Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games, remaining virtually unchanged over the past four centuries. It’s a game that gives off an air of elegance. Baccarat’s cousin chemin-de-fer is the favorite game of James Bond.
Certain parts of the gambling world are more in thrall with baccarat (or punto banco, or chemin-de-fer) than others. Macau is the modern baccarat hotspot – what Las Vegas is to poker, Macau is to baccarat. By the same token, you won’t find a huge baccarat audience in Atlantic City or anywhere else in America, really. The game is still really popular in parts of Europe, but it’s catching on in Asia (with Macau as the flashpoint) faster than anywhere else in the world.
Baccarat is a card game, but don’t confuse it too much with blackjack. Blackjack offers a lot of opportunities for strategy – it’s a mathematician’s game that can be managed through the use of basic strategy. Baccarat depends more heavily on luck – in some cases entirely on luck – to produce winnings. If you find yourself reading a baccarat betting strategy that advertises altering your bets to get an edge, you’re being lied to.
Below are a few real tips and tricks for winning at baccarat. If you follow the advice below, you’ll be a better baccarat player, regardless of where in the world you choose to try your hand at “the royal game.”
Honestly, there’s only one wager in baccarat that I consider worth your time. I can give you all the baccarat wagering tips you need in just two statements:
The house edge on banker wagers in baccarat is just 1.06%. That’s better odds than even the best craps bet. That’s the kind of odds you can only get in blackjack with perfect strategy and a little bit of luck in terms of liberal rules. If you stick ONLY to the banker bet, the casino has a slim advantage. Sure, they’ll eventually win all your cash, but at least with this wager it’ll take them a bit longer.
The tie bet is a classic sucker bet – it pays out at 8 to 1, but actually gives the house an edge of more than 14%. If the tie bet paid out at 14 to 1, we might be having a totally different conversation. Unfortunately, the gap between true odds and payout odds is too great. If you ever place a “tie” bet and I’m nearby, you’ll probably get offered a free beverage and then have to listen to a mini-lecture on your wicked ways.
What about side bets? I’m never a fan of side wagers, and the ones available on some baccarat games are no exception. The most popular is called the “Dragon Bonus,” which pays off if your bet wins by four points or more or if you win with a natural 9. It pays out as a 1:1 bonus but must be triggered with a $1 side wager. The house edge for the Dragon Bonus is about 6%, which makes it a definite no-go in my opinion. All other baccarat side wagers offer either equivalent or worse odds. They’re sucker bets to be avoided.
Most baccarat games use an eight-deck shoe – that means the game is played with eight decks of cards. Small-shoe games, popular everywhere you find a real game of baccarat, use a shoe of just six decks. Rumors abound about an Atlantic City game that occasionally uses a half-shoe (four decks), but I can’t confirm that.
Here’s a tip – if you find a baccarat game with a reduced shoe, play it. I don’t care how many decks are in it, if it’s fewer than eight. Every deck removed from the game affects your likelihood of winning by a tiny percentage. Though short-shoe games aren’t all that much better odds-wise than full games, every little bit helps.
Managing your money means establishing a unit bet size, sticking to win and loss limits, and (above all) gambling for entertainment rather than income. When you establish your budget, your bet size, and other facets of your bankroll management program, you should be fully prepared to lose the cash you’ve set aside for your baccarat play. If you think of that money as the casino’s, which you exchange for entertainment a little bit at a time, you’ll be surprised with how differently you feel about your losses at the table.
Another major aspect of bankroll management is quitting while ahead – if you manage to get ahead, that is. Bets on player and banker give the house a 1.06% and a 1.24% edge respectively, which is small, but significant enough that it will eventually drain your bankroll. If you’re foolish and bet on tie, you’re staring down a 14.36% casino advantage, which will make your money the casino’s money at an even faster rate than usual. If you find yourself up $100, and you’re happy with that, walk away and finish the day a winner.
Though baccarat doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity the world over as it does in parts of Asia and Europe, it’s still a classic casino game, popular enough to be available in online versions at any worthwhile Web-based casino site. Baccarat has a rich history, a flavor of nobility, and a couple of decent wagers in the form of “banker” and “player” wagers.
Provided you don’t fall for any outlandish wagering systems, or place the “tie” bet pretty much ever, you should have a good long session of baccarat for your investment. Just make sure to manage your finances appropriately. Nothing ruins a good time like an empty wallet.