You must have heard the stories of those blackjack card counters that allow players to take away huge winnings from casinos, and you have wondered if the same could be said for another popular card game, baccarat.
The title of this article reveals a sad fact: Baccarat is not a game where you can gain an advantage by card counting, contrary to what many other results on Google might tell you. Let's take a look at the reasons why baccarat card counting doesn't work, which is crucial to your understanding of the game.
Baccarat Card Counting Doesn't Favor Anyone
Baccarat is a symmetrical game where the dealer and the player will be dealt the same cards. The rules are slightly different for the Player and the Banker, so this is the only chance you have to potentially benefit from knowing what cards are left in the deck. However, even if you know that there are more nines than aces in the deck, there is no way to put this information to good use. It's equally possible for the dealer or player to get any card in the deck, and in baccarat, you can't make a decision in the game.
You bet before the cards are dealt and then there's nothing else to do as you watch the game unfold and the dealer and player take turns drawing cards. It's a different world than blackjack because in blackjack you make decisions, and those decisions can be based on what kind of cards are left in the deck. In baccarat, it doesn't matter at all. Baccarat, for all practical purposes, is an elaborate coin flip game.
Casinos Don't Mind You Counting Cards
At least not in baccarat. In many casinos, paper and pens are even provided if you want to keep track of the results.
Also, in blackjack, it is rare to see a reshuffle after 75% of the cards have been dealt, whereas, in baccarat, the casino will not have a problem with you seeing 100% of the cards. This means that they only shuffle the cards when they are not available. If baccarat card counting worked, they wouldn't let you do it, but would shuffle when you see 75% of the shoe, because that's the last part that's most beneficial to the card counter. In baccarat, there is no advantage to be found at all.
How Does Card Counting Work
As mentioned earlier, blackjack card counting is very well known. Players keep track of the hand so that they know when the advantage moves in their favor and then increase their bets. This way, they are able to play more successful hands.
High-value cards, such as face cards, are more favorable to the player, while low-value cards, such as 2's and 3's, are more favorable to the dealer. Initially, the ratio of high-value to low-value cards is even, but the ratio changes as the deal proceeds. For example, if more low-value cards are dealt in the early rounds, there will be a greater concentration of high-value and low-value cards left in the shoe. At this point, card counters will start to place bigger bets because they have a better chance of being dealt blackjack (usually with a 3:2 enhanced payout).
Dr. Ed Thorpe literally wrote the book on card counting after he developed his system in the 1960s. Thorpe's first card counting system, known as the 10-count system, was the first system to be publicly proven mathematically. It was also a very simple system. It simply asks the player to start counting mentally from zero, then +4 for the lower-value cards and -9 for the higher-value cards. The higher the total, the more you should bet. If the count reaches zero or a negative number, then you should bet less.
The main problem with Thorpe's system is that it only applies to single-deck games, which are hard to find. However, his system inspired other mathematicians and blackjack experts to develop other systems. Thorpe himself went on to develop another system, called Hi-Lo Count, which to this day is considered the best card counting system that beginners can learn.
How to Count Cards in Baccarat and Win
Now, what we want to surprise you with is the fact that you can, in fact, count cards in baccarat and make a profit.
It's just that the profits are so minuscule and the strategy so difficult to play out that it's not even worth your time. According to the perfect baccarat card counting strategy described by Peter Griffin in his book Blackjack Theory, you would place a $1,000 bet every 400 hands or so and expect to make $0.70 per hour. No casino could let you sit there for 400 hands without doing anything, and you wouldn't be able to go through all that trouble to make $0.70 per hour.
And, with a small sample like this - one bet every 400 hands - and with the odds slightly in your favor, it's still more or less a coin flip and you're likely to lose your $1,000 bet. Then you'd have to wait for another 400 hands and place another bet. If you lose that time as well, and the odds of losing all of your first bets are almost 25%, you're in trouble.
Essentially, card counting doesn't change the odds much, and you have little practical help with this additional information.
Baccarat Card Counting System and Values
This is the system used to track cards that left the deck, and it’s more complex than in blackjack, where you only use +1 and -1.
- Start with a count of 0
- don’t do anything for 9, 10, J, Q, K
- +1 when A, 2, or 3 are dealt
- +2 when 4 is dealt
- -1 when 5, 7, or 8 are dealt
- -2 when 6 is dealt
Basically, you only monitor cards between the ace and the 8, including the 8. For the first three (ace, 2, 3), you add 1 to the count. 4 is a special case because it is the only card you add +2 to, while 6 is the opposite, you subtract -2. The rest of the cards (5, 7, 8) mean you subtract -1 from the count.
In baccarat, it is well known that the dealer "always" has the best bet - although in our How to Win Baccarat article we have a different view - and that is the default bet in this card counting strategy. The Player's bet only becomes the more sensible choice if you have more than 16 points.
This is just a very simple way of counting cards in baccarat. Some mathematicians say that you actually need to count to +235 for the Player's bet to be truly profitable, and you need to count to -200 for the Banker's bet to be truly profitable. Then there's the real world - even a computer that plays the perfect game based on the information it has will only make less than $2 per 100 hands. On a $1,000 bet.
Card Counting the Dragon 7 Side Bet in EZ Baccarat
EZ Baccarat differs from regular games in that there is no commission on banker bets (which is why it is sometimes simply called commission-free baccarat). Because of this, there is a small variation in the rules; a bet in the banker's position that has a three-card total of 7s will push and not win.
This game often has a side bet called the Dragon 7, and while most side bets should be avoided, this one is an exception because there are ways to count cards for it and discover when it will win. If the dealer wins three cards and the total is seven points, the odds on the Dragon 7 side bet are 40:1.
In order to win the Dragon 7 bet, the dealer must draw a third card, and the cards that most often prevent this are the 8 and 9. When these cards are removed from the shoe, the advantage goes in the player's direction. Having many low-value cards also helps, as cards from 1 to 7 can help move the dealer's final total to 7. By looking at the effect of removing the value of each card on the house edge, a card-counting system can be created.
The game rules are to start counting from 0, then subtract 1 when dealing 4, 5, 6, and 7, and add 2 when dealing 8 or 9. When any other cards are dealt, you do nothing. When the true number of cards is +4 or higher, you should bet the Dragon 7 (remember, the true number of cards is determined by the number of cards divided by the number of cards left in the shoe). This should happen with less than 10% of all hands.
Baccarat Card Counting: A Useful Tool When Used Correctly
It should be clear by now that baccarat card counting does not have the same advantages as blackjack card counting. Even when done perfectly, it doesn't bring very much profit. However, it is a relatively easy thing to do, and it does have its advantages. In addition, it is very useful in specific situations, such as the Dragon 7 side bet, and can help secure more wins. In other words, there is no need to be obsessed with card counting, but it certainly can't hurt.
Learn more information about the baccarat strategy to help players increase their chances of winning at online casinos.
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