Baccarat pallet and cards

Baccarat (play /ˈbækərɑː/, French: [bakaʁa]) is a card game, played at casinos and by gamblers. It is believed to have been introduced into France from Italy during the reign of King Charles VIII (ruled 1483–1498), and it is similar to Faro and Basset. There are three popular variants of the game: punto banco (or "North American baccarat"), baccarat chemin de fer, and baccarat banque (or "à deux tableaux"). Punto banco is strictly a game of chance, with no skill or strategy involved; each player's moves are forced by the cards the player is dealt. In baccarat chemin de fer and baccarat banque, by contrast, both players can make choices, which allows skill to play a part.

Baccarat is a comparing card game played between two hands, the "player" and the "banker". Each baccarat coup has three possible outcomes: "player" (player has the higher score), "banker", and "tie".


Valuation of hands

In Baccarat, cards 2–9 are worth face value, 10s and J, Q K are worth zero, and Aces are worth 1 point. The score of a hand is the sum of all cards modulo 10, which is equivalent to the rightmost digit in the sum. For example, a hand consisting of 2 and 3 is worth 5 (2+3=5\equiv 5\pmod{10}), but a hand consisting of 6 and 7 is worth 3 (6+7=13\equiv 3\pmod{10}). A hand consisting of 4, 6 and 10 is worth zero, or Baccarat (4+6=10\equiv 0\pmod{10}). The best possible score is 9. The word "Baccarat" is used in place of zero within the game, to refer to zero-valued cards and hands.

Punto banco

The overwhelming majority of casino baccarat games in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Finland, and Macau, are "Punto banco" baccarat. In Punto banco the casino banks the game at all times, and commits to playing out both hands according to a predetermined system of drawing rules, unlike the other more historic Baccarat games where each hand is played by a separate person who can choose freely whether or not to draw an additional card. Customers may bet on either the "punto/player" or the "banco/banker", which are merely designations for the two hands dealt in each game. In some countries, this version of the game is known as "tableau" (French: "diagram") which refers to the rules for drawing cards which both hands are obliged to follow.

In punto banco, the "player" hand is not associated with the customer, nor the "banker" with the house; "player" and "banker" are simply two competing hands which the bettor can back.

Punto banco is dealt from a shoe containing 4, 6 or 8 decks of cards shuffled together. A cut-card is placed in front of the seventh-last card, and the drawing of the cut-card indicates the last coup of the shoe. For each coup, two cards are dealt face up to each hand, starting from "player" and alternating between the hands. The croupier may call the initial total (e.g. "five to the player, three to the banker"). At this point the drawing rules are used to determine firstly whether the player should receive a third card, and then, based on the value of any card drawn to the player, whether the banker should receive a third card. The outcome is then determined by comparing the totals.

The tableau for punto banco

If either the player or the banker (or both) achieves a total of 8 or 9 on the initial deal (known as a "natural"), no further cards are drawn and the outcome is immediately determined by comparing the two totals. However if neither has a natural, the play proceeds as follows:

  • Player's rule:

If the Player has an initial total of 0–5, he draws a third card. If the Player has an initial total of 6 or 7, he stands.

  • Banker's rule:
    • If the Player stood pat (i.e., has only two cards), the Banker regards only his own hand and acts according to the same rule as the Player. That means the Banker draws a third card if he has 0–5 and stands if he has 6 or 7.
    • If the Player drew a third card, the Banker acts according to the following more complex rules:
      • If the Player drew a 2 or 3, the Banker draws if he has 0–4, and stands if he has 5–7.
      • If the Player drew a 4 or 5, the Banker draws if he has 0–5, and stands if he has 6–7.
      • If the Player drew a 6 or 7, the Banker draws if he has 0–6, and stands if he has 7.
      • If the Player drew an 8, the Banker draws if he has 0–2, and stands if he has 3–7.
      • If the Player drew an ace, 9, 10, or face-card, the Banker draws if he has 0–3, and stands if he has 4–7.
    • The case of the Player drawing a third card could be expressed mathematically as follows: Take the value Player's third card, counting 8 and 9 as −2 and −1. Divide by 2 always rounding down towards zero. (Thus −1,0,1 all round to zero when this division is done.) Add three to the result. If the Banker's current total is this final value or less then draw, otherwise stand.

