Since its invention, baccarat has been closely associated with the elite classes of France, from which it spread to high rollers throughout the world. Today, baccarat can be played for modest wagers (especially online), but its air of decadence, debonaire and unlimited lines of credit lingers on.
There are several forms of baccarat, including Baccarat Chemin de Fer, Baccarat Banque, Baccarat à Deux Tableaux and Punto Banco.
Baccarat can trace its roots back to a Medieval card game known as Tarrochi and was originally played with a Tarot deck. Modern baccarat however is played with a classic French deck comprised of 52 cards. No jokers or other wild cards are used.
There are only two hands in play during a game of baccarat:
- One player hand (Punto)
- One dealer hand (Banco)
This doesn’t preclude lots of players betting on the same round of baccarat. If you wish to participate, simply decide if you wish to bet on Punto or on Banco and place your wager. This practice distinguishes baccarat from games such as blackjack where it is impossible to bet on the dealer’s hand. You also have a third option in baccarat: betting on egalité. If you think that the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand will get exactly the same amount of points, place your wager on egalité. Egalité doesn’t happen often in baccarat, so you get plaid a lot when it does.
A baccarat hand starts out with two cards. In certain situations, an additional card can be added.
King – 0 points
Queen – 0 points
Jack – 0 points
Ten – 0 points
9 – 9 points
8 – 8 points
7 – 7 points
6 – 6 points
5 – 5 points
4 – 4 points
3 – 3 points
2 – 2 points
Ace – 1 point
How is hand value calculated in baccarat?
To calculate the hand value of a baccarat hand, simply add the values of each card together.
- Ace + Queen = 1 point
- Ace + Five = 6 points
- Ten + Five = 5 points
If the value of a hand exceeds nine, only the rightmost digit counts.
Five + Seven = 12 points = A 2 point hand
Nine + Nine = 18 points = An 8 point hand
Nine + Ace = 10 points = A 0 point hand
Did I win?
The goal in baccarat is to get as close to 9 points as possible. A 9 point hand is the best possible hand.
Punto’s hand is worth 5 points.
Banco’s hand is worth 6 points.
Banco wins, because 6 is closer to 9.
If both hands get the same point value, all egalité bet wins, while everyone who bet on Banco or Punto lose their wagers.
History of Baccarat
Baccarat is based an old Italian game named Baccara. (Baccara is the Italian word for zero.) Baccara was in turn based on Tarrochi, a Medieval game played with Tarot cards.
Baccarat has been popular in France since at least the 16th century. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), it was played extensively at court and the game was considered highly fashionable among the French elite. As you can see, baccarat’s link association to wealthy high rollers is a very old one.
The French Revolution put an end to royal life, but the game of baccarat was not guillotined – it was simply picked up and enjoyed by the new elite. During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was a popular pass-time with the courtiers, just as it had been a century before.
In 1837, public gambling was outlawed in France, but this didn’t stop baccarat from flourishing. Wealthy Frenchmen could no longer enjoy public gambling, but the long law of the arm did not concern itself much with what went on behind locked doors in the French mansions.
When French gambling laws were relaxed in the late 1800s and casinos began to emerge along the French Riviera, baccarat stepped into the light once more. Private games had kept the knowledge of baccarat alive and the game was ready to enter the public stage again.