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Punto Banco

Baccarat is one of the simplest games in the casino, and given the fact that it also offers some very good odds for players, it really should be one of the most popular gambling games in the world. But while high rollers are greatly fond of this game, many more casual gamblers avoid it, thanks to a reputation for being an intricate, exotic game that few understand.

That issue can become even more problematic when baccarat goes under one of its more traditional names. That’s the case with Punto Banco, a name that sounds intimidating, despite the fact that it is just the proper name for the variant of the game that is played at casinos throughout the world today. You don’t need to know any unusual rules or terminology to play this classic; if you have ever played baccarat before, you’re already prepared to jump right in and place your bets.

Player or Banker?

Punto Banco is played from a shoe that contains several standard decks of playing cards, the same ones you would use in blackjack or poker. The object of the game is to predict which of two hands will win on each round: the player (or punto), or the banker (banco). Betting on either hand is perfectly okay: despite the names, there is no particular stigma that comes with betting on either side on any given round.

After you’ve made your bets, the dealer will provide two cards each to the player and banker hands. Each card adds a certain number of points to a hand. An ace is worth one, numbered cards are worth their number, and all tens and face cards are worth zero. The total score for a hand is equal to the final digit of the total value of the cards: for instance, a hand of 5, 15, or 25 are all scored as being worth five points. A nine is the best possible score, while a zero is the worst.

How the round plays out varies depending on the status of the two hands. Should either the player or the banker manage to make an eight or nine after their first two cards, then the hand immediately ends, with no further cards being drawn. If that is not the case, then a set of rules – known as the tableau – is followed to play out the remainder of the round and determine a winner.

First, the player makes a very simple decision. If they have a score of five or lower, the dealer gives them one more card; if the player total is instead six or higher, they will stand.

The banker is next. If the player stands, then the banker follows the same rule: they stand on a six or more, and draw on a five or less. If the player instead took a third card, then the banker follows a set of rules based on the banker hand and the value of the third card drawn for the player hand. Those rules look as follows:

  • Player Draws a 2 or 3: Banker draws with 4 or less.
  • Player Draws a 4 or 5: Banker draws with 5 of less.
  • Players Draws a 6 or 7: Banker draws with 6 or less.
  • Player Draws an 8: Banker draws with 2 or less.
  • Player Draws a 0, 1, or 9: Banker draws with 3 or less.

The odd rules for the banker here are drawn from an older version of baccarat, known as chemin de fer. In that version, a banker did play against a player (or group of players), with both sides keeping their initial two cards face down. If the players chose to draw, then that final card was dealt face up, giving the banker some information about whether or not they too should draw to try and improve their hand. In no case does either side ever receive more than three cards in total.

Once all the drawing rules have been followed, the final scores of the two hands are compared, with the higher score winning. Bets on the winning hand are paid out, while bets on the loser are lost entirely. All wins on the punto hand are paid out at even money; however, all banco bets return even money minus a 5% commission (in other words, a $1 bet returns $0.95 in winnings).

In the case of a tie – known as egalite – all bets on banco and punto push, and are returned to the bettors. However, players do also have the option of making a Tie Bet before each hand. This bet pays out at 8-1, but only if the hand ends in a tie between the two sides. If either side wins, this bet is lost.

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Punto Banco

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A Simple Strategy

If you’ve ever played baccarat in a live casino, you’ve probably seen lots of players making very intricate records of what has been happening in each hand, and using that information to guide their future bets. This is the kind of thing that makes people believe that baccarat is too complicated for them: why do all that work when there are some many simple games they can choose from instead?

But fear not: the tracking being done by these players isn’t actually about strategy, but is really more about superstition. This is a game that’s all about luck, as players can’t do anything to influence the outcome of each hand. And while you might think that card counting could have an impact like in blackjack, it turns out that this is a futile exercise in Punto Banco – and even the extraordinarily rare instances where it might gain you a slight advantage aren’t present in an online version of the game, since the show is reshuffled after each hand.

In the end, the best thing you can do to get the most favorable odds possible is to bet on the banker hand on every round. The banker bet has a house edge of just 1.06%, even after accounting for the 5% commission (due to the fact that the banker wins a bet more often than the player). If you really like to make the player bet, that’s fine too: the house edge here is still a very reasonable 1.24%.

What you really want to avoid, though, is making the tie bet. Egalite has an enormous house edge, especially when (as in this version) it only pays out at 8-1; the house has a theoretical advantage of over 14% on each bet, far more than any reasonable game but somewhat typical for a side bet.

Solid Implementation of a Casino Classic

Don’t let the unusual name confuse you: Punto Banco is just baccarat by another name, so if you enjoy playing this classic, upscale gambling game in casinos, then you’ll love this online version as well. There aren’t many frills here: you won’t see any side bets, there’s no “peak” feature, and there are no statistics featured on screen. But the cards and the table are very easy to read, and the betting areas are large, meaning you won’t accidentally make mistakes while you play. It’s a bare bones implementation, but for a game that doesn’t have many moving parts or complex bets, that’s just fine by us.

The bottom line is that while this is a game with few surprises, it is also one that delivers everything a Punto Blanco player needs to have an enjoyable time. If you simply want to get some baccarat action at an Internet casino and you’re someone who values substance over style, then you’ll be more than pleased with this game.

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