The croupier will deal the cards according to the tableau and the croupier will announce the winning hand—either 'player' or 'banker'. Losing bets will be collected and the winning bets will be paid according to the rules of the house. Usually, even money or 1–1 will be paid to the player and 95% to the 'Banker', 5% commission to the house (Commission Baccarat).

Should both the "Banker" hand and the "Player" hand have the same value at the end of the deal the croupier shall announce "Egalité—tie bets win." All tie bets will be paid at 8 to 1 odds and all bets on "Player" or "Banker" remain in place and active for the next game (the customer may or may not be able to retract these bets depending on casino rules).

Casino games

In casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, punto banco is usually played in special rooms separated from the main gaming floor, ostensibly to provide an extra measure of privacy and security because of the high stakes often involved. The game is frequented by very high rollers, who may wager tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single hand. Minimum bets are relatively high, often starting at 25 USD and going as high as 500 USD. Posted maximum bets are often arranged to suit a player, but maximums of 10,000 USD per hand are common. When it comes to online casinos, usually high roller baccarat games are played in separate rooms. A player that wants to play high roller baccarat online can do so only with an invitation which is not easily acquired. Most of the time the invitations are given to players that spend lots of time playing baccarat for real money.[1]

Because Baccarat attracts wealthy players, a casino may win or lose millions of dollars a night on the game, and the house's fortunes may significantly affect the owning corporation's quarterly profit and loss statement. Notations of the effects of major baccarat wins and losses are frequently found in the quarterly reports of publicly traded gaming companies.

The full-scale version of punto banco baccarat is played at a large rounded table, similar to chemin de fer. The table is staffed by a croupier, who directs the play of the game, and two dealers who calculate tax and collect and pay bets. Six or eight decks of cards are used, normally shuffled only by the croupier and dealers. The shoe is held by one of the players, who deals the cards on the instructions of the croupier according to the tableau. When the "player" hand wins, the shoe moves either to the highest bettor on the "player" hand, or to the next player clockwise around the table, depending on the casino's conventions.

Midi and mini punto

Smaller versions of the game are common in more modest settings. In midi punto, the table is only staffed by a single croupier and is generally smaller. In mini punto, the table is no larger than a standard blackjack table, and the cards are dealt by a croupier directly from a standard shoe. Table minimums/maximums are smaller.

Punto banco odds and strategy

A detailed analysis is given in (Thorp 1984); the house edge is very low in Baccarat, but it is very unusual to get a significant advantage in it, and despite the superficial similarities to blackjack, card counting is not profitable. Thorp concludes that:

[A]dvantages in baccarat are very small, they are very rare and the few that occur are nearly always in the last five to 20 cards in the pack.
—(Thorp 1984), p. 38

There is no way for a player to improve his or her odds at punto banco other than avoiding the tie bet. Punto banco has both some of the lowest house edges available in casino table games, and some of the highest. The punto bet has an attractively low house edge of 1.24%, and the banker bet (despite the 5% commission) is even lower, at 1.06%. Both are just slightly better for the player than chances at single-zero roulette, and comparable to playing blackjack by intuition rather than correct strategy.[2]

In contrast, the tie bet has a punishingly high house edge of 14.4%.[3] Most casinos in the United Kingdom pay the tie at 9-1, resulting in a more lenient house edge of around 4% for the tie bet.

Many punto banco players record the coup results as the shoe progresses, laying them out using pen and paper according to traditional patterns such as "big road", "bead road", "big eye road", "small road" and "cockroach road", and making inferences about the result of the next coup by examining the layout. Recently casinos (particularly online casinos) have begun to display the coup results in the current shoe using audiovisual equipment.[4] It is statistically impossible to alter winning chances by examining the result history of the shoe. Nonetheless the use of record cards in Punto Banco is pervasive in casinos across the world.

Super 6/Punto 2000

A variation of punto banco exists where even money is paid, rather than 95%, on winning "banker" bets, except when banco wins with 6, when a commission of 50% is taken. This game goes under various names including "Super 6", and "Punto 2000". The house edge on a banco bet under Super 6 is 1.46%. As well as for the increased house edge, the Super 6 variation is preferred by casinos for its speed; calculating and collecting commission on winning banker bets in standard punto banco takes up a significant portion of the game time, whereas paying even money most of the time is much faster.

Chemin de Fer

This was the original version of Baccarat when it was introduced to France and is still the version that is popular there. The name "Chemin de Fer" (way of iron) came about because the cards were placed in an iron box.[5] This name predates the French use of that term for train tracks.

