Baccarat Think of baccarat and what image comes to mind? Big hills of hundred dollar bills? Tall suntanned dealers in snappy black tuxes? A private little casino with an elegant softly-lit sign that whispers BACCARAT? A big security guard standing next to the velvet rope? “Move along, buddy.” “But officer, l was just—” “Move along, buddy.” “Uhh, yes sir.” Hey, wait a minute. This is America, and this is the twentieth century. If you want to play baccarat, then do it! It’s the most underrated game in town. It offers the best odds of winning, it’s played at a nice easy pace, and there’s no one screaming in your ear or spilling something on your shoes. It’s like a vacation in the country; it’s like Central Park in the middle of New York City; it’s the game you’ve got to play at least once in your life just so you can say you did it. First, a brief history lesson. In the 1500s the French aristocrats didn’t have anything to do, so they made up a game which they called Baccarat.
It’s still popular in many countries, along with two variations of the game: Chemin De Fer and Baccarat, or “Punto Banco,” as it’s known abroad. The first thing you have to learn about baccarat is how to pronounce it. If you say “Back-a-rat” you will have exposed yourself as a tourist. But if you say “Bahlcah-rah” that big security guard by the velvet rope is going to move right out of your way.
The baccarat table seats twelve players and two dealers one on each side. Their job is to take losers and pay winners. A third dealer stands on the other side of the table. He calls the cards and passes the “shoe” after each hand. The shoe is a wooden or plastic box holding eight decks of cards, and is exactly like the shoes used in most Las Vegas blackjack games. The object of baccarat is to achieve a total of nine with two cards or an additional third card if necessary. All number cards 2 through 9 count as their face value; aces count as 1; and all l0-value cards, including face cards, count as O.
For instance, a jack and a four would count as 0 plus 4, or 4. The shoe passes around the table in a counter-clockwise direction after each hand. Participants may bet with either the “player” or with the “banker,” who is the fellow that gets to slide the cards out of the shoe. Even the “banker” can bet with the “player” if he wants to; being the “banker” is just part of the ceremony. Now we’re ready to begin. “Card for the player,” the dealer intones. Out slides a card, face-down, which the dealer keeps in the middle of the table. “Card for the banker.” This card is tucked under the shoe by the banker. “Card for the player.” Sounds like a scene from a James Bond movie. “Card for the banker.” The dealer then gives the two unexposed cards in the middle of the table to the player having the largest bet on the player’s side, who turns them over and tosses them back to the dealer. The banker exposes his cards, and the follow- ing rules prevail: If the player’s cards total 8 or 9, the players automatically win; that’s called a “natural.” Unless the banker’s total ties the player’s total; in that case the hand is played over. The player must stand if a 6 or 7 total comes up; and the banker,