Baccarat is the single most sophisticated game you can possibly play in a casino, one that conjures up images of Sean Connery engaging in a nonchalant banter with Eunice Gayson across the green baize of the baccarat table in Dr. No, the first installment of the James Bond series. Yet, baccarat is so much more than the favorite casino game of Ian Fleming’s fictional secret agent.
The game is alluring to players worldwide for a number of reasons, the simple, predetermined rules and gameplay being the primal incentives for many gamblers to try it. Apart from simplicity, baccarat tables yield a very low advantage for the house, in fact, as low as 1.06% for banker bets, which renders the game appealing for casual players and high rollers alike.
Gamblers, especially those in Asian countries, are in love with these characteristics of the game. Baccarat is simple to play, potentially profitable in the short run, and most of all, extremely exciting as it is a game of pure chance.
Once the dealer shuffles up the decks, the fate of baccarat players is sealed into the new shoe. No decisions or skill can influence the odds of winning so you might as well let the cards fall where they may.
It is this anticipation of the unknown that makes baccarat the game of choice for millions of gamblers around the world. That being said, inexperienced players are often confused and even intimidated when they join a baccarat table for the first time.
Much of this confusion comes as a direct result of not understanding the jargon used by seasoned players and the table personnel. If you are new to the game, we suggest you take a look at the glossary of terms below. Learning them will enable you to join the table with the confidence of a well-versed baccarat player.
Table Personnel Terminology
Callman – Large baccarat tables are manned by three dealers and each of them carries out a distinct duty. One of those dealers is referred to as a callman (or caller) and is positioned in the very middle of the table so as to face all players. The callman is responsible for handling the cards, positioning them in the corresponding places on the layout, deciding whether or not more cards can be drawn to a hand depending on the predetermined drawing rules, and verbally announcing the winning hand (hence the name “callman”).
Croupier – Croupier is derived from the old French word croupe, which was used to denote the hide part of a horse. Initially, the word croupier referred to the person who stood behind a player to back them up with extra cash during the betting session, hence the analogy with a horse’s rump. The word’s meaning gradually evolved and its current usage is that of a casino representative, i.e. a callman in the context of baccarat, who is in charge of overseeing the game and announcing the results of the coups.
Dealer – A distinction should be made between a callman (a croupier) and a dealer in baccarat. Two dealers stand on each side of large baccarat tables while the callman is positioned in the very middle. Unlike the callman, the dealers do not come in direct contact with the cards. They only handle the money on the table, paying out the winners and collecting the chips of losing players.
Ladderman – The role of a baccarat ladderman is identical to that of the pit bosses in craps. The ladderman is responsible for overseeing the game and sits in a special high chair positioned above the baccarat table, which enables him to keep a close track of all the action.
The purpose of the ladderman is to ensure everyone adheres to the rules as well as to prevent and correct mistakes on behalf of the caller and the two dealers. Laddermen would also intervene should any disputes occur at the table. If a ladderman spots a cheater, they would call security or surveillance but would never leave their high spot over the table. Sometimes one ladderman may be responsible for overseeing several baccarat tables at the same time.
Pit – Tables with high limits are normally kept separate from other casino games on the main floor and are placed in a roped-off area called a pit. It is precisely this atmosphere of exclusivity that makes baccarat so alluring to high rollers since it enables them to gamble for higher stakes undisturbed by the racket of the main casino floor.
Shill – The practice of shilling has almost become obsolete now but back in the day, many casinos would hire shills (also called starters) to attract more betting action. The shill would take a seat at an empty baccarat table without revealing in any way they work in conjunction with the house. When planted at the table, the shill would secretly bet with the house’s money while pretending to be a regular player.
Not surprisingly, casinos used to employ predominantly young attractive women or men as shills at their baccarat tables. A shill should not be mistaken with a proposition player – the latter is still a casino employee and as such, is on a payroll by the house, but would use their own money when betting at the tables.
Table Equipment Terminology
Cheques – Cheques are chips intended specifically for play at the baccarat tables. They are of a different diameter than the chips used in other table games, which only contributes to the sense of exclusivity baccarat instills in players.
Continuous Shuffle Machine – Often abbreviated as CSM, continuous shuffle machines are special card-shuffling devices used at the blackjack and baccarat tables. At the end of each coup, the caller would collect the discards from the table and place them back into the CSM, which is always at work shuffling the decks in its belly, ensuring the randomness of the deal. These machines are in use at some tables mostly because they speed up the game as the callman does not have to shuffle the decks manually after the end of a shoe.
