7 Ways Baccarat Players Sabotage Their Chances of Success
Ever since the days of James Bond in the classic film Dr. No, gamblers all over the world have had a love affair with baccarat.
This deceptively simple yet elegant card game is gambling distilled to its very essence.
Players make a single wager on a pair of randomly dealt hands, and the closest to a 9 total is declared the winner. With no charts to memorize or strategies to deploy, baccarat becomes a basic guessing game that somehow manages to be so much more.
Whether you’re new to the world of baccarat, or you’ve been playing for a while now and want to get better, the game’s seeming simplicity can actually pose a few problems. People assume that, as a game of chance, baccarat can’t be played any better or worse from player to player.
Because of this mistaken belief, many baccarat beginners and veterans alike can severely reduce their expected return over the long run. Preventable leaks and mistakes in one’s game can turn a relatively player friendly game like baccarat into a proverbial money trap – and all because players don’t know any better.
I want to help you avoid that fate, so below you’ll find seven of the most common ways baccarat players sabotage their chances of success:
Ignoring the Odds
Baccarat is different than many of its contemporaries within the “classic” casino table game family, as it offers just three wagers in total.
Compared to the dozens of bets spread across the roulette or craps table, baccarat is scaled down to a trio of bets: the Player hand, the Banker hand, and the Tie.
At first glance, many baccarat rookies assume that the Player and Banker bets are akin to a coin flip – meaning they offer an even 50/50 chance of success.
But while that’s a rough estimate, it’s not entirely accurate.
In fact, gamblers are faced with a house edge of 1.06 percent on the Banker bet, which is slightly better than the 1.24 percent house edge offered when wagering on the Player.
This discrepancy is based on the fact that the Banker hand always acts last, meaning it draws a third card (when necessary) only after the Player hand has been completed. And just like in blackjack – where the dealer’s ability to act after players provides the house with its edge – taking the last turn provides an inherent advantage.
Overall, the Banker hand holds a 45.85 percent chance of winding up as the winner, while the Player hand odds stand at 44.62 percent. That leaves 9.5 percent of hands ending in a tie between the Banker and Player hands.
Knowing this foundational fact of baccarat probability, the optimal strategy for any sharp player is to bet on the Banker hand at all times. Of course, the casino knows the odds quite well, so the house typically charges a 5 percent commission on winning Banker bets. But even with that surcharge factored in, the Banker bet offers by far the best odds at a baccarat table.
At this point you may be wondering one thing –
Well, because that’s what gambling is all about.
Obviously, the Banker and Player hand will be coming in as winners at roughly the same pace, with just under half going to the Banker and just under half heading to the Player. If you’re betting on the Banker hand exclusively, you’ll be assured of losing 44.62 percent of the hands you see over the long run.
Mixing things up serves as a way to balance that variance out just a bit, so baccarat players try their best to anticipate the next hand’s final result. I’ll get into the dangers of attempting to predict baccarat hands later in the page, but for now, it’s important to remember the game’s fundamental odds first and foremost.
By betting on the Player hand too frequently, you’ll quickly find yourself on the wrong side of expected return. Conversely, trying to mix things up may add entertainment value, but every time you back the Player side you’ll be taking the worst of it from a mathematical perspective.
Thus, the best way to build a successful baccarat style is to bet on the Banker hand at all times. This may not be the most fun filled way to approach the game, but it’s certainly the smartest.
And about that Tie bet I mentioned earlier… just toss that one into the trash and forget about it.
You’ll inevitably see a lucky player celebrate winning a Tie bet here and there, and when you do, that sweet 8 to 1 payout will surely seem enticing. But when you realize that you’re taking back 8 to 1 on a wager that holds a 9.5 to 1 probability of success, the folly of this side bet should become readily apparent.
And if it doesn’t, just remember one crucial number: 14.35 percent.
That’s the house edge offered by the Tie bet in baccarat, making it one of the worst “sucker bets” on any casino floor.
