Baccarat is a gambling card game supposed to have been introduced into France from Italy during the reign of Charles VIII of France. There are two accepted variants of the game: baccarat chemin de fer and baccarat banque.

Baccarat has many points of resemblance to blackjack, but the element of chance is much more prominent. The stakes are made before any card is dealt, and one player plays for several. There is therefore, save on the part of the banker, scarcely any scope for personal skill or judgment.

The object of the game is to acquire a hand of cards with a total sum (called the point) of nine. The cards from ace to nine count each according to the number of its pips. Face cards and tens are baccarat, a synonym for zero. Thus a player holding a three and a ten has three only; a player holding two face cards, a two and a five counts seven only. Similarly, every ten points reached as part of a total score, however made, is disregarded: so that a five and a six count, not as eleven, but as one only; three, seven and five, not as fifteen, but as five; and so on. In other words, Baccarat scores are reckoned modulo 10.

Baccarat Chemin de Fer

Six full packs of cards of the same pattern are used, shuffled together. The players seat themselves round the table. In the centre is a basket for the reception of the used cards. If there is any question as to the relative positions of the players, it is decided by lot. The person who draws the first place seats himself next on the right hand of the croupier, and the rest follow in succession.

The croupier shuffles the cards, and then passes them on, each player having the right to shuffle in turn. When they have made the circuit of the table, the croupier again shuffles, and, having done so, offers the cards to the player on his left, who cuts. The croupier places the cards before him, and, taking a manageable quantity from the top, hands it to the player on his right, who for the time being is dealer, or "banker." The other players are punters.

The dealer places before him the amount he is disposed to risk, and the players "make their stakes." Any punter, beginning with the player on the immediate right of the dealer, is entitled to say "Banco", meaning to "go bank," to play against the whole of the banker's stake. If no one does so, each player places his stake before him. If the total so staked by the seated players is not equal to the amount for the time being in the bank, other persons standing round may stake in addition. If it is more than equal to the amount in the bank, the punters nearest in order to the banker have the preference up to such amount, the banker having the right to decline any stake in excess of that limit.

The banker proceeds to deal four cards face downwards: the first, for the punters, to the right; the second to himself; the third for the punters, the fourth to himself. The player who has the highest stake represents the punters. If two punters are equal in this respect, the player first in rotation has the preference. Each then looks at his cards. If he finds that they make either nine, the highest point at Baccarat, or eight, the next highest, he turns them up, announcing the number aloud, and the hand is at an end. If the banker's point is the better, the stakes of the punter become the property of the bank. If the punters' point is the better, the banker (or the croupier for him) pays each punter the amount of his stake.

The stakes are made afresh, and the game proceeds. If the banker has been the winner, he deals again. If otherwise, the cards are passed to the player next in order, who thereupon becomes banker in his turn.

If neither party turns up his cards, this is an admission that neither has eight or nine. In this case the banker is bound to offer a third card. If the point of the punter is baccarat (i.e. cards together amounting to ten or twenty, = 0), one, two, three, or four, he accepts as a matter of course, replying, "Yes," or "Card." A third card is then given to him, face upwards. If his point if already six or seven, he will, equally as a matter of course, REFUSE the offered card. To accept a card with six or seven, or refuse with baccarat, one, two, three, or four (known in either case as a "false draw"), is a breach of the established procedure of the game, and brings down upon the head of the offender the wrath of his fellow-punters; indeed, in some circles he is made liable for any loss they may incur thereby, and in others is punishable by a fine. At the point of five, and no other, is it optional to the punter whether to take a card or not; nobody has the right to advise him, or to remark upon his decision.

The banker has now to decide whether he himself will draw a card, being guided in his decision partly by the cards he already holds, partly by the card (if any) drawn by the punter, and partly by what he may know or guess of the latter's mode of play. If he has hesitated over his decision, the banker may be pretty certain (unless such hesitation was an intentional blind) that his original point was five, and as the third card (if any) is exposed, his present point becomes equally a matter of certainty. The banker, having drawn or not drawn, as he may elect, exposes his cards, and receives or pays as the case may be. Ties neither win nor lose, but the stakes remain for the next hand.

The banker is not permitted to withdraw any part of his winnings, which go to increase the amount in the bank. Should he at any given moment desire to retire, he says, "I pass the deal." In such case each of the other players, in rotation, has the option of taking it, but he must start the bank with the same amount at which it stood when the last banker retired. Should no one present care to risk to high a figure, the deal passes to the player next on the right hand of the retiring banker, who is in such case at liberty to start the bank with such amount as he thinks fit, the late banker now being regarded as last in order of rotation, though the respective priorities are not otherwise affected.

A player who has "gone bank," and lost, is entitled to do so again on the next hand, notwithstanding that the deal may have "passed" to another player.

When the first supply of cards is exhausted, the croupier takes a fresh handful from the heap before him, has them cut by the player on his left, and hands them to the banker. To constitute a valid deal, there must be not less than seven cards left in the dealer's hand. Should the cards in hand fall below this number, they are thrown into the wastebasket, and the banker takes a fresh supply as above mentioned.

Baccarat Banque

In Baccarat Chemin de Fer, it will have been noticed that a given bank only continues so long as the banker wins. So soon as he loses, it passes to another player. In Baccarat Banque the position of banker is much more permanent. Three packs of cards are shuffled together. (The number is not absolute, sometimes four packs, sometimes two only, being used; but three is the more usual number.) The banker (unless he retires either of his own free will, or by reason of the exhaustion of his finances) holds office until all these casino cards have been dealt.

