This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Baccarat is the hottest table game on the planet. People love gambling at this game; it has a very low house edge and you get to squeeze the cards and make the game even more exciting. It’s pretty easy to perfect a basic squeeze so here are a few tips that will have the beginner squeezing like a pro in no time.
Squeezing the cards in baccarat makes the game one of the most exciting to play. The ability to squeeze the cards has been one of the major reasons the game has increased in popularity so much. The game is now not only the most common table game played in Macau but is undoubtedly the world’s most popular amongst high rollers.
Squeezing the cards in baccarat doesn’t change the cards or have any impact over what cards come out of the shoe. The person squeezing the cards, to the uninitiated, might look like they are in control of the game. In reality they are only opening the cards for their selected bet (the banker or player) and they have no control over how many cards they draw. The person who has the biggest bet on the player and the banker has the right to squeeze the cards or nominate someone else to open the cards. Only one person, however, is ever allowed to touch the cards for the player and only one for the banker. Many things in this world revolve around following customs and traditions, especially in the gaming world, where perfecting a good squeeze will show your understanding of the game.
The squeezer, who is commonly referred to as the ‘driver’, usually carries the hopes of the table on their back. Each bet, most players tend to bet on the same side (banker or player) as the table will come to a consensus on the prevailing pattern. However, this is not always the case as sometimes two different players will go head to head and try to out-squeeze each other.
There are many different techniques and styles when it comes to squeezing and every experienced driver has their own special style and techniques. Today we are going to teach you some of the very basic squeeze techniques so that you can practise and become a champion driver yourself.
The aim of the squeeze
When you are squeezing the cards your aim is to slowly reveal the value of the playing card. You want to prolong the excitement and tension by only revealing small sections of the card at any one time. The cards in baccarat are never used again so you don’t have to worry about damaging the cards. You should never purposely rip or destroy the card but twisting, turning and bending the cards is all part of the game.
The first thing you should try to do when it comes to squeezing is to practise putting both thumbs under the top corners of a card. What you are doing here is covering up the index of the card (the number in the corner that tells you the value of the card). You are going to rely on counting the pips on the card (the spade, heart, diamond or club symbols) to determine the value of the card.
Where to start
There are many different ways to squeeze but the following is the most simple and effective method for players learning the art of squeezing. A playing card is rectangular – you want to turn the card so that the short edge or the end of the card is facing you. You will be looking at the long side of the card later but will learn more from the top of the card first (you’ll find that most players tend to squeeze this way). Playing card pip patterns around the edges of cards are symmetrical so there is no difference which end you start at.
When squeezing always do things slowly. Not so slowly that people at the table are getting impatient, but not too fast either as you don’t want to ruin your excitement by revealing too much information at the start of the squeezing process.
Put both of your thumbs on the corner of the card. You need to cover up the index in the corner, so don’t be shy; make sure you get the whole pad of your thumb in the corner of the card. Now slowly start pulling the card upwards which will start revealing what is printed on the top of the card.
What to look for
If you see a black line or the start of a picture (commonly referred to as ‘paint’) then you know you have a J, Q or K. This means that the value of the card is 0. This is not necessarily a bad thing on your first card because if you find a nine on your second card then you obviously have the very best hand.
Once you have seen paint there is no point wasting any more time on that card as you know the value. Some players will turn a picture card straight over on the table whereas others tend to just leave it to the side and start to work on the second card.
If you squeeze a third of the card and you haven’t seen anything then you know you have an Ace and you know that the value of that card is 1. J, Q, K and the A are the easiest cards to squeeze as they expose themselves very quickly. You will find that the rest of the numbers are far more exciting but far more complicated to squeeze.
If you don’t have an J, Q, K or A then you will see one of two things. You will either see one pip right in the middle of the top of the card (which is referred to as a ‘point’), or a pair of pips at the top of the card (which is referred to as ‘legs’ or ‘having legs’).
If you have a point then you have a 2 or a 3. If you have legs then you have a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10. As you can see, ‘having legs’ is the most likely scenario as 7 out of the 9 possibilities fall into this category.
If you have a point then the squeeze process is a very simple one. If you have a two then there will be no pip in the middle of the card. If you have a three then there will be three pips evenly spaced down the middle of the card. So simply continue lifting the card upwards and if a pip appears half way down then you have a three, if the card is blank then you have a two.
When this squeeze becomes really important is when the first card you see is a 7. In this case a 2 will give you a natural 9 (and a hand that can’t lose) but a 3 will give you baccarat the worst of all starts and a comparative disaster.
If your second card has a point, the perfect first card to have had is a 6 as you are now guaranteed a natural. The only question is whether it is the extremely good natural 8 the invincible natural 9.
