The name punto banco effectively describes the nature of the game. It refers to two opposing sides; the player (punto) and the bank (banco).
In a land-based casino, punto banco is traditionally played on an oval casino table with up to 14 numbered seats and three dealers. In smaller venues you will also see the game played on a blackjack-sized table with a single dealer.
The aim of Punto Banco is to bet on a contest between two hands - the player (punto) and the bank (banco). The winner is the one with a hand closest in value to nine.
Cards with a value of ten such as jacks, queens and kings are worthless, aces are worth one and the other cards have their usual values. The value of a hand is obtained by adding up the value of the cards and if the total is in double figures, ten is removed.
As an example, if the punto draws a 7 and an 8, this is treated as five (7+8=15 = 5). Because the result is in double figures, we deduct ten to give a total of five.
To bet, players place their chips on the designated boxes on the table immediately in front of them - either punto, banco or egalité (a tie). Once all bets have been placed, the player in seat one takes the card shoe and deals four cards to the dealer who places them.
The first card goes to the player, the second to the dealer, the next to the player and the final card to the bank. After each game, the bets are paid out or taken by the casino. In online punto banco games, the dealer does all the dealing so you don't even have the added excitement of counting out four cards (if that's the kind of excitement up your street).
Once the player and bank both have two cards, each of the following rules apply:
After all that, we are left with a clear winner or a draw. All bets on punto winning are paid out at even money while a winning banco bet pays out 19:20; in other words there is a 5% commission paid to the house. Winning egalité (tie) bets are paid at 8:1.
All losing bets are collected prior to winning bets being paid out. If it is a tie the dealer pays the winnings to those who bet on egalité, while the other players may choose either to let their bets stay where they are, change them or withdraw them. Players betting on punto or banco do not lose their stakes in the event of a tie.
Punto banco is very similar to baccarat and chemin de fer. However, baccarat has become the game of choice in many land-based casinos meaning that punto banco tables can't always be found.
The only real difference between punto banco and similar baccarat variations is that the former requires the casino to always deal the cards. But online baccarat follows the same rules meaning that the two games are pretty much exactly the same.
Due to the restricted nature of the game, not a lot changes when playing punto banco online. Of course there is no chance of you dealing the cards yourself when online anyway so the games of online punto banco and baccarat are really the same game with a different name.
Betting limits may vary with many online casinos offering a high limit version of punto banco for high rollers. This is due to the game being popular with big spenders in land-based casinos.