While modern James Bond films show the international superspy participating mostly in poker, the British secret agent’s game of choice – as established in the original Ian Fleming novels – was baccarat. That fact is enough to make many aspiring gamblers want to sit down at their casino’s baccarat table, order a martini (shaken not stirred, of course) and start betting. However, before you can live out your dreams of playing 007 for a night, you need to master the rules of his favourite card game.
Baccarat is unique among casino card games like blackjack and poker in that many people have no idea how it is played. Luckily, the gameplay for baccarat is actually fairly straightforward and you can use strategy. The game’s name, ‘baccarat,’ comes from the Old Italian word for zero. (Baccarat was invented in Italy back in the 14th century, when the words of the language were slightly different.) The number zero is relevant to the game of baccarat because it is the point value ascribed to the face cards in the deck (the jacks, queens and kings) as well as to the 10. The rest of the cards in the deck bear their face value, with aces worth a single point each. The overall goal of the game is to land a score of 9 points, or to get closer to 9 points than the dealer (also called the banker).
The gameplay of baccarat is similar to that of blackjack. The player and the banker are each dealt two cards and both are aiming for a certain number. One notable difference is that the player can bet on either his own hand or the banker’s hand, but must do so before cards are dealt. Once the hands are dealt, if the value of either hand is 8 or 9, the game is over and no further betting need take place (though draws are possible).
If neither the player nor the banker wins outright, the game may move to a third card. However, unlike blackjack, baccarat is entirely a game of chance and the player’s moves are dictated by the rules. If the player has a hand totaling 6 or 7 points, he or she must stand. If the hand value is below that, he or she must ask for another card. If the hand total goes into double digits, the second digit is the value of the hand (e.g. a hand showing 15 points is actually worth 5). Depending on what card the player draws, the dealer will face different rules on whether they stand with their current total or draw a new card.