The introductory article Baccarat: The Basics describes the form of baccarat played in North America and Macua, known as punto banco. What is perhaps surprising is that two other versions of baccarat existed earlier and eventually gave rise to North American baccarat. Those forms – Chemin de fer (or slightly modified into European baccarat) and Baccarat en banque – are discussed below. In all of these varieties, the goal is the same: get as close as possible to a natural (8 or, preferably, 9); only the dynamics between the player(s) and the banker are changed.
Chemin de fer is played almost exclusively in French casinos, as the game is of French origin. This version of baccarat is controlled entirely by the players, with the casino offering only the location, the six decks of cards used, and the croupier to make sure that all rules are properly observed. In exchange for these services, the house takes a 5% commission on winning banker hands. In chemin de fer, the players take on both the role of ‘player’ and ‘banker’ and bet their own hands, as opposed to arbitrarily choosing one as in punto banco. One patron – the banker – deals the cards until he/she loses a hand, at which point the deal moves counterclockwise. Patrons have the choice of whether they want to accept the position of banker or pass it to the next player. The final rule variation in Chemin de fer is that the player has the option of hitting on 5, whereas the ‘player’ hand in punto banco always draws on a 5. Sometimes, the casino will back the ‘banker’ hand of Chemin de fer, at which point it is known European baccarat. In this version, players may only bet until the banker’s funds are depleted. The player has the option of covering the banker’s entire bet by yelling “banco!”
The third variation of baccarat, found in some European casinos, is known as Baccarat en banque. Different sources have conflicting accounts of how this game is played, so the below description may require corrections, though it is based on the best available information. Only three decks of cards are used in Baccarat en banque, and the position of banker is more permanent than in Chemin de fer, this honor belonging to the player willing to risk the most money (some sources claim that the house backs the banker but this appears to be wrong). Three hands of two cards are dealt – a central ‘banker’ hand and two ‘player’ hands flanking both sides of the banker. Between one and five people are seated in front of the player hands, and they may bet only on the hand on their side. Players may “go bank” and challenge the banker for his entire total; this bet can also be split upon both player hands, which is known as “cheval.” This bet may only be made three times in a row. As in other versions of the game, the casino takes a 5% commission out of winning hands.