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Baccarat - the facts
Baccarat is a casino game that is usually associated with high rollers and those lucky enough to have sufficient disposable cash to gamble hundreds of dollars per hand. It's a simple game that's made to look complicated by use of the third card rule.
When you play baccarat, you do not have a hand yourself. Instead, the dealer deals two hands - the 'player' or 'punto' hand, and the 'banker' or 'banco' hand. You have the choice of betting on the hand you think is going to win, or if you think it is going to be a tie. Guess right and you receive back double your stake, or 8-1 if you bet on the tie. If you bet on the banker's hand, you have to pay a five percent commission if you win. This is because the banker wins more often than the player.
The object of baccarat is to score the most points. Aces are worth one, all tens and face cards are worth zero and all other cards are worth their point total. A hand is made up of two or three cards, and its value is the 'units' total of the hand. For example, a hand of a seven and an eight is worth five, not fifteen.
A little bit of history
Like many card games, it seems that baccarat may have originated in either France or Italy. There were two versions of baccarat around as long ago as the 1400s - 'Chemin de Fer' and 'Baccarat en Banque'. Chermin de Fer is French for 'railway', and Baccarat en Banque means 'baccarat in bank' - 'baccarat' itself is an Italian word that means 'nothing'.
When Chemin de Fer made its way into early American casinos, the game was renamed 'Punto Banco' which simply means 'player banker'. This refers to the hands than can be wagered upon. In modern parlance, 'baccarat' and 'punto banco' are precisely the same game. Punto banco differs from Chemin de Fer in that strict rules dictate what happens when the cards are drawn. In Chemin de Fer, a player can choose whether to take a third card or not, for example.
Baccarat - some terms explained
Not only the name of the game, but also the worst possible hand. Any hand that has a value of zero (for example, a king and a jack) is known as 'baccarat'.
The banker, or the banker's hand
Big and small
A side bet on the number of cards that will be dealt. The 'big' side bet pays out if a total of five or six cards are dealt, and the 'small' side bets wins if only four cards are dealt.
Another side bet that is popular in Asian casinos that have baccarat. If you bet on the 'Dragon Bonus', you are betting on winning hand winning by at least four points. The bigger the win, the more the side bet pays up to a maximum of 30-1 for a win by a nine point margin.
A side bet that pays 40-1 should a dealer have a three card hand worth seven, and the dealer's hand beats the player's hand.
Another side bet that pays 5-1 should the player or the banker be dealt a pair.
One of the names for the best hand in baccarat, which is any hand with a value of nine, such as a nine and a queen. 'La Grande' is French for 'the big one'.
A name for the second best hand in baccarat, which is any hand with a value of eight, such as two fours. 'La Petite' is French for 'the little one'.
A side bet that pays 18-1 if the dealer has a hand worth six and still beats the player's hand.
Any hand that totals eight or nine. In punto banco or baccarat the player does not receive a third card if they are dealt a natural.
Another side bet. This one pays 25-1 if the player achieves a three card winning hand that totals eight.
A side bet that pays 25-1 if either the player or the banker is dealt a hand containing two identical cards in both suit and denomination.
The player, or the player's hand.
Simply another name for baccarat.
A rare side bet that pays 75-1 if the player or banker is dealt a king and a queen of the same suit, or 30-1 if either of them are dealt a king and a queen of different suits.
Them's the facts, now hit the tables
There's something of an air of mystery surrounding baccarat, as it's a game that isn't always readily available to 'normal' punters at real world casinos. Why there is this mystery is a wonder as, basically, baccarat or punco banco is a very simple game once you become accustomed to the 'third card' rules. Why not head to a baccarat table now and brush up your punto banco skills? Pick right, and you can be enjoying a nicely swollen 'banco' pretty swiftly!