Arguably no two casino games are more similar to one another than blackjack and baccarat. They have some crucial differences, but they have far more in common than not, and if you enjoy one, there’s really no reason whatsoever why you wouldn’t enjoy the other.
With that said, though, which of the two reigns supreme as the ultimate gambling card game?
It depends on how you look at it.
To get the most basic point out of the way first, in terms of pure popularity, it’s not even close to a contest. Baccarat is a popular “table game” at most casinos, sure, but blackjack is infinitely more popular. It’s arguably the biggest attraction at any casino outside of the slot machines. It’s like Pepsi vs Coke or the Rolling Stones vs the Beatles: sure both are popular, but one is so much more popular than the other that you have to wonder why they’re even compared in the first place.
Still popularity doesn’t always equal “better” and baccarat and blackjack are somewhat more evenly matched in other areas.
This is an odd one. Baccarat is theoretically much more difficult than blackjack, but practically, it’s infinitely easier.
In blackjack, the rules are basically pretty simple: try and make the total value of your hand come closer to 21 than the dealer without going over it. Yes, there’s doubling and splitting, but it’s one of the most intuitive card games out there,
Baccarat, on the other hand, is a headache of weird card values (picture cards are worth nothing?), stranger ways of adding totals (7+7=4?) and the rules of hitting and standing are ludicrously complex that requires a whole chart just to keep track of it.Yes, like blackjack, you need to get closer to a certain number (in this case 9) than the dealer, but how you get there is not so simple.
So, why is baccarat so much easier than blackjack to actually play? Well…
This is the big difference between the two games. In baccarat, you don’t actually have anything to do with the cards, as the dealer plays them for you. Knowing the different rules helps, but you can basically play baccarat without having a clue what you’re doing. All you really need to understand is the betting: you can bet on the dealer, you can bet on the player or you can bet on a tie. Betting on a tie is usually more of a risk than its worth but betting on the player vs the dealer is mostly a toss-up. You can be the most experienced baccarat player on earth or a total novice who doesn’t understand anything about the game, but a bet on the dealer is always a bet on the dealer: all comes down to blind luck.
Blackjack, on the other hand, has some skill involved – not least because in blackjack, the player actually plays the cards they’re dealt. It still comes down to drawing the correct cards, but there is a strategy in knowing when to hit and when to stand. You can theoretically do OK at the blackjack table without understanding these strategies, but you’re all but guaranteed to do much better if you use them properly.
Blackjack might slightly win this one, but only very, very slightly. Both games have among the lowest house edges in the casino and both have similar 1:1 payouts (with blackjack only having the edge because of doubles and splits). Both games have high stakes and low stakes tables and though both can fall prey to irresponsible gambling, you’re much more likely to leave with more money than what you came in with, as opposed to the slot machines.
So, clearly blackjack comes out ahead on just about every level – be it playability, skill and popularity, but in all honesty, this is hardly a showdown between, say, poker and roulette or blackjack and slots – they’re two very similar games that mostly come down to personal preference in terms of which one you want to play. Blackjack is obviously the favorite, but blackjack fans certainly won’t miss it too much if they find themselves at the baccarat table, and vice versa.