Back in 1953, Ian Fleming wrote the book that would change his life. In Casino Royale, secret agent James Bond takes on criminal mastermind Le Chiffre at a high stakes game of baccarat. Much of the book is actually devoted to discussing the game and Bond’s baccarat strategy.
Half a century on, Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond saw Casino Royale get the big screen treatment, but the card game was changed to poker, in keeping with the fashion of the time. Baccarat fell out of favour in the late 20th century. Over the past five years or so, however, it has enjoyed something of a revival.
Chemin de Fer and Punto Banco
In the book, Bond plays Chemin de Fer, while in almost all casinos, whether you’re in Las Vegas or you gamble online at real money casinos, you will play punto banco. Both games follow the same basic rules, but in chemin de fer, players play against each other with the casino taking a cut. In punto banco, you simply play against the house, as you do in blackjack or 3 card poker.
In both versions, two cards are dealt for both “player” and “banker” In punto banco, these names are notional, they could as easily be A and B or James and Peter. Aces to 9s have face value, 10s and face cards are worth zero. The sum of the cards gives the total score, and the closest to 9 wins. Note that in baccarat, there is no going bust, as only the last digit counts. So 8 and 7 gives as score of 5, not 15.
There are complex rules that the dealer must follow that dictate whether or not player and banker receive a third card. These rules are set in stone, and you don’t need to learn them.
Placing your bet
In punto banco, all you have to do is decide whether to bet on player, banker or tie. The rules regarding the third card mean banker has a slight advantage, which is why banker pays 19-20, player pays even money and the tie pays 9-1.
Place your chips accordingly – it’s essentially down to backing player or banker – the tie bet has a house edge of around 14 percent compared to just 1.36 percent for player and 1.06 percent for banker. So the tie is definitely best avoided.
There are no decisions to make regarding the cards, you just have to decide where to place your bet and how much. Strictly speaking, the house edge says you should always back banker, but there’s little fun in that.
Baccarat lends itself to betting progressions like the martingale, and some players combine this with switching from player to banker and backing the underdog from the last three games. If player or banker has won all three, sit out the hand until there is an underdog – this saves you from being caught up in a catastrophic bad run. Good luck and enjoy the game!