By sticking to the Banker bet only, and avoiding the Tie bet at all costs, even a rank baccarat beginner can immediately ensure themselves the best possible odds on their money.
Playing Too High
Speaking of money, managing yours at the baccarat table – and anywhere in the casino for that matter – should be of the utmost importance.
Indeed, you’ll hear professional gamblers discuss the impact of money management on their long-term success much more often than skill or strategy. That’s because anybody with a working brain can memorize the optimal plays, but it takes a special sort of discipline to avoid betting above your head.
In the gambling world, any taste of success can inspire some players to start chasing more. Perhaps you’ve just hit a run of five straight Banker hand wins, and your chip stack is starting to grow taller by the minute.
In this case, the temptation to start betting higher can be overwhelming, especially at the baccarat table where many players live the high roller lifestyle.
I won’t lie and claim that I’ve never succumbed to that temptation, as every gambler goes for the gusto from time to time.
With that said, I’ll tell it to you straight – almost every time I’ve taken a shot by betting bigger, I wound up a loser by night’s end.
There’s a simple reason for that too: chance.
Baccarat is a pure game of chance, meaning players have no ability to apply skill or strategy to influence the outcome or increase their edge. By betting higher, all you’re doing is increasing your bankroll variance in the short term.
Sure, those Banker wins may keep piling up for the time being, as will your chip stack. But when variance invariably rears its ugly head, and the wrong side starts to come in, those larger bets (and larger losses) will eat into your bankroll in a hurry.
The best approach to bet sizing in games like baccarat is to use standard units throughout a session. If you start off betting $10 per hand, don’t deviate from that unit whatsoever. Take your winners when they come, accept the losers, and try to back the best odds at all times.
By using a flat betting unit, you’ll protect yourself from drastic swings – and from the urge to chase losses.
One of the worst things I see baccarat beginners do during their first foray on the table is what I like to call “chase betting.”
Say you start off with a $10 bet on the Banker, but it loses to set you back right off the bat. Rather than attempt to recoup that initial loss only, many players double their wager size to $20 – looking to erase the first loss and add a $10 profit.
Of course, when the near 50/50 odds play their part and the player loses that second hand, things start to get dicey. Now, they’re down $30, and the thought of reverting back to $10 betting units is tossed out the window. At this point, they’ll need to bet $30 – and win – just to break even.
In a fast-paced game of chance like baccarat, chasing losses in this fashion can spell bankroll suicide. Streaks will occur – not that they matter, which I’ll explore later on – and if you’re on the wrong side of one, trying to nullify several losers in one fell swoop is exceedingly dangerous.
On the other hand, when you standardize your betting unit and stick to that sizing at all times, it takes a significant streak to incur serious losses. In the example above, the loss chaser has parted ways with $30 in just two hands, and $60 in three hands if the third deal doesn’t cooperate.
But with a flat $10 betting unit, you’d need to lose three straight hands to drop $30 – and six in a row to lose $60.
Avoid betting above your head, either through overconfidence or to chase losses, and you’ll find baccarat becomes a see saw like experience. In other words, you’ll win some, you’ll lose some, and all the while your bankroll will remain safely within a set comfort zone.
Trying Systems and Strategies
One search on the internet for “baccarat strategy” will bring back a truly astounding selection of systems and styles that promise surefire success.
And that’s a bit odd, given that this is a pure game of chance.
Think about it for a moment… If I told you I had a can’t-miss strategy for flipping coins successfully, you’d think I was a fool. After all, a truly random coin flip can’t be influenced in any way, shape, or form.
Ahh… but what if I told you my coin flip strategy wasn’t about manipulating the coin itself, but rather identifying patterns in the result?
Based on this approach, I may take heads when tails has shown several times straight, or perhaps I take tails again to “ride” the streak. In this case, would my coin flipping strategy hold water?
