Court cards have value 0, others have face value. Each hand starts with 2 cards and a third may optionally be dealt. The values are summed and the nearest to 9 wins. Where the sum goes beyond 9, the value returns to 0 instead of going to 10 e.g. A pair of cards 6 and 7 has a value of 3, not 13 and three cards 9, 6 and 9 have a value of 4. Just ignore the leading digit where the sum is 2 digits.
The odds regarding whether to stick or take a third card are trivially straightforward - if the sum is 4 or below then take a card, 6 or above stick and only if its a five are the odds roughly equal either way. The rules of the house usually make the game even more simplistic because most house rules generally require both player and banker to play the odds. The player's only freedom of choice is normally whether or not to ask for a third card when the sum is 5. The banker sometimes has slightly more freedom and can sometimes draw on 3, 4, 5 or 6 depending upon what the players third card (which is placed face-up) is but still game requires little skill.
This game is known in England as "Baccara Banque" or just "Baccara" and in France as "Baccara a deux tableaux" - Baccara with two tables. It isn't usually played in the USA. A definitive version of the rules was written in a "Hoyle" by Richard Seymour published in 1897.
Players usually bid to decide who is going to provide the bank and the bank is held for the duration of the cards in the shoe or until the banker chooses to relinquish it (whether due to bankruptcy or otherwise). As in other banking games, for each deal, a player plays head-to-head against the banker. To start, the banker places the amount to be played for on the table and each player in turn has the right to say 'Banco', and thus challenge the banker to play for everything he has staked in one go. If this happens, the duel happens directly and no other player is involved for that deal.
Otherwise, normal play occurs. The non-banking players are split into two halves - one half being the players to the right of the banker and the others those to the left. For each deal a representative is chosen from each half to play against the banker. To begin with these are the players either side of the banker but when a player loses, the privilege passes to the next player along and so on until all on that side of the table have played and the representative duties return to the player next to the banker again. So in effect, for each deal the banker plays two head-to-head games against the two half-table representatives.
The banker puts down the initial stake and then players take turns to place down a stake of any amount until the total for their half of the table equals the banker's stake. The banker then deals two cards to himself, and to the two representatives. If any of the banker or players have a total of 8 or 9, it must be shown at once and the two other hands are also then shown and bets are paid accordingly.
Otherwise, each of the three is given a chance to take a third class face down starting with the player to the banker's right and ending with the banker. If neither player accepts a third card, then the banker must take a third card. Any third card is dealt face up and then all hands are shown and bets paid accordingly.
If a player has a better hand than the banker, then the banker pays all bets on that side of the table. If the hand is worse than the bankers, the banker collects all bets on that side of the table. Otherwise it is a stand-off and no money is exchanged.
In France, this version of the game is called Baccara a un tableau (Baccara with one table) but in the US/UK it is generally just called 'Chemin de Fer'. Seymour mentioned this as a variation of Baccarat, the implication being that the double-table game came first.
This version of Baccarat differs in two main ways to that of Baccarat a deaux tableaux. Firstly, for each deal unless someone goes 'Banco', the banker plays only against the player to the banker's right and the banker pays or is paid by all the players. Secondly, the bank changes hands much more regularly - each time the dealer loses a coup, the banker role passes to the player on the banker's left.
This version of Baccarat is originally from Latin-America where it spread via Cuba to become the most popular form of the game played in the USA. So as to utterly confuse everyone in the rest of the world, Americans often refer to it as "Baccarat-Chemin de Fer'.
The game is very similar in play and again the main difference surrounds the bank which in this version is always held by the house or casino. Each deal pits the banker's hand against the player's hand - and players simply decide whether to bet on one or the other. The person who bets the most for the player's hand gets dealt the cards and plays them but from a betting point of view this person is no different to any of the other players who bet on the player's hand.
The shoe of cards does still pass from player to player but this person is strictly a dealer only and doesn't bankroll the betting. The dealer is otherwise no different to any of the other players and may bet on either the player's hand or the dealer's hand, too.
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