Baccarat Superstitions Revealed

Mindless Antics Or Magic Misunderstood?

Posted by MikeE

Baccarat Superstitions

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...




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Comments & Discussion:

I'm dying to know what the clinking of the glasses thing is all about... is the banker supposed to kiss the player?

I thought you did it when you wanted the third card to be a picture. Something about scaring away the spirits before they can ruin your hand.

i'M going to start doing this when i play 3 card poker just to see the reaction.

seriously? I get the whole superstition thing because i'm a craps player - don't say 7, same dice, etc., but i don't understand creating artificial tension when you can just flip over the damn cards to see what you have.

Great article Mike, and much needed for understanding the superstitions of baccarat. I have to say after playing, the superstitions at a bac table even at low levels makes craps superstitions seem basic.

This is awesome. Thanks for sharing it. You've definitely captured a side of the game that most researchers don't.

Interesting article. This bending and blowing drove me nuts at the MGM Macau but now that you have explained the purpose of the bending and the superstitions it is a lot more understandable.

This feature is fantastic. I've been visiting Las Vegas for the past 13 years and still haven't worked up the nerve to play Baccarat, in large part because I've observed and haven't been able to figure out what the gamblers were doing with their cards. I'm really planning on playing on my next trip, but I have a few questions.

Would I be frowned upon for not practicing the superstitions? Do I need to learn these before I play so I can look like a veteran player? And, finally, where would you suggest playing: Bellagio, Wynn, or Encore? I've had many a drink in the Baccarat Bar at Bellagio and the gambling going on in the next room has always seemed kind of mystical.

Thanks again for the great article.

FetaGoat, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I might write another feature in the future with some of these pointers in more detail, but here's my advice for now...

You would not be frowned upon in the least if you didn't do the superstitions, but like a good blackjack dealer that teases you with a slow turn of the next card when you've doubled down on 11, other players appreciate creating intensity when appropriate. And no, you don't need to do these things to look like a vet, especially at the $100 levels where casual players are most common.

Between the three that you ask, I'd try a midi or big table at Encore to break into the game. The action won't be as crazy high and it won't be as crowded. Nevertheless, do try to play with one or two players even if they're super quiet - baccarat alone is not nearly as fun in my opinion. Encore also has a good number of "reasonable" (relatively speaking) $100 minimums for the level of casino, too.

Bellagio's a good room with lots of minimum betters, but they seem to be the only casino where I consistently see entire big tables packed, even on weeknights. A little intimidating for a first timer.

Avoid Wynn as a first timer. Lots of players, huge bets (even if the minimums have become much more reasonable), easy to offend others. That said, once you get your feet wet, you'll by far walk out with more stories from there than anywhere.

I don't know your level of play, but you can occasionally find $50 midi baccarat at MGM's Mansion and even $25 midi in TI's high limit room. That's the cheapest touch-and-tear the cards game in the city.

MikeE,

Thanks so much. I really appreciate all your advice, and I'm definitely pumped to make my next trip to Vegas. Encore baccarat, here I come.

Very nice, Mike!

Great article Mike

Question on the etiquette of who gets to do the bending. Going back to your example, why did the dealer slide the cards over to you and not Watanabe or (the ghost of) Packer who may have wanted to do the bending also?
If offered is it bad form to refuse?