Baccarat has a long history dating back centuries. It is believed to have originated in Italy as far back as the 15th century, and then made its way to France, where the name got changed from the Italian “baccara” to the French “baccarat.” These words pertain to the concept of zero in the game, and zero does figure prominently in it, as you will see.
There is still debate as to which country discovered baccarat, the French or the Italian, but there’s no doubt that France was the country which embraced it with a lot more passion and it became the chosen game of French nobility for centuries.
Baccarat even today is seen as a high class game played by the wealthy, for no particular reason actually, other than just convention and the fact that it is rolled out in casinos with more prestige and with higher minimums and maximums and therefore tends to attract a lot more high rollers than other casino games.
One does not have to be a high roller or dress in a tuxedo to play baccarat in a casino though, and the game is quite accessible to everyday casino gamblers, although they may not have the deep pockets to play at the more exclusive baccarat tables.
The bigger casinos commonly win and lose millions of dollars on any given day at baccarat, and their risk exposure is such that baccarat results even receive separate statements on the business’ quarterly financial reports. Casinos not only risk a lot of money on baccarat, they also make a lot on it, although the house edge on baccarat is quite small and is right up there with blackjack as far as the most player friendly odds, although with baccarat no skill is required.
While card counting is certainly frowned upon by casinos as far as playing blackjack, they have no qualms with people even writing the cards down, and it’s common for baccarat players to track the cards dealt. Due to the nature of baccarat though, this provides no advantage to anyone, and is permitted since it’s just a novelty, but if players may believe it helps, this may encourage more action which the casino is of course fine with.
The General Idea of Baccarat
There are actually 3 forms of baccarat, the most popular of which is called punto banco, which is the form played in most of the world. The French have retained their own version of the game though, called chemin de fer, and there is a third variation, called baccarat banque, but all 3 are similar and the only difference is that with with punto banco, players don’t participate in the hands at all, they just bet on them.
With the other 2 versions though players do represent the 2 hands of player and banker, but other than that the concepts are the same.
It may seem odd to players not familiar with baccarat to have hands called player and banker but no one playing them, but that’s just what the hands are called. Basically, two hands are dealt out at the table, and the actual players, the bettors, can bet either on player or banker winning the hand, or bet on the hand tying. The odds aren’t so great on betting on ties so bettors are better off betting on either player or banker.
The odds for bets on either offer a house edge a little over 1%, with bets on banker having very slightly better odds. The banker hand does win a bit more often so a commission is charged by the casino on winnings on banker hands, otherwise the player would have the edge and not the house.
How Baccarat Is Played
Players place their wagers, and then a hand is dealt to both player and banker. The goal of baccarat is to get as close to a total of 9 as possible, adding the total of the cards in a hand together. Cards from aces to 9’s are worth their pip value, and 10s and face cards are worth 0. Tens are dropped off and only the number to the right is used, as in a 5, 6, and 8 being worth 9 not 19.
Whether or not either the player or the banker hand draws cards depends on a set formula, and players don’t even have to concern themselves with this, provided they aren’t dealing, and it’s customary to have casino staff deal the cards in any case.
2 cards are dealt to each hand, with an initial total of 8 or 9 winning on the spot. Depending on the value of this total, more cards will be dealt to the player first and then the banker, keeping in mind that bettors at the table are neither, they are just third party bettors to this.
Once the hand is decided, the winning bettors will receive their winnings, and the losing bets collected. It’s really that simple, and one doesn’t have to have any knowledge of the game at all to play, other than just putting chips down on either hand. There is no strategy at all to this game.
Players do tend to find the gameplay interesting though, and for whatever reasons, baccarat is a very popular casino game and one that especially appeals to the wealthy, although you don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy it.