Beating Baccarat – Winning Systems & Strategies

Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games, remaining virtually unchanged over the past four centuries. It’s a game that gives off an air of elegance. Baccarat’s cousin chemin-de-fer is the favorite game of James Bond.

Certain parts of the gambling world are more in thrall with baccarat (or punto banco, or chemin-de-fer) than others. Macau is the modern baccarat hotspot – what Las Vegas is to poker, Macau is to baccarat. By the same token, you won’t find a huge baccarat audience in Atlantic City or anywhere else in America, really. The game is still really popular in parts of Europe, but it’s catching on in Asia (with Macau as the flashpoint) faster than anywhere else in the world.

Baccarat is a card game, but don’t confuse it too much with blackjack. Blackjack offers a lot of opportunities for strategy – it’s a mathematician’s game that can be managed through the use of basic strategy. Baccarat depends more heavily on luck – in some cases entirely on luck – to produce winnings. If you find yourself reading a baccarat betting strategy that advertises altering your bets to get an edge, you’re being lied to.

Below are a few real tips and tricks for winning at baccarat. If you follow the advice below, you’ll be a better baccarat player, regardless of where in the world you choose to try your hand at “the royal game.”

Place the Right Wagers
Honestly, there’s only one wager in baccarat that I consider worth your time. I can give you all the baccarat wagering tips you need in just two statements:

Never bet on “tie.”
Always bet on “banker.”
The house edge on banker wagers in baccarat is just 1.06%. That’s better odds than even the best craps bet. That’s the kind of odds you can only get in blackjack with perfect strategy and a little bit of luck in terms of liberal rules. If you stick ONLY to the banker bet, the casino has a slim advantage. Sure, they’ll eventually win all your cash, but at least with this wager it’ll take them a bit longer.

The tie bet is a classic sucker bet – it pays out at 8 to 1, but actually gives the house an edge of more than 14%. If the tie bet paid out at 14 to 1, we might be having a totally different conversation. Unfortunately, the gap between true odds and payout odds is too great. If you ever place a “tie” bet and I’m nearby, you’ll probably get offered a free beverage and then have to listen to a mini-lecture on your wicked ways.

What about side bets? I’m never a fan of side wagers, and the ones available on some baccarat games are no exception. The most popular is called the “Dragon Bonus,” which pays off if your bet wins by four points or more or if you win with a natural 9. It pays out as a 1:1 bonus but must be triggered with a $1 side wager. The house edge for the Dragon Bonus is about 6%, which makes it a definite no-go in my opinion. All other baccarat side wagers offer either equivalent or worse odds. They’re sucker bets to be avoided.

Look for Small-Shoe Games
Most baccarat games use an eight-deck shoe – that means the game is played with eight decks of cards. Small-shoe games, popular everywhere you find a real game of baccarat, use a shoe of just six decks. Rumors abound about an Atlantic City game that occasionally uses a half-shoe (four decks), but I can’t confirm that.

Here’s a tip – if you find a baccarat game with a reduced shoe, play it. I don’t care how many decks are in it, if it’s fewer than eight. Every deck removed from the game affects your likelihood of winning by a tiny percentage. Though short-shoe games aren’t all that much better odds-wise than full games, every little bit helps.

Manage Your Money (and Quit While You’re Ahead)
Managing your money means establishing a unit bet size, sticking to win and loss limits, and (above all) gambling for entertainment rather than income. When you establish your budget, your bet size, and other facets of your bankroll management program, you should be fully prepared to lose the cash you’ve set aside for your baccarat play. If you think of that money as the casino’s, which you exchange for entertainment a little bit at a time, you’ll be surprised with how differently you feel about your losses at the table.

Another major aspect of bankroll management is quitting while ahead – if you manage to get ahead, that is. Bets on player and banker give the house a 1.06% and a 1.24% edge respectively, which is small, but significant enough that it will eventually drain your bankroll. If you’re foolish and bet on tie, you’re staring down a 14.36% casino advantage, which will make your money the casino’s money at an even faster rate than usual. If you find yourself up $100, and you’re happy with that, walk away and finish the day a winner.

Conclusion
Though baccarat doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity the world over as it does in parts of Asia and Europe, it’s still a classic casino game, popular enough to be available in online versions at any worthwhile Web-based casino site. Baccarat has a rich history, a flavor of nobility, and a couple of decent wagers in the form of “banker” and “player” wagers.

Provided you don’t fall for any outlandish wagering systems, or place the “tie” bet pretty much ever, you should have a good long session of baccarat for your investment. Just make sure to manage your finances appropriately. Nothing ruins a good time like an empty wallet.