The bank is at the outset put up to auction, i.e. belongs to the player who will undertake to risk the largest amount. In some circles, the person who has first set down his name on the list of players has the right to hold the first bank, risking such amount as he may think proper.

The right to begin having been ascertained, the banker takes his place midway down one of the sides of an oval table, the croupier facing him, with the waste-basket between. On either side the banker are the punters, ten such constituting a full table. Any other persons desiring to take part remain standing, and can only play in the event of the amount in the bank for the time being not being covered by the seated players.

The croupier, having shuffled the cards, hands them for the same purpose to the players to the right and left of him, the banker being entitled to shuffle them last, and to select the person by whom they shall be cut. Each punter having made his stake, the banker deals three cards, the first to the player on his right, the second to the player on his left, and the third to himself; then three more in like manner. The five punters on the right (and any bystanders staking with them) win or lose by the cards dealt to that side; the five others by the cards dealt to the left side. The rules as to turning up with eight or nine, offering and accepting cards, and so on, are the same as at Baccarat Chemin de Fer.

Each punter continues to hold the cards for his side so long as he wins. If he lose, the next hand is dealt to the player next following him in rotation.

Any player may "go bank," the first claim to do so belonging to the punter immediately on the right of the banker; the next to the player on his left, and so on alternatively in regular order. If two players on opposite sides desire to "go bank," they go half shares.

A player going bank may either do so on a single hand, in the ordinary course, or a cheval, i.e. on two hands separately, one-half of the stake being played upon each hand. A player going bank and losing, may again go bank; and if he again loses, may go bank a third time, but not further.

A player undertaking to hold the bank must play out one hand, but may retire at anytime afterwards. On retiring, he is bound to state the amount with which he retires. It is then open to any other player (in order of rotation) to continue the bank, starting with the same amount, and dealing from the remainder of the pack, used by his predecessor. The outgoing banker takes the place previously occupied by his successor.

The breaking of the bank does not deprive the banker of the right to continue, provided that he has funds with which to replenish it, up to the agreed minimum.

Should the stakes of the punters exceed the amount for the time being in the bank, the banker is not responsible for the amount of such excess. In the event of his losing, the croupier pays the punters in order of rotation, so far as the funds in the bank will extend; beyond this, they have no claim. The banker, may, however, in such a case, instead of resting on his right, declare the stakes accepted, forthwith putting up the needful funds to meet them. In such event the bank thenceforth becomes unlimited, and the banker must hold all stakes (to whatever amount) offered on any subsequent hand, or give up the bank.

The laws of baccarat are complicated and no one code is accepted as authoritative, the different clubs making their own rules.

Card Counting

In blackjack, it is possible to count cards and bet more when it is favorable to the player. Application of methods used at blackjack to calculate the change in advantage at baccarat due to card removal do not yield an advantage to the players as a practical matter on the main wagers. Certain end-deck subsets of cards can prove enormously advantageous to highly-skilled card counter, for example, an end-deck subset of eight ten-valued cards must be a win for the tie wager with its 8-1 payoff, though opportunities are extremely rare.

Judging a Baccarat System Based Upon “Units per Shoe” Won

Many baccarat systems seem to glamorize their results by looking at one of the most overrated statistics - units won per shoe. This statistic is oftentimes misleading. To begin with, it does not take into consideration the amount of units bet per hand to arrive at that unit per shoe win rate. For example, as we observed with a highly volatile or up-as-you-lose/up-as-you-win system, it took many units (and correlatively, it took a risk of many units) to win a relatively small amount of units. So, it is important to look at the average units bet per hand divided into the units won per shoe. Another factor overlooked is the units won per hour, not the units won per shoe. And, don’t forget about commissions. It is usually wise to measure a system against the commission outlay.

Some systems get you out of the game usually before the shoe ends (in the case of a losing shoe or a winning shoe that starts to lose) and in most cases well before the mid-point of the shoe. This means (i) you will come out of the game with much lower commissions and this has the additional benefit of significantly lowering your commissions per shoe ratio and (ii) you are able to start a new game and get two or more shoes in within the hour. Therefore, your units won per hour may be higher. Remember, since time is your most precious commodity, you need to measure your winnings against the time it took to get it. It should be noted, however, that if a system is truly successful, in the long run you will fare better by playing out the shoe rather than cutting it short.

Take the following example. Let’s say that system developer A states that his baccarat system averages “4 units a shoe” and it is a flat 1 unit bet system. The 4 units per shoe might seem inferior to the 7 or 8 units that system developer B proclaims. However, when you consider that system B’s average bet is 3 units or more, and the units won to average shoe win per bet ratio is far below 4.0, you soon realize that units won per shoe is essentially a meaningless statistic.

If you want to compare “apples to apples” determine the average bet size of system B (which is 3 units) and determine the average unit win rate (which in our example we will assume is 7.5 units). This system takes an investment of 3 units per hand to generate 7.5 units per shoe. System A only invests 1 unit per hand to win 4 units per shoe. That is a ratio of a 4 unit win for each 1 unit per hand bet. Then take system A and compare by multiplying 4 times the average bet size of the system you are comparing. In other words, let’s bet 3 units in system A instead of 1 unit per hand. This will give you 3 times 4, which is the average units won per shoe, or 12 units. Clearly, system A is better. So, don’t be lured by those deceptive ads about the greatness of average shoe win rate.

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