, both stand.
  • The player will stand unless his total is worth five or less, in which case he’ll receive another card.
  • If the player stands, the banker will hit only if his total is five or less.

And that’s it. The only way to get this set of rules into your head is to memorize them and become familiar with them by playing baccarat for real. Like with any other game, it will all make sense after a while as you practice and become familiar with the game.

So, Baccarat Is Not Really Complicated at All

As you can see, baccarat is really a simple game, and it’s relatively easy to learn and play. I haven’t covered every point about the game here, but I’ve covered what made it seem complicated to me at first, and therefore, what’s likely to make it seem complicated to you.

In a nutshell, if you remember that face cards are worth zero, aces are worth one, the house takes a cut of banker’s bets, you need to drop the first digit of double-digit hand values, and if you can memorize the rules on when players or bankers hit or stand, baccarat will seem like a breeze. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to those scorecards, at least to begin with!

Ready to try baccarat for real? Go ahead and play at one of the top online casinos. After all, there’s nothing quite like real experience, and the best way to learn is by doing.