Baccarat is played throughout the world using several different rule sets. The most common rule set, and the one focused on here, is Punto banco, which is also referred to as North American baccarat.
If a casino refers to a game as baccarat with no indication of the rule set, then it’s safe to assume that the game is Punto banco. This popular baccarat format is played on a tableau, which is French for board, and each game involves a punto or player and a banco or banker.
Player and Banker
An interesting aspect to baccarat is that the player and the banker are simply designations. In other words, there’s no association between the banker and dealer or house and no association between the player and any customer, which is a stark contrast to a game like blackjack.
During each baccarat game, there is a banker hand and just a single player hand. There can, however, be multiple players at the table, and each of them can bet on either the player hand or the banker hand as they see fit.
Players place bets on the player hand, the banker hand or a tie. Bets on the player hand have a house edge of 1.24 percent. Bets on the banker hand require a five percent commission to the house but have a house edge of only 1.06 percent. The tie bet, on the other hand, has a 14.4-percent house edge.
The croupier deals two cards face up to the player hand and banker hand. If either hand totals eight or nine, then that hand wins. If both hands total eight or nine, then the game is a tie. If neither condition is met, then an additional card may be added to each hand to determine a winner or a tie.
Since the dealer and the players don’t possess the hands, predefined drawing rules are used to determine whether a hand receives an additional card. The player draws if the hand value is less than six. The banker does the same if the player stood pat. If the player drew, then there is a series of complex rules to determine if the banker draws.
Some baccarat variants have a skill element, but Punto banco is a game of chance that is comparable to single-zero roulette. Despite the commission, bets on the banker are more lucrative over the long term, but the difference between player and banker bets is relatively minor. Betting on a tie is never a good decision.