How to play Baccarat November 25, 2009Posted by General Zod in Games.
The name “Baccarat” always brings to mind a distinguished tuxedo-clad gentleman sipping upon a vodka martini. (Bond. James Bond.) I am talking about this game, because one of my work associates was talking about card games this afternoon. Baccarat was one of the games she asked about, and she seemed to have some misconceptions about how the game was played. It’s not a complicated game, but it’s not a game that most American folks are exposed to very often. I set her straight… and then thought I’d write it up and share with everyone.
Agent 007’s apparent fondness for the game is the only reason I ever wanted to learn to play Baccarat. When you see it played on film, it’s always portrayed as a game of strategy and cunning which requires a thick bankroll and an impenetrable facade.
Some folks may wish to embrace the whole tuxedo-and-martini experience just for the fun of it, but that’s all just window dressing. Most casinos have what they usually call “mini-baccarat” which is just a low-stakes version of the game.
As for the game play, it wasn’t until I learned how to play baccarat that I realized that you don’t even really need to know how to play to sit in on the game. There are no complicated hands to memorize or bluffing to watch for. It is basically just a guessing game. However, you should understand the rules if you want to understand why you won or lost. I shall explain, however, please excuse the liberties I am about to take with the names.
How to play Baccarat (aka “Punto Banco”)
It is a simple, leisurely card game in which your only decision is choose who will win the hand. Will the Banker (Banco) or his opponent (Punto) win?
When a table is opened, one of the players is designated as the “Banco”. (Contrary to what you might initially think, this player is NOT playing for the house. The Banco is playing against the casino just like any other player.) The role of Punto is managed by the casino dealer (or Croupier) himself.
Everyone at the table will place their bets on Banco, Punto, or Standoff (which would be a tie). The Banco player is expected to bet on Banco. Banco and Punto are even money bets. (However, any bets won on Banco will typically cost the player a 5% commission to the House.) Standoff hands are rare, so they usually pay off at something like 9:1.
At the table, the Croupier will instruct the Banco to deal the cards from an 8-deck Shoe. Each hand will start with 2 cards. The two starting hands are dealt face down by the Banco. Punto’s cards are dealt to the center of the table and Banco’s cards are tucked under the corner of the Shoe. The cards are always dealt in the order of: Punto – Banco – Punto – Banco.
The player who put down the highest wager on Punto is given the other 2 cards, face down. (The idea here is that for wagering the largest amount, this person gets the privilege of seeing the cards before anyone else.) He will turn those cards face up, and then return those cards to the center of the table for all to see.
Banco will turn over his hand. The Croupier will instruct the Banco to hit a 3rd card to either hand should it be required. (This is not the decision of the Croupier or the Players, but rather it is dictated by a very specific set of rules which are used by all casinos.
The objective is to assemble a hand that sums closest to (but not exceeding) 9 points.
Ace = 1 point
2 to 9 = face value in points
10, J, Q, and K = nothing
You add up the point values of your cards. If the total of the hand exceeds 9 points (6 + 8 = 14), then you subtract 10 from it to get your hand’s value
(ex. 6 + 8 = 14, 14 – 10 = 4)
If either player is dealt a “Natural” (which is a 2 card hand that sums to 8 or 9 points), then both players must “Stand” (meaning no more cards are dealt).
Assuming that the hand continues, then the following rules are used to resolve the hand. Punto’s hand is always resolved before Banco’s hand.
Rules for Punto
If sum is 6 or 7 points, then Punto must “Stand”.
If sum is 5 or less, then Punto must “Hit” for a 3rd card. Then, the points sum is recalculated with the subtracting 10’s just as before.
Rules for Banco
Banco’s rules for hand resolution are dictated by a combination of how Punto’s hand was resolved and the sum of Banco’s points.
If Punto has 2 cards, then…
If Banco has 0 to 5 points, he must Hit
If Banco has 6 or 7 points, then he must Stand.
If Punto drew a 3rd card with a value of 2 or 3, then…
If Banco has 0 to 4 points, he must Hit.
If Banco has 5 to 7 points, he must Stand.
If Punto drew a 3rd card with a value of 4 or 5, then…
If Banco has 0 to 5 points, he must Hit.
If Banco has 6 to 7 points, he must Stand.
If Punto drew a 3rd card with a value of 6 or 7, then…
If Banco has 0 to 6 points, he must Hit.
If Banco has 7 points, he must Stand.
If Punto drew a 3rd card with a value of 8, then…
If Banco has 0 to 2 points, he must Hit.
If Baco has 3 to 7 points, he must Stand.
If Punto drew a 3rd card with a value of Ace, 9, 10, or a face card, then…
If Banco has 0 to 3 points, he must Hit.
If Banco has 4 to 7 points, he must Stand.
Then, Banco’s points sum is recalculated with the subtracting 10’s just as before.
Sounds a little complicated, doesn’t it? Well… I guess that’s what happens when the French aristocracy decide to design a game. Personally, I don’t think it’s really too necessary to remember all that jazz exactly. Keep in mind that it is the Croupier’s job to instruct the Banco on what to deal.
Technically, you don’t even have to understand the cards to play. You could just worry about betting Banco, Punto, or Standoff, and then let the Croupier work the rest out. (It worked for Paul McCartney in A Hard Day’s Night!)
Anyway… after the hands is resolved, it is the hand with the highest count (meaning closest to 9) that wins the hand. If the hands are of equal value, then a Standoff is declared. The Croupier will announce the results.
The House will collect the lost bets and winning are paid out. (Don’t forget that winnings made on Banco will be paid minus a 5% commission.)
The Croupier will collect and dispose of the dealt cards.
If the Banco won, the Shoe remains with that player for the next hand. Otherwise, the Shoe is passed to the next player who then becomes the new Banco. This player may opt not to deal, and simply pass the Shoe onto the next player in line.