This is where the art of squeezing really gets interesting. As soon as you identify that you have legs then you need to turn the card around and work on the long side of the card. This will give you more information on what card you have.
Again make sure you have a firm hold of the corners of the cards and repeat the same process. There are three possible scenarios here that you will find. You can either find what is known as ‘two sides’ (two pips), or ‘three sides’ (three pips) or lastly ‘four sides’ (four pips). Now let’s have a look at what these three different scenarios mean and how to play them.
If you see two sides you know that you have a four or a five. Now you turn the card back to the top of the card again as this is the best way to come at it. A four has two pips down each side of the card. A five has the same four pips but has an extra pip right in the middle.
What you do is continue to peel the card up to find out if there is a pip in the middle. At this point it is the same process you would go through to see if you had a two or a three if you originally had found a ‘point’ instead of ‘legs’.
An interesting scenario is when you get two cards both with two sides. This means that you have a 75 percent chance of hitting a natural (44, 45 or 54) but a 25 percent chance of getting baccarat (an unlucky 55).
Getting a three-sided card is the most interesting of all the possible cards. In turn, however, it is the most complicated to squeeze. If you see any three-sided card you know that you have a 6, 7 or an 8. The six has two rows of three pips. The seven is the same but has an extra pip in the middle, in between the central two pips and one of the pairs of ‘legs’. The eight is the same, but has an extra two pips in the middle of the card, in between the central pair of pips and both sets of ‘legs’ (see the picture).
Again the first thing you should do is turn the card around again and come at it from the top. If you squeeze one-third of the card and you don’t see any pip in the middle then you know you have a 6 or a 7. If you see a pip then you know you have a 7 or an 8.
Now you need to turn the card around and squeeze down from the other end. This is what sets three-sided cards apart from all the other cards as you need to come at it from both ends if you want to squeeze it properly. There are four possibilities:
You saw a pip at the first end
…and now you see a pip: you have a 8
…and now you don’t see a pip: you have a 7
You didn’t see a pip at the first end
…and now you see a pip: you have a 7
…and now you don’t see a pip: you have a 6
It sounds a little confusing but once you understand the process you will learn all the pip patterns on all the cards very quickly and this whole process will become second nature.
Three-sided cards are common and very entertaining to squeeze. The best first card to work with a three-sided card is an Ace as you will be guaranteed a total of seven at the very worst and you have a two-thirds chance of hitting a natural 8 or 9.
A four-sided card means that you have a 9 or 10. Having two four-sided cards is like having two two-sided cards in that you have a 75 percent chance of hitting a natural and a 25 percent chance of getting the dreaded baccarat.
Again the method here is to turn the card around and come at it from the top. Both the 9 and the 10 have two rows of four pips. The difference is the 9 has one extra pip right in the middle of the card, whereas the 10 has two extra pips, each extra pip in the centre of the two ‘sets’ of four pips at each end of the card (again, see the picture).
If you are looking for 9 then you need to squeeze down and pray that you don’t find an extra pip a third of the way down the card, in the middle of the set of four pips. If you don’t, you will see one in the very middle of the card and you have hit the magical 9.
When your first card is a lowly picture (or maybe you squeezed a 10 first) and then you find your second card has four sides, it is a particularly dramatic squeeze. This means that you have a 50 percent chance of drawing a natural 9 (the absolute nut hand) or a 50 percent chance of drawing a baccarat (the very worst hand). This is a classic showdown and one that will see you either laughing or crying over a single pip. You desperately don’t want to see that pip a third of the way down the card and this situation will often see players blowing at the card with all their might trying to blow the pip away!
Some other useful tips
You will see that players often squeeze their cards together, moving from one card to the next and back again as the two cards work together to make one total. Going back and forth between the cards, slowly revealing more information about each card is a pretty simple technique and one that you will be able to do once you get a little more comfortable with your basic squeeze.
Remember too, that many players feel that there are no good or bad first cards. There are only good and bad hands which are made from two cards. No matter what your first card is, you can still hit that magical natural nine and still have a decent chance of getting a strong hand.
There are a few things you can do to practise your newly learned techniques. Find a game with no one playing on it and you will get to squeeze every hand by yourself with no one looking over your shoulder. This way you can learn the techniques without the pressure of an audience (known in casinos as a ‘gallery’).
The other thing you can do is to buy a couple of decks of playing cards and practise in the comfort of your own home or hotel room. You will find it won’t take you long to get the hang of it and you’ll impress your friends in no time.
As soon as you master the basics you’ll really start to enjoy and understand the game of baccarat a lot more. You will know what everyone is talking about at the table and be able to tell the strength of another person’s hand from the way they are squeezing the cards. This will help you know quickly if you are in a strong or weak position.
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