When you walk around any Las Vegas casino, you’ll find two table games that never seem to stop running — blackjack and baccarat. Monthly house “hold” metrics posted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board confirm this too, as blackjack and baccarat both routinely top all other table games combined.
But while the two classic card games have much in common—two-card starting hands, randomly drawn extra cards, and even money payouts on the base bet—many blackjack players can’t stand baccarat, and vice versa. Below, you’ll find 11 reasons why blackjack might just be the superior game before deciding to see it for yourself.
1 – Skill and Strategy Always Beat Blind Luck
The main difference between blackjack and baccarat couldn’t be more apparent. Skill and strategy reign supreme in the former, while random chance and blind luck rule the latter.
While the two-card starting hand is dealt out randomly in blackjack, players are afforded an opportunity to actually decide what to do with those cards. The ability to stand on strong hands, hit on weaker totals to try and improve, split paired cards to form two separate hands, and double your wager in favorable positions is what makes real money blackjack such a special game.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer having some semblance of control over the eventual outcome of my bets. If I wanted random chance to decide things for me, I’d simply play slots or roulette instead.
2 – Seriously, Learning Basic Strategy Is the Best
Decisions, decisions… blackjack is all about the player’s decision-making skills. And the Holy Grail that guides that decision-making process in blackjack is known as basic strategy.
You’ve probably heard the tried and true maxim to “always split aces and eights,” and sure enough, these plays correspond perfectly with basic strategy. The whole concept boils down to assessing the potential strength of the dealer’s hand based on their single exposed “up card,” then comparing that to your own two-card holding.
For every conceivable up card vs. starting hand scenario, the basic strategy charts show you the most mathematically profitable decision from a probability perspective.
If you’ve never studied blackjack’s basic strategy guidelines, do yourself a favor and pull one up right here and now. Then, fire up a free blackjack game online and put that knowledge into practice.
Suddenly, you’re no longer guessing or going with your gut, you’re playing the ultimate skill-based table game the way it’s meant to be played.
3 – The House Edge Is Cut in Half
One of the perks attached to basic strategy knowledge is that playing perfectly cuts the house’s inherent edge down to right around 0.50%.
For perspective, bad blackjack players who fly blind face a much steeper statistical climb against a house edge of 1.50% (or even higher depending on just how bad the player really is). In essence, knowing basic strategy down cold makes blackjack three times more beatable over the long run.
As for baccarat, the house edge stands at 1.06% on the banker bet and 1.24% for the player bet. So, right off the bat, blackjack is the better game from a player’s perspective.
More importantly, while blackjack players can get better and carve the house’s edge down to that 0.50% rate, baccarat players are stuck with what they get.
4 – Beating the Dealer Together as a Table Is a Thrill
One of my favorite experiences in all of gambling goes a little something like this…
The table is packed with players and everyone gets their cards. Some players have great hands, others hold trash, but the dealer is showing something like a 6 up. Everybody acts on their hand, nobody goes bust because the dealer is so weak, and the drama ratchets up.
We’re all waiting to see the dealer show a high card, preferably a 10-value for a 16 total. When they do, the anticipation peaks just as they turn over that fateful third card after a forced hit. Anything five or lower helps the dealer, but any card ranked six or higher sends them straight to bust town.
Then, there it is—BOOM! The dealer rolls over a face card, and the whole table celebrates their collective win together while collecting their hard earned payouts.
Admittedly, this sense of camaraderie can’t match a crowded craps table when the shooter gets hot. Nonetheless, a table-wide win in blackjack offers a sense of solidarity that simply doesn’t exist when you’re playing baccarat.
5 – Getting Premium Payout for a Natural Blackjack
It’s all about the Benjamins on the casino floor. But when you nail a $100 winner in baccarat, the most you can win on the player bet is $100.
Even worse, thanks to the banker hand’s slight inherent advantage over the player hand, winning banker bets only bring back $95 after you pay the 5% “commission” fee.
