Baccarat vs. Blackjack – Which Is the Better Game?

Blackjack Vs Baccarat Blue Background

Today’s modern casino floors have all kinds of new ways to get in on the action. New table games, new slot machines, poker, sports betting, keno, bingo, and the list goes on and on. To put it lightly, there are nearly endless ways for a casino to take your action.

And while the new games can be a lot of fun, for me, the best games are the classics. There is a reason that every casino on the planet has games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and craps. And that is because these are the games that have been played for ages, and even after all the years, they are still the most popular games in the casino.

Today, we are going to take a look at a couple of those classic real money games as we compare blackjack vs baccarat in what is essentially a heavyweight title fight when it comes to the battle for the title of the best casino game of all time.

First:
Let’s take a look at each game individually, and then we will pit the two gaming juggernauts against each other to decide once and for all which game is better? Baccarat vs blackjack! Let’s get started!

What Is Blackjack?

Blackjack is a card game where players square off against the dealer, trying to get closer to 21 without going over. The game starts with the player getting two cards face-up, and the dealer getting two cards, one face-up, and the other face-down. The player then has the option to hit or stand based on the strength of their two cards.

  • If the player goes over 21, they automatically lose. If they stand prior to going over 21, the dealer will then play their hand based on a predetermined set of rules.
  • If the dealer goes over 21, or busts, the player automatically wins. If the dealer gets to 17 or higher, they will draw no additional cards, and whichever hand is closer to 21 wins.
What’s In A Name?
Let’s take a look at each game individually, and then we will pit the two gaming juggernauts against each other to decide once and for all which game is better? Baccarat vs blackjack! Let’s get started!

One thing that I love about blackjack is that the game is named after the best hand that you can get. A blackjack is an automatic winner, where the player is dealt an ace and a face card to start.

Not only do players automatically win their bet, but they also get paid out in odds rather than even money. Depending on where you are playing, you are going to get either 3-2 or 6-5 on a blackjack.

Unlike other games like Pai Gow Poker or Craps, where a Pai Gow is the worst hand that you can get, and nobody is ever trying to Crap out on a dice roll, blackjack is all about going for the best hand possible.

In reality, the name of the game doesn’t make any difference in how it is played, but for me, I am all about positive vibes when I am gambling, and the fact that everyone wants a blackjack, and the game is literally called blackjack, helps keep me in the right mindset to beat the casino and win some cash!

We aren’t going to go too deep into blackjack strategy, as there are plenty of resources available out there that can help you improve your blackjack game.

Please Note:
But the key distinction here that separates blackjack from some of the other popular casino games, is that the player’s decisions have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the hand. If you play better strategy, you are going to win more often. Now let’s take a look at baccarat.

What Is Baccarat?

Baccarat is another casino card game that, to the untrained eye, might appear to be very similar to blackjack. Players have three options to bet on a baccarat table. They can bet on the player, the banker, or the tie. After making their wagers, the dealer then deals two cards to both the player and the house or banker.

All of these cards are dealt face-up:
Outside of high limit rooms, most roulette wheels will have a 00 slot as well, and we have even started to see wheels with a 000 slot! The dealer will spin the wheel in one direction and then spin a little white ball in the other direction.

While you might see the player or the banker draw an additional card, those cards are dealt according to a set of predetermined rules, not because the player requested them. There are no actual decisions to make for the player outside of where they place their bet.

  • In blackjack, the winner is the hand that gets closest to 21 without going over.
  • In baccarat, the game is decided by which hand gets closer to 9, and there is no such thing as going over!

To calculate the score of a hand in baccarat, you add up both cards. Aces through nines are counted at their face value, and tens and face cards count for zero.

If a hand is a three and a four, that hand adds up to seven:
Outside of high limit rooms, most roulette wheels will have a 00 slot as well, and we have even started to see wheels with a 000 slot! The dealer will spin the wheel in one direction and then spin a little white ball in the other direction.

If a player has a nine and a seven, which adds up to sixteen, the one drops off, and the hand is counted as a six. While that might seem a bit confusing at first, you will get the hang of it after just a couple of hands, and remember, we already mentioned that you can’t go over nine on a baccarat hand!

Please Note:
Once all hands are dealt, and all draws are taken by both the player hand and the banker hand, the bets on the hand closest to nine wins. If the hand’s tie, all bets on the player and banker push and are refunded, and any bets on the tie are paid out in odds of 8-1.

While you might think that the player is rooting for the player hand and that the house is rooting for the banker hand, that isn’t always the case, as players are allowed to bet on either hand.

We have all heard the term the house always wins, and while that is certainly true, in baccarat, you can bet on the banker hand, and if it wins, you win too!

