If you’ve ever been to a casino, from a sticky-floor California card room to the tuxedo-laden casinos of Monaco, chances are you’ve seen baccarat being played. The game, whose origins lie in the 18th century, is played with six decks of cards and a group of players at a table.
Each player has a betting area, and two hands are dealt by the croupier. The player’s hand and the banker’s hand are both compared for total value. The hand that comes closest to nine wins. Picture cards and Tens are worth zero points, while the numbers 2-9 hold their face value. The ace is worth one point. If the total is in a double digit, the second digit becomes the value of the hand.
The game is very easy to learn, with only a few basic rules. The most important thing is to know how much you want to bet. The minimum bet is $20, but players can usually make larger bets. A good strategy is to use the Martingale system, which is a popular bet-scaling system for casino games that pay even money. The idea is to double your bet after each loss and then reset it to your original stake after a win. The theory is that after a few losses, you’ll eventually win enough to cover your bets and then some.
Baccarat is hugely popular, with a booming following in Asia. Casinos in Macau — which dethroned Las Vegas as the world’s leading gambling destination in 2006 — make up to 88 percent of their total revenue from the game, and it also generates significant profits for casinos in Singapore, the Philippines, and the United States. It’s also the most popular game for high rollers in Las Vegas, where it accounts for 18 percent of total casino win.
Despite the popularity of the game, there is no foolproof method or formula for guaranteed winnings at baccarat. While some players may get lucky on occasion, those who claim to have cracked the code to constant success are probably just trying to sell you something.
Baccarat’s success has generated a variety of variations and additional ways to bet and play. In addition to the traditional banker and player bets, players can place bets on a tie, which pays eight to one but has a much higher house edge than either the banker or player hands. Most serious baccarat players avoid the tie bet and stick to player or banker.