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Baccarat for the not-so-high roller

Sep 23, 2003 3:36 AM

Baccarat is an exotic casino game, the game of choice for James Bond, and an expensive proposition for those who want to swim with the whales. Right? Not necessarily!

Even with a small bankroll you can play the great game of baccarat. Las Vegas is the best place to play baccarat and you can find a lot of low-minimum-bet games; $5 minimums are easy to find. You can also find casinos that charge 4 percent commission instead of the usual 5 percent. These are the kinds of games the small bankroll player should be looking for.

It is also best to find a game with only two or three other players. Weekday play is best. Your strategy will be to hit’em and run; you will bet selectively. That is, you will not be making a bet until a good opportunity comes along. Unlike blackjack, where you must make a wager on every hand, in baccarat it is not uncommon to sit out a few hands from time to time. However, in crowded conditions with players waiting for seats, the casino may press you to bet, particularly when sitting out for several successive decisions.

Begin play at the start of a new shoe, unless the shoe in play is a good one either or both player and bank wins are frequently long (four or more consecutive decisions). Then, get in and follow the decision patterns. If you decide to jump in, make sure you can view or share the scorecard with one of the other players. Normally a winning player will be happy to show you his or her card.

But let’s assume you start play at the beginning of the shoe. An average shoe will contain 80 decisions, seven of which will be ties. There will be at least 20 good opportunities in the shoe. These are the ones that will make you the most money. Your stop/loss will be $50 (quit if you lose half your stake of $100) and your win goals are $25, $50, $75, $100 and so on. You will quit before you fall back below any win goal achieved; for example, having won $75, quit before losing back $25 of your $75 profit.

Your strategy will be to bet only when a favorable opportunity occurs according to your analysis of the existing trends and patterns as the game plays out. These opportunities will be winning streaks of four or more straight decisions, and any repetitive patterns that you identify. At the start of the shoe, do not bet; wait until you get a feel for how the game is going. This may take several or more decisions. Be patient. Always keep a scorecard of the outcomes.

Incidentally, many casinos will continue to deal a few hands even if no player is betting. This is a very important advantage for the player. Make the most out of it if you are the only one at the table and you do not want to bet. Simply tell the dealer no bet and ask him or her to deal a few hands. This can be a big money-saver.

Study your scorecard. Look for patterns, especially those occurring with ties. These are more prevalent when there are a lot more than the usual seven-tie decisions. Remember tie bet wins pay 8-to-1. The pattern to watch for is multiple tie decisions with only a few (1 to 4) decisions between them. Ties occur in bunches. Bet $1 on the first attempt and as you win raise your bets to $2, $4 and so on.

Make your first bet when an opportunity occurs. Use a few basic bet progressions to size your bets. These are a series of bets two or three or four bets in length, expressed in units. For example, the three-bet bet progression 2-1-2 means three consecutive bets; the first two units, followed by a bet of one unit, and the third bet of two units. If you win all three bets, you will have won five units.

Each unit can be any dollar amount. For our purposes, each unit is $5. So the previous series was $10-$5-$10. When you win the first bet in any series, go ahead with the next and so on; but you must stop the series if you lose any bet within the series and start over with the same series or select another one. I suggest the following bet progressions: 2-1; 1-3; 1-2-1; 2-1-2; 2-1-2-4. If you are successful and when you reach a profit of $100, you can consider increasing the unit value to $10.

That’s it. You do not have to be a high roller to play mini-baccarat. A small stake will do just fine with a carefully formulated plan and enough practice to perfect it.