The game of Baccarat is synonym with exclusive gambling by the ultra rich.
Baccarat was introduced to the general public in such famous movies as the 1967 Casino Royale with Orson Welles and Peter Sellers as shown in the photo of one of their confrontations.
In more recent movies, Chris Tucker attempts to play Baccarat in "Rush Hour 3", or rather mistakes Baccarat for Blackjack in a Paris Casino where he is trying to seduce a beautiful woman who plays high stakes. In "Duplicity" with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, one of the protagonists gambles heavily at the Baccarat tables at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in the Bahamas, as part of a convoluted ploy.
The game of Baccarat dates back to the fifteenth century. Thought to be the invention of Italian gambler Felix Falguiere, it was popularized under the name "Zero" as Baccara means zero in Italian. This is due to the fact that face cards and the ten have a zero value in Baccarat. Interestingly the game is named after the worse hand, the zero.
From Italy the game traveled to France in the late fifteenth century, where it was named Chemin de Fer (railroad), as cards were placed in an iron box. The game was very popular with the Royal Court and the nobility, explaining its exclusive aura ever since. Moving to England, the name of the game became "baccarat." It later became popular in Latin overseas locations such as Argentina and Cuba, where it was known under the name "Punto Banco".
Nowadays the three accepted variations of the game of Baccarat are Punto Banco played in North America, Chemin de fer (railway) and Baccarat Banque played in Europe. Punto Banco is purely a game of chance where all actions are dictated by the cards dealt by the dealer. In contrast Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque are games of skill requiring some decision-making.
Except cards worth zero, all other cards are worth their value (a six is worth six points) and aces equal one point. A hand is the sum of the points modulo ten, so for example a four and a nine has a value of three (3=13-10). The highest hand is the nine.
Each player is dealt two cards and tries to score the highest value. In some instances, a player may draw an additional card to attempt to improve his score. In Punto Banco it is done automatically whereas in the other versions it can be decided by the players, making it a game of skill, not just pure luck.
As expected the house takes a commission (about 1.5%), but this is one of the smallest in the casino, making it the game of choice for the astute players looking for the best deals. The rules of Baccarat are complicated regarding how to deal the cards and how to wager, and each casino or club has its own detailed rules as there is no commonly agreed upon set of rules.