Baccarat is one of the most elegant casino games, one that often carries a serious, heavy atmosphere. Players at the baccarat table are often engrossed in tracking numbers to help them plan their bets. Add in the fact that baccarat is most often played in high-stakes rooms or VIP areas of the casino for large sums of money, and it’s easy to understand why many gamblers assume that baccarat strategy must be complex and difficult to understand.
However, the truth is that baccarat strategy is quite simple! Although the game is best known as one played by high rollers, mini-baccarat (essentially the exact same game as the “big table” version) is usually available to more typical gamblers. Not only that, but you can learn the basic optimal strategy for playing baccarat in just a minute or two, making it an easy game that anyone can play, despite the game’s haughty reputation.
Optimal Baccarat Strategy
The optimal baccarat strategy is very easy to understand: just bet on the banker every time you play. The banker bet carries a house edge of just 1.06%, making it one of the very best bets in the casino. If you’re playing at a casino that takes less than 5% commission on winning banker bets, the house edge can be even smaller.
It’s as simple as that: just bet on the banker every time, and even if you have no idea what’s going on at the table, you’ll be a baccarat expert.
Other Baccarat Strategies
Of course, that’s not the only way to play baccarat, and chances are that you’ll want to mix things up once in a while to add some variety to your play. If that’s the case, the player bet is also a great wager compared to most casino bets out there. The house has an edge of just 1.24% on the player bet, making it almost as good as the banker bet. In fact, over the short run, like a single night of playing at your favorite online casino, the player bet is about as likely to come out ahead as the banker bet.
However, there are some sucker bets you should avoid. The main culprit here is the tie bet. Though the tie bet usually offers tempting odds of 8-1, this still isn’t nearly enough to make the bet worthwhile; it carries an edge of around 14% for the house. Even if you’re playing at the rare casino that gives 9-1 odds on the tie bet, the house edge is still around 5%. Any good baccarat strategy should avoid the tie bet. If they’re available, you should also stay away from the “pair” side bets, which usually carry a house edge of about 10%.
One popular baccarat strategy you’ll see at brick and mortar casinos is tracking the numbers to try and spot patterns. There’s no real harm in doing this, but it won’t help either; even if the player or banker appears hot, it doesn’t tell you anything about the upcoming hands.
Baccarat Card Counting
Is there such a thing as card counting in baccarat? Since cards are coming out of a shoe (at least in a live casino), it seems reasonable to think that a player could keep track of the cards that have been dealt and know if the remaining cards in the shoe are favorable, just as blackjack card counters do.
Unfortunately, baccarat card counting is simply not feasible. The main difference is that in blackjack, certain cards (like aces and tens) are very good for the player, while others (such as fives) significantly increase the house edge. So when these cards leave the shoe, they can have a serious impact on the odds of remaining hands.
But while there are cards that favor the player or banker in baccarat, these effects are tiny. So tiny, in fact, that several studies have shown that a baccarat player who was counting perfectly would only find a bet with the advantage once every few hundred hands – and even then, that edge would be razor thin. The verdict: baccarat card counting isn’t worth your time.