Cut Card – This is a plastic card, inserted towards the end of the baccarat shoe showing the callman when to reshuffle. After the callman reaches the cut card, they must deal more cards to finish the current coup and then play one final hand before they reshuffle and start a new shoe.
Discards – The discards are the cards that have already been dealt out of the shoe and are not in play until the reshuffle. These are stored in a discard tray until the cut card is reached and a fresh shoe starts.
Lammers – Lammers are small laminated disks used by the dealers to mark the commissions on the winning banker wagers.
Layout – Large baccarat tables can accommodate up to twelve players, with six players sitting on either side of the caller. In contrast, mini baccarat tables can be occupied by no more than seven players. The table layout contains the commission and betting boxes. It also has the available bets in the game along with their payouts printed on top.
Marker – A piece of paper a player must sign when borrowing credit from the house.
Muck – The muck is a freshly shuffled baccarat shoe that contains a total of eight French decks of 52 cards each.
Palette – This a flat wooden bat that is used by the caller to move the cards on the table. In player-banked games, the palette also serves as an indicator as to which player is currently acting as a banker. The palettes used at high-roller tables in luxurious casinos are often exquisitely crafted pieces of equipment, decorated with elaborate ornaments, which further adds to the sophisticated atmosphere at the tables. Palettes have been an essential piece of equipment at baccarat tables ever since the 15th century.
Rule Card – These cards contain the fixed rules baccarat and chemin de fer variations are played by.
Baccarat à Deux Tableaux – This is a baccarat variation where the banker hand plays against two player hands at the same time. It is also known as Baccarat en Banque and can be found mostly in European gambling venues. The interesting thing about this variation is that spectators observing the game are permitted to place bets if the participating players cannot cover the banker’s bet entirely. The name of the variation translates as “baccarat on two tables”.
Chemin de Fer – This is one of the most popular variations of the game and is available mainly in European casinos. In chemin de fer, players take turns clockwise in acting as the banker so in effect, they are betting against each other instead of playing against the house. US casinos ditched chemin de fer in favor of baccarat toward the end of the 1950s. The name of the variation means “railway” in French.
Dragon Tiger – This is yet another distinctive baccarat variation that enjoys a good deal of popularity in Asian casinos, especially those in Macau. The difference here is that the player and the banker hands consist of one card instead of two. The object is to predict which of the two hands will receive a higher-ranking card. The peculiarities of this variation allow for various proposition bets to be made.
Mini Baccarat – Mini baccarat follows the same rules as the standard variation of the game. The key difference here lies in the size of the semi-circle-shaped table which is smaller, and as such, is serviced by one member of the casino’s personnel instead of three. Respectively, the smaller table can accommodate a smaller number of players, usually up to seven.
Baccarat Bets Terminology
Banker Bet – The banker bet is one out of three possible betting options in the game of baccarat, along with the player and the tie bet. Winning banker bets offer even-money payouts but the house would collect a 5% commission from such wagers, so in effect banker bets pay at a rate of 19 to 20. This bet yields the smallest house edge of 1.06% only.
Loss Bet – This term is used to refer to a wager made against the banker.
Player Bet – The player bet is one of the three possible bets you can place in baccarat. Its house edge is 1.24%.
Tie Bet – This is the last of the three bet types in baccarat. Players are generally recommended to avoid it since the tie bet gives the house a higher advantage of 14.36%. With this wager, you are practically betting the player and the banker hands will tie, i.e. have the same total.
Baccarat – The term baccarat is also used to refer to the worse possible hand you can get in this game, one whose total value is zero, kind of like a roll of 2, 3 or 12 in the game of craps which causes pass line bets to lose. In baccarat, this worthless total always loses unless you push with the other hand (player or banker depending on which one you have initially backed) whose total also needs to be zero.
Le Grande – This is a natural (check below for definition) whose total is 9.
Le Petite – This is the “smaller” natural with a total of 8.
Natural Hand – Naturals are the strongest pat hands you can receive in any card game. In baccarat, the naturals are pat hands whose total is either 8 or 9. A natural is an automatic winner and receives no additional cards. One such pat hand loses only against a higher natural, for example, if you have backed the banker’s total of 8 but the player hand’s total is 9.
