Baccarat – Playing James Bond’s Game of Choice

The game of baccarat came to wider public attention as a result of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. In that novel, Bond, an expert baccarat player, is assigned to bankrupt the villain Le Chiffre at the gaming tables so that he will not be able to recover his gambling debts. When the novel was recently filmed, however, the two antagonists played the now more popular Texas Hold’ em poker rather than baccarat.

Baccarat has long had an air of exclusivity, of a game played mainly by aristocrats and the well-heeled in exclusive tables. However, online casinos have helped make it more popular among gamblers, although it remains one of the less-played casino card games. In baccarat, only two hands are played – the dealer’s and the player’s. Each player receives two cards, and then just one more if needed; the hand closest to nine is the winner.

Unlike in blackjack, however, there is no busting in baccarat. If the total of the first two cards dealt exceed nine, then only the second digit of the total is considered. For example, if the cards are a six and a seven, then the value is 3 and not 13.
There are only three bets in the game – player, dealer or tie. If the banker bet wins, it is paid even money but a 5% commission is deducted; if the player wins, even money is also paid out but with no commission. A tie, in which both players have hands with the same value, pays out eight to one odds.

In casinos, baccarat is played in tables staffed by a croupier, who directs the play of the game, and two dealers who collect and pay the players’ bets. Six or eight decks of cards are used in the game, and players take turns playing as the banker, although the ‘banker’ at any particular round of play does not have to bet on the banker hand and may bet on the player hand.
Gamblers who want to try baccarat should not take the seeming simplicity of the game at face value; as in all games, the odds favor the house. So if you want to play, here are a couple of tips that could help even the odds in your favor.

First, pick a table that plays with the lowest number of decks. Some high-stakes games, in fact, play with only one deck. The fewer the decks, the better the odds in your favor. Although the advantage may be small, it should still not be ignored.
Second, always wager on the banker. Even if you lose some hands, you will eventually break even. Also keep in mind that you’re being charged a commission; keep track of how much you owe so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised at the end of the night.