Card Counting Threats In Baccarat: What’s to Detect?

While traditional card counting measures won’t work on regular baccarat games, table game expert Bill Zender there are still methods that may be effective. Here’s how to combat them.

Card Counting Threats In Baccarat: What’s to Detect?

First and foremost, please let me make this as clear as can be, traditional card counting cannot be used to beat the main game of baccarat.  There are two casino games that are known as “deck depletion” card games, and those are blackjack and baccarat.  Blackjack can be counted successfully by a player who has the required skills and access to a sizeable bankroll.  The main game of baccarat cannot be counted successfully regardless of the skill level or bankroll possessed by the customer.  However, this is not always the case with the baccarat game’s side bets.

Presently, there are several table game providers who have an arsenal of baccarat side bets that can be placed onto the baccarat layout to provide the casino with a gambling alternative in addition to the main game.  Some providers offer only a couple of side bet options while others have figured out a way to cram several side bets adjacent to the customary Player/Banker/Tie wagering boxes.

Now the true game protection question becomes, “Can the advantage player successfully attack any of my side bets, and if so, how do I defend myself?”  With better than a dozen common side bets available to casino executives in North America, the first issue addressed is which of these side bets can be counted and attacked successfully, and the second is how would my floor staff and surveillance team identify and confirm such situations?

Based on information found on Dr. Eliot Jacobson’s “advanced advantage play” website, I have identified two baccarat side bets that are the most vulnerable to card counting.  The wise casino and surveillance professional need to be aware of these threats and monitor any larger wagering activity on the side bets.  From personal experience I know that baccarat side bet card counting is a low threat compared to card counting attacks on the primary game of blackjack, but the issues still need to be understood and the possibility anticipated.  These following two baccarat side bets need to be the focus of your game protection awareness.

Three-card banker winning ‘7’ that pays 40 to 1

This side bet is leased under several names by several different providers.  The original version, known as Dragon 7, was created by DEQ and was one of two EZ Baccarat side bet options, the other being Panda 8.  It wasn’t long before other providers developed their own variation of the Dragon 7, and these side bets go by the names Fortune 7, Sun 7 and Tiger 7. All have the same rules and pay table.  A bet placed on this side bet option pays 40 to 1 with any 3-card winning Banker hand of “7.”  All other results are losers.  The side bet is subject to a mathematical house advantage of 7.6 percent and is very popular with both Asian and non-Asian customers.

Based on research conducted by Dr. Eliot Jacobson, the Dragon 7 format can be counted profitably.  Eliot realized that the elimination of card values of 8 & 9 during the dealing of the game reduces the chances of natural hands and enhances the possibility for three-card draws to the Banker hand.  This situation then increases the possibility of a three-card winning Banker hand of seven.  Subsequently, the removal of 8 or 9 results in a count value of “+2”, and to maintain an overall balanced count system, the removal of a 4, 5, 6, or 7 are subject to a value of “-1”.  Eliot determined that any point where the true count of these values equals a +4 count or greater, the side bet be would profitable.  He also estimated that the advantage player has an expected value return (EV) of approximately 60 percent of the average amount wagered for each shoe counted.  If an advantage player wagered $100 each time the Dragon 7 was profitable, the AP would expect an average return of $60 per shoe.

Based on this information, it is not difficult to see that the Dragon 7 side bet is open for attack.  The Panda 8 side bet can also be counted profitably but at a much lesser EV return.  An advantage player attacking the EZ Baccarat game has the option of counting the Dragon 7 side bet, the Panda 8 side bet, or using a mixed count system, attacking them both at the same time.  Even though there are three counting attack options in EZ Baccarat, the most profitable counting attack would need to include Dragon 7.  This is the side bet option that the game protection professional needs to focus their attention.  If one believes their Baccarat game’s side bets are being counted, one only needs to run a parallel count on any Dragon 7 type side bet and determine if the suspected customer is in fact receiving side bet information from the count of the cards drawn.

