Although Baccarat has many superficial similarities to Blackjack, the two games are actually quite different. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the way card values are determined. While Blackjack shifts the value of certain cards, and offers opportunities for hands to be split or doubled down on, Baccarat is considerably more straightforward. Still, there are a few nuances in its rules that are important to keep in mind, especially for anyone who is interested in giving Baccarat a shot for the first time.
Getting to Nine
Similar to Blackjack, Baccarat is focused around trying to get a “perfect” total from a hand of cards. Unlike Blackjack though, players in Baccarat are attempting to get a total of nine, instead of the considerably larger 21.
In order to achieve this, certain cards in Baccarat are simply worth zero points. In fact, all cards that are traditionally valued at 10 or more, including face cards, are actually worth nothing in Baccarat. Aces are simply worth one point at all times and cannot be altered on a whim like their Blackjack counterparts.
Finding a Natural
When either the player’s hand or the banker’s hand reaches a combined total of either eight or nine, then the round immediately ends in that hand’s favor. Although the goal is to bet on the hand that reaches the closest to nine, the game can actually end just as easily if a hand reaches a total of eight with its first two cards.
Going Above Nine
Even with tens and face cards counting as zero, there are still some situations where a hand would otherwise be valued at a much higher number than eight or nine. For instance, if a hand has an eight and a four, that would normally total 12. In Baccarat though, the rules for counting are slightly altered. Instead of the hand being treated as being worth 12, it is instead counted at the value of the number furthest to the right. In this example, that would make a hand of eight and four actually equal a total value of just two.
This complication can have serious effects on the gambling nature of the game, as it becomes more difficult to anticipate what combination of cards will lead to game-winning total values.
Completing a Hand
In the event that neither the player nor the banker’s hand reaches a total of eight or nine in the opening of the game, then play moves to determining whether each player or banker will stay or hit. Unlike Blackjack, determining whether a hand hits or stays is not actually determined by any individual or agency. Instead, there are specific rules governing what constitutes a staying hand and what constitutes a hand that requires further hits.
Although it can seem daunting to understand at a first glance, over time the specific rules are actually quite simple. One of Baccarat’s greatest strengths, compared to a game like Blackjack, is that there isn’t any complex memorization of rules needed. There are no splits, or doubles, or any other special game mechanics that a player needs to keep in mind. Instead, the player must simply remember how the card values differ from a regular game, and then use that information to make informed bets on which hand has the best statistical probability.