Why Use Baccarat Strategies?
So, you’ve learned how to play baccarat. You know the rules and understand just how this casino classic works. Yet you have the feeling there is more to the game than meets the eye. Luckily for you, you have come to the right place. In this guide, we will break down various baccarat strategies and what could make them succeed or fail. After all, there are certainly ways to play James Bond’s favorite game and minimize the risk of losing big on your bankroll. It is advisable to keep tabs on your expectations when it comes to these strategies, however.
The first thing we would like to emphasize is that there are no secrets, mysteries, or esoteric knowledge when it comes to baccarat. There is no provable way to win every time, which is evidenced by the fact that casinos still host the game and are, well, still in business. While a small portion of your salary in exchange for “tips and secret systems” may seem like a modest risk, you would be better off buying maps to find leprechaun treasure. You would have more chance of finding Elvis Presley playing ping-pong with Bigfoot in the center of the Bermuda Triangle than “cracking the code” with some of the nonsensical material some rip-off merchants pass off as legitimate.
This guide is, on the other hand, a better option. We will provide you with a sensible way to strategize when playing the game. Additionally, it won’t cost you a dime. All we ask is that you leave the magic tricks to the children’s entertainers, and, instead, focus on playing smart.
Let’s get started!
Baccarat: A Recap of the Basics
If you have found yourself looking for baccarat strategies, the chances are that you have a pretty good grasp of how the game works. It is never a bad idea to run through the basics again, however, as there might be something you missed the first time around.
How about that baccarat table?
The Table and Layout
Depending on what variant you play, there will be slight alterations to the table and how many decks of cards are used. In this guide, we will mostly be concentrating on punto banco, given that it is the most popular variant of the game. In punto banco, dealers use either four, six, or eight 52-card packs. These are all shuffled together and dealt to each player. The dealer’s position is called “the shoe,” and this where the dealer will distribute cards from. In punto banco, each card is placed face down in front of players.
This version is usually played by those who consider themselves the gambling elite, so expect fine clothing, lots of ostentatious jewelry, and a roped-off area which is intended to keep out the riff-raff. Baccarat tables are usually green, with gold and red markings which determine where players’ bets should be placed. In smaller versions of the game, or online, the table could be blue.
The House Edge
Baccarat is a game, as you may well know by now, which is considered the casino game of the elite. Despite its reputation for elegance and class, it is a very simple game to play. This would, perhaps, partly explain why it is so popular in casinos around the world. As savvy players will know, baccarat’s low house edge undoubtedly keeps it on the tips of the tongues of casino enthusiasts.
The house edge is as low as 1.06% on banker bets, which blows other games such as roulette and keno out of the water. The house edge on a player bet is slightly higher at 1.24% but significantly higher at 14.36% on a tie. Some players recommend always betting on the banker, but we will explain why this is not necessarily true when we cover different types of strategies below.
Different Versions of Baccarat
As you will probably be aware by now, there are different variants of baccarat. It is crucial to ensure that any strategy you use is compatible with the version of the game you are playing. There are three particularly popular versions of the game out there, but there are also offshoots which you may encounter at some point. The most popular versions of baccarat are covered below.
Punto Banco: This is undoubtedly the most popular version of the game, and it is highly represented in casinos in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Macau, and online. Punto banco translates into English, roughly, as “player bank,” which relates to how the game is played. In some casinos, the game is referred to as “Tableau” on account of the rule book of the same name which outlines payouts.
In punto banco, there are two hands which are (unsurprisingly) the player’s hand and the banker’s hand. The game is overseen by the casino, who acts as the dealer, and is played with either 4, 6, or 8 decks of cards. Most casinos will charge a 5% commission on any winning banker bets. This also applies to chemin-de-fer, which we will look at next.
Chemin-de-Fer: Chemin-de-fer, which translates as “the railroad,” is a game which is more popular in Monaco than perhaps anywhere else in the world. This variant of baccarat is believed to be the original and is played with six decks of cards, without exception.
Unlike punto banco, the role of the banker is assigned, on rotation, to players in the game. This makes it appealing for some, especially those who enjoy the additional level of responsibility and inclusivity. No, we don’t necessarily mean attention-seekers, but to each their own.
Super 6/Punto 2000 – This version is a type of punto banco. It uses the tableau and follows an almost identical set of rules. However, many players flock to this variant of baccarat for one particular reason, which is that winning bets on banker hands are paid at even money. This removes the 5% commission which is payable on punto banco.
The one exception where this not the case is when the banker’s hand scores a 6. In this case, the bet is paid at 50%. This brings the house edge on a banker bet up to 1.46% from 1.06%, which puts some players off. However, it is typically a faster version of the game to play.
Revising the Rules
If you are serious about perfecting the right strategy for baccarat, you will want to test it out. Much like an exam, you need to ensure you have done your homework on the subject.
