Baccarat is probably the most lavish and least understood of all casino games. If you've ever been to a land Casino, and taken a stroll by the baccarat pit, you may have glimpsed gorgeous ladies seated about the oversized table, and both players and dealers clad in tuxedos. Perhaps you expected to see James Bond himself sitting in one of the chairs! If you ventured a little closer, you may have seen enormously large bets being placed on the table in this peculiar game where the player makes absolutely zero decisions to determine the outcome! Trying to take all this in at once may have left you feeling perplexed and even a bit intimidated. You may have wondered: "Why would anyone want to play a game where the rules and gameplay are already predetermined?" Or, "What is it about the game that makes the high roller flock to the tables?" Well, these quandaries are just part of the mystique that is baccarat.
Believed to originate from Italy around the mid-nineteenth century, Baccarat - also know as Baccarat Punto or Punto Banco, was a spin-off on the French game of 21. The original rules of the game allowed a player to also act as the bank. This version is still found in some European casinos. This option caters exclusively to the high roller, because few players are willing or able to put up the bankroll required to be the house. During the 20th century, Baccarat remained a fixture in most European casinos, and didn't make a strong showing in the United States until the late sixties to early seventies. In this period, Las Vegas was still entangled in a web of bad publicity related to various casino operators skimming profits and other scandals involving the mafia. Back then, the town was still viewed as a haven for outlaws - far from the family friendly international tourist destination the city is today. In an attempt to "class up" the casinos and cater to a broader audience, operators brought in the first baccarat games. They understood that baccarat was a game of style and sophistication, whose roots ran deep in the European gaming culture. They also saw it as an opportunity to bring in more high rollers. Apparently, it worked, as baccarat pits have become a fixture at every modern casino.
Baccarat tables are usually found apart from the main casino floor, off in their own section known as a "pit." If you've ever seen one, then you have likely noticed the luxurious appointments that grace these pits, such as plush chairs, fine artwork, and the dealers all wear tuxedos. So why are these pits apart from everything and so lavish? The main reason is because they cater to the high roller. It is not unusual for players to use 1,000 credit markers as betting units. The casino management is interested in making their elite clientele feel comfortable, so you won't find the clamoring sounds of slot machines anywhere near the pit. The other formal touches are pretty much a given. Don't feel intimidated, though. Even the low-roller can play and enjoy baccarat, as long as you understand the rules before you bet - like in any game.
The object of Baccarat is to hold 2 or 3 cards, which count 9, or as near to 9 as possible. The values of the cards are: face cards and tens are worth zero, aces are 1, and any other card is worth its face value. Units of 10 points are disregarded so that 9+7 count as 6, not 16.
The dealer will deal out cards to both the player and dealer. Depending on the value the initial 2-card hands, a third card may be dealt to either one of the hands. Ultimately the winning hand will be the one closest to 9. When a tie arises, that is considered a push, just like in Blackjack, and the bet is returned to the player. You may also bet on the tie, which is paid off at 8 to 1.
You have the choice of betting on either the player's hand or the dealer's hand to win. When playing Baccarat at most online casinos, to place a bet, you simply click on either the "player" or "dealer" area of the table. The only other playing option is the Tie bet, but we strongly recommend against this, mainly because it carries very poor odds. The best bet is for the Banker to win. This bet actually carries a positive expectation for the player, meaning the odds are in favor of the player walking away with more money in the long run. However, the casino is wise to the odds, so a 5% commission is taken on all Banker bets to even the advantage. Just like in sports betting, this commission is called "Vigorish" or "Vig" for short. Even with the 5% house take, the banker bet still offers marginally better odds for the player.
Baccarat is a game wholly its own that can be enjoyed by both high and low rollers alike. It provides a relaxing respite from the other games found on the main gaming floor, and offers a sophistication that is akin to the famous casinos of Europe and Monte Carlo. So, the next time you're at your favorite gambling hall, be it online or in Las Vegas, try a few hands of this unique and interesting table game, and you may discover the allure of Baccarat.