While baccarat has a lot of complicated rules the good news is that you don't need to know them to play. Contrary to the James Bond movies, baccarat does not involve any decision making after your initial bet is placed. Another good thing about baccarat is that it pays well, with a casino advantage of only 1.06% if you bet on the "bank." I must confess, however, I find baccarat rather mindless and boring since it does not involve any player participation, other than making the initial bet.

Baccarat vs. Mini-Baccarat

The difference between baccarat and mini-baccarat is mostly the atmosphere, not the rules. The casinos usually have a roped off area for baccarat, complete with dealers in tuxedos and lots of chandeliers. The minimums are high and the procedure of the game is different from mini-baccarat. Personally I'm too poor to play in the baccarat room. Mini-baccarat is played at a table that about the size of a blackjack table. The rules are the same but the dealer controls everything and it doesn't have the glamour of regular baccarat.

The Rules

The following is from "Baccarat score card" from the Claridge Casino/Hotel in Atlantic City:

Baccarat is begun by placing a wager on either the Banker's or Player'shand. Two cards are dealt from a shoe to each hand. The first hand represents those betting on the Player, the second on the Banker. A third card may be dealt to either hand in accordance with the rules shown in the table below. The winning hand is the one with the point total closest to 9. Tens, cards totaling ten and picture cards count as zero. An ace is counted as one. All numbered cards 1 through 9 count at face value. If the cards total a two digit number, only the last number counts (example 4+9=13; 13 counts as 3). Bets are paid even money but a 5% commitssion is charged on winning Banker bets. A bet on a tie hand may be made which pays 8 to 1.

I am going to summarize the table of rules that stipulate when a third card(s) is/are dealt as follows:

If two of the above rules seem to contradict go with the rule listed first.

Do not confuse the term "player" with yourself or "banker" with the casino. They may as well be labeled "a" and "b". It is important to know that since all of the rules of taking a third card are predetermined you don't need to know them.

The odds of winning

The bank will win   45.84% of the time. 
The player will win 44.61% of the time. 
There will be a tie  9.54% of the time. 

Taking into consideration these percentages and the 5% commission the following are the house advantages by bet made:

Bank:    1.06%
Player:  1.23%
Tie:     4.57%

Edwin Silberstang's Encyclopedia of Games & Gambling says the house advantage on the bank is 1.17% and on the player is 1.36%. This is differs from my numbers because he is ignoring ties while I do not.

Note: The statistics above were calculated by considering all 4,826,809 possible combinations of 6 cards, ignoring the suit. I wrote a computer program to play all possible combinations, consider when and when not the third card(s) should be taken, calculate the winner in every situation, and keep a running total. Of the 4,826,809 variations the bank won 2,212,744; the player won 2,153,464; and there was a tie the other 460,601. If I ignored the ties my figures would agree with Silberstang's.