How well do you understand the rules of baccarat? If you are hoping to jump straight to the strategies of the game before you master the basics, then you should reconsider your approach. The advanced approach in baccarat only works when you understand how the game works. We will walk through the rules of the game one more time to make sure there is nothing you have missed. We will start with the bets, as these will be crucial to how you play – and hopefully win – at the baccarat table.
As you probably already know, there are three bets you can make when playing baccarat. These are your options when it comes to winning.
You can choose to bet on:
- The player
- The banker
- A tie
To win your bet, you must choose which hand you believe will win, then place your bet on the appropriate choice. The game will begin once you and all other players have made your bets.
The object of the game – for the dealer and the banker – is to score an eight or nine. If both players score an eight or nine, this will result in a tie. If the player scores a nine and the dealer scores an eight, the player will win.
The scoring process uses the digit to the right as the final score if the combined score is less than nine. If you have received a 9 of clubs and a 7 of hearts, your score will be 6, as 9+7 = 16. If you received an ace and an 8 of diamonds, you score a 9.
The Third Card
It has now been established that the object of the game is to score an 8 or 9. However, when both the player and dealer have failed to do so, the game can result in the need for a third card to be introduced.
In a scenario where a third card is required, the player and the dealer will have different rules to adhere to. In other words, there are set rules which govern when a player should draw a third card and when a dealer should do so.
A third card is drawn for a player:
- When a player scores less than 5 from their two-card total
- If they have scored 8 or 9, this is referred to as a “natural,” so no third card is dealt
- If the player does not take a third card, the dealer stands on 6 or more and will only draw on 5 or less
- The bank will only take a third card – if the player takes one – when they have referred to the third card rule (see the table below for more information)
In the case of a third card for the bank, things are a little different:
- A third card is drawn when the bank’s total is 2 or less
- When the bank’s total is 3, and the player’s third card is not an 8
- When the bank’s total is 4, and the player’s third card is not 0, 1, 8, or 9
- When the bank’s total is 5, and the player’s third card is a 4, 5, 6, or 7
- When the bank’s total is 6, and the player’s third card is a 6 or 7
When playing baccarat online, the random number generator (RNG) software will draw a third card where appropriate.
Below, you can see the table which is referred to when it comes to the third card. This will always be used by the house when deciding where a third card is appropriate.
Basic Baccarat Strategies
For many players who advocate baccarat, simply playing the game is a betting strategy in itself.
This is down to the very favorable house edge which players can avail of when betting on the game. As we covered above, the house edge is represented as 1.06% on a banker’s bet. When betting on a player’s hand, the house edge is 1.24%. A tie – which is the least probable bet of all – comes with a 14.36% house edge.
Given the low house edge, many players will simply bet – at all times – on the banker. Statistically, this is not really a fool-proof way to win. There will be player’s hands that win almost as much as the banker’s hand, and those tricky little ties can also trip you up every now and again.
Basic Strategy Number 1: Always Bet on the Banker
Statistically speaking, the banker bet is a better value when compared to the player bet. In reality, there is little between both bets. Well, other than the fact that the banker’s hand wins slightly more than it loses. You will often see the probability of the banker bet winning at 45.86% of the time, whereas the player win will be around the 44.62% mark. This leaves the remaining 9.52% with the tie bet.
Despite the banker bet being statistically better, there is a 5% commission on winning banker’s bets. This removes the edge a player could have by betting only on banker’s hands. This is always important to factor in if you are using this strategy.
With ties involved, the house edge should be represented as 1.06% on a banker bet. Therefore, for every $100 you bet, you should incur an average risk of 1.06%, or $1.06.
Basic Baccarat Strategy 2: Betting on Ties
Yes, believe it or not, there are players out there who believe that betting on ties makes the most sense. Statistically, the odds are very much against players who do so. A tie will occur (remember, this is statistically) just under once in every 10 hands. Hmm. That’s less than 10%.
10 winning bets of $10 at 8-1 = $900 (with stakes included). 90 losing bets of $10 = $900. Given that you could win 50 ties in 100 hands, or less than 5, this is something of a “Hail Mary” bet.
Basic Baccarat Strategy 3: Following the Trend
This basic strategy is also surprisingly popular with some players. In basic terms, it involves analyzing the previous one hundred shoes played and betting on either the banker or player’s hand. The hand which has won the most games in the previous one hundred is the bet which you should stick to (and never deviate from). Rather than assuming that the hand with more losses is due a winning streak, players will bet on the hand which is best represented in the wins history.
You can see why this is favorable among some. In baccarat, the game comes to down to luck. There is no way to determine which hand will win, so this “strategy” is really nothing more than picking a side and then sticking to it.
