Useful info you won't find anywhere else

Reason #1 I like Bovada:

Play for free
with no hassles

Most online casinos insult you with popups and spam, and they give you the hard sell even if you just want to try their free-play games.  Fortunately there's Bovada, which gives a much friendlier experience.  That's the main reason why I advertise them exclusively.

  • No registration required. Most casinos let you play for free with fake money, but there's a catch: They make you register an account first.   That's not just a hassle: after you register you can expect them to badger you by email trying to get you to deposit real money.  But Bovada lets you play right away without forcing you to register an account.  One click and you're in.  Here, try it.
  • Plays right in your browser.  If you'd rather not download the casino software to your hard disk, you don't have to.  The games play right in your web browser.  Nice.
  • Works on Macs.  The play-in-browser games are MacOS compatible!  Before Bovada, Mac users were pretty much out of luck for gambling online.  Not any more.
  • No popups.  I'll never understand why companies think it's a good idea to annoy their visitors, but that's standard practice at most online casinos.  Bovada is one of the rare exceptions -- no popups, no popunders, just the website.

Bovada's not perfect, but there's no better site for U.S. players.

Visit Bovada

Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

How to Play


How to play: Baccarat | Blackjack | Craps | Roulette | Slots | Texas Holdem | Video Poker

accarat (pronounced BAH-kah-rah) is a card game that's popular with Asian players.   James Bond also played it in one of the movies.   The house edge is just 1.06%, making it one of the best bets in the casino.  It's also one of the simplest card games around, because there's not really any strategy.  It's kind of like roulette:  You choose what you want to bet on, then the cards are dealt, and then you see whether you won or lost.  There's no deciding whether to hit, stand, raise, or any of that.  Just pick your bet and wait to see the result.  That's it.  So it's a good game for those graduating from slots, who want a better chance of winning, and the ability to lose a lot slower than with slots.

Here's how it works:  Two hands are dealt, and the higher hand wins.  You can bet on either hand to win.  One hand is called "Banker" and the other called "Player", but that's purely arbitrary, and you can bet on either hand.  The "Banker" hand has nothing to do with the casino, and the "Player" hand has nothing to do with you.  They might as well call the hands Hand 1 and Hand 2.  Note also that there's only one "Player" hand dealt no matter how many players there are, because the "Player" hand isn't really the player's hand, it's just one of the choices you can bet on.

There's no such thing as busting in Baccarat.  Only the last digit of the total is counted.  For example, 9+5 is really 4 (not 14).  And 6+5 is 1 (not 11).

Aces count as 1, and face cards have no value.

Initially two cards are dealt to each hand, and complicated rules determine whether a third card is dealt to either hand.  You don't have to worry about this, because if a third card needs to be dealt, the dealer will deal it automatically.  But for those who want to know, the third-card conditions are listed further down.

Betting on Player has a house edge of 1.24%, and betting on Banker has an edge of 1.06%, so betting on Banker is the best Baccarat play.  The low 1.06% edge includes the 5% commission you have to pay on winning Banker bets. (Binion's Horseshoe in Downtown Vegas took only a 4% commission on the Banker bet for years until they went out of business in 2003.  They reopened with a new owner but didn't resurrect the 4% commission.)  The dealer keeps track of the commission and you pay it when you at the end of your session.  Even with this commission, betting on Banker still has a lower house edge, because the Banker hand is much more likely to win against the Player hand.

You can also bet that there will be a tie between Banker and Player, but this carries a whopping 14.4% house edge.

In the snooty Baccarat rooms with the high table limits, each player gets a turn to deal the cards.  On the casino floor there's no such perk, but some casinos like the Orleans will deal the cards to a player so the player can turn them over. 

Baccarat is appealing because there's no strategy to learn.  Most games with a low edge require you to learn some strategy.  But with Baccarat, you get the some low edge no matter what, because the only decisions you make are how much to bet and which of the two low-edge hands you want to bet on, Player or Banker.  The only way to screw this up is to make the Tie bet which carries a high edge.

If you play with Asians then the play is generally very slow, because they take a long time to make their betting decisions.  It's even slower if the casino lets them handle the cards.  This can be a good thing, because the slower you play, the less you'll lose per hour.  Check out our Expected Loss table to see how much you're likely to lose for a weekend of Baccarat play.

When you play, you'll notice the other players meticulously keeping track of which hands won.  They're looking for trends so they can figure out whether Player, Banker, or Tie is "due".  All this effort is completely wasted, though, because the past rounds have no bearing on the next round.  It's like when you toss a coin -- it doesn't matter what came up before, the chances of heads on the next flip are always 50/50.  There's more about this on our page about the Gambler's Fallacy.

You can practice baccarat online for free at Bovada, with no registration required.  One click and you're in.

Drawing rules

Here are the rules which determine whether a third card is dealt, just as FYI -- because you have no choice about whether a third card is drawn, and you can't base any strategy on it.

When Player's first 2 cards total...
Player will:
and Dealer Will:
Draw one card
(see next table)
Draw if Banker has 5 or less,
Stand if Banker has 6 or more
8-9 (Natural)
(see next table)

When Banker's hand totals...
Banker DRAWS when player's third card is:
Banker STANDS when player's third card is:
1 or 2
any card
(always draws)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
1, 8, 9, 10
4, 5, 6, 7
1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10
6, 7
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10
8 or 9 (Natural)

See also how to play:


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Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.