The actual origin of baccarat is lost in history, however some historians claim that there is no reliable record of the game before the middle of the nineteenth century, and the game originated
in Italy. The game is thought to be a spin-off of the French game vingt-et-un (twenty-one), the game we know as blackjack. It is similar in that the goal is to get as close as possible to a set
number without exceeding it.
Baccarat differs from blackjack in several ways:
- The total aimed at is nine rather than twenty one.
- If the total is exceeded the player doesn’t automatically lose. Rather, the total cycles around a base of 10, so that if the total is greater than 9, 10 is subtracted from the total to obtain a number between 0 and 9. For example if the hand contains an 8 and a 5 the total of 13 has 10 subtracted from it and it is treated as a 3.
- The 10, Jack, Queen, and King have a value of 0 (10 minus 10 = 0)
- The ace has only one value; 1.
- The decision to pull another card is determined by a fixed set of rules, and is not left to the players judgment (in most versions)
In Europe chips are used to place wagers, while in North America they often use real money for betting. (This is thought to make the game more exciting.)
There are three present-day games that are essentially the same and sometimes all thought of as baccarat. They are:
- Chemin de fer: This game is played in some European casinos, but is not played in the U.K. and North America. The goal is the same (to get as close to 9 as possible) but the rules allow a few conditions where drawing a card is optional. The casino doesn’t play the role of banker, the players bet against each other, the players take turns being the banker-dealer (the option may be declined, and it then passes to the next player to the right) the house takes a standard cut out of the player banker’s winning coup.
- Baccarat: This game is the only game played in the U.K. and North America. The goal is the same (to get as close to 9 as possible) however the game is strictly mechanical with formal rules dictating every aspect of play. The house banks the game, thus the bets can be much larger than when another player is acting as the bank, also with the house assuming the role of banker the game can be played with as few as one player (in chemin de fer you have to wait for additional players before the game can start)
- Mini-baccarat: A new version of the game. The game is played at a blackjack sized table with up to seven players. The rules are the same as for the full version of baccarat, however to speed up the game the players don’t touch the cards they are dealt by the casino dealer. The stakes are much lower for this game than the full version, this plus the less formal atmosphere make this version appeal to many players.