While baccarat most resembles blackjack in the mechanics and feel of the game, baccarat is actually a pure game of chance. That means it’s much more similar in spirit to betting “red” or “black” on a roulette wheel. Because of this fact, no optimal strategy exists in which a player can effectively reduce the house edge to win more often.
Fortunately, the beauty of baccarat is that this game already offers players one of the lowest house edges on the casino floor. When betting on the “banker” side, you are facing a 1.06 percent house edge – which experts rank closely to playing blackjack using instinct rather than pure basic strategy.
Betting on the “player” side offers a 1.24 percent house edge, while the seldom used “standoff” bet that both hands will tie provides a 14.36 percent house edge.
Considering the probabilities listed above, the casino obviously relies on players looking for a little gamble and trusting their gut – otherwise the only bet people would place would be on the “banker” and its lower house edge. And to be sure, part of the game’s entertainment value comes from letting loose and guessing whether or not “player” or “banker” will win on any given hand.
Serious baccarat players are even quite diligent when it comes to recording the results of each hand during a shoe, because they believe certain streaks and patterns can be used to predict the cards to come.
Casinos encourage this by featuring flashing signs above baccarat tables which track and display previous results automatically, allowing players to more easily search for patterns in the numbers. Unfortunately, this baccarat custom is purely superstition, and despite serious players who claim to have a “system” for beating baccarat using patterns, the game really is based on chance.
You can still enjoy a strategic edge that reduces your losses and increases your wins, and to play baccarat correctly, experts recommend betting “banker” on every single hand. The casino charges a 5 percent commission on all payouts given to “banker” bets, with the fee being used to offset the incredibly low house edge. Without the commission, players betting on “banker” would actually be favored to win over the long run.
Even when factoring in this commission charge, which is tracked by the dealer and settled when you cash out, betting only on “banker” provides a higher expected value over the long term than any other baccarat strategy.
The reasoning behind the “banker” advantage is based solely on mathematics. The “banker” wins 45.483 percent of the time, as opposed to “player” winning 44.615 percent, and 9.543 percent of hands ending in a tie.
Because “banker” in baccarat acts last, it enjoys a slight statistical advantage given the fact that, before it even acts, the “player” hand can become a loser. The “player” spot must draw an additional card with a total between 0 and 5, and when the third card leaves a very low total, the “banker” spot is put in a stronger position.
Another baccarat strategy to keep in mind is to never bet on the “standoff” or tie. It may seem tempting to take a shot at the big 9 to 1 payout, but this reward does not reflect the true risk associated with the 14.36 percent house edge on the wager.
Just like the “banker” strategy, it might not be as fun to avoid “standoff” bets, and surely you’ll see players celebrating a big payout when a tie is dealt. But if winning money is your priority when playing baccarat, the “standoff” wager should always be viewed as a sucker bet.