There are three main reasons why it would be reasonable to consider Baccarat a game of spectatorship rather than a game of skill, technique, or even as a particularly active experience for its players. We will take a closer look below at each of these basic characteristics:
- Baccarat has tight rules that govern the comparison of just two hands (‘bank’ and ‘player’), which is the basis of betting by its actual participants.
- Baccarat is traditionally a high-stakes game, taking place in private VIP rooms, and therefore it includes the glamour associated with high roller society.
- The role of a crowd of onlookers in Baccarat sometimes can allow people to switch from watching the active players in a coup or round, to becoming betting participants themselves.
Baccarat’s Tight Rules
Like Blackjack in some ways, Baccarat’s rules constrain the Banker and Player roles or hands based upon cards that are dealt according to a standard reference called the Tableau. The Tableau or ‘table’ is a set of if/then statements regarding what to do if either hand has a certain value.
Of the 3 points above, this is the biggest basic reason for Baccarat’s spectator orientation. Once a coup of Baccarat is begun, it is just a matter of watching the game unfold along with the fate of one’s bets made upon either the Bank or Player or their tie.
Baccarat Tableau and Blackjack Basic Strategy
Without explaining the entire set of Baccarat rules, we can summarise the game well by comparing its basic logic with Blackjack. These two games might even be described as close relatives within the casino’s family, if you will!
Both are comparing contests between two hands, with the object of holding the highest value hand (21 in Blackjack, 8 or 9 in Baccarat). In Blackjack, numbered cards have face values, royal cards are worth 10 and the Ace can be 1 or 11. In Baccarat, there are face values, but royal cards are worth zero and the Ace is worth 1 only.
Like the Tableau, Blackjack has a known Basic Strategy that can be represented by a chart of possible opposing hands showing how to play against the dealer (who keeps one card down and unseen).
Differences Between Blackjack and Baccarat
The player and dealer in both games start with 2 cards. But in Blackjack, the player can choose to draw until satisfied one’s hand is high enough to beat the dealer without busting by going over 21, which loses.
The Blackjack dealer does not have a choice other than to draw until reaching a hand of 17 and then stopping. Yet in Baccarat, owing to the smaller total for a winning hand (less than half of 21), there is little choice involved — only a third card might be drawn.
Please Note: Essentially, all gameplay for Bank and Player hands in Baccarat (dictated by the rules of the Tableau) is constrained like the role of Dealer in Blackjack.
Another important fundamental difference between these two cards cousins is how hand totals are computed: in Baccarat the two cards are added (such as a 10 + 5), but only the last digit of the total counts (15 = 5). Because of that, the highest winning hand is 9, and busting is not possible.
Also, in Blackjack when two hands are the same it is called a Push and neither wins; but in Baccarat any bets upon the tie of Bank and Player are paid 8-to-1.
A Glamourous Game for High Rollers
Basically, Baccarat gameplay and odds are tipped in favour of the Bank role and hand. When a participant holds the role of Bank (this differs in Baccarat’s many variations) there is an advantage, and the size of wagering is dictated by this role. That in itself gives a big hint about the bias of the game toward high rolling!
For whatever reasons, Baccarat has a history and tradition of being played by the wealthy. It is usually reserved for VIP rooms, for the privacy of its clientele, as well as with respect to how bets and pots can get so very large.
High Rollers, Banks and Casinos
In fact, casinos are known to make the majority of their profits from Baccarat tables, while also suffering some of their biggest losses from them, too.
But, since Baccarat (like Roulette) is mostly a game of chance, with odds that cannot be improved, and a stiff house edge, casinos know they will win out over time.
Why Did 007 Play Baccarat?
If you recall, Jame Bond or agent 007 was tasked with foiling not just ordinary thugs, but the world’s most powerful criminal minds whose evil plots threatened whole governments (mainly Britain) or even the whole world.
Those were the types who played Baccarat! The high profile talents of 007 and the fact that his adversaries were ultra wealthy made it necessary that he not only play Baccarat as a way to combat them publicly, but have the means and bankroll to participate (courtesy of the United Kingdom, and a Queen!).
Spectators in Baccarat
The rules of Baccarat in some variations make it possible for bystanders (who by definition are part of the wealthy, privileged society who have access to this game) to join into a coup with wagers under certain conditions.
Therefore, quite simply, not only does its gameplay involve merely witnessing how the cards pan out for Bank and Player hands, Baccarat permits a direct involvement of spectators’ bets.
The Wider Spectacle of Baccarat
For the reasons above, now you may be able to make sense of the fact that Baccarat throughout modern history has been the subject of scandals in the news, involved royals and wealthy persons in public controversy, been a figment of novels as well as having been portrayed by popular films like the James Bond franchise.
Yet, since Baccarat is available online, anybody can give it a go — without necessarily being royalty, a tycoon, or a top secret agent!