Blackjack, on the other hand, has no commission fees at all. In fact, when you nail a blackjack (any ace + any 10-value) on the deal, you can turn that $100 into $150 courtesy of premium 3:2 payout odds. And even if you’re stuck on a 6:5 payout table, hitting blackjack is good for $120 in profit on a $100 wager.
More money on winners means blackjack is the winner in this debate.
6 – The Lucky Ladies Side Bet Is a Bona Fide Classic
Speaking of more money, how do 1,000 to 1 payout odds sound?
Every blackjack table has a little space emblazoned with the words “Lucky Ladies” near the main betting area. This side bet isn’t very good in terms of house edge (a whopping 17.64%), so use it sparingly to preserve your bankroll.
But if you’re feeling lucky, the Lucky Ladies longshot pays out quite handsomely on any dealt 20:
- Queen of Hearts + Queen of Hearts vs. Dealer blackjack = 1,000 to 1
- Queen of Hearts + Queen of Hearts = 200 to 1
- Matched 20 (10 of hearts + 10 hearts, Jack of spades + Jack of spades, etc.) = 25 to 1
- Suited 20 = 10 to 1
- Unsuited 20 = 4 to 1
7 – Counting Cards Makes You Feel Like a Pro Gambler
The introduction of six- and eight-deck shoes has practically made counting cards obsolete, so we’ll leave this one short and sweet.
When you can find a single- or double-deck game (check Downtown Las Vegas or off-Strip joints), trying to track the exposed cards to gain an advantage is always fun to try. Don’t make it obvious or you might get 86’d, but doing your best “Rain Man” impression is always a fun time.
8 – Stacking Up Silver Half-Dollars Is Straight Out of Sin City
Most casual players start out betting $5 chips in blackjack, and in the rare 3:2 games still running, landing blackjack is good for a $7.50 payout.
But because casinos don’t like dabbling in chips under $1, they historically top your $7 in chips off with a shiny silver half-dollar coin. Every blackjack player worth their salt covets these coins, so find a casino that still uses this system and start your collection.
9 – Doubling Down Lets You Punish the House
Aside from the collective table win when the dealer goes bust, the next best thing in blackjack involves doubling down.
The rules vary depending on the game, but in its classic form, a double down can happen when a player is dealt a 10 or 11 total.
From there, they simply add another chip (or chips) alongside their ante bet to double the wager, then the dealer delivers a single card.
Perfect strangers will pat you on the back in congratulations when you nail a face or an ace to make 21. And even the dealer will flash a smile (be sure to toss them a buck or two for a tip though).
10 – No Bent Cards = No Waiting for Fresh Decks
In any other card game spread by a casino, bending the cards is a big “no-no” that could get you banned from the premises.
In baccarat, however, tradition permits high-stakes players to “squeeze” the decisive third card by slowly bending it up from the felt. Squeezing can leave cards mangled and unreadable, so baccarat dealers are armed with plenty of replacement decks.
Swapping the decks takes time though, and every second wasted on this process is nothing but lost time.
11 – Actually Playing a Game Is Better Than Flipping Coins
On a final note, this debate really comes down to one question — do you want to play or watch?
Blackjack players have to think on their feet, applying basic strategy and factoring in variables like exposed cards and players acting behind them. Baccarat players don’t do anything but place a bet, watch the dealer put out the cards, and wait to see which hands win.
That’s nothing more than a coin flipping contest using cards instead, and one where you don’t even have 50/50 odds at that.
I’ll take the thinking player’s game over mindless nonsense any day of the week.
Blackjack and baccarat are both so popular because they appeal to different types of players. Players who prefer baccarat over blackjack hit the casino for pure, unbridled gambling on a game of chance.
Conversely, blackjack aficionados tend to be more conservative, craving an element of control over the proceedings. I’ll play either game when the mood strikes, but in a desert island scenario, I’m surely bringing blackjack with me to pass the time.
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