Card counting is applicable to baccarat and can potentially reduce the house edge for the two main wagers by a fraction of a percent. However, you need very liberal shuffle points and deep enough penetration for this to happen.
Thorp’s system, for example, produced negligible results during the above-mentioned simulation where the dealer inserted the cut card 14 cards from the shoe’s end. The chances of this happening in the real world are zilch as baccarat dealers are generally instructed to place the cut card at least one deck from either end of the shoe.
While gaining a minuscule advantage over the house through counting is theoretically possible, baccarat players will almost never witness the counts that can yield it. Counting cards in this game is impractical, laborious, and largely ineffective as multiple experts (Shackleford and Jacobson included) have confirmed.
1. Rare Yet Negligible Edges Combine with Crushing Variance
As Thorp bluntly puts it, baccarat generally is not a favorable game from the perspective of the player. Advantageous situations arise once in a blue moon, not to mention players face enormous variance as they must risk huge amounts to compensate for this rarity of occurrence. At the same time, risk exposure is massively disproportionate to one’s expected value which amounts to meager cents at best.
2. Player and Banker Are a Coin Toss
Furthermore, baccarat is a game of almost perfect symmetry where the winning chances of the Player and Banker are concerned. The two main wagers are pretty much a coin toss, with the Banker side having a negligible edge over the Player. No cards benefit either side massively as is the case of blackjack.
3. Counters Must Overcome Higher Initial House Edges
Baccarat players must overcome greater initial house edges which further adds to the impracticality, ineffectiveness, and futility of counting this game. The Player and Banker give the casino advantages of 1.24% and 1.06%, respectively, for a combined house edge of 1.15%.
By contrast, blackjack games with liberal playing conditions can produce house edges of less than half a percent. The low edge percentage combined with the greater effect of card removal makes it easier to profit from card counting in blackjack.
4. Baccarat Plays by Fixed Rules
The house rules for drawing cards to the Player and Banker hands are fixed which further destroys the efficiency of counting cards in this game. There is almost no decision-making here since players must only determine which side to back and how much to bet.
This is not the case in blackjack where you can choose from several moves, based on the strength of your hand and the current shoe composition.