My suggestion to casino clients is that the primary focus needs to be placed on watching the three-card Banker winning “7” side bet, regardless of the name used.  If they observe a customer (or team of customers) wagering on the “7” side bet (1) late in the shoe, (2) at or near the side bet’s maximum limit, and (3) while making minimal or no wagers on the main Baccarat game, they need to run a parallel count on the game (or past games) to see if there is a count correlation.

Eliot has a very interesting article on his website that details the principles behind the Card Counting The Dragon/Fortune 7 Baccarat Side Bet. Here

Three-card and two-card combinations of 7-7 tie hands

I just recently stumbled upon another equally if not more so dangerous side bet in baccarat.  One of my clients has the Blazing 7s side bet embedded into the Baccarat multiple side bet option known as the “5 Treasures.” The Blazing 7s side bet wins if the drawn Player/Banker hands result in a tie hand of two two-card totals of 7-7, or two three-card totals of 7-7.  If the winning hands are created by two two-card hands the winning wager is paid 50 to 1 while the two three-card hands are paid at 200 to 1.  The expected mathematical house advantage of this side bet is 7.8 percent.

Several years ago, Jacobson released the information on the Baccarat Blazing 7’s side bet (not to be confused with a blackjack side bet of the same name).  Eliot shows that the vulnerability of this side bet lies in the draw removal of several key card values. However, the side bet is extremely advantageous when the baccarat shoe holds a high distribution of sevens.  The count system used to attack (or defend) this side bet is more complicated but still quite useable.  The plus/minus values for the different ranks of cards are as follows:

Please note that the strongest card value that influences the running count is the “7.”  If anytime during the dealing of the eight-deck shoe there is a surplus of 7’s remaining, the side bet is generally profitable for the advantage player.

The same counting attack indicators of the three-card Banker winning side bet mentioned previously, apply to the Blazing 7’s side bet as well.  Strong wagering on the Blazing 7’s side bet (1) late in the shoe, (2) at or near the side bet’s maximum limit, and (3) while making minimal or no wagers on the main baccarat game.  Running a parallel count using the above plus/minus card values the protection individual can determine if the person is using drawn card information to make their bets.  Note: The Blazing 7 format is also used with another Baccarat side bet known as the “Supreme 7’s.”

I have created a count tracking spreadsheet in Excel that can be used to parallel count either side bet.  Feel free to contact me and I will provide you with a copy (  Since both count systems utilize a true count of +4 to indicate the side bets are profitable, the only change the game protection professional must make to this spreadsheet is to use the appropriate count values for the side bet in question. (Plus/minus values for both side bet variations are listed previously in this article.)


Just to note, side bet counting attacks in baccarat are not very common, but they are something the wise game protection professional need to know how to detect this occurrence.

Watching customers who make at or close to maximum limit bets towards the end of the eight-deck shoe while wagering minimal on the main game should receive attention.

When a customer’s betting patterns indicate a possible concern, the game protection professional can run a parallel count using the applicable plus/minus values to see if there is a correlation between the count and the side bet wagering.

After running several parallel count charts, and the game protection professional is 100 percent sure that the suspected customer is in fact an advantage player using card counting information to gain a mathematical edge over the casino, appropriate actions can be taken.

Note: Please do not decide to decrease the deck penetration of your baccarat game.  Deeper deck penetration allows the casino to maximize the number of game results which increases the game’s profit potential.  I recommend that the casino take an appropriate action directed at the confirmed advantage playing customer and not on the game itself.

Articles by Author: Bill Zender

As former Nevada Gaming Control Agent, casino operator, professional card counter and casino consultant, Bill Zender has been involved in various areas of gaming and hospitality since 1976. In the past, Zender has instructed courses on game protection, card counting, advantage play and gaming operations at various colleges and institutions throughout the country. As a member of JMJ, Inc., Zender was an owner and operator of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino and has additional operational experience in card room casinos in California and is considered an expert in Asian gaming. Besides his practical gaming experience, Zender holds a bachelors in hotel administration and a masters in business. As a gaming author Zender has penned seven non-fiction books on gaming including Card Counting for the Casino Executive, and the Casino-ology series. Owner/consultant of Bill Zender and Associates, Zender spent was general manager at a major California cardroom casino from 2018-2019. For more information, visit