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baccarat - when to bet
Unlike many other card games, in baccarat you don’t bet on your own hand. You’re just betting whether the banker or the player will win, or whether they’ll come up with a tie. So the question then becomes: which hand is more advantageous to bet on?

Ties? Don’t Bother.

First off, forget that tie bets are even an option. Most casinos offer 8:1 or even 9:1 odds on tie bets, but even at that payout they’re a terrible proposition. The odds of a tie are less than 10% each hand, and the house edge on ties at the usual 8:1 is an eye-watering 14-15%, depending on how many decks are being used. 9:1 lowers the edge to about 5%, which is still too high for a savvy bettor. There is no reason to ever bet on the tie unless you have a pathological need for risk and a love for seeing your money disappear.

Should You Bet on the Player?

It’s important to remember that unlike blackjack, there’s no player skill involved in judging odds in baccarat. The rules dictate when and how much the player must stand or draw. (It’s also impossible to count cards in baccarat, at least without computer assistance.)

With this in mind, you can expect the player to win slightly more than 44% of the time. However, if you’ve bet on the player and the result is a tie, you don’t lose your money under standard rules. Instead, it’s considered a push and your bet rides on to the next hand. (Depending on casino rules, you may or may not be able to withdraw before the next hand is dealt.) This means the actual win percentage for the player is about 49%, for a house edge of 1.24%. That’s quite good compared to other games, especially because there’s no particular skill required, but don’t put your roll on the player just yet because there’s an even better option…

Banker Bets: Where the Money Is

Discarding tie and player bets, the banker wins a hair over 45% of all hands. But since ties are pushes for non-tie bets, your money is actually safe with the banker 50% of the time. This works out to a house edge of only 1.06% on banker bets.

The house balances things out by collecting a commission on banker bets. In most casinos, this will be 5%. However, some houses offer low-commission baccarat, where the commission is 4% or less. These are definitely worth seeking out if you’re interested in playing.

A common variation is to offer even money on banker bets, but collect a high commission (usually 50%) if the banker wins in a certain way. For example, in Super 6 baccarat, the house takes a 50% commission if the bank wins with a 6. These variations are usually a bit worse for the bettor than standard baccarat, but still not enough to make player bets more advantageous.

While you can still get a better house edge on some games, including blackjack and craps, those require a certain level of skill and understanding to get the most out of your bets. With baccarat, all you have to do is bet on the banker and you get a good edge automatically. There’s a reason baccarat attracts the high rollers, and it’s not just the James Bond mystique. They know where some of the best chances in the casino can be found.