Advanced Baccarat Strategies
There are many self-professed gambling experts who will completely dismiss the notion that strategies or systems work. Yes, baccarat is a game of chance. You will invariably need luck to be on your side, much like any other casino game out there. We are not necessarily discounting this, but playing by a strategy can really help a player to maintain discipline. It can also help anyone looking to beat the house prepare for the good times and the bad.
When you think about it, what are the alternatives? If you just play on a whim, with no real pattern or direction, there is just as much chance of you losing. At least with a strategy, you will feel prepared to take it to the house. What you must remember when using any strategy in baccarat is that there is a 5% commission on winning banker’s bets. Therefore, any wins you do have when betting on the banker will come at a price. In progressive betting systems, therefore, you will never actually break even.
Advanced Baccarat Strategy 1: The Martingale
Most players who have used roulette strategies at some point will be familiar with the Martingale. Even casual players will likely have heard of the world’s most renowned betting system. The question is, does it work in baccarat? Many players believe that it can. Allow us to explain why this is.
The principle of the Martingale system is to double your bet on each loss until you win. Once you win, you return to your initial wager. Yes, it is that simple! Even though this is very straightforward, we will illustrate how this system works with the help of examples.
Applying the Martingale
You must first decide on the value of each unit. Many players tend to assign an amount somewhere in the region of 1% of their bankroll to each unit. Therefore, let’s say you have $1,000 to take to the table. In this case, the value of a unit will be $10.
The Martingale should only be applied to either the banker or player bets. Completely discount ties. Once you have chosen your bet, you should stick to it. So, for example, you will be making bets only on the banker’s hand.
- When you make your first bet of $10, and it loses, your next bet will be $20
- Your second bet is $20. This loses, so you double the $20 to $40, and this will be your next bet
- Your third bet is $40, and it loses, meaning that your next bet should be $80
- Your fourth bet is $80, and this wins, meaning that you collect $80 from this fourth bet
- Because you have won a bet, you return to your initial stake of $10 and repeat the process
In the example above, you made total bets of $150. You collected winnings of $160 ($80 plus your $80 stake), which made you a profit of one unit, or $10.
Sounds good, right? I mean, if the Martingale advocates are to be believed, you will always make your money back with an additional unit or two on top. However, there are obvious flaws to this system.
Flaws of the Martingale
First things first, you will not affect the house edge by using this system. There is no proven way to lower the house edge in baccarat.
The second problem you will encounter will usually be at the behest of the casino you are playing at. The house may have a table limit, which will prevent you from carrying the Martingale system past a particular point. In other words, if you incur a considerable run of losses, you may find that the bet limit prevents you from making the bet you are hoping will see you break even.
Finally, for players who don’t have a sizeable bankroll, there is a big risk that they will not have the chips necessary to win back the amount they have lost on a bad run.
Advanced Baccarat Strategy 2: The Fibonacci
Unless you are a fan of the progressive metal band “Tool” or have an exceptional interest in mathematics, nature, or the esoteric, you would be forgiven for not knowing of the Fibonacci sequence. In the Fibonacci, the number following the first two is the sum of the two prior numbers.
The sequence runs in the following pattern:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on.
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with a baccarat system. For a number of players, this is the strategy of choice. So how does it work?
Applying the Fibonacci
Each of the numbers in the sequence represents how many units you should bet.
Let’s use the example that one unit is worth $10. Therefore, your first bet will be $10, as will your second, before you graduate to $20, $30, $50, and so on if you continue to lose. However, each time you win, you bet one unit (or $10). This is the stake you will always bet following a win.
In the example below, we look at a scenario where you lose four straight bets and win the next two:
- When you make your first bet of $10, and it loses, your next bet will be $10
- Your second bet is $10. This loses, so you move to the next number in the sequence, which is 2. Your next bet will be $20
- Your third bet is $20, and it loses, making your next bet $30
- Your fourth bet is $30, and this loses, making your next bet $50
- Your fifth bet is $50, and this wins, which banks you $50 in winnings (minus your stake)
- Because you won, you take two steps back in the sequence on your sixth bet. Your stake is now $20. You win this bet, which banks you $20 (minus your stake)
In the example above, your total stake came to $140 over the five bets. Your fifth bet won at $50, which saw a return of $100 ($50 win and $50 stake). Your sixth bet won $40 ($20 in addition to a $20 stake). In the example above, your overall winnings came to $140, which saw you break even.
Flaws in the Fibonacci
As you will have probably spotted, this is an infinite sequence. If you have a bad run of luck – for example, nine losses in a row – are you prepared to bet $550 to break even?
Like any other system out there, the Fibonacci does not affect the casino’s house edge. It will always come down to luck when playing with any strategy. After all, you could win nine hands in a row with the Fibonacci or lose 19.