2018 NFL Draft: Who Will Be Number 1?

The National Football League’s 83rd annual rookie draft will take place on April 26-28, 2018 (8 PM ET) at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It will be the first draft to be held in the state of Texas and the first draft to be held in an NFL stadium.

Browns Picking First
The Cleveland Browns own five of the top 64 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, including the #1 overall pick and the 4th pick, which they acquired in a previous trade with the Texans.

Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the Browns have started 28 different quarterbacks. That’s more than one per year if you bother to count. The recently-acquired Tyrod Taylor will be the 29th, and he’s likely not the future franchise quarterback but merely a bridge to that guy.

The #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft will most probably give the Browns that franchise quarterback and they have four (or five) top QB options to choose from. With the 4th pick, the Browns are expected to draft a non-play caller.

The Oddsmakers’ Choice
According to the bookmakers, these are the top 7 possible #1 picks for the Cleveland Browns.

Sam Darnold -250
Sam Darnold’s dazzling display at the USC ProDay last month probably clinched for him the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold refused to move his throwing session because of rain, and he shined in front of a Browns contingent that included owner Jimmy Haslam.

The USC Trojan doesn’t have the rifle arm of Dan Marino, but he has the uncanny ability to put the ball in a position where his receivers have a realistic chance of making a catch. Among the QBs in the draft, he may be the most physically gifted and tough to put down in the pocket.

Josh Allen +175
If it’s not Sam Darnold, it’s got to be Josh Allen. The Browns have to use the #1 pick for a quarterback. The Browns like Allen’s size, speed, escapability, and arm strength. But coaches around the league are concerned about his 56.2% pass completion because the success record for QBs with a college completion percentage of below 58% isn’t great in the NFL.

There are several factors in that 56.2%, like Allen’s evolving footwork or his lack of supporting cast in Wyoming. Regardless, we’ve seen him shorten his stride since working with Jordan Palmer, and with enough time, his completion percentage can be the exception to the rule.

Saquon Barkley +500
Saquon Barkley is firmly in the mix for top pick conversation after killing it in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. At 6 feet tall and 233 pounds, Barkley proved to be the most explosive “big” running back in the last 18 years of the Combine.

With the speed of an elite receiver and the strength of an elite lineman, Barkley is simply a jaw-dropping NFL prospect. In three seasons at Penn State, he rushed for close to 4,000 yards and scored 51 touchdowns from scrimmage, 1 from passing, and 2 on kickoff returns.

Josh Rosen +1000
Just because his name isn’t often linked to the Browns in the national media coverage doesn’t mean the Browns aren’t considering making Josh Rosen the top overall pick for this year’s draft.

Rosen’s size is better than Darnold, yet it’s funny how they say he is undersized and Darnold is the prototype. When he threw in the Combine, his deep balls were better than Josh Allen’s. The UCLA QB’s pocket presence is better than that of the other top QB prospects, so having said all these, there’s a chance – although just slight – that the Browns may pick him at #1.

Baker Mayfield +2000
Media and experts say that it’s a toss between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, but Browns’ GM John Dorsey said last month that it’s still a toss-up between the top 4 QBs, meaning Darnold, Allen, Rosen, and Baker Mayfield.

Dorsey also added that Mayfield had a “really good” workout with the Browns. Since the Senior Ball in January, Dorsey has praised Mayfield’s character and passion for football. Sure, he may be a longshot, but given that he has that “face of the franchise” personality, who knows?

Bradley Chubb +3300
Adding Bradley Chubb to a defensive line that already has Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah would be nasty, and Garrett is already hoping that the three of them can wreak havoc around the NFL.

Browns’ GM John Dorsey has been high on him since the Combine, but because they need a QB more than a defensive end, Cleveland would probably take him with their 4th pick, if he’s still on the board.

Minkah Fitzpatrick +6600
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has been included in this conversation because of his versatility. Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson acknowledged that Fitzpatrick can indeed play both cornerback and free safety.

He hasn’t worked out with the Browns yet, but Jackson assured that if the Browns end up picking him, the Browns have the right spot for him in the organization.

Looking Ahead to the 2018 NFL Season
While the Browns are expected to add at least two key players for their future, the immediate future says that the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are going to be the top 2 teams in the upcoming season. Or at least that’s what the odds are saying.

New England is currently the favorite at +500. Sure, they lost to the Eagles the last time around, but with Tom Brady not yet retiring, the Patriots are still going to be a very dangerous team. But then, of course, if coach Bill Belichick decides to hang up his sweater, it may be a different story.

Super Bowl LII winners Philadelphia Eagles are next at +900, and rightfully so. They won the Super Bowl without their starting QB, and that speaks about the talent on this team. If Carson Wentz can return back to his old form, the sky is likely the limit for the defending champions.

