The tie bet in baccarat is something that has always been a bone of contention. Is it a good bet or is it a bad bet?
Some would argue that any winning bet is a good one. You could go further and say that any winning bet paying 8 to 1 is spectacular! This is not a silly premise. If intuition tells you the next hand will be a tie and you get lucky, that’s a great reward for following your instincts. The fact that winning tie bets are paid at 8 to 1 is exactly why they seem so attractive.
But it is also worth looking at the tie bet from a mathematical perspective. Every experienced gambler knows that baccarat’s banker and player bets are two of the best bets in the casino. This means the odds are stacked in your favor compared to most other table games.
Banker is actually a slightly better bet than player, winning 45.84% of hands and allowing a tiny 1.06% house edge compared to player’s 44.62% win percentage and 1.23% house edge.
So does the tie bet offer similarly good value? Unfortunately not. In fact, even if you were to get odds of 9 to 1 you would still be better off mathematically putting your money on banker or player instead.
This is because, despite paying out at 8 to 1, the tie bet will only come in 9.54% of the time – worse than 10 to 1. With the house enjoying a hefty 14.36% edge, suddenly that 8 to 1 pay for the tie doesn’t look so enticing!
This is not to say that you can’t bet the tie from time to time. For recreational players in particular it’s a great way to add a bit of fun and excitement to your session – and who knows? Sit down at the right time and you might just happen upon a sequence of winning tie bets. As you know, luck is all about timing!
If you’re there for a good time and simply enjoy trying to predict when the tie is going to fall, then who are we to stop you? Just be aware that if you get into the habit of betting on the tie over a long period of time it is going to get very expensive, very soon.
There is one situation, however, where the tie bet offers strategic significance. In baccarat tournaments, the very last hand of the shoe is both dramatic and crucial. It is probably more important than all the preceding hands put together! The correct last-hand strategy for almost every possible set of circumstances involves a tie bet. In the cutthroat situation of playing a one-hand tiebreak playoff – baccarat’s equivalent of a penalty shootout in football – a tie bet with no bet on banker or player can be a sneaky and effective way to gain a big edge over your opponent.
We’ll explore baccarat tournaments in greater depth in a future issue of WGM.