Etiquette and Player/Dealer Actions
Banco Prime – This rule is effectuated mostly in banked baccarat variations like Chemin de Fer, i.e. games where one of the actual players at the table assumes the role of a banker. In such games, the role of a banker changes, with players taking turns after each coup. Similarly to the small blind in poker, the banker posts a forced bet at the start of the coup.
One of the players can match the banker’s bet by calling out banco. Sometimes it may happen so that several players announce banco but in such instances, the privilege is awarded to the player sitting immediately to the banker’s right. They would announce banco prime to indicate this privilege.
However, many gambling experts are of the opinion this is not a countable game because it abides by fixed drawing rules. Baccarat is a symmetrical game since there are no card ranks that yield a bigger advantage either to the player or to the house.
Carte – As may have guessed yourself, this is a French word that translates as “card”. The term is used to request additional cards from the callman.
Card Burning – This action involves the dealer discarding cards from the freshly shuffled shoe before the game starts. Unlike blackjack where only one card is burned at the start of a new shoe, baccarat callermen would burn multiple cards. The callman would first take one card from the shoe and the number of pips it has on its front will determine how many cards must be burned consequently. Note that face cards have a value of 10 instead of 0 when cards are burned, so if the dealer takes out a Queen first, they will remove ten cards from the shoe.
Fading – This term is used in player-banked variations of baccarat when the players cover the entire bet of the banker or part of it.
Flat Betting – Flat betting involves wagering the same amount of money on each baccarat coup. In contrast, players using betting progressions would vary the size of their wagers depending on the previous coup’s result.
Pass – To pass means to win a hand in baccarat.
Push – When both the player and the banker hands have the same total, they are said to “push”. The same term is used in blackjack to denote a tie, in which case no money changes hands because neither the house nor the player wins or loses.
Shuffling Up – This is when the dealer at the baccarat table decides to shuffle the shoe unexpectedly before they have reached the cut card.
Squeezing – This is a practice among some baccarat dealers who would gradually reveal the face-down cards on the table. While squeezing the cards certainly adds to the entertainment value of the game, it has absolutely no impact on the order in which the cards leave the shoe.
Squeezing is sometimes permitted in player-banked games as well but only one person is allowed to squeeze the cards for the player bet and another one for the banker bet. These are usually the two persons at the table who have backed the player and the banker with the biggest bets.
Stand-Off – This is another term for player and banker pushing/tying.
Baccarat Bankroll – Your bankroll is the amount of money you take with you at the baccarat table to play with during a betting session.
Coup – A coup is a single round of play at the baccarat table.
Court Card – A court card is simply another term for face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings).
Casino Commission – The 5% commission the house collects from each winning banker bet. In some casinos, you might be able to find baccarat tables where this percentage is reduced either to 3% or 4%, which causes the house edge on banker bets to drop even further down.
Down Card – The term refers to cards that are dealt face down on the table.
Face Cards – These are the Jacks, Queens, and Kings in a baccarat shoe which are practically worthless since they are assigned a value of zero.
House Edge -The statistical long-term advantage the casino holds over players is called a house edge. Baccarat is one of the games with the lowest house edge ever but this also depends on what you are betting on. The banker bet gives the house the lowest edge of 1.06% only. Meanwhile, this percentage increases to 1.24% for player bets and to the whopping 14.36% for tie bets.
High Roller – The high roller is an important patron in the eyes of casino personnel because they wager substantial amounts of money in baccarat and other table games.
Monkeys – When you pass by the baccarat or blackjack tables, you are likely to hear players shouting “Monkey! Monkey!”. Just so you know, they are referring to the face cards in the shoe, which are also called “courts”, but players may sometimes refer to them as “monarchy cards” as well.
Asian players and dealers struggled to pronounce the English word “monarchy” and often twisted it into something that sounded a lot like “monkey”. This mispronunciation caught up with English-speaking players who would sometimes use it as well.
Punto – Punto is a Spanish word denoting the player bet. Allegedly, the term first emerged in gambling venues across the Argentine city of Mar del Plata.
Shooter – Shooter is used to refer to the bank or the player who assumes the role of a banker in player-banked baccarat variations.
Upcard – A card that is dealt face-up is called an upcard.
Whale – A whale is practically the same thing as a high roller, i.e. a gambler playing with a more substantial bank and betting huge amounts of money on each coup.