It is recommended that you read Baccarat: The Basics before reading this article. That entry will brief you on the basics playing the game while this one will go into further detail on how one should think about betting at the baccarat table.
Baccarat owes its popularity to its simplicity: the player bets either on the ‘player’ hand, the ‘banker’ hand, or a tie. There are no decisions to make once the game has started, so the patron need only choose how much money to wager. Players do have the option of marking scorecards and watching for ‘trends’, much as the roulette player may observe the perceived ‘pattern’ of numbers coming in at the wheel. Of course, these are entirely meaningless, as each hand of baccarat is entirely independent of all previous rounds, unless you are playing with a fixed deck i.e. there is no method of counting cards in baccarat.
Unsurprisingly, none of the betting options in baccarat offer the player an advantage over the house. Because it pays exactly 1 to 1 and is known as the ‘player’ hand, many unknowing patrons likely bet this option the majority of the time. However, it may be surprising that the banker bet actually offers a lower house edge than the player, even though winning bets on the banker pay a 5% commission to the casino. The difference is due to the quirky hitting/drawing rules of baccarat, making the banker hand more likely to win over the long run. In fact, casinos would be losing money if they failed to take a commission on the banker, which the Sahara casino actually tried out briefly in 1989. According to the books, the house has a 1.06% edge on the banker bet and a 1.24% edge on the player bet in a standard, 8-deck game of baccarat. Hence, the player who simply wants to have the best chance of winning (or not losing) at baccarat will bet the banker every single time. Although the 8 or 9 to 1 payout of the tie bet may be tempting, this wager actually offers the house an astronomical 14.44% edge and should never be played, even if one is ‘feeling lucky.’
The 1.06% edge means Baccarat can actually be a winning game with the right betting strategy. More about that further on the site!