How to Play Baccarat & Not Lose

Baccarat is easy to learn, but hard to master.

Banker vs. Player

What takes the most getting used to, is that only two hands get dealt, one the banker’s and the other the player’s. A customer, or bettor, can bet on either hand.

The Play

The bettor holding the shoe, or betting box, passes the first card facedown to the person who placed the highest bet. The next card, the first of the banker’s hand, gets placed beside the shoe. The next card goes to the player, and then the second banker’s card gets dealt. The dealer then turns the cards faceup, announcing the total, then calling the banker hand while the shoe holder looks at the cards before handing them to the dealer. If the player requires a card, the dealer announces it, handing it to the player-bettor, who looks at it then hands it back to the dealer. The dealer turns this card faceup then, if the banker needs a card, the dealer announces this, repeating the process for the shoe holder.

The whole object is to bet on two or three card hands, seeking totals closer to nine. 10s and face cards are worth zero points, other numbered cards are worth face value, and aces are worth one. When the total surpasses 10, the second digit is the hand’s value. Thus two 9s would total 18, with the hand value as eight.

For player hands, an 8 or 9 is natural, and it gets no more cards. Unless the banker gets a natural 9 or ties the player’s 8 the player gets no more cards. Naturals are automatic winners. A player also stands at 6 or 7, while 0-5 hands players would draw a third card.

The banker rules are more complex. Though the banker stands on 7, 8, or 9 and draws on 0, 1, or 2 the play depends on the player’s third card. The banker hits on 3 unless the player’s third card is an 8, hits on 4 if the card is 1, 8, 9, or 10, hits on 5 if the card is 4, 5, 6, or 7, and hits on 6 when that third card is 6 or 7.

There are a few exceptions. Naturals stop play with no further draws. For the bank, if the player draws on of its two standing hands, it stands on 6, 7, 8, or 9. That’s it. Neither gets more than three cards. When the hands play out, the one closer to 9 wins, with winning bets paid even money and ties pushing.

Betting on Pushes

Bettors can wager that both hands will finish with equal point. These bets pay 8:1. Though tempting, ties only happen 9.5% of the time.


It’s a guessing game. The banker wins 50.68% over time, pushes not included, and collects a 5% commission on each winning banker bet. This gives a 1.17% edge to the banker.

Baccarat is about money management and luck. Don’t increase bets when losing, and don’t make bets too large for your bankroll. For those wanting to vary bets, increase when winning and decrease when losing. And set limits. This allows bettors to hit streaks, though be careful not to overextend and lose all your winnings.

Learning to walk away from losses and with winnings will keep you in the game. It’s a strategy to use with any casino game. Though not the most popular casino game, baccarat can be just as exciting as craps or blackjack, and knowing how the game works will allow you to adjust tactics to the way the cards are playing out.