Baccarat (pronounced bah-kah-rat) is a card game that can be played by two, three, or more players. It is a table game and requires skill, though it is primarily a matter of chance. The game is popular in casinos throughout the world and there are several different variants of the rules. The most common, in North America, Europe and Australia, is called punto banco; the other two variants are baccarat chemin de fer and baccarat banque. The latter is also known as deux tableaux.
The game consists of betting on which hand—Player’s or Banker’s—will be closest to 9. The winning side is declared by the croupier, who collects losing bets and pays winning bets according to a preset table. The game is played with eight decks of cards contained in a dealing shoe on a table with boxes for placing chips. The croupier may choose to pass the shoe around the table in a counter-clockwise direction or, as in Chemin de fer, he or she may keep it in place for as long as either side wishes. The player may bet against the banker, or both sides may elect to “go bank,” in which case each player plays half the bank. The position of banker can be changed after every coup if the current banker wants to retire, or if players withdraw their wagers in reverse play order.
In the US, baccarat is generally played only for high stakes, and the table is placed in a special alcove blocked off from the general casino action. It is typically played with large wads of cash, although some American casinos use oblong chips of high denomination, similar to those used in European casinos. Baccarat is the favoured game of James Bond, the fictional secret agent created by Ian Fleming, and has been featured in several film versions of the character, including the 1953 original; the 1954 television adaptation, Casino Royal; the 1967 film Thunderball; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; and For Your Eyes Only and GoldenEye.
Baccarat’s popularity declined in the US after its peak in the early 20th century, but it retains a strong following in continental Europe and is very popular in Asia. It is played in the casinos of Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In a standard game, the dealer deals four cards face down to each player and to himself; two of these are held in common, and the other two are dealt to the banker. The player and the banker then look at their hands. If the player has an eight or nine, this is declared; if neither has an eight nor a nine, the third card is drawn. The game continues until the banker loses or wins.