Perhaps the most glamorous of all casino games, Baccarat’s trappings are what made it so popular. The lure of the game? It requires no skill – it is a game of pure luck! Baccarat is played for very high stakes, and the gaming table for it is placed in a special alcove, blocked off from the masses and the rest of the casino action. Also, in American casinos, Baccarat tends to be played with real cash- lots of $100-bills are spread all around. European casinos use chips, but the high-denomination chips are oblong “plaques,” which make the game look just as exciting as the American version when they are stacked in front of a winning player.
Number of Players
From two to 12 people can play.
Eight 52-card packs are shuffled together and dealt by the croupier (dealer) from a dealing box, called a shoe, which releases one card at a time, face down. In some games, six packs are used.
The very large Baccarat table has 12 seats, six on either side of the dealer, who only banks the game and does not otherwise participate. Green felt covers the entire table, and the numbers 1 to 12 are marked on it. These numbered areas are where the players keep their money (or chips, as the case may be). A player may bet on the Bank or the Player, and the layout indicates where such bets are placed. Baccarat is known in some areas as Punto Banco. The only difference is that the word “Bank” is replaced by “Banco,” and the word “Player” is replaced by “Punto.”
While in most casino games, the dealer stands, in Baccarat, the dealer is seated between players “1” and “12
Object of the Game
The participants attempt to form, in two or three cards, a combination as close to 9 as possible. Face cards and 10s count zero. Aces count 1, and other cards count their pip value. Counts of 10 are disregarded in the total; thus, a 5 and a 6, totaling 11, count merely as 1.
The dealer (or croupier) prepares the cards by thoroughly shuffling them and, after they are cut by any player, places them in the shoe. While the dealer does not participate in the game, he assists the players in making and settling their bets, and advises them on proper procedure. The shoe usually starts with the player in seat No. 1, who is the first to act as the Bank.
When all bets are placed, the player acting as the Bank distributes two cards face down, alternately, to the player who made the largest bet and to himself. The procedure for looking at, announcing, and displaying the hands is somewhat elaborate, but this only adds to the mystique of the game. The player making the largest bet faces the two cards and passes them back to the dealer, who announces the total. The hand is placed on the section of the layout marked “Player Hand.” The Banker then faces his hand and passes the cards to the dealer, who announces this total as well and displays the cards on the position marked “Bank Hand.”
Naturals. If either participant has a count of 8 or 9 in his first two cards, it is a natural. If only the player acting as Bank has a natural, all participants who bet on the Bank hand win. If only his opponent has a natural, the player acting as Bank pays all bets that were placed on the Player hand. A natural 9 beats a natural 8. Two naturals of the same number are a stand-off, in which case all bets are withdrawn, and the next deal begins.
Rules of Drawing
If neither the player acting as Bank, nor his opponent has a natural, then either stands or draws one card only, according to the chart below. Note that the rules for standing or drawing are inflexible.
The Player goes first, and if, according to the chart, the Player must draw, the Bank deals a third card face up, which is placed alongside the two other cards that were originally dealt. If the Bank must draw, the third card is placed alongside the Bank’s original two cards. The dealer then announces the result, such as “Bank wins 7 against 3,” and settles all the bets. If the Bank is nearer 9 than the Player, those who bet on the Bank win. If the Player is nearer 9, those who bet on the Player win. If the two hands have the same total, all bets are a stand-off and are withdrawn. (When either player has a natural, the hand is always over, and the other side does not get to draw a card.)
Note that a hand can become much less favorable in the draw. To illustrate: Having a total of 3 and drawing a 7 would give a total of zero, (because counts of 10 are disregarded. This is called a “baccarat,” and is the worst of all hand possibilities.)
House Edge. Winning bets on the Player are paid out at even money, but on winning Bank bets, the house takes a commission of five per cent, which is how the casino makes its profit. The cut for the house is traditionally taken out at the end of the shoe, which can comprise many rounds of play. However, if a player retires from the game, he must settle with the house at that time. Small boxes in the middle of the layout are for tokens that show how much each player owes on winning Bank hands.
The actual edge for betting on the Bank is just slightly above five per cent, so whether the participant bets on the Player or the Bank, the game is still a fairly even one.