There are several different variations of baccarat available, but on a traditional bac table, a bet on the player hand pays even money, and a bet on the banker hand pays even money minus a 5% commission. That slight difference in payouts is based on the card drawing rules that favor the banker hand.

Similarities Between The Two

Visually, baccarat and blackjack appear to be very similar games as they both involve a player and a dealer getting two cards to start and then potentially drawing additional cards to help improve their holdings.

But when you dig a little deeper to truly compare blackjack vs baccarat, that is about it when it comes to similarities. I guess you could also say that both games are played with cards and chips and a dealer, but we could say the same thing about just every table game in a casino, so I won’t get to that level of superficial comparison.

At the end of the day, these games may appear to be similar, but they are very different.

Differences Between The Two

There are lots of differences between baccarat and blackjack, but to me, the biggest difference is that in baccarat, players don’t make any decisions whatsoever that could affect the outcome of the hand.

The only decision a player can make is whether they want to play the player hand, the banker hand, or the tie. After that, they are just watching the outcome to see how it unfolds. In blackjack, the player can choose to hit, stand, or maybe even surrender based on their hand, the dealer’s hand, and the other exposed cards on the table.

Decisions like splitting pairs, doubling down, or surrendering are major decisions that can greatly change how the hand plays out. That makes these games completely opposite, as in one game, you just watch, and in the other, you are in complete control of what happens with your hand.

Do Decisions Make Blackjack The Better Game?

Now that we have established that being able to make decisions is what truly separates these games when comparing baccarat vs blackjack, the real question is, does that make blackjack the better game?

For the informed and skilled blackjack player?
Absolutely it does. But for a player that doesn’t understand or use basic strategy, being able to decide what they do with their hand can actually work against them! We have all seen the player that splits tens against an ace on a blackjack table or hits their 14 when the dealer is showing a bust card like a six, and those poor decisions significantly increase the house advantage on the game.

Being able to choose your own destiny makes players feel like they have a bigger edge, but for the vast majority of casual players, it actually hurts them in the long run.

Baccarat vs Blackjack – Which Game Is Better?

As with most things, the answer here falls somewhere in the middle. When you look at the theoretical hold for these games, both games are very good gambles with small house advantages. But there is always going to be a delta between the theo hold and the actual hold, and with blackjack, depending on the skill of the player, that delta can be massive!


Not all blackjack games are the same. Some pay 3-2 on blackjack, whereas others pay 6-5. Some tables allow you to double down on any two cards and others only allow you to double down on only ten or eleven. Can you split aces just once or up to four times?

There are lots of different rules that make a difference on what the house advantage of a blackjack game might be. Casual players usually don’t fully understand how these minor changes can make a big difference in the hold, and that is where the casino tricks you into playing a bad game.

Please Note:
The theo hold on a BJ game with optimal rule sets and played at perfect strategy, is about 1%, the best of any game in the casino. But when you sit at a table that has rules in place that favor the house and the player doesn’t play perfect strategy, we see the actual hold on blackjack swell into double digits.

Many of the lower limit blackjack tables that you will play at are holding well above the theo hold and holds of 12-15% are very common. When you look at the math involved here, you can easily argue that those decisions that blackjack players love, make blackjack a game that they aren’t going to win at in the long run.

Baccarat Is Better!

While baccarat might be a little boring at times, as all you do is watch as the hand plays out, the fact that they take away the ability to make decisions on your hand, actually gives you a much better gamble, as you can’t mess things up!

Nobody is sitting at a blackjack table and trying to mess things up, but that is absolutely what happens more times than not. Blackjack might be more fun, but that doesn’t mean it is the better game. When you are playing baccarat, the house essentially protects you from yourself, as they don’t allow you to jump in and change the house advantage by playing poorly. That inability to play baccarat “better” or “worse” keeps the actual hold very close to the theo hold on a baccarat table.

A standard baccarat game is going to hold less than 2% and when you compare that to a BJ game that will easily hold double digits, these games aren’t close in terms of giving players a chance to win money.

And for me:
That is why I can confidently say that when comparing baccarat vs blackjack, that baccarat is the far superior game!

Conclusion

Now that we have come to our determination that baccarat is the better game, based on the fact that it offers the player a much better bang for their buck in terms of house advantage and hold, you might be looking for ways to play the game online!

If that is the case, you are in luck, as we here at TheSportsGeek have scoured the internet for the best deals at the top online casinos.

If you check out our play baccarat online casino page, you are going to find offers exclusive to TheSportsGeek readers. Click on the link, make your first deposit, and start winning now! Thanks for reading and good luck playing baccarat on your next trip to the casino!

Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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