Baccarat is a comparing card game, played between two opposing hands – the player and the banker. The game was first introduced in France in the late 15th Century and was devised by the gambler Felix Falguiere, based on an old ritual. In Etruscan Rome, the Nine Gods prayed to a golden-haired virgin who cast a nine-sided die at their feet; the number she threw determined whether she was crowned a priestess, or whether she was to walk into the sea.
Baccarat was designed with a similar partition of the numbers, where the fate of the gambler was determined by their hand. Each card has a different value, and the highest possible hand value is 9. A card or a hand with a value of zero is known as ‘a baccarat’.
Where once baccarat was a game exclusively played by the French elite, it eventually filtered down into casinos and became a popular game amongst many gamblers. With the advancement of the Internet, it is now also possible to play baccarat in online casinos such as Ladbrokes. Baccarat often attracts wealthy players, and separate rooms for high rollers are usually available in both real and online casinos.
Over time, different variations of the game have been developed, including the popular punto banco, chemin de fer and baccarat banque versions. Where punto banco is a game of chance - dictated by the cards dealt to the player - in both chemin de fer and baccarat banque, strategy and skill play a part; although the odds are still in favour of the banker.
Punto banco is the game played in the majority of casinos, where the casino banks the game at all times and both hands are dealt according to fixed drawing rules. If neither the player nor the banker is dealt a total of 8 or 9 in the first two cards, the game continues with either the player or the banker drawing a third card according to the rules (tableau). The croupier then announces the winner and bets paid.
Chemin de Fer, meaning ‘iron road’, was the original version of the game, and was named as such because the cards were placed in an iron box. Players sit in a random order, and take turns to shuffle the cards before the start of the game. Each player takes a turn as the banker, and after wagers are made, the banker deals two cards to himself, and two held in common by the other players.
As with punto banco, if neither the players nor banker has an 8 or 9, they can decide whether to accept or refuse a third card before the hands are compared and wagers paid out. The bank passes to another player when the banker loses, whereas in baccarat banque, the banker holds office until all cards have been dealt, or he retires the position voluntarily. Another difference is that rather than all players holding the cards in common, the table is split into two sides, playing against both each other and the banker.