The Green Bay Packers, L.A. Rams, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are tied with the next best odds at +1000. With Aaron Rodgers set to return, the Packers should contend. The Rams have the top scoring offense in the NFL, while the Steelers have a winning percentage of .696 over the past three seasons.

How Will the Smoking Ban Affect New Orleans Casinos?

The city of New Orleans implemented a full ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces in April of 2014.

The purpose of the law was to extend existing statewide smoking bans within the city limits. The new law means it is illegal to smoke within five feet of everything from public parks to colleges and even the city’s jails and prisons.

The use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers is also considered smoking. So that’s banned too.

How do the operators of gambling venues in New Orleans feel about it?

They’re upset.

The Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling in Louisiana, predicted that the state could lose $104 million in tax revenue and fees from the implementation of this ban. That number came from the Gaming Enforcement Commission’s notes on a study done on smoking bans in Atlantic City and Delaware gaming properties.

That study, which you can read as a PDF file here, accurately predicted a 12% decrease in revenue for the state of Delaware after a smoking ban in gambling halls in that state. Another arm of that study predicted a huge decrease of 20% in Atlantic City’s profits across a two-year period after a smoking ban in South Jersey, though that prediction hasn’t been tested yet.

Their argument is simple enough. As the New Orleans advocate puts it, “[Casinos, restaurants, and bars] argue that tourists come to New Orleans because they like to gamble and drink. The city is one of the last to allow smoking in some public places.” To take that away will change people’s attitude about New Orleans.

How many will simply decide not to come back?

What have they done about it?

Opponents of the ban have been active.

First, Harrah’s tried to delay the ban, claiming they needed more time to help their employees and customers adjust to the new rules. New Orleans City Council saw through that smokescreen (pun totally intended), shaming Harrah’s for trying to amend city law to benefit their own interests. For their part, Harrah’s is currently involving New Orleans in a difficult and costly lease renegotiation which has to be seen as an attempt at revenge on the part of the casino.

What Harrah’s did next was brilliant. Before the ban went into effect, the property made a huge show of becoming “the first smoke-free casino in Louisiana.” At midnight two days before the ban went into effect, they ceremonially removed ashtrays, handed out lollipops for frustrated smokers, and made a big to-do of their early adoption.

It was a brilliant move because they were planning a counter-attack the entire time.

Next, Harrah’s joined forces with many other local businesses affected by the ban and filed a lawsuit in civil court to strike it down. This action was more effective. It included several large local businesses (including Pat O Brien’s, Broussard’s, and several other New Orleans landmarks) and focused on the potential loss of revenue facing the city.

The hearing was scheduled for May 21. That lease negotiation Harrah’s is forcing on the city? It could cost New Orleans anywhere from $4 – $30 million dollars, which Harrah’s says is the cost of forcing the smoking ban on their successful gaming enterprise.

Who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban?

I’m cynical, but not too cynical. This might smarmy, too.

I’m okay with that.

Here’s who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban:

The people who visit bars, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces all benefit.

We know secondhand smoke is dangerous. The American Cancer Society says secondhand smoke kills 42,000 people a year. It’s bad and you probably agree that it should be banned, unless you’re a libertarian or anarchist or something.

But beyond that – people these days don’t like to go places where smoking takes place. Times have changed – gone are the days when going home from your waitressing job smelling like a cigarette was no big deal because everybody smoked. These days, fewer people smoke, and the ones who don’t simply don’t want to be around it.

City Council Member Latoya Cantrell, who sponsored the law and has been vocal about her support for it, points out that secondhand smoke exposure costs the state millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs. That’s another angle to consider. It might be fiscally irresponsible to continue to allow smoking in public, at least according to the ban’s proponents.

So what’s going to happen?

Harrah’s is trying to put its money where its mouth is, threatening to shrink its state-mandated work force from 2,400 to 1,500. They’ve got legislation under consideration which would allow them to do just that.

With pressure on the city council from judges more than ready to rule in favor of existing liberties, it’s not totally clear that the city will be able to maintain the ban as it exists now.

Bartenders and business owners continue to make the same point – you’ll read it in this article from VICE and in this from the Guardian. What is going to happen when neighboring businesses get sick of the smokers pouring out of bars, casinos, and restaurants every few minutes? That seems to be the real threat to shop owners concerned about their customers getting up and leaving to satisfy their nicotine habit.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that the ban is here to stay. I can’t find a single example of a city getting rid of a smoking ban once it’s been put in place. It just doesn’t happen. As for how the city will be affected, I’d predict that Harrah’s is going to continue making a stink until they earn an exemption from the New Orleans City Council.

That means the city will rule in favor of the civil rights of customers at a single business. That will be a weird day, indeed.