Understanding the ‘Don’ts’ of Baccarat Table Games

Baccarat has become an important casino game as its popularity has spread far beyond just Asian players. But it can be a complicated game to protect, so watch your procedures.

Understanding the ‘Don’ts’ of Baccarat Table Games

In the last year, several jurisdictions have granted casinos the ability to expand the different types of casino games they are allowed to offer to their customers. One of the game types is the popular higher limit game of baccarat. Baccarat and its “third card draw” procedure is a natural favor of most Asian players. Many Asian customers explicitly like baccarat due to the basic simplicity of the game decisions and the fact that the card makeup of the shoe is not disrupted by player hand decisions or by players entering and exiting the game. The Asian customers believes that once the cards are shuffled, cut, placed into the shoe, and the first cards burnt, their “fate” is locked in the shoe, and it is up to fate to determine whether they will win or lose. Because a majority of baccarat customers are Asian, management needs to cater more towards their culture and their cultural superstitions.

Since baccarat is new to these various regions, I believe it is important that I provide a list of “don’ts” regarding procedures of the game. This short list of things one shouldn’t doing is basically the very tip of the “don’t” issues. However, these are the more important “don’ts”, and they need to be mentioned, especially for management and regulators in these new regions.

Following is the list of “don’ts” that are the most important regarding the casino game of baccarat:

1. Don’t burn a card when the dealer draws by mistake

If the dealer makes a card drawing mistake, “don’t” arbitrarily decide to burn cards out of play. To many of the Asian customers, you are changing the flow of the cards in the shoe which alters their gambling “fate” or luck. Most customers will refuse to play until they have seen several additional hand decisions and feel that they have reacquired the outcome pattern for that shoe. Some will react to this “change of fate” by leaving the game or quitting play entirely.

What to Do: In order to keep the sequence of cards intact for the superstitious customer, save the exposed card and use it on the next round as a dummy hand (no wagers). Using the dummy or free hand, the shoe stays intact, and the customers stay happy. No harm, no foul.

2. Don’t employ a complicated manual shuffling sequence

Don’t use a complicated manual shuffling procedure that takes time. Baccarat is not blackjack, and is not subject to shuffle tracking like blackjack. Combining card washes and multi-pass shuffles only slows down the game and reduces the number of decisions per hour. Keep the shuffle quick and simple.

What to Do: I strongly recommend that management opt to place MD shuffling machines on every baccarat table. The additional money earned by increasing hourly decisions more than pays for the cost of leasing the shuffling machine. The shuffler will also increase your game protection level, eliminating the possibility of false shuffling and slug sequencing. You could consider manufacturer pre-shuffled playing cards, but I strongly recommend also putting the pre-shuffles through a shuffling machine prior to placing them into the dealing shoe.

3.  Don’t deal a squeeze format game without using an intelligent dealing shoe

I strongly recommend that the use of an intelligent dealing shoe on a “squeeze” format game (customers handle the playing cards) is mandatory. The only business reason to offer a baccarat squeeze game is for attracting high-limit players. Since the squeeze format is highly susceptible to card switching, any organization that offers a squeeze format without using an Intelligent dealing shoe is asking for trouble. Big trouble.

What to Do: Not only does management need to use an Intelligent shoe, but they also need to strongly consider using manufacturer pre-shuffled playing cards. Standard baccarat procedure dictates that playing cards used on a squeeze format game “must” be retired after each shoe. Even if the playing cards were not “manhandled” and could be used for another shoe, “just say no”! Playing cards that have been touched by the customers, are playing cards that can be marked. Using pre-shuffled cards significantly speeds up the process for changing cards and will increase decisions per hour.

4. Don’t use the “ribbon spread” procedure for determining shuffle point indicator card insertion

The “ribbon spread” is a fairly old procedure for determining the point in the shuffled decks in which to insert the plastic shuffle point card. The procedure is used to place the shuffle point card exactly between the 14th and 15th card from the back of the shoe. The intention is to guarantee the maximum number of hand decisions will be dealt from the freshly shuffled baccarat shoe. The problem with this procedure is that advantage players have been attacking baccarat for several decades using the exact card placement as an avenue for last hand location play. I strongly recommend that the “ribbon spread” procedure by placed into retirement permanently.

What to Do: Simply have the dealer insert the plastic shuffle point card about 15 to 20 cards from the end of the deck. Using this procedure, you eliminate the possibility of a dangerous location play and still guarantee 75 to 80 decisions per 8-deck shoe.

5. Don’t give free/dummy hands away for “free”

Higher limit players are allowed to request “free/dummy” hands during the shoe if they are uncertain about the win/loss patterns being tracked using a paper score card or the table’s electronic scoreboard. Free hands are considered a “courtesy”, but “don’t” give them away to every customer requesting them. Free hands involve the dealing of a round without a wager being placed. The more free hands that are dealt the less decisions the table generates per hour.

What to Do: Establish a procedure for allowing the use of free hands. Offer them only on higher limit games and then place a restriction on the number of free hands per shoe. Make baccarat customers “pay” for the privilege, and the best way to make them pay is by making them bet at a higher average level. Important point: Do not allow hosts or marketing to override any of your baccarat procedures. Any changes must be approved by executive management.

6. Don’t use a continual shuffling machine (CSM) on baccarat

The simple answer to this is “don’t”! I explained why you never burn a card after a dealer draw mistake. The same reasoning applies to using a CSM to shuffle the cards. A continuous shuffling machine should never get near the baccarat tables. just say “No”!

What to Do: As stated in a previous paragraph, I strongly recommend using an MD shuffling machine on all baccarat games regardless the table limit. MD shuffling machines increase hourly hand decisions and reduce game protection concerns.

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 billzender.com.