Originally brought to France from Italy in the 15th century, baccarat is a gambling card game which enjoys moderate popularity in casinos world-over, to this very day. Appearing as a recurring theme in James Bond novels and movies, its popularity is still a far cry from that of poker and blackjack.
There are three baccarat variants: chemin de fer (railway), punto banco and baccarat banque. The variant most popular in North America is punto banco, a variant which requires no skill whatsoever on the part of the player.
Hand rankings in baccarat work like this: every card from 2-9 is worth it’s actual value, 10 is worth zero and so are J,Q,K. Aces are worth one. The total value of a hand is calculated by adding up the values of the cards that make it up. If the resulting sum exceeds or falls exactly on 10, the first digit is simply erased. Thus, the highest possible value, a hand can have, will be 9.
The higher hand is the winner.
- 0 is called ‘baccarat’, and it’s the worst possible hand you can have.
- In order to understand the rules of Baccarat, you need to become familiar with the concepts of “player” and “banker”. The “player” doesn’t refer to the player and the “banker” doesn’t refer to the house. As a matter of fact, players can either bet on the “banker” or on the “player”, if they bet on the entity that eventually turns out as winner, players will win, no matter which one they bet on. Playing punto banco is really simple.
- All you have to do is wager on either the player or the banker, then just hang around and wait for the croupier to announce the winner. There’s really nothing more you can do.
The rules that decide the winner, are as follows:
Player is dealt a card, than banker is dealt a card, too. Player gets a second card and so does banker. All cards dealt so far, are kept face down on the table. After the banker receives the second card, all cards are turned over. Both player and banker have their two cards’ values added up. The resulting score will determine whether the player and/or the banker will have to draw a third card.
If either the player or the banker gets 8 or 9 using only the two cards dealt initially, the game stops right there and the one with the higher total wins.
If neither has 8 or 9, the game continues:
The player only draws a third card if he has a total between 0 and 5. If he has 6 or 7 he stands. The banker waits to see if the player draws or not. If the player does not draw a third card, the banker can draw one if he has 0-5 and he will stand for 6-7.
If the player draws a third card, things get pretty complicated:
- Provided the player draws 2 or 3, the banker will draw a third card if he has 0-4 and stand for 5, 6, 7.
- If the player draws 4 or 5, the banker will draw for a total of 0-5 and stand if he has 6 or seven.
- If the player draws a 6 or a 7, the banker will draw for a total of 0-6, and stand for 7
- If the player draws 8, the banker draws for a total of 0-2, and stands for 3-7
- If the player draws 9, 10, J, Q, K or A, the banker will draw a card if he has 0-3 and stand for 4-7.
These rules are pretty tough to remember, huh? The good news is, you don’t really need to remember them. Let the croupier worry about it.
As unlikely as it may seem, baccarat is played in casinos, and it attracts the highest of the high rollers. You might say it’s a game of the blue-bloods.
The Chemin de Fer version involves more skill on part of the player. The players sit around a table which has a basket in the middle where used cards can be mucked. The dealer shuffles the deck and then hands it to each of the players in turn, to have a go at shuffling it themselves.
After the deck completes the circuit of the table, the dealer shuffles it again, then the player on his left cuts it. The dealer takes a certain number of cards off the top of the deck (at random) and hands it to the player on his right who will become the “banker”.
The banker places the amount of chips he’s willing to commit in front of himself. After that, the players make their stakes.
The banker does the actual dealing: four face-down cards, one for the player on his right, one for himself and the third for the player, the fourth to himself again.
The cards are then turned over. If anybody has 8 or 9 he announces it aloud. The cards are shown down whoever has the 9 wins, the person who has less, loses.
If nobody announces an 8 or a 9, the banker will deal a third card, asking each punter whether he needs one. If a player has 6 or 7 he may not accept the card, if he has anything less, he can. If he has 0 he MUST accept a third card.
The banker is the last one to decide whether to draw or not. That decision will be influenced by what the player has drawn, by the cards he holds and by what strategy he follows. At the end, totals are measured up one against the other and whoever holds the total closest to 9 wins.
In case of a push (they call it a “tie”) nobody wins and the stakes remain for the next game.