By now, common sense should be setting off alarm bells in your head. Neither of my coin flip strategies will work, because each time the coin is sent twisting through the air represents a wholly independent event.
In other words, the current coin flip has absolutely nothing to do with prior flips, or future flips for that matter.
When you find a baccarat strategy or system online, it will almost always involve pattern tracking approaches such as this.
They may advise betting on Banker whenever the Player hand hits three or more times in five hands. Or perhaps they direct you to bet on the opposite of whichever hand wins the final deal of a shoe. Maybe you should alternate your bets in line with the winner from three deals back.
And on and on it goes…
Baccarat strategies and systems like the Predictor, Train Spotting, and the 1 3 2 6 betting pattern are a dime a dozen, but they all have one thing in common – they don’t work.
Even so, self-styled baccarat experts never cease in their attempts to bilk hopeful gamblers out of a quick buck. For the low, low price of $10, you can unlock the secrets of sustained baccarat success!
If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. If these experts held special knowledge on how to win consistently at baccarat, wouldn’t they be busy taking the casinos for every dollar on the table? Why resort to peddling systems and strategies if you’re already guaranteed to beat the game?
Those are all great questions, and when you think on them for a moment, the answers are quite clear.
Steer clear of any baccarat strategy that expands beyond one cardinal rule: bet on the Banker hand only. Anything else is noise and superstition that will leave you grasping at straws when the “surefire” system doesn’t seem to work as advertised.
Believing in Silly Superstitions
Superstition has been the prime culprit behind the demise of many gamblers.
And that makes a certain amount of sense, because every player – those who gamble for recreation and professional grinders alike – want to win when they put money at risk.
When you can’t control the outcome of a wager – or even influence it to the slightest degree – it’s only natural to fall back on wishes, lucky charms, and other superstitions to regain that sense of control.
I won’t tell you to leave your special card capper or other trinkets at home, as these are harmless superstitions that don’t impair your ability to think logically. Same goes for favorite dealers, preferred tables, or certain times or days to play. These superstitions won’t help you win more, not by any means – but they can’t really increase your loss rate either.
When I advise against superstition at the baccarat table, what I’m really referring to is the same sort of pattern tracking mentioned in the preceding section.
You may have noticed the tower displays looming overhead every baccarat table – and roulette wheel for that matter. These towers are used to record and display the results from previous hands.
You’ll also encounter players who pay more attention to those towers than the table itself. For this superstitious lot, any patterns they can spot in previous results hold the key to predicting how the next hand will go.
In the world of baccarat, these towers are known as “scoreboards,” and you’ll find several variations displayed above the table at all times. Along with the basic scoreboard tracking Banker, Player, and Tie winners, baccarat also utilizes several scoreboards designed to appeal to Asian superstitions.
Among the gambling community, Asian players represent the majority of baccarat play, so casinos try to cater to their core customers using scoreboards like the “Big Road,” the “Big-Eyed Boy,” and the “Cockroach Pig.”
I’ll save you a discourse on how these complex, and some might say convoluted, scoreboard systems work. But sufficed to say, displaying any amount of data on a scoreboard allows some baccarat players to see whatever they want to see.
The deck may be delivering Banker wins on every fourth deal. Or perhaps you spot an extended B B P B B P pattern on the board, leading you to believe that two Banker wins are imminent.
In each case, this represents wishful thinking and nothing more.
Remember, every hand dealt at the baccarat table represents a wholly independent event, one that has no relationship to past or future hands. Patterns will always crop up among the randomness, but they don’t mean anything aside from coincidence.
If you’re putting your faith behind superstitions like the scoreboard, you’ll quickly find yourself chasing losses, betting above your head, and resorting to other substandard approaches to baccarat success.
With a deck of cards on the table – or more accurately, a six or eight deck shoe – many experienced gamblers with a blackjack background believe they can use card counting to gain an edge.
And why not?
A player’s ability to track exposed cards and memorize them on the fly, while keeping a running count of the cards remaining in the deck, can turn blackjack into a positive expectation game.
