There are three commonly accepted variations of Baccarat: Punto Banco, Baccarat Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque (a deux tableaux). The Punto Banco variation of Baccarat involves no skill and is simply a game of chance where a player’s moves are governed by the cards that they are dealt. Baccarat Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque, on the other hand, do involve a certain amount of skill as players are afforded the option to make choices.
Baccarat is a fairly simple game and ends in one of three ways: Player, Banker and Tie. It is important to note that neither does the outcome “Player” refer to the player nor does the outcome “Banker” refer to the house, they are simply options on which the player may bet.
The hand valuations in Baccarat are quite simple. The cards - all are worth their face value, -[K] are worth 0 and [A] is worth 1. Scores are calculated by adding up the sum of all of one’s cards and dropping the 10’s digit (modulo 10). For example:
: 6 (7+9=16 and the 10’s digit is dropped so we are left with 6)
The highest score that a player can achieve is 9. The worst hand that players can hit is 0 or “Baccarat”.
Punto Banco (also known as “North American Baccarat” and “tableau”) is a variation of Baccarat played in casinos in the United States, Canada, Australia, Finland, Macau and Sweden. In this Baccarat variation, the casino banks the game.
In most US casinos, Punto Banco is played only at very high stakes and is usually played in special rooms set aside from the main gaming area. This game attracts the big gamblers, betting tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollar on single hands. Minimum bets at Punto Banco tables will often begin at $25 with some tables offering minimum bets as high as $500. If you are interested in low stakes Baccarat then you will have to go online. Baccarat tables at online casinos will allow players to make more reserved bets. Of course, online casinos will generally invite selected players to play in special high roller games.
How To Play Punto Banco
In Punto Banco, players may bet on the “Player” or the “Banker.” These names do not refer to the player and the croupier; rather, they are simply designations for the two hands dealt in each game. The croupier deals the cards face down, first card to the “Player” hand, second card to the “Banker” hand, third card to the “Player” hand and the fourth card is dealt to the “Banker” hand. Both cards of the “Player” and “Banker” hands are turned over by the croupier and they call the total. It is at this point that the “tableau” or table of play determines whether any additional cards are drawn.
If either the “Player” or the “Banker” has a value of 8 or 9 after the opening deal (this is known as a “natural”) then no more cards are dealt and the outcome of the cards determines the winner with the higher point value winning. If, on the other hand, neither the “Player” nor the “Banker” have a natural then the game proceeds as follows:
- If the score after the initial deal totals 0-5 then the “Player” draws a third card.
- If the score after the initial deal totals 6 or 7 then the “Player stands (doesn’t draw a card).
- If the “Player” doesn’t take a third card then the “Banker” acts according to the Player’s Rule.
- If the “Player” draws a third card then the “Banker” draws a third card according to the following rules:
- - If the “Player” drew a  or  then the “Banker” draws a third card if they have a score of 0-5 and stands if they have a score of 6-7.
- - If the “Player” drew an  then the “Banker” draws a third card if they have a score of 0-6 and stands if they have a score of 7.
- - If the “Player” drew an [A], , , or face card then the “Banker draws a third card if they have a score of 0-3 and stands if they have a score of 4-7.
Once game play has concluded, the croupier announces the winning hand; either the “Player” or the “Banker”. The winning bets are paid according to rules established by the house and the losing bets are collected. Generally speaking, even money is paid when the “Player” hand wins and when the “Banker” hand wins, 95% goes to the “Banker” hand and 5% goes to the house (Commission Baccarat). In a variation of Punto Banco known as “Super 6”, the casino pays even money to both the “Banker” and the “Player” accept for when the “Banker” wins with a score of 6. When this happens, the “Banker” is paid 50% of the original bet.
In the event that both the “Banker” hand and “Player” hand have the same score at the end of dealing, then the “Tie” bet wins and the croupier declares “Egalité-tie bets win”. Tie bets are paid at 8:1 odds and the “Player” and “Banker” bets remain in play for the next game. In most cases, participants will not be able to take back their “Player” and “Banker” bets when there is a tie; the rules vary from casino to casino.
