Advanced Card Counting in Live Baccarat
Baccarat is a game that can be subject to card counting for a player advantage. However, the conditions are very specific under which this can be a viable option. In particular, we’re going to focus on two very popular side bets found at live dealer Baccarat tables.
Getting Deeper Into Baccarat Card Counting
The topic of counting cards in normal Baccarat is something that’s well-explored. On the most fundamental level, it can work to some degree. However, due to the nature of the game, it usually doesn’t end with a player getting an edge.
Without the ability to get an advantage against the casino, it’s not really worth the work to count cards.
What’s more is that counting cards doesn’t work in the traditional online environment. Since you need lots of cards to be dealt from a shoe before shuffling, you typically need live games instead.
With that said, there are some side bets in popular forms of live dealer Baccarat that are viable for counting. However, they require very specific conditions and a specific skill set. In the following, we’re going to break down how to take advantage of these conditions when you find them. The games are out there, but they may take some seeking out.
The Issue of No Commission or EZ Baccarat
Baccarat has an odd rule on the banker bet that’s a bit of a pain for players to get used to. Instead of paying at 1:1 like the player wager does, it pays at 0.95:1 under normal conditions. Another way of thinking about this is that it pays at 1:1 minus a 5 percent commission. Things are complicated further when you have to deal with rounding off that commission. That rounding is typically done in a way that hurts your payout rate.
A popular solution to this is what’s called “no commission” Baccarat. One style of this is called EZ Baccarat, but they both work pretty much the same way. The main change is that the banker bet is altered slightly to meet two conditions:
- The banker bet pays at 1:1 with no 5 percent commission.
- If the banker bet wins with a total of seven with three cards, it’s a push.
The house edge very slightly favors the casino here compared to traditional Baccarat. However, that’s before any rounding issues are taken into account. In any event, it’s not the banker bet that we’re after anyway.
The Emergence of Two Key Side Bets
This theme of winning with a seven total with three cards led to some side bets being invented. You can find these side bets together in the same game or separate from each other. For our purposes, what you need to know is very simple:
Both of the following side bets is vulnerable to card counting in live dealer Baccarat games.
The first of these is usually called the Dragon 7. It’s a side bet that pays 40:1 if the banker hand wins with three cards that add up to seven. Similarly, another side bet is typically called the Panda 8. This side bet pays 25:1 if the player hand wins with three cards that come to a total of eight.
As you can see, both of these side bets are based around a pretty straightforward idea. Under typical circumstances, they would have a house edge of about 7.6 percent for the Dragon 7 and about 10.2 percent for the Panda 8. As such, you would probably never play them on their own from a strategic perspective.
However, they are both vulnerable to maintaining a count, and we’ll get into how to go about that in what follows.
Counting Cards for These Two Side Bets
When a new shoe of cards is started, you’ll start your count for either of these side bets with a total of zero. From there, cards will be dealt, and you’ll add or subtract from that count as hands go on. The numbers you add or subtract will be specific to the given side bet. That means that rules for keeping a count for one side bet is different than the other.
However, the basic idea is the same for each. We’ll get into the particular counting rules for each of these side bets in what follows. With that said, you’ll still need to follow the procedure of keeping a count while you play. In what follows, we’ll show the rules for each side bet along with how to turn that into a true count, which will tell you when you have an edge against the casino.
Rules for the Dragon 7
You’ll increase or decrease your count by the following guidelines. When each card is dealt, you add or subtract from your count as noted here for the Dragon 7. A zero indicates that no change is needed.
- Ace – 0
- Two – 0
- Three – 0
- Four – -1
- Five – -1
- Six – -1
- Seven – -1
- Eight – +2
- Nine – +2
- Ten – 0
Note that the “Ten” category includes all cards worth 10/0 points: 10, Jack, Queen and King. What you’ll notice is that you only have a few cards from the entire deck that you need to focus on. You can actually ignore all of the 10-point cards along with the Aces, Twos and Threes.
Rules for the Panda 8
The same things apply for the Panda 8 as when counting the Dragon 7. The only differences are in what the rules are for how different cards are scored:
- Ace – 1
- Two – 1
- Three – -2
- Four – -2
- Five – -2
- Six – -1
- Seven – -1
- Eight – -2
- Nine – +4
- Ten – 0
As you can see, the Panda 8 system is a bit more complicated. However, the advantage is that you’ll get an edge more often if you count this side bet than if you count for the Dragon 7. This is just a situation of simple pros and cons that you’ll have to consider while you play.
Converted to the True Count
At any given point in time, you’ll have a running count from keeping up with the card scores noted above. However, the piece of information that tells you when to play the wager is actually the true count. You get the true count by dividing the running count by the remaining number of decks in the shoe.
Since there is no indication numerically of how many cards are left in the shoe, you have to estimate it. This is achieved by simply looking at the shoe and determining roughly how many decks are remaining. For example, if you have a running count of 10 with about four decks left, your true count will be about 2.5.
When counting the Dragon 8, you’ll need a true count of at least 4 to have an edge against the casino. However, you’ll need a true count of at least 11 for an edge on the Panda 7.
Bankroll Management With This Approach
If you’re taking this approach, then you’ll need to actually be in the games playing a lot of the time. As such, you’d need to keep your losses as minimal as possible. This would be achieved by playing the minimum bet size available on the banker wager. The idea is that you play that wager over time before finding out when you have an edge. Then, you place a much larger wager on the respective side bet to cover your small losses. From there, you’ll be able to pick up a long-term advantage when the average wins from the side bet more than cover the small losses you take from playing the banker bet normally.
With that said, this is a high-volatility approach. As such, you’ll want to have conservative bankroll management. This will allow you to stay in the game longer, which means that you’ll have more of a chance for your long-term advantage against the casino to manifest itself.
Keep in mind that this is an advanced strategy that involves a lot of effort. It’s not for people who just want to sit back and relax without having much to worry about. Instead, it’s best suited for players who really like to be mentally involved in their play. It’s a great option, but a lot of it involves finding games with these side bets in the first place.