Card Games: Banking Games

In these games, instead of all the players competing against each other there is one player, the banker, who competes against each of the other players individually. These are typically gambling games, played for cash or chips. They are often played in casinos but many are also played as home games in which case they are sometimes played for tokens such as matchsticks or sweets (candy) rather than for money.

Casino games are often designed in such a way that the banker has a slight advantage over the other players. In this case the banker usually plays on behalf of the casino. Although players may win or lose, in the long run the banker will make a profit for the casino. Games with an advantage for the banker may also be played as home games. In this case players take turns to be banker, so that no one has an unfair advantage.

There are some banking games in which the payouts exactly reflect the chances of winning, so that the banker has no advantage. When this type of game is used as a casino game, the casino needs to make an hourly charge, or take a proportion of the winnings as a fee (sometimes called the rake), in order to be profitable.

In some casino games, it is traditional for the players to take turns to be the banker. In this case too, since they get no profit from the game itself, the casino will charge a fee for running the game.

Gambling games played with cards or tiles in which there is no banker, but the players compete with each other on an equal basis, are listed elsewhere according to their mechanism. There are showdown games in which players simply compare hands to decide the winner, vying games (including poker) in which players first bet on who has the best hand, with the possibility of bluffing, and partition games, in which each player's hand is divided into parts, which are then compared with the corresponding parts of other players' hands.

Banking games played with cards or tiles fall into four main types.

Addition Games

The cards have point values. The banker and each of the players has a hand of cards, and adds up their values. The player wins if the player's total is closer to the target than the banker's total.

  • Blackjack or Twenty-One, in which the aim is to get as near as possible to 21, but not more than 21. There are also a couple of versions of Tournament Blackjack in which players compete with each other rather than with the bank.
  • Seven and a Half has a mechanism similar to the 21 games but the target is 7½ - court cards are worth ½ and there are no 8's, 9's or 10's in the pack. It is popular in Italy, Spain and Brazil.
  • Baccarat in which the player tries to make a total as close as possible to 9, ignoring tens.
  • Pontoon / Shoot Pontoon are relatives of Blackjack played in Britain.
  • Quitlok or Kvitlech - a Jewish 21 game with special numbered cards.

Comparison Games

In these games the result depends on comparing single cards. Players will win or lose their stakes depending on whether certain cards match, or whether one card is larger or smaller than another.

  • Faro - a 19th century game in which the players bet on winning or losing cards, as determined by pairs of cards turned up by the dealer.
  • Lansquenet and its modern variants Zecchinetta and Skin in which players bet on whether the dealer's card will be matched before their own.
  • Red Dog / High Card Pool / Slippery Sam / Shoot in which the player bets that one of his cards will be higher than and the same suit as a card turned by the banker.
  • Yablon / In Between / Ace-Deuce in which the player bets on whether a third card will be between the first two cards dealt.
  • Card Bingo in which the aim is to match all your cards with cards called by the dealer.

Casino Poker Games

In these games players try to form card combinations, typically similar to poker or brag hands, and win or lose according to how good their combination is, or whether it beats the combination held by the banker.

  • Let It Ride in which the player combines his three cards with the dealer's two cards, and is paid at fixed odds according to how good a poker hand they make.
  • Caribbean Poker in which you win if your five cards form a better poker hand than the banker's five cards
  • Three-Card Poker in which you form poker-like combinations with three cards, and try to beat dealer's three cards.
  • Russian Poker - in which players can improve their hands by drawing and can acquire a sixth card enabling them to form two poker hands at once.
  • Casino Hold'em Poker in which the player and banker are each dealt two cards, and make the best poker hand they can out of these and five shared cards.
  • Video Poker - not exactly a card game - the role of the banker is normally played by a machine that displays the dealt cards on a screen - the player is shown a five card hand, can 'discard' some cards and get replacements, and is then paid fixed odds according to how good a poker hand is made.

Partition Games

In these games, players must decide how to divide their hands into two or more parts, each of which is compared with the corresponding part of the banker's hand.

  • Pai Gow - a Chinese domino game in which a hand of four dominos is partitioned into two pairs.
  • Pai Gow Poker - an American casino game inspired by Pai Gow, in which seven cards are partitioned into five and two.

Other partition games in which the players compete against each other rather than each against the banker are listed on the partition games page.