Traditionally, Punto Banco is played at an oval table that is very similar to the table used in Chemin de Fer. A table will have a croupier as well as two dealers. The croupier guides the players through the game and the job of the dealers is to collect and pay out bets as well as calculate the commissions due the casino. Most casinos will have either 6 or 8 deck shoes for Baccarat and the cards are shuffled by the croupier and the dealers. Just as with Chemin de fer, the shoe is moved from player to player. The player in possession of the shoe acts as the dealer of the cards and as the “banker” (of course, this player is not actually banking the game). The “banker” may bet on either the “Banker” hand or the “Player” hand, the name “banker” in this case is merely ceremonial. Of course, if the “banker” wishes, they may pass the shoe to another player. The player that made the biggest bet on the “Player” hand is given the “Player” cards and the honor of turning them over and announcing their score. The croupier will inform the “banker” on when and if to deal third cards and the croupier will then declare the winning bet.
A popular variation of Punto Banco is Mini-Baccarat which is basically the same game; however, it is typically played at a small table. One dealer will manage a Mini-Baccarat table and deal the cards. The stake levels offered at Mini-Baccarat are generally lower and the pace of the games is quite a bit faster.
Punto Banco Odds
One of the attractions to Punto Banco, aside from the excitement, is the fact that it offers amongst the lowest house advantages that you will find at a casino. The “Player” hand bet has a house advantage of 1.24% and the “Banker” hand bet offers a house advantage of 1.06% (this is taking into consideration the 5% commission that must be paid). The “Tie” bet has a much higher house advantage then that of the other bets with a house advantage of 14.44% when a shoe of 6 decks is used and 14.36% when a shoe of 8 decks is used.
In Super 6 (see above), the house advantage on a “Banker” bet is 1.46% and the house advantage on the “Player” and “Tie” bets remain the same as standard Punto Banco.
Chemin de Fer
Chemin de Fer (also known as Chernay or Shimmy) is the original version of Baccarat introduced to France hundreds of years ago and is still the best known and most popular variation of Baccarat in France. There are two theories as to why the game is called “Chemin de Fer”. “Chemin de Fer” in French means “way of iron” or “way of railroad”. One theory is that it is called “Chemin de Fer” because the cards were originally placed in an iron box and the other theory is that it is because the box goes around the table (like a choo choo train).
How To Play Chemin de Fer
Chemin de Fer tables are oval and strict rules are followed in seating at these tables. The first player to approach a Chemin de Fer table will sit to the right of the croupier with each additional person seated in order counterclockwise.
The croupier will begin by shuffling 6 decks of cards and then each player starting from the player to the right of the croupier and continuing counterclockwise is invited to shuffle the cards. The croupier will then shuffle the cards one final time and the player to the croupier’s left cuts the deck.
At the opening of play, the player to the immediate right of the croupier is designated the “banker” and the other players are “punters”. The position of “banker” moves from player to player in a counterclockwise fashion during the course of the game. The round begins with the “banker” declaring the amount of money that they are willing to bet. The other players, “punters”, beginning from the player to the immediate right of the “banker” and continuing counterclockwise, will declare whether they wish to “go bank”. When a player decides to “go bank”, they are willing to wager a bet matching the entire current bank amount. Only one player is allowed to “go bank” in any game. If no one “goes bank” then players are allowed to place bets in a clockwise order, starting from the player to the immediate right of the “banker”. If the total wagers placed by all of the players are below the total amount of the bank then observers are allowed to make up the difference. If, on the other hand, the total wagers placed by all of the players are above the total amount of the bank then the banker reserves the right to increase the bank to make up the difference or; otherwise, players are instructed to return their bets, in reverse play order, until the amount of the bets and the bank are equal.
Once the bets are made then the player making the highest wager represents the “punters” in play. The “banker” begins by dealing two cards to themself and two cards to the player representing the “punters”. Both player then look at their cards and if either one has a hand score of 8 or 9 then it is announced by the player and the hands are turned face-up and compared. If neither the player nor the banker hand has a score of 8 or 9 then the player is given the option of being dealt a third card face-up. It is general practice to take a third card with a hand score of between 0 and 4 and always refuse a third card with a hand score of 6 or 7. The banker will then be given the same option to take a third card. Once all of the cards are dealt, all cards are turned face-up and the hand scores are compared.
