Baccarat Superstitions Revealed

Mindless Antics Or Magic Misunderstood?

Posted by MikeE

I'm sitting in Encore's Sky Casino with Terrance Watanabe and the ghost of Kerry Packer where we're all betting a few white flags on Banker (chuckling yet?). The croupier slides over a card to me. I first take it length-wise, place my thumbs at precisely the right spot to block the numerical value, and begin to bend upward slowly just enough to reveal two clubs. Then I turn the card 90 degrees and bend upward width-wise in the same fashion. This also reveals two clubs. Using this technique, I'm certain that the card's numerical value is either five if there's a suit in the center or four if there isn't. Not knowing whether there's a suit in the center adds an element of excitement and is the reason why cards are occasionally blown on, as you'll read later.

I keep the card face down as the croupier reveals that the first Player card is an eight. Shit. Since most cards in the shoe are valued ten, the house is very likely to pull a natural 8 - a very strong hand.

I then receive my next card and repeat the same steps, again revealing two suit symbols on each side. Therefore, I don't know what I've got exactly, but the possibilities are 4, 4 (natural 8), 4, 5 (natural 9), or 5, 5 (nothing).

This may all sound confusing, so I've gone ahead and uploaded a short video of how I would receive and play my cards illustrating how I block the number and bend the cards in such a way that only the suits on the edges are revealed. Yes, I'm a hairy one.

Back to the fantasy...

I also keep my second card face down while the croupier reveals his next card - a ten. Natural 8 for the Player. My heart starts pounding.

5, 5? We're out. 4, 4? We tie. 4, 5? That's the kind of win that'll make even the most introverted, old Asian man jump around like a cocky white kid doubling down on a hot $5 blackjack table at Excalibur.

So I finally turn over the first card I received. It's a five. My heart is pounding through my chest. Watanabe and Packer are sweating profusely. We've each got six figures riding on the turn of one last card. I signal to Watanabe that there are two suits on each edge of this last card. His eyes widen. He knows it could be the four that makes him or the five that breaks him. What we don't want is a center symbol on this last card. That'll make for five - a total of ten (or zero) - and a devastating loss.

So I begin blowing on the card. Watanabe stands up and fans his scorecard creating more wind. The superstition? "Blow" away the center symbol; we need a four.

And with an impossibly shaky hand, I turn the card over and my eyes nearly bust out of their sockets. I stab my Mont Blanc pen through the center of the card and twirl it towards the middle of the table to reveal that the center symbol is nowhere to be found. James Bond ain't got nothin' on me. We pulled the four - a total of natural 9 beating the Player hand and winning thousands. The $25 slot player in Salon suite 6206 just below us has no idea what all the commotion he's hearing overhead. Dude, you don't even know the meaning of the word gamble.

And so, that's why baccarat vets bend and blow on the cards. Though it might not be the loudest table on the floor, the next time you see this happening, rest assured that kind of tension can't be found anywhere else in the casino.



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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?

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