Baccarat Superstitions Revealed
Mindless Antics Or Magic Misunderstood?
Perhaps no game in the casino is more universally misunderstood than baccarat. While the concept - bet on whether Player or Banker is closest to nine - is exceedingly simple, the superstitions behind game play that are consistent among the hardcore players each have a meaning and create tension. Even published baccarat books, let alone what you might read all over the net, pass these superstitions off as mindless antics encouraged to slow down game play. This, coupled most recently with an economic crisis that has brought minimums down to non-Chinese gambler levels, has resulted in a lot of stupidity on the part of the baccarat newbies and visible annoyance from vets. Myself? I learned these things the hard way after years of embarrassment at the tables, hours of watching, a Mandarin speaking friend, and two English speaking Chinese whales that really showed me the ropes because they thought I was good luck.
This guide assumes you already know your way around the game and the general etiquette of a midi or big table where you're allowed to touch the cards. If not, we've got you covered. My intention here is to tell you what the typical baccarat-playing introvert never will.
There are several universal superstitions including bending, blowing on, and ripping the cards, as well as tapping a drink glass or an ashtray with a pen. I'll be focusing on why cards are bent and blown on as these are the most commonly misunderstood practices.
If you dare to step into a high limit salon or have spent more than 30 seconds in a Macau casino, you've already seen it - the player bends a card up slowly taking a peek, puts it back down, turns it 90 degrees, and then bends it up again slowly to take yet another peek. Before turning this card over, he instead repeats this process with the next card he receives. You might be wondering how someone can possibly be so superstitious that they actually peek twice, believing that the card's value can change on the second glance. In reality, these players don't precisely know the value of the cards they just peeked at. Allow me to explain.
In bending, what baccarat players are actually looking for are "sides" - the number of suits on the edges of the card. For example, cards valued six, seven, and eight have two suits along the shorter edge, three suits along the longer edge. When the cards are dealt face down, the player takes them and precisely places his thumbs underneath so that the numerical value is blocked. Then, he begins to slowly bend the card up to reveal not the actual number (remember again, that the thumbs are blocking the numerical value), but the number of suits on each edge being careful not to see whether there are any suits in the center of the card.
Let's conjure up one of my typical Vegas weekends to help us understand better...