As the Virginia casino industry grows and new properties open, players in the state have unprecedented access to popular casino games. Among the most popular and long-lived casino games is baccarat.
Unless you’re James Bond or a longtime card shark, you may not be familiar with the game. There’s a reason it’s been a casino mainstay for years. Baccarat might seem intimidating, but in fact, it’s a very easy game to play, and it has one of the lowest house edges of any casino game.
Want to give baccarat a try at Virginia casinos? Read our full primer so you know how to play before you place a bet.
Understanding the basics of baccarat
There are currently three Virginia casinos in business. Both Rivers Casino Portsmouth and Bristol Casino currently offer baccarat. The temporary location at Caesars Danville Casino offers free dealer classes for baccarat, so it’s likely available on the property.
Baccarat is nestled within the table games at Virginia casinos. It is played with two hands. One belongs to the “Banker” and the other belongs to the “Player.” In baccarat, individual players don’t get their own hands dealt to them. Instead, Banker and Player are used to identify the two competing sides in the game. This makes for a simple list of bets. You can wager on any of three outcomes in baccarat:
- Player to win
- Banker to win
How does one side win?
Each hand starts with two cards each for the Player and the Banker. Each side is trying to get their cards as close to a total of 9 as possible. Cards with two digits only count the second number. This means, 10s, jacks, queens and kings are worth zero points. This rule works for the total as well. So a hand comprising an 8 and a 9 would total 17, which means its value is 7 (the second digit of 17).
If either the Banker or the Player gets an 8 or 9 with just two cards, it’s a “natural win.”
If the Player has a hand totaling 0 through 5 and the Banker total isn’t 8 or 9, play continues with more cards. The Player hand may receive new cards based on the total:
- Total of 6-9: the hand stays as is, with no new card
- Total of 0-5: the hand receives a third card
Player hand leads
The Player hand always goes first in baccarat, then the Banker hand is settled. The Banker draws a third card or stays depending on the Player’s third card:
|Player's Third Card||Banker Stays||Banker Draws|
|9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace||4, 5, 6, 7||0, 1, 2, 3|
|8||3, 4, 5, 6, 7||0, 1, 2|
|6 or 7||7||0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|4 or 5||6, 7||0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5|
|2 or 3||5, 6, 7||0, 1, 2, 3, 4|
This may all seem a tad confusing, but in practice, baccarat is very easy. The dealer handles all of this; you just have to watch it play out and hope for a win on the side where you’ve placed your bet. You can also bet on a tie, which hits if the Player and Banker totals are the same after all cards are drawn.
Baccarat betting and odds
Because the Banker’s hand is determined last, it has a slight edge. The Player hand typically has odds of 44.62% with a 1:1 payout. The Banker, meanwhile, has a 48.85% chance to win with a 1:1 payout, but that payout comes with a 5% commission. A tie bet has a 9.53% chance to win with an 8:1 payout.
Baccarat variants might have slightly different odds and/or payouts, but the numbers above are pretty common. You may also see a Banker bet payout listed as .95:1, which represents the commission.
Here’s two tips when it comes to baccarat.
First, don’t weigh yourself down by betting on a tie. That 8:1 payout might look enticing, but it’s so high because it’s unlikely to hit.
Second, mix things up while leaning toward Banker bets. The Banker is favored to win any given hand in baccarat, but only by a small margin. While betting on the Banker every time would be the smartest way to play, there’s not much fun in it. Sprinkle a few bets on the Player from time to time to keep things fresh.
Playing baccarat the EZ way
EZ baccarat changes the rules of the game slightly to eliminate the commission on the Banker bet. Instead of a 1:1 payout on a Banker hand that totals 7 with three cards, such a hand results in a push. EZ baccarat has a lower house edge than traditional baccarat, making it even more friendly to players.