Baccarat is the most popular casino game worldwide for a number of reasons. It’s easy to understand, easy to begin playing and among the most player favorable games in the casino. Not only does baccarat have one of the lowest house edges of any game the player advantages are not limited to expert play. Even beginners can benefit from the advantageous ‘hold percentage’ that makes it one of the best opportunities to walk away from the table with a profit.
This does require a bit of clarification. The razor thin house margins exist on the two most common bet positions: the ‘banker’ bet and the ‘player’ bet. The ‘banker’ bet has a house edge of 1.06%. The ‘player’ bet has a house edge of 1.24%. These odds are some of the best you’ll find at any online or land based casino unless you’ve got access to extremely liberal blackjack rules and know how to play them perfectly. They’re even better than the Pass/Come (1.41%) and the Don’t Pass/Don’t Come (1.36%) bets at the craps table.
This is not the case with the ‘Tie’ bet, nor does it apply to some of the newer baccarat ‘side bets’ that have appeared at various casinos over the past few years. The ‘Tie’ is intriguing to beginners since it pays 8 to 1 but that high payout comes at a hefty cost in terms of the house edge. The house edge on a ‘tie’ is a horrible 14.36%. The house edge on ‘side bets’ varies with the individual bet but they are typically much closer to the double digit hold percentage for the ‘tie’ than the single digit percentage offered by the ‘player’ and ‘banker’ bet.
EVERY PLAYER NEEDS A STRATEGY
The most effective way to play any casino game is with some sort of regimented strategy. Having a strategy serves to ‘automate’ your decisions and eliminate guess work and hunches. In blackjack, most beginning players learn what is known as ‘basic strategy’ and work from there. Unlike blackjack, baccarat has several ‘basic strategies’ that can be effective. The most common is called the ‘one sided’ strategy and is great for ‘grinders’ and players that want to extend their bankroll as long as possible.
The ‘one sided’ strategy is fairly self explanatory. A player bets on online ‘one side’ of the baccarat proposition: player or banker. Each side offers a low house advantage and there’s a bit of a deeper rationale for this strategy. Similar to blackjack, the ‘true odds’ on a given hand vary throughout the dealing shoe. At various points, the banker will enjoy a fractional statistical advantage while at other points the player will have a similar advantage. The thinking is that a player can tread water around breakeven in most shoes and when a card order favorable to their side occurs they’ll be able to gain a profit.
Now this is ‘easier said than done’. As we’ve examined repeatedly, the probability of an independent event is not influenced by what has happened before. Technically, baccarat is not a true ‘independent event’ as the cards that have been played before are out of the deck and thus the ‘true odds’ of a winning hand vary throughout the shoe. One thing that we can learn from probability theory, however, is that there’s no such thing as ‘being due’. Nor is there any guarantee that your sided in a ‘one sided strategy’ will appear in an orderly fashion. You could hit several in a row and make a nice profit or else you could lose several in a row and lose a good chunk of your bankroll.
Some baccarat writers recommend a ‘stop loss’ be employed with this strategy. This means that after a certain number of losses in a row (usually 3 or 5) that you stop betting for a period of time. Some suggest that you go to another table while others suggest that you wait until ‘your’ side appears again and then re-enter the game. The problem with the ‘stop loss’ theory is that it takes a regimented strategy and adds a level of guesswork. The concept that a ‘stop loss’ is advantageous to a player is not validated by probability theory.
The reality is that this strategy–or any other baccarat strategy–is able to completely eliminate the house edge. What it can do is to make sure that you are able to take advantage of the narrow ‘theoretical hold’ over the short term. You won’t be in a situation where you’re trying to guess what position you should play which is obviously a futile effort in the long term. Hunches don’t work when mathematical certainty is at play. The ‘one sided’ strategy is incredibly simple and ultimately as good as any other baccarat strategy. For this reason alone, it’s something that beginners should definitely consider.