Six decks of cards are used, shuffled together. Players are seated in random order, typically around an oval table; discarded cards go to the center. Play begins to the right of the croupier and continues counterclockwise. At the start of the game, the croupier and then all players shuffle the cards in play order. The croupier shuffles a final time and the player to his left cuts the deck.

Once play begins, one player is designated as the "banker". This player also deals. The other players are "punters". The position of banker passes counterclockwise in the course of the game. In each round, the banker wagers the amount he wants to risk. The other players, in order, then declare whether they will "go bank", playing against the entire current bank with a matching wager. Only one player may "go bank". If no one "goes bank", players make their wagers in order. If the total wagers from the players are less than the bank, observing bystanders may also wager up to the amount of the bank. If the total wagers from the players are greater than the bank, the banker may choose to increase the bank to match; if he does not, the excess wagers are removed in reverse play order.

The banker deals four cards face down: two to himself and two held in common by the remaining players. The player with the highest individual wager (or first in play order if tied for highest wager) is selected to represent the group of non-banker players. The banker and player both look at their cards; if either has an eight or a nine, this is immediately announced and the hands are turned face-up and compared. If neither hand is an eight or nine, the player has a choice to accept or refuse a third card; if accepted, it is dealt face-up. Traditional practice (grounded in mathematics, similarly to basic strategy in blackjack, but further enforced via social sanctions by the other individuals whose money is at stake) dictates that one always accept a card if one's hand totals between 0 and 4 (inclusive) and always refuse a card if one's hand totals 6 or 7. After the player makes his decision, the banker in turn decides either to accept or to refuse another card. Once both the banker and the representative player have made their decision, the hands are turned face-up and compared.

If the player's hand exceeds the banker's hand when they are compared, each wagering player receives back their wager and a matching amount from the bank, and the position of banker passes to the next player in order. If the banker's hand exceeds the player's hand, all wagers are forfeit and placed into the bank, and the banker position does not change. If there is a tie, wagers remain as they are for the next hand.

If the banker wishes to withdraw, the new banker is first player in order willing to stake an amount equal to the current bank total. If no one is willing to stake this amount, the new banker is instead the next player in order, and the bank resets to whatever that player wishes to stake. Many games have a set minimum bank or wager amount.

Baccarat Banque

In Baccarat Chemin de Fer, it will have been noticed that a given bank only continues so long as the banker wins. As soon as he loses, it passes to another player. In Baccarat Banque the position of banker is much more permanent. Three packs of cards are shuffled together. (The number is not absolute, sometimes four packs, sometimes two only, being used; but three is the more usual number.)[citation needed] The banker (unless he retires either of his own free will or by reason of the exhaustion of his finances) holds office until all these cards have been dealt.

The bank is at the outset put up to auction, i.e. belongs to the player who will undertake to risk the largest amount. In some circles, the person who has first set down his name on the list of players has the right to hold the first bank, risking such amount as he may think proper.

The right to begin having been ascertained, the banker takes his place midway down one of the sides of an oval table, the croupier facing him, with the waste-basket between. On either side of the banker are the punters (ten such constituting a full table). Any other persons desiring to take part remain standing, and can only play in the event of the amount in the bank for the time being not being covered by the seated players.

The croupier, having shuffled the cards, hands them for the same purpose to the players to the right and left of him, the banker being entitled to shuffle them last, and to select the person by whom they shall be cut. Each punter having made his stake, the banker deals three cards, the first to the player on his right, the second to the player on his left, and the third to himself; then three more in like manner. The five punters on the right (and any bystanders staking with them) win or lose by the cards dealt to that side; the five others by the cards dealt to the left side. The rules as to turning up with eight or nine, offering and accepting cards, and so on, are the same as at Baccarat Chemin de Fer.

Each punter continues to hold the cards for his side so long as he wins. If he loses, the next hand is dealt to the player next following him in rotation.

Any player may "go bank," the first claim to do so belonging to the punter immediately on the right of the banker; the next to the player on his left, and so on alternatively in regular order. If two players on opposite sides desire to "go bank," they go half shares.

A player going bank may either do so on a single hand, in the ordinary course, or a cheval, i.e. on two hands separately, one-half of the stake being played upon each hand. A player going bank and losing may, again go bank, and if he again loses, may go bank a third time, but not further.

A player undertaking to hold the bank must play out one hand, but may retire at anytime afterwards. On retiring, he is bound to state the amount with which he retires. It is then open to any other player (in order of rotation) to continue the bank, starting with the same amount, and dealing from the remainder of the pack, used by his predecessor. The outgoing banker takes the place previously occupied by his successor.