One would assume that holds true in baccarat as well, based on the game’s many similarities.
Unfortunately for the counters out there, things don’t work out as planned.
For one thing, blackjack players use a basic counting system that involves just a single running count – subtracting and adding one unit from the baseline when low and high cards are exposed. But to count accurately in baccarat, two concurrent counts must be maintained at the same time – no small feat even for folks with a photographic memory.
More importantly, the purpose of counting in blackjack just doesn’t apply to baccarat. For a blackjack counter, the goal is to identify situations when the deck contains more high cards than low cards. When this optimal scenario arises, the counter can increase their wager size while banking on the higher ratio of high cards to deliver blackjacks, 20s, and other winners.
But at the baccarat table, knowing exactly what the deck holds doesn’t give you any inkling as to whether the Player or Banker hand will win. You may know full well that the deck holds 20 high cards to five low cards, but ask yourself one thing: how does that knowledge help?
The cards are still dealt at random, and you aren’t playing a hand, you’re just betting on which one will win.
Thus, even the most accomplished card counters in the world can’t gain an edge on baccarat, because their knowledge isn’t applicable to the eventual outcome.
Drinking to Excess
This one holds true for any game on the casino floor, especially with a never-ending flow of free cocktails coming your way.
But for baccarat players especially, drinking too much at the tables will usually spell disaster.
This is because the game, despite its many pleasures, can be a bit boring if I’m being honest. Place your bets, watch the cards come, and repeat the process. That’s it, and that’s all.
Without any strategic implications to mull over, skills to apply, or cards to count, baccarat players have their fair share of downtime. And what better way to spend that down time than downing a few free drinks?
Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many baccarat enthusiasts lose their love for the game due to heavy drinking. These players soon forget all about the game’s central odds, chasing that devious Tie bet when the liquid courage starts working its magic. They bet above their heads when a losing streak strikes, and they begin to fall back on pattern tracking and other superstitions.
Drinking in and of itself isn’t all that dangerous – problem drinkers aside – but for baccarat players, lowered inhibitions can wreak havoc on a sensible game plan.
If you’re keen on putting this page’s advice to work during your next baccarat session, take it easy on the libations and toss back some bottled water instead. And hey, when you’re cashing out a profitable session by night’s end, by all means tilt a few back to celebrate.
Taking the Game Too Seriously
This page has been devoted to improving your baccarat game, and I’ve tried to take a serious approach throughout.
Even so, there’s something to be said for having fun at the tables and enjoying baccarat for what it truly is: entertainment.
Remember, this isn’t a skill based game like blackjack or video poker. You can study all you want, preparing to play your best, but random chance will always decide the result.
If you’re taking things too seriously, this disconnect between your intention to play well and the reality of random chance can be too much to bear. I always shake my head when I see baccarat players “steaming,” or growing angry as they lose. Why would they play a pure a game of chance if winning was all that mattered?
Don’t get me wrong now, I always want to win when I play any casino game – and I use the lessons imparted on this page to give myself the best chances to win at baccarat.
Even so, I fully realize that any individual session is entirely beholden to random chance.
I can do my part – betting on Banker, avoiding the Tie, standardizing my wager units, and staying away from superstition. But none of those preventative measures can prevent a rough run of hands in the short term.
When you take a game like baccarat too seriously, losing becomes akin to an insult. You’ll feel offended when the deck doesn’t cooperate, as if your special insights into baccarat success have failed you. This isn’t fun by any stretch, and at its heart, gambling should always be fun.
To combat this phenomenon, I always try to chat with my fellow players and the dealer while playing baccarat. Striking up a conversation and cracking a few jokes takes the proverbial edge off, leaving me free to enjoy the swings that will surely come in any session.
Avoid these 7 ways baccarat players sabotage their chance of success if you want to have the best chance to win. Baccarat is easy to play and the best strategy is simple. Just remember to always bet on the banker.