baccarat guide

Baccarat Guide

For many casino players, Baccarat is the game of choice. It is unquestionably a game of luck, and some players get very lucky while playing it. If you love baccarat, you're certainly not alone! Not only have several notable historical characters become obsessed with the game, but baccarat is also showing a resurgence in casinos.

Baccarat has a fascinating history that has produced some rather complicated rules. In this guide, we'll look at the game from the inside out, and consider how you can improve your chances with Baccarat.  

Rules of Baccarat

The basic rules of baccarat are simple.

  1. The player tries to get as close to 9 as possible without going over.
  2. Numbered cards 2-9 have a value equal to that number. If you draw a 9, you have what's called a "natural" win.
  3. 10 and the face cards have a value of 0.
  4. Aces have 1 point, and numbered cards are worth their printed value.
  5. If the collected value goes over 10, then 10 points are subtracted from that value. If you are dealt a 6 and an 8, for example, your value would be 4 (6 + 8 = 14 -10 = 4).
  6. Bettors may wager for the player, house, or tie

These are the basic rules of baccarat, and if you're playing online or in a casino, this may suffice for you. Below you'll find additional rules that inform you why some combinations win in some cases. 

Advanced Rules

Drawing an 8 or 9 results in what's called a natural. If it is a natural, there is no draw for the player’s hand. But if the player’s hand adds up to 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, the player draws another card. 

If the player’s hand adds up to 6 or 7, they get no more cards. In any case, whatever the player’s hand is, the bank has to draw if it has a 0, 1, or 2.

The bank stands on a 7 or a natural 8 or 9. The bank takes cards if it has a 3, 4, 5, or 6, depending upon the cards of the player.

In some variations of the game, the bank has an option of drawing or standing when the player’s hand is 5.

Card Counting in Baccarat

Online versions of baccarat are played with eight decks of cards that are re-shuffled after each hand and dealt from a shoe. That means that the hands are random, so card-counting is off (including accounting for the hands just played).

While some card counting might be possible in the casino-based version, that's not feasible with online baccarat, so set your internal expectations for "random."

Varieties of Baccarat

Historically, there are 3 varieties of baccarat: punto banco (also called American baccarat), which is the basis of online baccarat; baccarat chemin de fer (or Chemmy); and baccarat banque (or à deux tableaux). They share the trait of maxing out at a value of 9, but they differ in the role of the players and dealers. See the rules below for details.

Baccarat's Popularity

Let's face it, baccarat has gotten a bad name over the years. Unknown by many as it was traditionally a high rollers' game, dismissed by some as involving no skill, and ridiculed by some experts for tempting with that nearly impossible tie bet, baccarat has not gotten a lot of love in the U.S., until recently anyway.

With the invention of the swifter-moving mini-baccarat games, baccarat has been on a steady climb in the U.S. since the 1980s. According to a University of Nevada Las Vegas study, there were 59 baccarat tables in 1991, and 361 when they conducted their study in 2018. 

While statistically, one would have to say that baccarat is a game of chance, that isn't the way it necessarily feels when you're in the action. When a gambler is on a streak, statistics and strategy can be tossed aside. Indeed, they have to as baccarat is essentially a game of chance with a slight house edge; the only chance you have of winning is getting lucky.

History of Baccarat

While it's not a household term, baccarat has had a continuous presence in U.S. casinos as long as they've been around, and they were quickly incorporated in online casinos as well. But its lack of contemporary fame and affection in no way reflects baccarat's history. Baccarat-mania seized Europe and Russia, has thrived in Asia, and is on the ascendancy in the U.S. 

Origins of Baccarat

The precise origins of baccarat are not known, and tracing its origins is made more difficult due to the fact that there were games with very similar rules that went under different names, and there are also games called baccarat that have different rules. Baccara means 0 in old Italian, which some gambling historians treat as the origin of the term. As it is unclear whether the game came from Italy or France, others have speculated whether it can be connected to the village called Baccarat in western France. 

Chemmy and Baccarat

It is clear that what we today called baccarat was played actively in France since the 19th century (and it may have been in Europe since the 1400s). It is described as a 3 person game during this period in Charles Van-Tenac's Album of Games (1847) under the name of baccarat banque. The variety more popular in France and later of continuing fame with James Bond, is Chemin de Fer (or Chemmy). But it is Punto Banco which is played throughout U.S. casinos, and this is the version you'll find in online casinos as well. In fact, Punto Banco is rarely used in the U.S. Baccarat simply is Punto Banco.

While some say that the name Chemin de fer (literally the pathway of the iron, or railway) comes from the speed of the game, but we think that Peter Arnold, author of The Encyclopedia of Gambling (1977) and William N. Thompson in his International Encyclopedia of Gambling (2009) got it right when they wrote that it refers to how the shoe is sent along on the table, from one dealer to the next, like a train.

Baccarat and Controversy

Baccarat has been at the center of some major controversies in history. We'll look at a more recent case below, but baccarat controversy led to the public scorn of one British social elite. In 1891, Sir William Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating in baccarat. King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales - who was himself an avid baccarat player - was also involved in the controversy that resulted in Gordon-Cumming being booted from the army. This controversy produced two books long before Ian Flemming even thought of penning his James Bond novels. 

Baccarat and recent scandal: Paul Ivey's Edge

While it doesn't have the international infamy of poker, craps, and some other gambling games, baccarat has been involved in a few major controversies.

The most recent involves someone not known for baccarat: international poker champion Paul Ivey. In a move that may have impressed James Bond but did not impress the casino, Ivey was caught "edging" the cards. This means that he had observed an abnormality on the back edges of some of the cards that helped him identify those cards. By betting according to this visual information, Ivey walked away with $11 million. So much for the house edge!

The Borgata casino in the U.K. that was edged out by Ivey has sued him for the $11 million, and a U.K. court has ruled in their favor. So far Ivey has refused to pay back the Borgata casino, and the funds are more difficult to demand as Ivey's assets are in the U.S.

Baccarat in Bond Films

If you know much about James Bond films, particularly the original versions, you know that baccarat was a game of choice for Bond. In fact, Flemming was himself also an avid player.

While baccarat is played in several Bond novels, modern film adaptations don't always leave it in. For example, the 2006 Casino Royale changed the final game from baccarat to poker. No doubt this had to do with the poker boom that was happening world wide. This poker explosion has to do in part with ESPN's beginning to broadcast the World Poker Tournament in 2002. 

But at the same time, baccarat was also making a steady climb in popularity. While it didn't have the worldwide popularity and recognition of poker, statistics have shown a steady increase in popularity for baccarat in casinos. But that doesn't even account for its many fans online. Most online casinos also offer baccarat.

Perhaps, in the future, we'll see Bond besting Le Chiffre in an online game of baccarat.

For further information

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