The breaking of the bank does not deprive the banker of the right to continue, provided that he has funds with which to replenish it, up to the agreed minimum.

Should the stakes of the punters exceed the amount for, the time being in the bank, the banker is not responsible for the amount of such excess. In the event of his losing, the croupier pays the punters in order of rotation, so far as the funds in the bank will extend; beyond this, they have no claim. The banker, may, however, in such a case, instead of resting on his right, declare the stakes accepted, forthwith putting up the needful funds to meet them. In such event the bank thenceforth becomes unlimited, and the banker must hold all stakes (to whatever amount) offered on any subsequent hand, or give up the bank.

The laws of baccarat are complicated and no one code is accepted as authoritative, the different clubs making their own rules.

Popular culture

The Royal Baccarat Scandal

The Tranby Croft affair in 1891 and disgraced socialite William Gordon Cumming's subsequent lawsuit, known together as the Royal Baccarat Scandal, inspired a huge amount of media interest in the game, bringing Baccarat to the attention of the public at large, with rules being published in newspaper accounts of the scandal.[6] Popular culture was influenced enough that the scandal became the subject of music hall songs and a stage play.[7]

A Hard Day's Night

In A Hard Day's Night, Paul's grandfather John, played by Wilfred Brambell, uses an invitation sent to Ringo to visit a posh new casino. He spends most of his time at the Baccarat table, where despite his unfamiliarity with the game (a joke involves him yelling "Bingo" and the croupier correcting him with the term "Banco"), he wins a tidy sum, which is then seized by the casino to pay off his exorbitant bar bill.

James Bond 007

Baccarat chemin-de-fer is the favoured game of Ian Fleming's secret agent creation, James Bond.[8] He is found playing the game in numerous novels&mash;most notably 007's 1953 debut, Casino Royale, in which the entire plot revolves around a game between Bond and SMERSH operative Le Chiffre (the unabridged version of the novel includes a primer to the game for readers who are unfamiliar with it). It is also featured in several filmed versions of the novels, including Dr. No, where Bond is first introduced playing the game; Thunderball; the 1967 version of Casino Royale (which is the most detailed treatment of a baccarat game in any Bond film); On Her Majesty's Secret Service; For Your Eyes Only; and GoldenEye.

In the 2006 movie adaptation of Casino Royale, however, Baccarat is replaced by Texas hold 'em poker largely due to its great popularity at the time of filming.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

The game is played in the season 4 episode "Our Man Bashir". A holodeck fantasy resembling a James Bond scenario malfunctions and the stakes become life and death for several characters. Julian Bashir must play baccarat in order to bribe the banker with his own money.

The Saint

In the 1968 episode "The Ex-King of Diamonds", Boris (Willoughby Goddard) attempts to win enough money to purchase missiles to mount a coup by gambling at Baccarat using cards marked with an infra-red dye that he can identify with a coloured monocle.

The game is also featured in the 1966 episode, "Interlude in Venice". Along with Roger Moore, the episode also stars James Bond alumni Lois Maxwell and Paul Stassino.

Warren Zevon

The Warren Zevon song "Mr. Bad Example" has him playing chemin-de-fer in Monte Carlo.

Rush Hour 3

In Rush Hour 3, Carter (Chris Tucker) joins a baccarat table trying to court Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir), but he doesn't know the rules of the game. He mistakenly believes that his hand of three Kings wins, while in reality, with the score being 0, it is the worst possible hand (for a punter). The scene takes place in France, so presumably, chemin-de-fer is being played.

Mission: Impossible

Season One, Episode 6 "Odds on Evil" (1966) Prince Iben Kostas plans to use his money to finance a war, however, the IMF plans to take his money, partly by cheating at Baccarat.

Pinky & The Brain

In Pinky & The Brain Season 4, Episode 41 "Brain's Way" (1997) Brain opens a casino in 1967 Las Vegas where Baccarat is the only game available as Brain considers it the only true thinking man's game. Brain also features himself as a Sinatra style lounge singer to draw in the crowds, which seems to be working until it is pointed out by his loan shark that no one is spending money on the table games because no one knows how to play Baccarat. Brain naturally turns to Pinky as he has run out of ideas and this of course causes the whole plan to fall apart completely. The plot loosely mirrors that of the movie Bugsy.


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