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The Basics of Baccarat Strategy

baccarat strategyIn the strategic sense, the game of Baccarat is a game of trying to decide when to switch from a single proven mathematical way of playing. Your default mode of playing, if you’re trying to achieve the highest payout rate possible, will be based on playing the banker bet. However, there are times when you may want to switch to the player bet because of changing game conditions. The key to expert Baccarat play is to learn how to identify those conditions and how to identify when those conditions have passed. Here we’re going to show you everything there is to know about this approach to Baccarat strategy.

Understanding the House Advantage

There are three main bets that are available in this game, though there is also a fourth bet that is becoming so common that it might as well be added to the general rules. The three main bets are the bets on the banker (paying 0.95-to-1), the player (paying 1-to-1) and a tie (paid 8-to-1). The fourth bet is a bet on a paired starting hand that typically pays 11-to-1. Your goal is to pick the game with the lowest house advantage, and that depends on a few different factors that we’re going to quickly cover now.

In what’s considered a standard Baccarat game, you’ll be playing from an eight-deck shoe. The house advantage on the banker bet is usually the lowest in the game at 1.06 percent for a 98.94 percent payout rate. The player bet has a house advantage of 1.24 percent under these conditions, and that’s fairly close. You should never bet on the tie or pair bets since they have massive house advantages of 14.36 percent and 10.36 percent, respectively. The casino relies on players making these two wagers who don’t know any better to pull in a significant portion of their profits from this game.

When there are fewer decks in a game, it has a particular set of effects on the respective house advantages for each of the bets. In a single-deck game, for example, the banker bet becomes slightly more attractive with a 1.01 percent edge for the house, and it’s 1.29 percent for the player. Because the gap between the banker bet and the player bet increases as fewer decks are used, it means that the necessary conditions for switching from the banker bet to the player bet are a bit more extreme in single-deck games. This is why knowing the number of decks being used in your Baccarat game is a key piece of information.

The Default Baccarat Strategy and When to Deviate

Let’s assume that we have an eight-deck game since that is the most common. The default strategy for Baccarat will be to place a bet on the banker’s hand while looking out for certain conditions that will indicate to us that we should switch to the player’s hand. There are a number of ways to try to figure out when to switch, but here we’re going to look at one of the most basic methods that anyone can do.

Consider the following. The average Baccarat round uses about 5.14 hands. There are 416 cards in an eight-deck shoe, so you’ll have enough cards in the shoe for about 81 rounds of play if you were to deal out the entire shoe. Based on the probabilities for player hands, banker hands and tie hands, you’ll have about 36 player hands in each shoe, about 37 banker hands in each shoe, and about 8 tie hands per shoe.

In live Baccarat games, players are provided with paper and pencil to keep up with the outcomes of the previous hands. If you’re playing online, you should have the same available to keep up with how many hands of each type have been dealt from the shoe that you’re playing from. The idea here is to figure out, on average, how many of a particular type of hand the shoe will have remaining.

Remember that our default play is to bet on the banker hand and to look for conditions where it’s a good idea to turn to the player hand instead. You’ll notice that the banker hand is slightly more likely to happen in a given shoe, and there’s compensation for that in the fact that it pays 0.95-to-1 instead of 1-to-1 like the player bet. Whenever a shoe has dealt out a lot of banker hands in comparison to the number of player hands you have seen, then you have your indication that it’s time to make a switch.

Identifying the Threshold

Imagine that there is a gap between the number of banker hands that have been dealt and the number of player hands that have been dealt. Find the gap by subtracting the number of player hands from the number of banker hands. As this gap grows, rounds where the player wins will become more and more likely to come up. All you have to decide for yourself is a threshold value for when to switch from your default strategy to betting on the player.

It’s hard to say for sure where the perfect threshold value lies because the mathematics of it also depends on how many cards are left in the shoe at any given time, and it’s not practical to try to make that calculation before every single round of Baccarat. Generally speaking, you can base your threshold gap value on the number of decks left in the shoe.

For example, if there are about six decks left in the shoe, and you have a threshold value that shows that there have been six more banker hands dealt than player hands, then you’re almost certainly in the clear to deviate from your default strategy since the player hand is likely to have a lower house advantage at this point. The fewer decks left in the shoe, the lower your threshold value has to be to indicate that switching is a good idea. Most games do not deal all the way down to the end of a shoe, so make sure that you start over with your hand counts whenever a new shoe is brought to the table.