The world’s most popular casino table game may be blackjack, but baccarat is fast closing the gap. Not only is it an established favorite among the high roller set, but it’s also building up a big following among fans of online casino table games. That’s because baccarat is fast-paced, easy to learn, and, above all, great fun. On top of that, you won’t find another gambling game with more player-friendly odds anywhere.
Having said that, players can sometimes have a negative gaming experience at the baccarat table. This usually comes down to simple tactical or behavioral mistakes that can easily be corrected. Keep reading to get tips for playing baccarat and making the most of the game.
Understand the Game
Baccarat comes in three main variants: baccarat banque (the first variant in baccarat history), chemin de fer (James Bond’s favorite game), and punto banco. The first two variants have largely been eclipsed by punto banco, with its more straightforward baccarat rules. When people talk about “baccarat” nowadays, they likely mean punto banco — remember that assumption in this discussion of baccarat. Here’s how it works.
A full-sized baccarat table in a land-based casino seats anything from one to 14 players. The table is shaped like a pair of 3D glasses, with seats numbered one to seven on one side and eight to 15 on the other, with no number 13. Mini baccarat tables are half-moon shaped and host up to seven, while private one-on-one tables are bean-shaped. Online baccarat variants usually replicate this formula, although they can also have infinite players.
In any event, the basic gameplay is the same. Each player has three betting spaces in front of them marked Player, Banker, and Tie. Each coup (as a hand of baccarat is called) begins with a betting window in which players bet on those positions. The dealer then alternately deals two cards face up to two boxes on the table marked Player and Banker.
Once the cards are dealt, the dealer announces the value of each hand, with aces counting one, cards 2 to 9 their pip value, and face cards 10 to king worth zero. If either hand is a natural (hand value eight or nine), the coup is over, and winning bets are paid out. If the player total is 0 to 5, the dealer deals another card to the player position. Then, depending on the banker’s total and the value of the player’s third card, the banker hand may draw another card.
Once the draw ends, the dealer announces which hand is the winner or declares a tie. Winning player bets pay 1:1, the banker bets pay 1:1 — less 5% commission to the house — and tie bets pay 8:1.
Get Behind the Spirit of the Game
One of the best baccarat tips is to be aware that it’s a game of chance with close to coin flip odds. Ignore any baccarat betting tips that claim to tell you how to win at baccarat consistently. The best reason to play this fast-paced, suspenseful game is to have fun and enjoy the supercharged atmosphere around the table rather than try to make money.
That said, the chances of making money at baccarat are almost even. The house edge on a Player bet is 1.24%, and the house edge on a Banker bet is only 1.06%. Statistically, if you bet only on the banker hand, you will win 49% of the time on average. (This is the reason for the house commission on Banker bets). By contrast, the Tie bet is generally a losing proposition, with a 14.36% house edge. So, if you want to minimize your losses, a good baccarat strategy would be to bet on the banker hand every time.
However, you should be aware that a live baccarat table can be very dynamic, and it’s often considered to be good etiquette to bet on the hand that the majority of the players are favoring.
Don’t Rely on Baccarat Charts
Baccarat has a rich tradition; part of it is using baccarat charts at many casinos. Also known as baccarat scoreboards, the colorfully named baccarat charts (Bead Plate, Big Road, Big Eye Boy, Small Road, and Cockroach Pig) represent five different ways of tracking the hand history in the shoe.
The idea is that players can identify patterns in the fall of the cards and adjust their baccarat strategy accordingly. However, modern math has revealed that these charts are largely based on superstition. All the same, they are fascinating to study and can increase your enjoyment of the game. Just don’t rely on them when it comes to betting.
Treat Side Bets with Caution
Some players find that having only three betting options can become dull, so many baccarat tables have optional side bets like 21+3, Player Pair, Banker Pair, Perfect Pairs, Big, Small, Super 6, Unlucky 8, Double 8, and many more. Side bets have different payouts according to their odds. For example, for you to win a Big side bet, there only need to be five cards on the table, which happens if either Player or Banker draws. The chances of this happening are almost one in three, and the payout is 2:1.
On the other extreme, you can win a 150:1 payout for a successful Golden Frog bet, in which a three-card hand with a value of nine beats a three-card hand with a value of one. The house edge on this bet is 91.5%, so only place your money on the Golden Frog if you’re prepared to lose it. The point of side bets is to mix things up for entertainment, and you can only do this by risking your chips.
Manage Your Bankroll
The ultimate baccarat-winning tip is to have a good time. Good bankroll management is key to that endeavor. There are various ways of doing this. The simplest is to set aside an amount of money that you can afford to lose and take it to the casino with you. Enjoy yourself at the tables, and once you have depleted your bankroll, go home.
An essential part of bankroll management is bet sizing. How much time do you want to spend playing baccarat? Typically, a baccarat coup is over in 30 seconds, so you can expect to bet up to 120 times per hour. As a result, it’s a good idea to find a table with table limits that allow you to spend your preferred time period at the table. So $1,000 is suitable for 40 coups at a $25 table, which amounts to 20 minutes if you lose every hand. Assume you’ll win almost half and can count on 40 minutes of gaming.
As you can see, there’s a reason baccarat is known as a high-roller game: $25 is the lowest minimum bet at the full-size tables in the baccarat pits of Las Vegas casinos, and it frequently goes up to $100. Mini baccarat tables are more affordable, with minimums of as little as $10 per bet.
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