With a house edge of just over one per cent, online baccarat offers great value compared to most other table games. But are there any tricks or techniques we can employ to dint the casino advantage even further?
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Here, we will discuss the ins and outs of baccarat strategy and explain the popular side bets available at our top-ranked online casinos. We only recommend real money gambling sites that are fully licensed and secure, so you will be in safe hands with any of the leading operators listed above. If you prefer mobile play, check out our guide to the best baccarat apps.
What is the best baccarat strategy?
There are a few different variants of baccarat, and sometimes they do require a bit of skill. One such game is chemin de fer, as played by James Bond is classic films such as Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Goldeneye.
However, the vast majority of online baccarat games stick to the common punto banco rules found at land-based casinos in Australia, North America, Macau and much of Europe. Unlike chemin de fer or baccarat banque, punters have no control over how the hand plays out; you bet on the player, the banker, or the tie, and they you pray that the cards fall your way.
As such, punto banco baccarat requires no specific skills or tactics. You don’t have to memorise basic strategy like in blackjack, or read set plays off a cheat sheet like in video poker. Whatever bet you take, the house edge is always fixed and there is nothing you can do that will improve or worsen your chances of success.
Well, almost nothing. There is one golden rule for minimising the house edge in baccarat: never take the tie bet. In a standard eight-deck baccarat game, the tie wager favours the dealer by 14.36 per cent. That’s more than 11 times worse than either the banker bet (1.06%) or the player bet (1.24%).
So, just stick to the player and banker wagers. That’s all the strategic advice you need to get the most out of the baccarat tables.
Online baccarat side bets
We often get asked about the value of side bets in baccarat. In particular, a lot of folks are curious as to whether combining a player/banker stake with a high-paying bonus bet can improve one’s chances of coming out on top in the long run.
No, is our unequivocal response. While the big payout odds on these optional wagers are very tempting and can add a bit of spice to your baccarat session, there is absolutely no value for money there.
The numbers tell the story better than our mere words ever could. Take a look at these popular baccarat sidebets and their respective house edges, and you will see that they can turn one of the best-value online casino games into one of the worst.
Dragon Bonus and Tiger Bonus
- Maximum payout – 30 to 1
- Player house edge – 2.65%
- Banker house edge – 9.37%
The Dragon/Tiger Bonus bets are very common in Macau-style mini baccarat games. Both Dragon (player) and Tiger (banker) pay up to 30 to 1 depending on the exact result of your standard bet. For example: if you take the Dragon Bonus and the player wins by eight points, you get a 10 to 1 payout over and above your initial bet. The larger the winning margin, the higher the return.
It sounds good when you put it like that, but the potential reward doesn’t the match the actual probability of success. This is partly because naturals don’t qualify for bonus wins. Those who like to bet on the banker should be especially wary, as the Tiger Bonus side wager ramps the house edge up from 1.06 per cent to 9.37 per cent.
- Standard payout – 25 to 1
- House edge – 13.03%
Variations of the Perfect Pairs bet can be found in many table games, including real money blackjack. Like the Dragon Bonus wager, it is widely available in live dealer casinos and many digital online baccarat releases.
Here, the side stake pays up when the player or the banker draws a suited pair on the initial deal. For example: if you wager on a matched player pair and the deal turns up two Kings of Clubs, you win the bet. Despite a seemingly attractive bonus payout of 25 to 1, however, the Perfect Pairs side bet is one of the very worst baccarat wagers going around.
Player Pair and Banker Pair
- Standard payout – 11 to 1
- House edge – 10.36%
These are rather self-explanatory. Much like the Perfect Pair, you wager on either the player or the banker to draw two cards of the same rank on the initial deal. However, matched suits are not essential – so a Banker Pair featuring Seven of Clubs and Seven of Hearts would do just fine.
This bet is available on most Microgaming live dealer baccarat tables, where it pays 11 to 1. It is an absolute stinker in single-deck punto banco, as the vastly reduced number of winning combinations pumps the casino edge up to 29.41 per cent.
- Standard payout – 5 to 1
- House edge – 13.71%
This is similar to the Player Pair and Banker Pair bets, except you don’t have to specify which hand will score the pair. For instance, the side bet would pay if either hand drew a Deuce of Diamonds and a Deuce of Hearts on the first deal.
Naturally, the more liberal conditions of the Either Pair wager means it pays a considerably less (5 to 1) than when you bet on matched pairs. Due to this big payout reduction, Either Pair is actually even worse value than the Perfect Pair bet.
Big and Small
Big side bet
- Standard payout – 0.54 to 1
- House edge – 4.35%
Small side bet
- Standard payout – 1.5 to 1
- House edge – 5.27%
Also available at Microgaming live casinos, the Big and Small side bets ask you to predict whether or not there will be more than four cards dealt in total during a hand. If the player and banker finish on two cards each, Small wins; but if either or both take a third card, the Big bet wins.
Tips for playing real money baccarat online
- Avoid the tie
It’s a sucker bet and will bleed you dry if you take it with any regularity whatsoever. Steer well clear.
- Stick with the banker
Even with the five per cent commission on all wins, the banco bet is clearly the best option on the table. It wins more frequently than punto and returns more cash in the long run.
- Ignore the side bets
Like the tie, these exist purely to take advantage of casual punters who don’t know or care about the odds. If you want bigger wins, use the money you would waste on a side bet and add it to your standard wager instead.