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There are three versions of the game of baccarat; the original baccarat, its close relative chemin de fer and punto banco baccarat. Punto banco baccarat is the version most commonly played in casinos around the world today and is the focus of this article. The main difference between punto banco and the alternative versions is that it features no decision making as such regarding the play of the hand.

Original baccarat and chemin de fer contain a number of optional plays which are absent in the punto banco form, where all cards are dealt according to a fixed set of rules. Once the mechanics of the game are understood, punto banco baccarat is one of the simplest games the casino has to offer. The only choice the gambler has to make is whether to bet on the hand of the player, that of the dealer, or a tie. It’s really not much more complicated than betting on red or black at a roulette table or heads or tails on the toss of a coin.

Object of the Game

The game is a straight battle between two hands of cards. One hand is designated as the player’s hand with the other being the banker’s. These are only labels and the punter is able to bet on either hand. The object of the game is to create a two or three card hand that’s total is the closest to, but no higher than nine. Totals are determined by the value of the pips on the cards. All cards from the ace (one) through to nine score their face value, whilst all tens and picture cards count as zero. Clearly many two or three card combinations will result in a total higher than nine. e.g. an eight and a seven adds up to 15. In all instances such as this, the first digit of the total is dropped and the second taken as the value of the hand, in example given the total would be five. Whichever hand is closer to nine is deemed the winner. Both a win for the dealer (banker) and a win for the player pay out at even money, although a 5% commission is levied on banker bets, making an effective payout of 19/20. Ties are possible and pay out at either 8/1 or 9/1 depending upon the casino.

The Rules

Punto banco baccarat has two common forms. Big table baccarat and mini baccarat. The only difference between the games is the number of players at the table and the method of dealing the cards. In big table baccarat there are generally 12-14 players involved, with the game being supervised by three dealers. The actual dealing of the cards, however, is conducted by the players themselves. An individual player will continue as the dealer until they deal a win for the player hand, at which point the deal will pass to the player to their left. The three dealers present at the table are responsible for calling out the points totals of the cards, instructing the player dealing when to deal a third card and managing all the bets at the table. Mini baccarat has a much more familiar set up. One casino dealer is responsible for the dealing of all cards and the management of all bets.

A hand begins with two cards being dealt to the player and two to the dealer. If either the player or dealer is dealt a total of eight or nine in their first two cards this is deemed to be a natural win and no more cards will be dealt to either hand. In the instance that both player and dealer have a natural, the higher natural wins. Assuming neither the player nor the dealer has a natural, play proceeds as follows. The player’s hand is dealt with first and follows a simple set of rules.

  • On a two-card total of six or seven the player receives no more cards.
  • All other totals will be dealt a third and final card.

Attention now turns to the hand of the dealer. Rules here are a little more complex but soon become easy to follow. The play of the hand depends upon whether or not the player received a third card. If the player did not receive a third card i.e. his opening hand totalled six or seven:

  • The dealer receives a card on totals of zero to five.
  • The dealer stands on a total of six or seven.

In the cases where the player did receive a third card the actions of the dealer are determined by the value of the third card dealt to the player. The following rules apply for each of the possible third card values dealt to the player’s hand.

  • Two or a Three: banker receives a card on totals of 0-4 but stands on 5-7.
  • Four or a Five: banker receives a card on totals 0-5 but stands on 6-7.
  • Six or a Seven: banker receives a card on totals of 0-6 but stands on 7.
  • Eight: banker receives a card on totals of 0-2 but stands on 3-7.
  • Nine, Ten, Picture or Ace: banker received a card on totals of 0-3 but stands on 4-7.

Once all cards have been dealt as determined by the above rules, the hands of player and dealer are compared. Closest to nine wins and that’s really all there is to it. An understanding of the above is all a gambler needs to take part in what has historically been viewed as one of the most sophisticated games the casino has to offer.

In truth, whether playing at an online casino or in a bricks and mortar establishment, the only real choice the player need make is whether to bet on the dealer, player or the tie. The dealing will almost always be fully automated (other than for big table baccarat) and so full knowledge of when and why extra cards will be taken isn’t really vital to playing this simple yet brilliant game.