Advanced Baccarat Strategy 3: The 1-3-2-6
The 1-3-2-6 is another form of a progressive betting system commonly used by baccarat players.
As you might have guessed by the sequence, your first bet is one unit. Unlike the Martingale or Fibonacci, you both raise and lower bets when you win. So if your first bet is a winner, your next bet will be three units (let’s stick to the $10 unit), or $30. If you win the second bet, you drop your stake to $20. Your third win will see you raise the fourth bet to $60, which, if this also successful, ends the sequence.
Applying the 1-3-2-6
If you lose at any point in the sequence, you go back to the first bet. However, a completed sequence of four winning bets also takes you back to a one-unit stake in your next bet. As with any other system, there is no way to lower the house edge. Baccarat is a game of luck, so you will be hoping for good fortune for this system to yield positive results.
In this example, we will cover three straight wins followed by one loss:
- When you make your first bet of $10, and it wins, your next bet will be $30
- Your second bet is $30. This wins, so your next bet is $20
- Your third bet is $20, and it wins, meaning that your next bet should be $60
- Your fourth bet is $60, and it loses
In the example above, your total stake comes in at $60. Your winnings are $120, including the $60 stake. Your final bet of $60 loses, which sees you break even.
This is an interesting strategy which will see many players very happy with a run of four wins in a row. If only things were that simple…
Flaws in the 1-3-2-6
As we mentioned at the start of this section, players should always remember the 5% commission payable on banker wins. As a progressive betting system, the 1-3-2-6 will require more than “breaking even” to avoid a loss.
In other words, if you win four $10 bets using this system, your total return – including stake – works out as $240. This is before the 5% commission if you are betting on the banker. Once commission has been taken into account, your $240 reduces to $228.
Like the Martingale and the Fibonacci, the 1-3-2-6 does not affect the house edge. Regardless of how sophisticated or pretty a system looks, the house will always have their advantage.
Advanced Baccarat Strategy 4: The d’Alembert
The final advanced strategy we will look at is the d’Alembert.
Depending on who you ask, this is regarded as one of the easiest of the baccarat systems out there. The d’Alembert takes its name from the 18th-century mathematician Jean-Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert and is considered similar to the Martingale. The similarity is founded on the principle that both the d’Alembert and the Martingale involve increasing the unit size of bets after each loss.
Applying the d’Alembert
Much like the other three strategies we covered, this system should only be used on player or banker bets. Where it differs, however, is that the system follows a pattern where players are required to increase their bet by one unit ($10 in the example below) after each loss. A winning bet should be followed by a bet one unit less than the prior bet. When the player returns to the initial bet amount, they should carry on until they lose.
In the example below, we will look cover three winning bets followed by four losing bets:
- When you make your first bet of $10, and it loses, your next bet will be $20
- Your second bet is $20. This loses. Your next bet will be $30
- Your third bet is $30, and it loses, making your next bet $40
- Your fourth bet is $40, and this wins, making your next bet $30
- Your fifth bet is $30, and this wins, making your next bet $20
- Your sixth bet is $20, and this wins, taking you back to the base bet amount of $10
- Your seventh bet is $10, and this wins, so you continue to bet at $10 until you lose or walk away
In the example above, you will be ahead by $40. The first three losses cost you $60.
It is easy to see why this system appeals to many players, as it is designed to minimize losses on a bad run while making a steady profit from any fortuitous streaks.
Flaws in the d’Alembert
Yes, you guessed it. The house edge still hasn’t changed. The d’Alembert is a pretty good system with a reasonable appeal. However, you do need to ensure that your bankroll is capable of surviving past a series of losses. If you do encounter a bad run, you will be unable to make any money on a subsequent, positive run.
As such, this system tends to favor players who stake low amounts on a game of baccarat.
There is no doubt that every player who is serious about minimizing their losses (and hopes to win in the process) needs a strategy.
In that case, what is a strategy? The definition of a strategy is a “plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall goal.” Now, this does not mean that you should wear your best fatigues, paint your face army green, and lay siege to the nearest casino, tossing chips at the tables like live grenades. Absolutely not.
It does mean that you should have some form of plan to keep you disciplined. Yes, you can call yourself a soldier of the casino if you like. We’re pretty sure you can call yourself whatever you like at a casino, providing you are spending money and not causing too much of a scene.
In reality, your best bet when it comes to playing baccarat is working out how much you can afford to spend, and ultimately, the limit of what you can afford to lose. This is the great thing about many strategies: they require discipline and keep unorganized players from making the age-old mistakes at the table. Emotional players have a habit of chasing losses and, well, just throwing their money away.
There is no known strategy which can alter the house edge, so please don’t waste your money on buying into any of the “secrets” or “mysteries” that snake oil salesmen are selling. Study the game, practice with some of the strategies we have laid out in this guide, and above all, play smart.