By no means do we encourage gambling, but if you have a little free time and want to take your chance with lady luck, here are some instructions on how to play baccarat—a game made famous by James Bond. You won’t be an expert after reading this column, but you’ll have a better understanding of how to play the game, should you decide to take a chance.
Baccarat has been a mainstay at Las Vegas casinos since the 1950’s, but has long been considered a game for the highest of the high rollers. For much of its early history, baccarat was played by millionaires betting extravagantly and was largely unknown to the general betting public. Today, the full-scale version of the game is played behind a roped off area, however casinos now offer a scaled down version of the game for the general public called “mini-baccarat”.
Baccarat enjoys a following online as well as in casinos throughout the U.S. Also, according to fodors.com, baccarat is the most popular game for Asian gamblers. Many Chinese gamblers believe that this is the fairest game, so they tend to make large bets. While casinos have made efforts to reach out to the average gambler, baccarat still remains the favorite for the highest of the high rollers.
Baccarat is also one of the easiest games to understand. There are only two hands dealt—the player hand and the banker hand—and the objective is to determine which hand will win. It is important to note that the banker hand does not belong to the casino and the player hand does not belong to the bettor. The bets are placed before the cards are drawn.
The full-scale version involves 14 players seated around a table with three dealers. None of the casino’s dealers actually deal out the cards. There is a shoe, a simple device that contains eight decks, which deals out cards without showing the faces to bettors. The shoe is ceremoniously passed from bettor to bettor, and it is required that the bettor holding the shoe must bet on the banker hand or pass the shoe.
Both the banker hand and the player hand are dealt from the shoe. One dealer stands up and calls out the points and whether each hand gets another card. The other two dealers are seated and are in charge of paying off winners and collecting losing wagers. Mini-baccarat caters to average bettors who can place just a $10 minimum and it involves only seven players and a single dealer who draws the cards from the shoe.
As stated before, only two hands are dealt—the player hand and the banker hand. The hand with a total closest to nine is the winner. Cards 2–9 count as their face value, 10’s and face cards equal zero and aces are equal to one. If the card total is greater than nine, the first digit is dropped. The point totals of the first two cards dealt determine whether or not a third card is dealt. If the player hand equals eight or nine, the hand is called a natural and the player hand stands. The player hand also stands if it equals six or seven. The player hand is only dealt a third card is it equals 1–5, or 10.
Determining whether the banker hand is dealt a third card is slightly more complicated and can best be explained using the following chart (provided by howstuffworks.com):
FIRST TWO CARDS TOTAL: DRAWS WHEN PLAYERS THIRD CARD IS: STANDS WHEN PLAYERS THIRD CARD IS:
3 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-10 8
4 2-3-4-5-6-7 1-8-9-10
5 4-5-6-7 1-2-3-8-9-10
6 6-7 1-2-3-4-5-8-9-10
8-0 Natural — Stands
0-1-2 Always draws
Strategy for baccarat involves more gut instinct and managing your bank roll than reading other players or the cards. The banker hand wins slightly more than 50% and the house takes a 5% commission on all winning bets.
James Bond, in Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, uses baccarat to outsmart his nemesis Le Chiffre, whose winnings were funding an evil organization. Now that you know the rules, you can attempt to take down the house and make your stay in Las Vegas a more profitable one!