BACcarat (bah-kuh-rah) is a casino game that, unlike blackjack or roulette, offers only three types of wagers. It also doesn’t require any complex strategy or math. And if you play the right way, it can be quite profitable. That said, baccarat doesn’t generate the same buzz as other table games like poker or blackjack. Nevertheless, it does attract some serious players and generates a significant portion of Nevada’s table-gaming revenue.
Often found in high-limit gaming areas, traditional baccarat is played on a large table with from seven to 14 seats and an area for the dealer’s hand. During the game, players place their bets on the player hand, banker hand, or tie. They then sit back and wait for the results. The object of the game is to correctly predict which hand will come closest to nine. The rules are simple: Picture cards and tens are worth zero points, while the ace is worth one point. When the total reaches 10 or enters a double digit, the second digit becomes the value of the hand.
To win a bet on the player hand, the total must be closer to nine than the banker’s. Similarly, to win a bet on the banker hand, the total must be closer to nine or higher than the player’s. If the total is more than nine, the first digit is dropped (as in 9 + 6 = 15, drop the 1 = 5). In a tie, bets are paid out 8-to-1. A score sheet is provided to help keep track of the score.
In a typical round, the banker hand wins about 45.8% of the time, while the player hand wins around 44.6%. Ties occur in 9.6% of the rounds. Typically, the best bet is on the banker hand because it offers the lowest house edge.
Some advanced baccarat players use a pattern system to reduce the house edge even further. The concept is that shoes will zigzag between banker and player wins, with double win streaks appearing occasionally. When this happens, it’s a good idea to exit the game and return when a new shoe appears.
In addition, many players use a specialized tablecloth to conceal the card dealing and betting from spectators. This technique is known as “edge sorting.” While it isn’t illegal, it can raise eyebrows and may result in a loss of credibility among the casino floor staff. The practice gained prominence in 2012 when Phil Ivey won around $10 million on two baccarat hands using this method. However, despite its popularity, edge sorting isn’t foolproof and can lead to incorrect conclusions about the probability of winning. For this reason, it’s important for players to familiarize themselves with a variety of baccarat rules and strategies before betting real money.