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Which Game Is Better: Poker or Baccarat?

Baccarat and poker are two of the best known and most played casino games of them all. Both games can be found in any casino worth its salt and you can find online versions of both, but which of these two beloved card games is better? Can we even define “better” and can we really compare these two games?

Yes, yes we can. And poker is better. On many, many levels. Though it probably depends on what you’re looking for. 

Before we get into why that is, a quick refresher of what the two games are and how they’re played.


The Basics

Though both games revolve around placing bets on hands of cards, they’re actually wildly different games. The following table will show just how much they differ and the one or two things they have in common:


Aspect Poker Baccarat
Object of the game To create certain sets with your hand and, in some versions, the cards on the table. These include pairs, triples, two pairs, straights and flushes.  For one hand to come closer to totalling 9 than the other. 
When the betting happens Initial bets are placed after the first round of cards are dealt; betting continues until hands are shown in a showdown or you fold “Blind bets” that are only placed once before any cards are dealt 
What you bet on You bet on whether you think the set in your hand is better than the other players’.  On the dealer’s hand being worth more, on the player’s hand being worth more or a tie.
Skill or chance Chance plays a part but it’s overwhelmingly a game of skill, where you try to psych out your opponents by “reading” them and not having them ‘read” you.  Pure chance
Who plays who  Players play against one another Players play against the dealer
Where can you play it At poker tournaments, with friends or colleagues, or at a casino. Primarily casinos or on live online games
Ease of Play Easy to get into but hard to master. Is about a lot more than just cards. A learning curve to understand how the scoring works, how the totals are worked out and when more cards are dealt. If you know this, as well as the odds, you’re basically a baccarat master.
Similarity of online and real world games You can play video poker games that pit you against the computer, but this has virtually nothing in common with playing poker with real people. Live poker games are available where you play against others, but without being in the same room as other players, you lose 90% of the skill required. There are video game versions of baccarat where you play against the machine, but it’s based on a random number generator, so you’re basically playing an online slot machine with baccarat trappings. Live baccarat games are available and they’re basically identical to playing in person.


Person playing poker

Why Poker Reigns Supreme

There are many reasons why poker is a better game than baccarat. There certainly are some instances when you might rather go for baccarat, but on most levels, the experience of playing proper poker (as in, not against a machine) obliterates the experience of playing baccarat. 


These include:


  • Poker is a game that involves actual skill rather than just blind luck. 
  • In poker you actually play the cards you are dealt, rather than just betting on gameplay handled entirely by a dealer.  
  • Betting is based on strategy and is an intrinsic part of the actual gameplay. In baccarat you place your bets, basically at random, and hope for the best. 
  • Baccarat tables can be social spaces, but they have nothing on actually playing a game with other players.  
  • There’s a whole psychological aspect to poker that is absolutely not there with baccarat. Maintaining a poker face, reading other players and bluffing are essential aspects to poker.  
  • Poker is much better suited to playing at home with friends. You can do so with baccarat too, but it would make for a very boring evening. 
  • Poker has a greater variety of hands you can play, whereas baccarat is just about totalling up the cards in a hand.  
  • You can win quite  a bit more money playing poker and whether you win or not is much more in your hands than in the crapshoot that is baccarat. 


Instances Where You Would Go for Baccarat

Poker is undoubtedly a much more enjoyable game and you have a greater chance to win some serious money on it. That said, baccarat has definite advantages over poker for specific kinds of players and for specific situations. In particular, poker is simply a much more challenging game that may not be to everyone’s tastes. Baccarat makes for a simple, unchallenging night out at a casino that you can pick up and play without getting too involved. 

Also, unless you play friendly games with friends, poker can get very expensive, very quickly and if you play against players who are better than you at it, you may well get cleaned out before you even know what hits you. Many poker players take the game very, very seriously and unless you’re one of those players, you need to be very, very careful that you’re not caught in a game with them. 

Also, though you can get into serious trouble at the baccarat table in terms of gambling irresponsibly by playing with more money that you budgeted for or, worse, for more than you can afford, but it’s nowhere near as risky as high-stakes poker, where you can literally lose your house on a bad bet. Responsible gambling practices are crucial in all gambling games, but you need to be especially careful if you play poker on any sort of professional or high-stakes level.

But what’s especially great about poker is that it is a game that can so easily be played in friendly, low stakes games with friends, family, colleagues or even a regular poker group.

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