Part of what makes Baccarat a great game is that it's so simple. The Player's decision is limited to deciding what kind of bet to make. From there on it's in the dealer's hands and you collect or pay when it's over.
In Mini Baccarat, which is the only version most of us will ever see in play, you don't even get the option of handling the cards. In the "whale" games of European Baccarat they get to mangle the cards whenever they like just for personal entertainment. But then they're dropping $1000 or more a hand and you can bet that that buys a lot of replacement cards.
Bet on your own hand (Player) and you face a house edge of 1.24%. Bet on the Banker's hand and the edge is either 0.6% if there's a 4% House cut or 1.06% is their cut is 5%. Finally there's the Tie bet which at best gives the house almost a 5% edge (Pay 8:1) and at worst 14+% (Pay 9:1). Forget the Tie bet for obvious reasons. Unless you can find a game with 4% vig on Banker bets, betting Player or Banker is six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The first thing a casino player asks themselves when stepping up to a game is "how do I improve my odds?" The answer in Baccarat is easy: you don't. Other than avoiding the Tie bet there's nothing you can do.
What about card counting you ask? After all, everyone seems to do it on TV. Save yourself the trouble because it's a facade. Statistical analysis has shown that card counting in Baccarat is totally ineffective until the game hits the bottom of the shoe and even then it's a miniscule advantage. It basically boils down to paying yourself $10 an hour for risking $1,000,000. You're better off getting a squeegee and washing people's windows for spare change.
As to playing the game, that's it. As to knowing what's going on, it's a matter of strict and fixed rules, and here they are:
The objective of Baccarat is to draw a two- or three-card hand that totals closer to 9 than the banker.
10, J, K, Q count as 0, A is a 1 and all other cards are face value.
If your total is more than ten, you drop the ten. So a 7-9 hand totals to 6 (16, drop ten).
There is no such thing as a "bust" hand.
The banker and the player each draw two cards.
If either the player or banker total 8 or 9, both automatically stand, no exceptions.
If the player's total is 6 or 7, the player stands.
If the player stands, the banker hits on a total of 5 or less.
If the player's total is 5 or less, the player automatically hits and the banker gives the player a third card.
If the player receives a third card then the banker draws a third card according to the following:
Banker's hand totals 0,1,2: Banker always draws a third card.
Banker's hand totals 3: Banker draws if Player's third card is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-0 (not 8)
Banker totals 4: Banker draws if Player thirds 2-3-4-5-6-7
Banker 5: Banker draws if Player thirds 4-5-6-7
Banker 6: Banker draws if Player thirds 6-7
Banker 7: Banker stands.
Once the final cards are dealt, the one with the total closest to 9 wins.