There is an important distinction to make between “strategies” and “systems.” Baccarat strategies use the rules of the game and the game’s odds to inform the ideal strategy for playing within the rules. Baccarat systems attempt to manipulate the outcome of the game by controlling wagers and altering strategy based on wins and losses.

In some games, decision making comes into play when planning your strategy. For example, in blackjack, you might have to decide whether or not to take another card. In video poker strategy, you decide which cards to keep and which cards to throw away. In other games, the only decision making involves what outcome to bet on. Baccarat falls into the latter category.

Any strategy for Baccarat that involves varying the size of your bets based on your intuition or on what’s happened in the game previously is a system, not a strategy. Systems don’t work.

The Ideal Baccarat Strategy

In most games of Baccarat, especially those called American Baccarat, there’s not really any sort of playing strategy. Other versions of Baccarat allow the player and the banker the option of drawing or standing, much like in blackjack. But in American Baccarat, a player or the banker has to draw or stand based on the rules of the game, and not player strategy.

With your hands tied by the strict rules of American Baccarat, the only optimum strategy is to always place bets on the banker. These bets offer the house the lowest possible edge (1.06%) and are thus the only smart bets of the three bets available in the game.

American Baccarat & Strategy

Because banker and player hit and stand decisions are automatic in American Baccarat, there’s no decision making that affects the outcome of each hand. The only strategies that exist for American Baccarat are more like the betting systems you read about for blackjack and craps. Since varying bet size is about the only thing an American Baccarat player can do to affect the game, betting systems are popular for American Baccarat.

The reason betting systems don’t work is the built-in advantage the casino has over the player. Like all other casino games, except some versions of blackjack and video poker, American Baccarat players will always lose over the long run.

Changing the size of your bet based on wins and losses won’t affect the casino’s statistical edge. Mixing up your bets, placing some on the banker, some on the player, and some on the tie, actually adds to the casino’s advantage, because they want you placing the longer odds bets, especially the tie bet that gives them about a 16% edge on each bet.

You can recognize faulty Baccarat betting systems by one of three factors they all have in common: increasing your bet size as you win, making your bet smaller when you lose, and changing your bet based on a good or bad streak. All three of these features fly in the face of mathematics and will only drain your gambling bankroll faster into the casino’s coffers.

Baccarat’s three bets eliminate a player’s ability to incorporate strategy into the game. There are only three possible bets, which encourage people to think that changing your bet based on streaks is a smart strategic move in Baccarat. The truth is, winning and losing streaks only happen in the past. Each coup of Baccarat operates independently of the coup before and the coup after it.

One famous Baccarat system sometimes masquerades as an authentic strategy: the “avant-dernier” bet selection system. This system teaches Baccarat players to base their bets on the most recent winning bet. This is a hybrid of the two most common Baccarat systems, getting what believers call the best of both worlds, wagers on both bank wins and player wins.

Card Counting Strategy & Baccarat

Math professor and famous gambling strategist Edward O. Thorp once said of Baccarat that its rules present “very little opportunity for hanky-panky,” though Thorp claimed to have some success with card counting systems in Baccarat.

Card counting has long worked for blackjack, a game that is similar to Baccarat. The player is going head to head with the dealer, and they’re both card comparison games. The complex rules of banker hit and stand versus dealer hit and stand, and the points system unique to Baccarat, have all but prevented card counters from developing a successful counting strategy for Baccarat.

How Good Baccarat Players Play

Because Baccarat asks for just a few decisions from the player, how much to bet and who to bet on, the world’s best Baccarat players stick to a pretty simple system.

Never bet on ties.

That’s the only tactic that good Baccarat players stick to. Sure, casinos pay either 8 to 1 or 9 to 1 for tie bet winnings, but the house edge on that bet is above 15%. Since the other two bets in Baccarat come with odds only slightly higher than 1%, you’re always better off avoiding tie bets. Ties happen just 9 times out of every 100 coups, so it is a long shot bet for suckers.

Since a winning bet on the banker comes with a house edge about 0.2% lower than a winning bet on the player, serious Baccarat players stick to banker bets only. They just win more often than any other bet.

It is amazing that Baccarat has caught on in so many different gambling jurisdictions, because the game is simple and offers odds that ultimately reduce optimal strategy to a single bet placed over and over game. Still, even according to James Bond, Baccarat is the ultimate casino game, and if you stick to your bankroll strategy and only place bets on the banker, you could find yourself winning a few Baccarat coups.