Baccarat (pronounced bah-car-rah) is an underrated casino game in which the house edge is among the lowest you'll find in any land based or online casino.

Known as being the choice game of James Bond, some players shy away from it in real-world casinos. They assume it's only for the upper classes and that the rules are complicated.

We can dispel both of these myths right here, right now. The game was originally viewed as snobbish because the baccarat pit in land-based casinos was separated from the rest of the casino games – mainly as a casino marketing ploy to give the game an air of sophistication to attract big punters.

Secondly, it's perhaps one of the most simple casino games to play. Once you choose which hand you want to bet on, your work is done. In this day and age, baccarat should be a game for players and wallets of all sizes, but it's still fighting to shed its old image.

Baccarat at a glance

  • Baccarat is the home of the banker bet, one of the best bets in the entire casino.
  • The game offers only three different types of bets.
  • Object of the game is to get a score as close to nine as possible.
  • Baccarat is the misunderstood kid of casino games. Some think it's too easy, some think it's too hard.
  • In baccarat, card suits are irrelevant.
James Bond playing Baccarat Sean Connery, aka James Bond, playing Baccarat in the original Casino Royale

Baccarat Basics - 9 is the magic number

  • No skill or decision making is required when playing baccarat, giving rise to the belief that it's a boring game.
  • There are only three bets in baccarat, bets on the banker's hand, bets on the player's hand or bets on a tie.
  • The aim of the game is to have a baccarat score that's closer to nine than the other hand.
  • Baccarat score is the sum of your cards minus the tens unit (26 = baccarat score of 6).
  • Baccarat variations are very rare but can be found in the form of mini baccarat, punto banco and progressive jackpot games.

Betting on Online Baccarat

Example Baccarat Table Example online baccarat table, as seen at 32Red Casino

When it comes to actually playing online baccarat, it's very similar to playing the game in a land-based casino. However, there are a few differences and definitely one or two plus points of playing online.

  • To start with, online casinos actually have baccarat whereas it's very rarely found in land-based UK casinos.
  • You're more likely to find punto banco in land-based casinos.
  • Players are able to bet on both the banker and player hands online while they're only able to bet on the player hand in punto banco at land-based casinos.
  • Some online casinos even offer punto banco and chemin de fer to provide you with a few extra options.

Other than these differences, online baccarat doesn't stray much from the games that you can play in land-based casinos (if you can find them).

As with the land-based version of the game, online baccarat offers some of the best odds available in casinos which is no mean feat given that some have more than 400 games on offer.

Scandals, Films and Tarot Cards

Like many casino games, it's hard to say for sure where exactly baccarat originated from. Baccarat history is, unfortunately, rather sketchy with many people not even sure if the game was developed in its current form or was adapted from others.

Baccarat is derived from the Italian baccara, (which means zero) which has led many historians to deduce that the game once originated from Italy. A commonly held belief is that it was created using Tarot cards by an Italian gambler named Felix Falguierein.

The age of the game means that there are a number of different variations,with the most well known being called chemin de fer. This game is undoubtedly French and is still played in some European casinos.

The main difference between chemin de fer and baccarat is that in the former, players take turns to act as the banker. In terms of the actual gameplay, there is little difference except that the players take turns to deal the cards. It's because of this reason that chemin de fer cannot be found online as it would be hard to recreate.

Over the years baccarat has received considerable coverage in pop culture. However, the game first came to the wider public's attention for the wrong reasons during the Royal Baccarat Scandal. This took place in 1890 involving the future King Edward VII. One evening the then-Prince and other guests at a party were playing baccarat, which was illegal at the time, when one of them, Sir William Gordon-Cummin, was found to be cheating. This all blew up in a rather large libel trial in civil court and ended with Sir William being dismissed from the army and living the rest of his life in near-isolation.

You may also recognise the game from various film appearances such as in James Bond films, Rush Hour 3 with Jackie Chan, and even The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night. In fact, the very first Bond film, Casino Royale, centred around a game of baccarat, which was changed to Texas hold'em poker in the 2006 remake.