Known as the high stakes game from James Bond movies of old, baccarat has an air of mystery that can often intimidate players who aren't familiar with it. That's a shame too, because baccarat is a very simple game that doesn't ask much of its players, like memorizing lots of rules or complicated strategies. And while it is played for big money in physical casinos, online baccarat usually has limits that are much lower and well within the budgets of many people.
Baccarat differs from most card games in that the players don't make any decisions except for making their bets. There are two competing hands, the Player hand and the Banking hand, and each player can bet on either one to win. An additional bet is wagering that the hands will tie. The dealer (or in online casinos, the computer) plays both hands based on pre-set rules about which hands need to draw additional cards. Every card has a value equal to its numeric value, except for face cards, which have zero value. Hand totals greater than ten simply have their leading digit chopped off to create a single-digit number.
The best possible hand is a nine, and starting two-card hands worth eight or nine are called naturals. Winning bets on the Banker or Player hands pay out at even money, though a five-percent commission is taken from Banker bets that creates a house edge for the casino. A winning bet on the tie spot pays out at 8:1 odds.
Most baccarat games display the results of the previous few rounds, noting which hand won each round. Some players use this information to try to have a better feel for what will happen in the upcoming round, but mathematical studies have proven that the sample size is too small to actually gain any useful edge in this way. The only serious and universal piece of advice for new baccarat players is to avoid the tie bet, which pays out at much lower odds than the chances of a tie hand happening would suggest.