Back in the colonial days when Sri Lanka was still Ceylon, baccarat was the gentleman’s game of choice in Colombo’s parlours, lounges and clubs. In 1953, when Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale, the spy thriller that introduced the world to James Bond centred around a high stakes game of baccarat.
Yet just half a century later, when Daniel Craig assumed the role of Bond for the first time, the screenwriters changed the game to poker. Why? Because they feared nobody would understand what was going on if they left it as baccarat.
A gradual revival
In 2005, the Bond writers were probably right. Yet now, baccarat is once again among the top casino games across Asia, Europe and even north America. Indeed, the site recognised by most as the best online casino in Canada boasts a dozen live versions of the game. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with this casino classic by exploring the different versions of the game that are now available.
A little like poker, baccarat has different variations, but each has the same basic concept in terms of goals. Whichever version you play, the winner is the player who finishes closest to 9 without going over. In baccarat scoring, all face cards are valued at 10, and ace at 1. Also, you only count the final digit. So if you are dealt 10 and 8, that’s a score of 8, while Ace, 6, 7 adds up to 4.
The most common form of baccarat is punto banco. In this game, you take the role of observer as the dealer deals two cards each to a notional “Player and “Banker.” You simply have to bet on who will win the hand – Player, Banker or Draw. There are complicated rules about whether the Player and/or Banker is dealt a third card. You don’t need to memorize these, the dealer just does what is necessary.
This peculiarity means Banker is marginally more likely to win than Player, hence the returns are 19/20 and even money respectively. Correctly predict the tie and you’ll be rewarded 8/1. Note that the house edge when you back Player or Banker is very similar, between one ad 1.5 percent. However, the for the tie, it is 14 percent, so that is one best left alone.
Chemin de fer
Literally translated as “railway,” this was the variation of baccarat played by Bond in the Casino Royale book. It follows the same precepts as punto banco, but players take on one another directly, and also take it in turns to be “banker.” It’s not something you’ll find at online casinos, but is still played in land-based ones. The James Bond lifestyle website provides a useful player’s guide.
Baccarat is a very straightforward game, but recently, developers like Evolution Gaming have created even simpler versions. These have proved to be highly successful at online casinos, and include single card games like Football Studio and Dragon Tiger. If you are playing baccarat for the first time, these make ideal starting points.