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Bacc To Basics

Baccarat is one of those medieval card games that meandered throughout Europe hundreds of years ago until it eventually hit North America, and then the internet. There are many variations of Baccarat but only three possible results: Player, Banker or Tie.

Baccarat (pronounced “rah” not “rat”) is unusual in that any score of 10 is worth 0. The highest possible score is 9. Two picture cards would have a score of 0. A 9 and a 6 would not equal 15 but 5—minus the first digit. An ace counts as 1 and the rest of the cards retain their face value. Following so far? To keep things simple, I’ll concentrate on North American Baccarat, or Punto Banco.

This traditional baccarat is played at an oval table with a croupier and two dealers who collect and pay bets, and tally commissions due. A six-deck shoe is passed around from player to player, who acts as dealer and Banker, but he or she doesn’t actually bank the game—it’s just ceremony.

It’s this player involvement that makes it a unique game to play. But it’s certainly not for everyone. In most casinos, Punto Banco is played in special rooms for more security because minimum bets often start at $25 and go as high as $500. Posted maximum bets of $10,000 per hand are not unusual. Playing online, however, opens up the playing field quite nicely, like at like and You can check out all kinds of online Punto Banco baccarat tables that suit your style and taste.

Rules of Engagement

The cards are dealt, one to the Player first then to the Banker. Each has two cards. Both cards in each hand are added together. From this position the Tableau, or table of play, is used to determine if more cards need to be drawn. A maximum of three per hand can be drawn to achieve a winning hand. The third-card deal is based on the following.

Player’s Third Card Rules:

· If either the Player or the Banker has a total of 8 or 9 (a Natural hand) on the first two cards, no further cards are drawn.

· If the Player’s count is or less than 5, the Player’s hand draws a third card.

· If the Player’s hand is not dealt a third card, then the Banker’s hand stands on 6 or more and takes a third card on a total of 5 or less.

· If the Player takes a third card, then the Banker’s Third Card Rules will determine if a third card is dealt to the Banker’s hand.

Banker’s Third Card Rules:

· If the Banker’s total is 2, a third card is always dealt.

· If the Banker’s total is 3, a third card is dealt, unless the Player’s third card is an 8.

· If the Banker’s total is 4, a third card is dealt, unless the Player’s third card is a 0, 1, 8 or 9.

· If the Banker’s total is 5, a third card is dealt if the Player’s third card was 4, 5, 6 or 7.

· If the Banker’s total is 6, a third card is dealt if the Player’s third card was a 6 or 7.

· If the Banker’s total is 7, then the Banker stands.

Despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of it), Punto Banco offers some of the lowest house advantages available in a casino. The Player bet has a house advantage of 1.24 percent, and the Banker bet (despite the 5 percent commission) has an advantage of 1.06 percent. The Tie bet has a much higher house advantage of 14.44 percent, based on six decks in play. And because of its attraction for wealthy players, a casino may win or lose millions a night on the game, and the house’s fortunes may even affect whether a corporation stays in the black or dips in the red.

By Carmine Frisk

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