Baccarat vs Blackjack – Comparison of Odds, Strategy & Entertainment
Today’s casinos offer more casino games than most of us can imagine. The majority of them are slots, designed to maximize the casino’s profit; packing in a great number of eager players in a small area, lining the walls and aisles with countless machines. While it’s these very slots and other modern gambling amusements that draw the bulk of today’s casino’s crowds, timeless classics like blackjack and baccarat are always on the menu.
Having so much to choose from doesn’t make it easy for today’s novice gamblers. For those who want a traditional experience at the tables, blackjack and baccarat are the top choices. Blackjack is famous for being ‘beatable’ (that’s a misconception worth exploring), while baccarat is considered the choice of aristocrats, nobles, and Ian Fleming’s literary legend, Bond… James Bond.
Perhaps you’re mulling over these two games, wondering which would suit you best. If so, you’ve landed on the right page. We can’t answer the question for you, as every gambler is different. What we will do is give you the knowledge to make the right decision for yourself.
Baccarat vs Blackjack
As similar as these two games may seem, I assure you, they are quite different. They are both played with cards. It could be a single deck of 52, or a shoe of up to 8 decks. Both games consist of hands in which the House Hand competes against a Player Hand. That’s about as far as the similarities go.
The Major Differences in Gameplay
In blackjack, players are in control of their own hand; their own destiny, so to speak. They can make decisions that impact the outcome of the hand – whether to stand or hit, double down or split a pair. These decisions can increase or decrease their odds of winning the bet. The dealer’s hand is decided by following specific house rules.
Baccarat is not played, so much as wagered on. Players have no control over the outcome of either hand. Both the Banker and Player hands are dealt according to house rules. As a bettor, you choose which hand you want to bet on. Or, you can bet that the hands will tie. Whatever you choose, the odds are static, and will not sway in any direction based on any decisions you make.
If we compare blackjack and baccarat to horse racing, blackjack would be more like riding the horse yourself, while betting on your ability to win the race. Baccarat, on the other hand, allows the professionally trained jockey to ride the horse, while you simply bet on which horse will win.
So you must first ask yourself, how much control do you really want? How good are you at riding horses, so to speak?
We could say that blackjack is for the pros, while baccarat is good for amateurs. But there’s more to it than that. Let’s start by examining the odds.
Comparison of Odds
In gambling, odds are defined in a variety of ways. You can look at the odds of a hand winning, compared to all other outcomes. These are what we call probabilities. Or, you can look at the odds of making your money back (profit/loss) by placing a specific bet; what we call payout percentage or return to player (RTP).
Most gamblers like to look at the RTP of a casino game, or a specific bet, because it takes into account the size of the payout, in relation to long-term profits and losses. It’s capable of detailing the true value of any given wager.
For example, the probability of a tie occurring in baccarat is 9.51%, or about 1 in every 10 hands. You wouldn’t place a bet if all you knew about it was that you had a 1 in 10 chance of winning. But what if I told you it pays 8 to 1 (bet $1 to win $8)? Maybe you’d be more interested then, right? Well, you shouldn’t be. When you look at the house edge on this bet, it comes in at a whopping 14.36%, which equates to an RTP of just 85.64%.
That means you can expect to lose 14.36% of all the money you wager on Tie bets over the long term. Or you could say you’ll win back just 85.64% of all the money you bet. Odds like that make the Tie bet in baccarat one of the worst bets any casino has to offer.
Blackjack Odds vs Baccarat Odds
Now that you understand how probabilities and payout percentages work, let’s look at the base-game odds for baccarat and blackjack. This list includes the following information for all basic bets:
Pays: The amount you get paid for winning the bet.
Win%: The probability of this outcome occurring, compared to all other possible outcomes.
Edge: The casino’s house edge, or advantage over the player; the percent of your wagers that the casino expects to win over the long term.
RTP: The theoretical return to player, or payout percentage; the percent of your wagers you can expect to win back in the long term. This figure is the opposite of house edge (100% – Edge = RTP)
Note:There is just one base-game bet in blackjack, whereas baccarat offers three basic wagers (excluding side bets). Also, note that blackjack odds are dependent on the exact rules of each game. The figures below are representative of an average game, and may differ from those at your local or online casino.
0.95 to 1
1 to 1
8 to 1
1 to 1
Based on odds alone, it’s easy to determine that blackjack is the better choice. According to the RTPs, you can expect to win back 99.5% of your wagers in blackjack, but only 98.94% betting on the Banker in baccarat. But don’t forget our horse racing analogy, where blackjack requires you to ride the horse to victory. This brings us to…
Comparing Difficulty in Terms of Strategy
As we’ve stated already, therules of baccaratdetermine exactly how each hand plays out. There are no decisions to be made, beyond choosing where to place your bet. This, the difficulty of applying strategy in baccarat is an absolute minimum. All we have to do is look at which bet has the lowest house edge / highest RTP, and we know that’s the best place to put our money.
Thus, basic baccarat strategy dictates we must always bet on the Banker Hand to achieve the highest 98.94% RTP.
The same cannot be said of blackjack. When we look at the RTP in blackjack, this figure is calculated by assuming the player will always make the best decision; that is, the decision that grants the highest probability of winning the hand. The problem is that only a highly knowledgeable player who studies blackjack strategy will know what the right move is.
Sometimes the best choice is obvious, such as doubling down with 11 against the dealer’s 6. Other times, it’s not so obvious at all. We know this, because all too often we witness novice blackjack players choosing to split a pair of tens, or taking insurance. Neither of these moves is appropriate, anytime, under any circumstances. And yet, some players do it, because they don’t understand the probabilities of basic strategy.
To put it simply – in baccarat, the RTP is guaranteed. In blackjack, you have to earn it. Every move you make that doesn’t follow basic strategy will add to the house edge, and decrease your long-term RTP.
Does Entertainment Value Count for Anything?
Absolutely! And this is where we hear a lot of arguments from so-called professional gamblers. Those who are in it just for profit will tell you that blackjack is the only game to play, but that you should only play if you know what you’re doing. What they don’t want to tell you is that it sucks the fun right out of it, or that your odds of winning money – I mean actually making a profit over the long term – are not good.
Even at 99.5% RTP, you’re getting a negative expectation of 0.5%. It means you can expect to lose 0.5% of all your wagers, over the long term. That’s with perfect strategy applied. You can still expect to lose. In certain live casino situations, you may be able to count cards and drive that RTP a little closer to a positive expectation, but the difficulty level increases 10-fold, and that’s only if you manage to find friendly enough rules and shoe depth (shuffling beyond 50% usage).
The truth is, no gambling amusement comes with a winning payout ratio. Every game is designed to give the casino an advantage, however slight it may be. You have to remember gambling is part of the entertainment industry. If you aren’t gambling for entertainment – if you aren’t having fun – you probably shouldn’t be gambling at all.
It’s okay to lose a little money. The key is to get your entertainment’s worth, and only spend what you can afford to lose. So, in choosing baccarat vs blackjack, you must take into account all three factors. Which game offers the best odds for your level of difficulty, while offering the highest level of entertainment? If you’re not sure, try playing at an online or mobile casino. You can play for free for as long as you like, and only convert to real money play if and when you’re ready.
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Adalene Lucas: is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.