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North American Version of Baccarat
Casino baccarat is a card game available in casinos around the world. Number cards count at face value, while face cards and 10s count as zero (or Baccarat). Aces count as 1. Only the last digit of the overall total counts, so cards which add up to 12 would only count at a 2.
The are three versions of the game: Punto Banco (or North American Baccarat), Baccarat Chemin de Fer (or Railway), and Baccarat Banque.
The History of Casino Baccarat
The game is first known to have been played in Italy during the Middle Ages. During this time, the game was played with a deck of Tarot cards. The game itself received its name from the Italian word for "zero."
Sometime in the late 1400s, the game migrated to France during the reign of Charles VIII, where it quickly became a hit with the French aristocracy. At this point, it developed into two distinct games: European Baccarat and the French game Chemin de Fer. The latter game more closely resembles what is played today in casinos.
The game known today as American Baccarat started in England and spread to South America. In 1950, the game was introduced to Las Vegas at the Dunes Casino.
Casino Baccarat Rules
In Baccarat, there are only 3 possible results - Player, Banker, and Tie. The term "Player" doesn't really refer to the customer and the term "Banker" doesn't really refer to the house. They are just names to distinguish between the two betting options of the customer. The object of the game is to bet on the hand with the highest total.
Punto Banco Baccarat
In the version known as Punto Banco (or North American Baccarat), the casino banks the game at all times. Players may bet on either the player or the banker.
The standard form of Punto Banco Baccarat is played at an oval table, similar to those of the Chemin de Fer variety. The table is managed by a croupier, who oversees the play of the game, and two dealers who collect and pay bets as well as tally any commissions due. Six or eight decks of cards are normally used, and they are only shuffled by the croupier and dealers.
During gameplay, the shoe is passed from player to player, each taking turns acting as the dealer of the cards and as banker. However, the players do not actually bank the game. In fact, the "banker" may bet on the player hand if he or she wishes, or can pass the shoe along to someone else — the role of the banker is merely ceremonial.
Before the cards are dealt, the customers can choose to either bet on the banker's hand, the player's hand, or on the result being a tie.
The person who bet the highest amount on the player's hand is given the player-hand cards, though he or she simply turns the cards over and announces their total. The croupier tells the player acting as the banker when to deal third cards, and the croupier also announces the winning hand.
Two cards are dealt to the player and the banker, one at a time, with the player receiving the first card. Both cards in each hand are added together and the croupier calls out the total. From here, a table of play is consulted to see if further cards need to be drawn (for example, if the initial deal has a hand totaling 8 or 9 then no further cards are drawn. This hand is called a "Natural."). A maximum of one more card per hand can be drawn.
If the player's first two cards total 6 or more, then the player must stand without drawing a card. If the player's first two cards total 5 or less, the player must draw one additional card. If the banker's first two cards total 7 or more, then the banker must stand without drawing. If the banker's first two cards total 0, 1, or 2, then the banker must draw one card. If the banker's first two cards total 3, 4, 5, or 6, then whether the banker draws is determined by the whether the player drew, and, if so, the value of the player's draw card, as shown by the table of play.
The croupier deals the extra card according to the tableau and then announces the winning hand (either "player" or "banker"). Losing bets are collected from the table, and the winning bets will be paid off according to the house rules. It is common for even money to be paid to the player and 95% to the banker (with a 5% commission to the house). Casinos have been known to charge a lower commission, with Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas having been documented at 4%. Some casinos will pay even money to both the player and the banker except when the banker wins with a total of 6. In this case, the banker will be paid 50%.
If the banker and the dealer have the same value at the end of the deal, the croupier will announce, "Egalite - Tie bets win." All tie bets will be paid out at 8-1 odds (although some casinos have been known to pay out at 9-1), and the croupier will not touch the bets on the player or the banker, instead returning them to the customers who made the wagers in the first place.
This version of baccarat is often played in special rooms separated from the main gaming floor, especially in casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. This is done to provide an extra measure of privacy and security due to the high stakes which can so often be involved. It is not uncommon, in fact, for thousands of dollars to be wagered on a single hand.
Minimum bets are relatively high compared to other casino games, with the smallest possible amount often starting at $25 and going as high as $500. Maximum bets are often arranged to suit a player, but maximums of $10,000 per hand are fairly common.
Because of the attraction of wealthy players, a casino might win or lose millions of dollars in one night on the game. In fact, it might even affect the bottom line of a corporation's quarterly profit and loss. It is not at all uncommon for notations of the effects of major baccarat wins and losses to be included in the quarterly reports of publicly traded gaming companies.
The Punto Banco version of Baccarat offers one of the lowest house advantages available in a casino. The player bet has a house advantage of 1.24%, and the banker bet (despite the 5% commission) has an advantage of 1.06%. The tie bet has a much higher house advantage of 14.44% (based on six decks in play).
Gaming experts such as Edward O. Thorp have determined that card counting is not a particularly effective strategy in overcoming the house edge at the Baccarat tables. Compared to Blackjack, card counting is about 9 times less effective against Baccarat.
There is also another version of this game known as Mini-Baccarat. It is played at a smaller table which resembles a Blackjack table in size. A dealer handles the game, including dealing the cards and all other actions. The game is very popular and the pace is much faster than traditional Baccarat. Outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, this is often the only version of Baccarat which is offered.
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