If the hand score of the player’s hand exceeds that of the banker’s hand then all of the wagering players get their wagered amount plus a matching amount from the bank and the position of “banker” passes to the player to the banker’s right. If the hand score of the banker’s hand exceeds that of the player’s hand then all of the bets placed are added to the bank and the position of “banker” does not change. In the event of a tie, all of the bets remain as they are for the following hand. Of course, if the banker is looking at a nice pile of cash, they may wish to withdraw and claim the entire bank for themselves. If this occurs then players are given the option, in playing order, to become the new banker by staking an amount equal to the current bank total. In the event that no player is willing to stake the amount, the new banker is the next player in the order and the bank simply becomes what that player wishes to stake.
Baccarat Banque is certainly not for the weak at heart. While it is very similar to Chemin de Fer in many ways, it is dissimilar in one significant way. When playing Chemin de Fer, a player takes the position of “bank” for only as long as they win and as soon as they lose, it passes to the next player. This is not the case with Baccarat Banque. Baccarat Banque has between 2 and 4 decks of cards (3 decks is most common). The player designated as banker remains the banker until all of the cards in the decks have been dealt (unless they retire because they have run out of money or just lost the desire to go on).
How To Play Baccarat Banque
The first thing done when a Baccarat Banque table opens is to auction off the position of bank. The player willing to risk the most money opens as the bank. Sometimes, the position of bank is given to the first player to sign on the player list for the table and they simply risk whatever amount that they think proper.
The banker takes their seat halfway down the side of the oval table immediately opposite the croupier with 5 “punters’ on each side of them. The 5 “punters” to the right of the banker and the 5 “punters” to the left of the banker each work as separate “teams” with one player representing the group (and any bystanders that bet with them) in the hand. This player maintains this position as long as they win. If they lose then the next player in the rotation is dealt the following hand. Bystanders may contribute to the bets and be represented by either the player on the right of the banker or the left as long the amount by the bank is covered by the bets of the players seated at the table.
The croupier will shuffle the cards and allow the player to the right and left of him to do the same. The banker is the last to shuffle and they also select the player that will cut the cards. Now, the bets are placed. First, players are allowed to “go bank” if they wish. First choice is given to the punter to the immediate right of the banker and then the punter to the immediate left of the banker and continues thusly. In the event that two players on opposite sides of the banker deside to “go bank” then they go in half and half. When a player goes bank they may either do so using a single hand or using both player hands (cheval). When playing two hands, the player’s bet is split evenly amongst the two hands. Players that “go bank” and fail in three consecutive attempts are not allowed to “go bank” any further.
After all bets have been placed, the banker deals a card to the player representing the players to the banker’s right, another card to the player representing the players to the banker’s right and then one to themselves; with three more cards being dealt in the same manner. Of course, if one player “goes bank” and only selects to play a single hand then the banker will only deal to that player. The banker and either one or two punters (as the case might be) then look at their cards and if either one has a hand score of 8 or 9 then it is announced by the player and the hands are turned face-up and compared. If neither the players nor the banker hand has a score of 8 or 9 then the players are given the option of being dealt a third card face-up. It is general practice to take a third card with a hand score of between 0 and 4 and always refuse a third card with a hand score of 6 or 7. The banker will then be given the same option to take a third card. Once all of the cards are dealt, all cards are turned face-up and the hand scores are compared.
If the hand score of a player’s hand exceeds that of the banker’s hand then all of the wagering players on their side of the banker get their wagered amount plus a matching amount from the bank. If the hand score of the banker’s hand exceeds that of the player’s hand then all of the bets placed are added to the bank after a 5% commission is take for the house.
When a player undertakes the position of “banker”, they must play out at least one full hand but may retire. When a “banker” retires, they must state the amount of money that they wish to retire. It is then left to any of the other players to continue in the position of “bank”, starting with the same amount as well as dealing from the remainder of the shoe.
It is important to note that when breaking the bank, this does not necessarily keep the “banker” from continuing; they simply must have the funds with which to replenish the bank, up to a pre-agreed minimum amount. When the bets of all of the punters are greater than the amount in the bank, the “banker” is not responsible for the excess bets. If this happens and the “banker” loses then the croupier pays the punters in the order of play as far as the money in the bank will extend. The “banker” may; however, decide to accept any excess claims in which case they will have to put up the money. Once the banker does this, the bank from that point on becomes unlimited and the “banker” must cover all bets offered on any later hands or give up the position of “banker”.