Variations of Baccarat
Baccarat, a game of international renown, has evolved and taken many forms since it was first introduced to France more than 500 years ago. Since then, Baccarat has developed an aura of mystique and prestige, no doubt due to its beginnings as a game reserved for nobility. Because it is not as well known to the general public as other games – for example, Poker or Blackjack – there is also an assumption that Baccarat is either quite difficult, complicated, or both. The truth is that Baccarat is elegant in its simplicity, and something that most every player could learn quickly and enjoy.
Modern Baccarat comes in many different forms, although the three most common variations are Punto Banco (or North American Baccarat), Chemin de Fer, and Banque. The basic rules are the same for all three variations. A 9 is the highest score, and you are guessing who will have the better hand – the player, or the banker.
This version of Baccarat is most common in North America, Macau, Australia, Finland, Sweden and the U.K. and is also the simplest. The main differences in Punto Banco are as follows: the casino is always the dealer (banker), and a third card is drawn or not based solely on the value of both the player’s and the dealer’s hand. Because of this, Punto Banco is strictly a game based on odds and luck, not strategy.
Unlike blackjack, you don’t need to memorize the values as they’re hard and fast rules, not guidelines. But it’s still a good idea because sometimes mistakes can be made, especially when the pace picks up.
Chemin de Fer
This is the variant of Baccarat originally brought to France in the 15th century, and the variant that remains most popular. The name comes from the iron box the cards were kept in (the precursor to the modern “shoe”) and passed from banker to banker, reminiscent of a railroad.
Before play starts, one player is designated as the banker and deals the cards. The other players are called “punters.”
The position of banker shifts counterclockwise throughout the game. If at the end of a hand the banker loses, then the next player becomes the banker. The current banker may also choose to give up being banker – the new banker is the first person willing to wager the bank amount. If nobody is willing to match the amount, then the next person in order becomes the banker, and the wager amount is reset.
Banque is similar to Chemin de Fer, the main difference being in how the position of banker is played out. In this variation, the banker continues in his role until all cards in the shoe have been dealt, regardless of whether the banker or player wins.
One thing to keep in mind for both the Chemin de Fer and Banque variants is that while the dealer is referred to as the banker, he is not obligated to bet on his own hand, and he is only responsible for dealing the cards, not handling payouts. Croupiers, who are responsible for managing the table (much like the croupier in craps), handle the payouts to players.