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Punto banco is a popular card game based on baccarat. The games of chemin de fer, baccarat and punto banco are all similar games with the same basic principles with different rules on where they are played. All winning bets are paid by the casino but players take turns to control the bank. Generally, four decks of cards are used.

The history of punto banco
Baccarat (meaning zero) has its origins in medieval Italy. It soon spread to France where it became chemin de fer (railway, due to the shoe passing around the table on ‘tracks’). Baccarat proved to be popular among the aristocracy. Later a slightly different version arrived in England that was called punto banco. The game spread to Latin America and, as a direct result of the closing of Cuban casinos in the 1950s, the game was introduced to Las Vegas where it was known as shimmy. Today the game is played in various forms in casinos around the world.

The game
Using a maximum of three cards, the players try to make a score as close as possible to 9.

Tens and court cards (kings, queens, jacks) have a value of O. Aces count as 1.

Cards 2 to 9 have their face value.

The values of the cards are added to give the score. Cards with a joint value of 10 are given a value of 0.
7 + 3 = 10 score = 0
8 + 2 = 10 score = 0
6 + 4 = 10 score = 0
J+K=0 score=0
K+A=1 score = 1

Where the cards total more than 10, only the last figure of the total is counted as the score.

8 + 6 = 14 score = 4
10 + 9 = 19 score = 9, known as a ‘natural’

The deal
The cards are shuffled. Each player makes a bet. The players and the banker each receive two cards. The dealer announces the totals of each hand. If the totals are 8 or 9 that is a ‘natural’ and no further cards are dealt.

There are set rules that determine whether or not a third card should be dealt.

Player having
1,2,3,4,5,0           Draws a card
6,7                       Stands
8,9                       Natural, banker cannot win

Banker having      Draws when giving      Stands when player’s third card is

3                              1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0             8
4                              2,3,4,5,6,7                         1,8,9,0
5                              4,5,6,7                               1,2,3,8,9,0
6                              6,7                                     1,2,3,4,5,8,9,0
7                              stands
8 9                          natural, player cannot win

Each player is playing against the bank and not against one another. The hand with a score closest to 9 wins. The bets are either ‘banco’ for the bank’s hand to win or ‘punto’ for the player’s hand to win. In some casinos, it is also possible to bet on a tie.

The layout of the tables varies but they are clearly marked with boxes where the banco and the punto bets should be placed.

The odds
Punto bets are paid at evens. Banco bets are paid at 19/20 (evens less 5 per cent commission).
The odds paid for a tie vary but are commonly 8/1. However, it is not worth betting on a tie as the high house advantage makes it poor value.

How to play
Two cards are alternately dealt to the punto and the banco hands. Where the first two cards total 8 or 9 this is known as a ‘natural’ and wins outright without the need to take further cards. When there is a tie, the hand is replayed. A total of 0 is the worst hand and is known as ‘baccarat’. The person holding the bank will continue to do so until the banker’s hand loses. The bank is then passed to the right, but if the player wishes it can be passed earlier.

The players do not need to make any decisions, so they cannot influence the outcome.