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==============================================   Thursday, August 1, 2002
Is It Possible to Count Cards in Baccarat?

Hello everyone,

We all know counting cards in Blackjack gives an edge to the player.  Is it possible to get an edge in Baccarat by some kind of a card counting method?  There have been many debates on this subject.  I must confess, some Baccarat card counting methods have been developed.  We will discuss a couple of them here this week.

Before we do, we should revise the rules of the third card drawing in Baccarat, as this is essential to understand why a card counting method may work.

Either or both player and banker hand may require a third card draw.  However, the decision for drawing a third card is not made by the players.  They are dictated by the following set of rules and they are separate for player hand drawing a third card and a banker hand drawing a third card.

For the player hand, if player hand two card total is either 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 then the player draws a third card.

If the player hand two card total is either 6 or 7, then the player stands.

If the player hand two card total is 8 or 9, then the results is a natural, therefore the player stands.

After the player hand acts on a third card draw, the bank hand receives a third card according to these rules:

If the bank hand card total is either 0, 1, or 2, the bank hand always draws a third card.

If the bank hand card total is 3, then bank always draws a third card regardless of the player's card, except when the player's drawn third card is an 8, then bank hand stands.

If the bank hand card total is a 4, then bank draws a third card when the player's third card is either 2 ,3 ,4 ,5 ,6 ,7 and it stands when the player's third card is either 0, 1, 8, 9.

If the bank hand card total is a 5, then bank draws a third card when the player's third card is either 4 ,5 ,6 ,7 and it stands when the player's third card is either 0, 1, 2, 3,8, 9.  A way to remember this is to take the 2, 3 from the left side and move it to the right side from the previous case.

Similarly, If the bank hand card total is a 6, then bank draws a third card when the player's third card is either 6 ,7 and it stands when the player's third card is either 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9.  Now we took 4,5 from the left side and moved it to the right side from the previous case.

If the bank hand card total is 7, the bank hand always stands.   So is the case for bank hand card totals 8 and 9 as they are naturals.

If the player hand stands on two cards then two card bank hand totaling 3, 4, 5 must draw and 6 must stand.

Based on a mathematical analysis of the game, bank hand will win 45.8% of the time, player hand 44.6%, and tie 9.6%.  If we discount the ties, bank hand stands to win 50.7% of the time and player hand 49.3%.  Since the bank hand wins greater than 50% of the time, the casinos compensate for this advantage by charging a 5% commission every time you win a bank hand bet.  The net result is that casino's advantage is 1.17% for bank hand and 1.36% for the player hand.  The bank hand is therefore a slightly better bet.

The casino's edge on the tie bet is a whopping 14.1% and is recommended by most to be avoided, although if I would notice that a Tie decision did not come up for 30 bets, I would go for it with a progression.  You can check the Zumma tester book: 72 Days at the Baccarat table and you will see that a Tie bet may not appear for about 40 spins at most (with the exception of Shoe no. 49, where a Tie bet doesn't come up for 49 bets)

Since Tie bets pay 8 to 1, the progression I would use is 1 unit for the first 7 bets, then 2 units for the next 4 bets, then 3 units for the next 2 bets, then 4 units for the next 2 bets, then 5 units for the next bet and 6 for the next final bet.  This gives you another 17 chances to catch a Tie bet if it hasn't come up for 30 bets and end up in a profit. 

Several casinos in Las Vegas reduce their commissions on winning bank hand from 5 to 4 and even 3%.  The Horse-show Casino in downtown Las Vegas usually offers a 4% commission game on a regular basis.  This reduced commission significantly reduces the casino's advantage to 0.67% on 4% commission and to 0.16% on 3% commission.

Now, we are ready for the card counting method in Baccarat.  Statistics indicate that the cards more favorable to the bank hand are the 9, 8, 10, J, Q, K in order of strength and the 4, 3, 2, 5 are player favorable cards.  The counting method follows the imbalance of these cards in the shoe as the game progresses.  The count is used for hand selection.  When the count is positive, then the better bet is the bank hand; when the count is negative, the player hand is the better bet.

So, whenever a 9, 8, 10, J, Q, K is drawn you add 1 to your count.  Whenever a 4, 3, 2, 5 is drawn, you subtract 1 from your count.  If the count is positive you bet on Banker, if negative you bet on Player.  This is the most basic method. 

A more advanced method will consider the strengths of each card in the order specified above.  I'll make it as simple as possible for you to remember it.  Let's start with the cards 4, 3, 2, 5.  Since they are in the proper strength order, you will count -4, for the drawn card 4, -3 for the drawn card 3, -2 for the drawn cards 2 and 5.  Similarly, you will count +4, for the drawn card 9, +3 for the drawn card 8, +2 for the drawn cards 10, J, Q and K.  If the final count is positive, you will bet on Banker.  If the final count is negative, you will bet on Player.

Try the above two methods on a few Baccarat shoes and see how they perform.  Now that you know the rules for drawing the third card, you can make a shoe of cards and simulate a dealer.  Deal one card at time, first to the Player hand then to the Banker hand.

There is a big difference between card counting in blackjack versus baccarat.  In blackjack, a counting system is used to determine if the shoe favors the casino or the player.  In baccarat, the shoe almost always favors the casino.  Thus, we use a counting method in baccarat to determine which hand (bank or player) the casino earns the smaller percentage, and then wager on it.  In short, baccarat card counting is used to reduce the casino's advantage over the player.  As such, it is an effective playing strategy much like the basic playing strategy is for the game of blackjack.

Wishing you all the best,
Until next week,


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