There’s something very James Bond-esque about baccarat, right up there with shaken martinis, fancy cars, and Walther PPK pistols. Because of that, the game can take on a bit of mystique that may not be quite deserved.
Is baccarat fun? Of course. Is it a great way to spend time in a casino? Yes. Is it the exclusive province of superspies and the fabulously rich? No way. That’s the problem.
For many years, people believed that you have to be loaded to play baccarat, and that’s simply not the case. There are many low bet tables where you can bet a game for around $10. Sure, that’s more than the penny slots, but it’s nothing compared to high stakes poker tournaments.
Really, I cannot encourage you to play the game enough. The rules are complex, sometimes overly so, but all you really have to do is make a bet, then sit back and watch the chips come in. If that sounds like something you can do, let’s talk about how you can win!
1 – Study the Rules
If you haven’t spent a lot of time studying the rules of baccarat, the first time you see it played, you may find it has a certain “Calvinball” quality to it. (That’s the game from Calvin and Hobbes in which the rules are made up on the spot by those playing it.)
Still, it’s in your best interest to find one of the cards to understand when the player has to take a third card and when the dealer has to do so as well. If you can master that, the whole game becomes clear.
Still, at the end of the day, it almost doesn’t matter because you as the player make only a small number of decisions. The game, and whether you take a hit, is solely determined by the reference card. All you can do is choose to bet on the player, the dealer, or a tie and choose whether to make side bets.
2 – Don’t Bet Ties
On the subject of betting in baccarat, don’t ever bet ties even though they pay large multiples of your bet. There are plenty of good resources that go through the math of why this is a bad idea, but it really comes down to how slim the chance of a tie really is.
As it stands, casinos, including several real money gambling sites, may pay as much as 8 to 1 if the player and the dealer tie. However, the two sides tying will average out to far less than one in every eight times. Therefore, you are throwing your money away on a very slim possibility and that’s not the way to win.
Instead, bet the dealer and you’ll be much better off.
3 – Find Out Commissions on Dealer Bets
Statistically, your best bet is to bet the dealer. The dealer’s actions, determined by the rules, give a slight edge over the player. Unfortunately, to offset the fact that so many people bet the dealer, you have to pay a commission for all your winnings when you put your money on the dealer.
That shouldn’t sound like a lot and please don’t let it dissuade you, especially given the better odds the dealer will win.
However, do make sure that the commission is only 5% before you play. You don’t way any surprises when it comes to paying money back. Also, if you can, try to play baccarat in an area where several casinos offer tables as they will oftentimes lower commissions to earn your business.
4 – Decide If Mini-Baccarat Is for You
Mini-baccarat is simply baccarat played at a smaller table. Whether you end up playing mini-baccarat depends completely on what the casinos offer (and they will only offer either mini-baccarat or maxi-baccarat, not both). In the end, the real difference is four chairs between mini and maxi and how the banker (dealer) is determined.
In mini-baccarat, the role of dealer is passed around the table and only the banker can touch the cards. Everyone else is just a passive participant. It can still be fun, but it reinforces that everything is determined by the rules.
5 – Ride Streaks
At the end of the day, you (the baccarat player) can exercise minimal control over the game. The cards are going to fall where they fall, and your available action is determined solely by predetermined patterns.
With that said, you have to do something in order to decide if you’re going to bet on the player, the dealer, or a tie (which you’re not going to do, right?). In this case, your best bet is always to bet on the dealer unless the player is riding a streak.
By streak, we mean that the player has bucked the odds and won three times in a row. It’s possible in that case, the player is on a heater and you can bet on them to win, too. Of course, the odds are still in the dealer’s favor, so you can always just bet them.
6 – Pause Your Betting in Some Situations
Part of betting a streak is that there has to be a streak on which to bet. A streak automatically ends when that person, dealer or player, loses. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to not bid a hand or two to see if either the dealer or the player is going to establish another streak on which you will bet.
However, if you feel the need to place a bet even after a streak is over, you can always bet the dealer or bet a tie, which (again), you won’t do because you are 15 times less likely to make money.
7 – Be Consistent
The above ideas about betting streaks are just one way to approach baccarat betting. There are others which are just as legitimate that you can choose.
Either way, whatever you do, be consistent in how you bet and stay true to whatever you decide. That way, you’re not trying to bet with your gut on something which is really a fancy guessing game.
8 – Fewer Decks Means Less Variance
If you can, try to find baccarat games with fewer decks. Most of the time, baccarat is played with six to eight poker decks. If you can find a table that uses six decks, there should be less variance in the hands because there are fewer cards.
9 – Watch Your Bankroll
Watching your bankroll in baccarat is very important because the game plays fast. If there are a small number of players at the table, you can be starting a new hand every few minutes at $10 (or more) per play.
That kind of spending has the ability to deplete a bankroll quickly if you’re not paying attention. Always keep in mind how much money you have overall and set loss limits for yourself. That way, you know when it’s a good time to get up and play another game over which you may have more control.
10 – Minimize Your Exposure
Baccarat removes a lot of the skill elements of betting and focuses in on the randomness.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to play baccarat in spurts. After you have won or lost a set amount, that’s a good time to get up from the table and do something else. That way, you don’t get on a run of bad luck and watch your money drift away because of your bankroll management.
It probably sounds like I don’t like baccarat or think of it as a lesser game because it leaves so much up to chance. That’s simply not the case. Baccarat is fun and exciting and makes me feel like a superspy (even if I like my martinis stirred).
It is important to realize that, with baccarat, there is no magical formula that will generate a win every time. That’s just not how the game works. That’s why you pay commission if you place a less risky bet (in other words, betting on the dealer).
If your local casino supports baccarat and you have the bankroll for its minimum bet, there’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t play. Just keep in mind that if you want a game that involves a lot of skill, baccarat is not it. Keep that in mind and you will have a great time when you hit the baccarat table.