PROBABILITY THEORY FOR BACCARAT PLAYERS

Assuming you play the ‘Player’ or ‘Banker’ in Baccarat it has the distinction of being one of the best bets in the casino. The player is paid at even money when he wins and he wins just under 50% of the time. The ‘Banker’ wins 50.38% of the time in baccarat though that bet is assessed a ‘commission’, most usually 5%. The tie, meanwhile, is a poor bet for the player paying 8-1 for a 9-1 proposition. With the most common number of decks in play (eight) the house edge in baccarat is 1.06% on the banker bet, 1.24% on the player bet, and 14.44% on the tie. Fewer decks offer a marginally smaller house edge.

The downside to baccarat–despite the player friendly numbers of the two primary bets there’s not a lot of strategy involved. You can try to monitor the cards that are dealt but with eight decks that is exceedingly difficult. That means that the ‘basic strategy’ in baccarat is to bet either the ‘Banker’ or the ‘Player’ and hope for the best. Despite this obvious reality there are players that insist that they have tactics or a ‘system’ that gives themselves an advantage over the admittedly minuscule house edge.

A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE

No matter the casino game, they all have a cottage industry of scam artists pitching ‘never lose systems’ and other nonsense hoping to hook a greedy ‘sucker’ that doesn’t understand the math behind gambling. Baccarat is no different. A quick search online produces a number of Baccarat ‘systems’ for sale. One promises a ‘guaranteed $94 win rate’ that will produce ‘$297 per hour’ with two dollar bets. Others make less audacious claims but still maintain that using their system you can produce consistent profits at baccarat with little or no downside risk.

The reality of baccarat is the same as every ‘negative EV’ game. You simply can’t win in the long term. No matter how you structure your bets or whatever other tactic is mandated by a specific ‘system’ there’s no way to overcome even a minuscule house edge. To suggest that it’s possible to a sufficient degree to guarantee profits of $300 per hour is completely absurd. Some systems take the stupidity even further suggesting that the secret to consistent baccarat profits is to keep track of which cards have been dealt. In fact, this isn’t limited to scam artists–many baccarat tables offer ‘scoreboards’ that keep track of which cards have been dealt in recent hands. The premise is that if the ‘bank’ wins a number of hands in a row that it means the ‘player’ is ‘due’ to win a few hands in return. It is a 50/50 game after all, isn’t it?

THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY AND LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS

Simply put, the cards that have appeared in the previous 10, 100 or 1000 hands just don’t matter. It’s identical to how the last 10,100 or 1000 numbers spun on a roulette wheel don’t matter. The outcomes in baccarat are completely random just as the outcomes in roulette are completely random. Players that insist that it’s possible to track numbers that occur to find situations in which their opposite is ‘due’ are oblivious to two important mathematical concepts that apply to every form of gambling.

The first is the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’. This is the belief that random events in the past can influence random events in the future. For example, some slot players believe that if a machine hasn’t paid a jackpot in a period of time that it is ‘due’. Clueless roulette players believe that if a disproportionate number of ‘even’ numbers have appeared in the short term that odd numbers are ‘due’. This isn’t the case. Dice, cards and slot reels don’t have a memory and previous events–or for that matter subsequent events–simply don’t matter.

The second concept is the ‘Law of Large Numbers’. Misinformed gamblers believe that outcomes ‘even out’ in the short term in accordance with the odds of the game. The best way to illustrate this is a coin flip which is a 50/50 proposition. If you flip a coin and get ‘heads’ nine times in a row what is the probability that you’ll get ‘tails’ on the tenth flip? If you said ‘50%’ go to the head of the class. The ‘Law of Large Numbers’ works with the ‘Gamblers’s Fallacy’ to produce completely misinformed bettors.

So if a coin flip is a 50/50 proposition how do you explain getting heads nine times in a row? Isn’t that contradictory? Not in the least. That’s where the ‘Law of Large Numbers’ comes into play. This law stipulates that any event will get closer to its theoretical value with more repetitions. In other words, anything can happen in the short term–including 9 heads in a row–but that over the long term which might be in the millions of flips the actual observed percentages will begin to resemble the theoretical percentages.

The mistake that some gamblers make is thinking that a correction is due in the short term. If ‘heads’ appears nine times it doesn’t mean that at some point in the next hour, next few days or next month that ‘tails’ will appear nine times in a row to ‘even things out’. In the long term the percentages are correct but in the short term just about anything can happen.