How to Play
If you are ready to learn the game of French nobility, then you are ready to tackle the game of Baccarat. This game means different things to different people and follows slightly different rules depending on the country that you are in. However, the goal and fun are all the same no matter which game you play.
The rich history of Baccarat may have something to do with the fact that Baccarat has many different faces. If you read about the history of any modern casino game you can trace a colorful evolution of society and man in general. Baccarat may have been created from an ancient ritual the Etruscans used to divine the next high priestesses. If the young virgin could roll an 8 or 9, then she was in luck and could lead the community for the rest of her days. But lo is the poor your woman that rolled less than a 5, for she would march out into the sea to offer the gods her service in eternity.
From the ancient Etruscans, to the Middle Ages the Italians brought this game to the French who helped to make it the modern game we know and love. From there the spread jumped ship like small pox and sailed to the New World. For these reasons, your geography today, still determines how you will play the game of Baccarat.
In general, there are some main points to know. First, the objective is to not get Baccarat! Yes, that is correct, baccarat means zero and the player with a zero at the end of the hand, is a loser. By using two, and maybe three cards (we’ll get to the third card rules shortly), you are trying to get a hand that totals 9 or as close to nine as possible.
First off, know what your Baccarat cards are worth. Your game will have 6 or more decks of cards in the dealer’s “shoe”. Your face cards 2-9 are worth their face value. An Ace is worth 1 point and your 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all worth 10 points each. To total you points in Baccarat use “modulo” method. Modulo means count the total but only use the remainder. For example, if you are dealt 4+7=11=1. Don’t find yourself with a 4+6=10=0, or Baccarat! If you are holding a 6+3=9, then you have a “natural” and are a winner.
The table of Baccarat may be shaped in a large oval, like in Craps, or sometimes a kidney-shaped table. The number of players ranges depending on the game and location, but usually needs a minimum of 5 and maximum of 12. The casino will provide the cards, a dealer and croupier, but the house will not necessarily bank the game. This is a unique feature of the game, and again, depends on the version of Baccarat you are playing.
The roles of the game are separated into the Banker and Player. The Banker is a role filled with ceremony back from the fancy days in France and was actually banked by the player with the most money. That’s right, the Banker is a player that puts his money into the game so the Players come and bet against him. The banker’s money is his to win or lose, and the casino only takes a 5% commission, or “rake”, for their services.
The Players take their seat and then the dealer shuffles and takes bets. The players can choose to bet on the Dealer or on the Player cards. There are a total of 4 cards dealt at first, face-down.
There is a chance to stand pat with cards you have, take another card, or win outright with a “natural”. However, the rules governing who can take a third card are rigid and it depends on your total. First the Player rules on the third card are very simple: If the Player’s first two cards total 0-5, he takes another card. If he has a total of 6 or 7, the Player stands.
The Banker’s third card rules are a bit more complicated. If the Player “stands”, then the Banker also takes a third card if he has 0-5 and stays with a 6 or 7. If the Player has taken a third card, that third card is revealed face-up and the Banker makes his decision based on these rules:
The Player’s third card is:
- 2 or 3, then the Banker draws when holding 0-4, and stays with a 5-7.
- 4 or 5, then the Banker draws when holding 0-5, and stays with 6 or 7.
- 6 or 7, then the Banker draws when holding 0-6, and stays with a 7.
- 8, then the Banker draws when holding 0-2, and stays with a 3-7.
- 9, 10 or face card or Ace, then the Banker draws when holding 0-3, and stays with a 4-7.
The odds are low, but it is possible that the Player and Banker can tie. The place for bets on the table is called “egalite” in French with 8 to 1 odds.
So we have mentioned that there are different versions of Baccarat to play and it does affect the rules in small ways. The three major varieties to play are called: Punto Banco (also called the North American Baccarat), Chemin de Fer, and Baccarat Banque (also called A Deux Tableau). As you may guess, Punto Banco is the version you are likely to play in the United States, and the other two are favorites in Europe. In fact, the slight rules differences actually turn the North American version into a game of pure luck and the European versions involve skill.
Some important things to note in the varieties differences relate to the role of the Banker. In Punto Banco, the casino will “bank” the game and the role of the Banker is merely ceremonial. In Chemin de Fer, the Banker is actually banked by that person playing in the game and the role is rotated. There is a special Baccarat pallet that some think looks like a “train car”. This is how Chemin de Fer, which means railway in French, gets its name. Baccarat Banque is unique because there can be two hands for the Player and the Banker may be the person that brings the most money to play with.
The varieties are great way to see how the game’s evolution has travelled through the world and changed to suit individual needs of the time and place.