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    As with all table games, you begin by changing your cash money into gaming chips. In Baccarat, these gaming chips are quite a bit bigger than the regular casino chips. There is absolutely no reason for this other than the aura of special importance that Baccarat seeks to cultivate. Perhaps the casinos think that players will feel better about betting large amounts if they have big chips in their hands. But no matter how big these chips are, they function in exactly the same way as any other gaming chips in play throughout the casino. They can be changed for cash if you wish, or for regular casino chips.

    At the Baccarat table it doesn't matter which seat you take. Unlike Blackjack, in which position selection can be advantageous in a game with more players, in American Baccarat you are not playing against the other players, or against the House. Your betting action is against the cards. It therefore makes no difference what the other players bet on, or how much, or what order the cards are dealt in. In Blackjack, for instance, other players at the table ahead of you in the turn of dealing can affect what cards you will receive when it's your turn to draw. Which is why position selection can be so important. But in American Baccarat this doesn't matter.

    Even if a designated player at the Baccarat table does draw the cards, no player decisions are involved. Whether any additional cards are drawn depends entirely on the strict set of rules governing the draw of such extra cards. Consequently there is no possibility that a player in the position in front of you will receive the cards you would otherwise have received.

    Chances are that if you sit down at a Baccarat table the game will be already in progress. Very rarely are Baccarat tables unoccupied. Many casinos in fact employ House players, called "shills", a couple of whom are often seated at the Baccarat table so that potential customers won't have to be the first to sit down or play alone.

    The shills are paid employees of the casino, and they play with House money; they don't get to keep any winnings, but they don't lose either. Shills in Baccarat are just there to occupy seats. When a sufficient number of customers arrive, the House players leave, returning only if the table becomes empty again. Unlike in Poker, Baccarat shills have no effect on your hands. If, however, you feel uncomfortable about knowing whether or not there are any shills at the table, just ask the casino pit boss if there are any at your table. By law, casinos must identify shills if asked.

    Baccarat is played with eight standard decks of cards, no Jokers, all shuffled together. When the game is at the point of a new shuffle -- either at the very beginning of the game or when the cards dealt have reached the cut card, as in Blackjack -- one of the dealers will out "shuffle" and begin to shuffle the cards. When the shuffle is completed, one of the customers will be asked to cut the deck and the cut decks will then be placed in the shoe, ready for dealing. At this point one of the dealers, usually the one who did the shuffle, will turn up the first card out. Whatever the value of this first card is, this indicates how many cards will be burned. If, for example, this first card out is 6, the dealer will burn six cards, none of which the players see, placing them in the discard tray along with that first card out. The game is now ready to be played.

    The shoe which contains the eight shuffled decks is called "The Bank". It is so called because in European games the person holding it actually has to back all the bets and therefore really is the banker. This is not the case in American Baccarat. In American Baccarat the player holding the bank has no specific advantage over players.

    The player holding the bank does not win any more money, does not have to bet on the Bank hand, is not responsible for paying winning bets, makes no choices affecting the draw of extra cards, and will not collect any losing bets. This action is merely a cosmetic copy of the European version of Baccarat.

    Unlike in European Baccarat, where players can play for or buy the Bank, in American Baccarat the Bank is simply given to the player seated immediately to the right of the dealer [position 7] at the beginning of the new game. Each player at the table is then given the Bank in turn, and can hold the Bank as long as the Bank wins. Once it loses, the Bank moves to the player on his or her right, counterclockwise, and so on.

    Before any cards are dealt, all players at the table make their bets and dealing takes place. The player holding the bank deals out four cards, two sets of two cards, with the first and third cards going to the official Player's hand, and the second and fourth cards to the Banker's hand. The Banker's hand cards are tucked under the side of the shoe by the player who holds the Bank and is dealing, while the Player's hand cards are given by the Caller, using that odd paddle, to one of the other players who made the biggest bet on the Player's hand.

    This designated player then picks up the first two cards, looks at them, and tosses them faces up to the Caller, who then arranges them in the center of the table in a special area marked on the table layout as "Player". Now the player who holds the Bank picks up the two Bank hand cards he had tucked under the side of the shoe, looks at the Bank hand cards, and also tosses them over to the Caller, who arranges them in that same special area in the center of the table marked on the layout as "Banker".

    This area is directly above the one marked "Player". Again remember that these two areas are separate from the betting areas also so named; they are located in the center of the table layout and used only to differentiate between which cards have been dealt to which hand.

    Although these moves in Baccarat make the game seem complicated, I wish to point out one more time that they are really quite unnecessary and have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the game. They are just a relic from European Baccarat in which the Banker and the Player in fact do control the cards and decisions for drawing cards and standing. Not so in this American version, where the hand's final values would be exactly the same even if none of these moves were made by the players, but were simply dealt by the dealer.

    Players can make bets at the conclusion of any hand, or after a new shuffle. There are only three betting areas available, each clearly marked and displayed on the table layout in front of each player position. These are bets on the "Bank" hand; on the "Player" hand; or on the "Tied" hand. To make any one such bet, you place your gaming chips in the area so marked. You can make any one, two, or all three bets at the same time, but to bet all three is to automatically lose at least one hand, and more often than not two hands; this is therefore not a good idea.

    These sections were written by Victor Royer

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