If you’re an avid gambler, it can be hard to believe that the world is full of folks who have never played a casino game in their life. But it’s true, as millions of people out there simply never had the opportunity, or the desire, to risk money on games of chance.
While that will always be the case for some, many from this non-gambling group eventually get their chance to visit a casino. And when they arrive, trying to decide between the various table games can be quite intimidating, to say the least.
If you’re planning a maiden gambling voyage anytime soon, the following breakdown compares two of the most iconic classic casino card games – blackjack and baccarat.
Basic Rules and Game Play
First things first… if you’re entirely new to both blackjack and baccarat, settle in for a down and dirty primer on both games.
Both of these games utilize the standard 52-card deck of playing cards, so you can expect to see four apiece of the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack, along with the 10 through 2. Both games also use a “shoe,” or a device used by the dealer which contains multiple (typically six or eight) 52-card decks.
The shoe is used to combat card counting, while also providing for more hands played before the dealer must shuffle. When you sit down at a blackjack table, you’ll begin the game by placing a mandatory ante bet. Optional side wagers are available, but these are almost always “sucker” bets which heavily favor the house, so we’ll leave those aside for rookies looking to play right.
Once you’ve placed an ante bet, the dealer will deliver two cards face up to your spot on the table. They also take two cards to begin the hand, but only one of theirs (the “up” card) will be exposed, while one (the “down card” remains a mystery at the moment.
Odds, Probabilities, and Payouts
Speaking of odds, let’s break down the Win/Loss/Push (tie with the dealer) probabilities in blackjack first:
- Player Win = 42.22 percent of hands
- Player Loss = 49.10 percent
- Push = 8.48 percent
As you can see, you’ll experience a see-saw ride in this game, winning just over 40 percent of the time (on average, over the long run). The dealer takes down just under half of hands, while the other 8 or so percent result in a push.
Over at the baccarat tables, the probabilities are as follows:
- Banker Wins = 45.86 percent
- Player Wins = 44.62 percent
- Tie = 9.51 percent
Winning Banker and Player hands payout at even money, but the Tie bet is good for a 9 to 1 score. Of course, as you’ll learn down below, that sweet payout requires taking a much larger risk on long-shot odds.
House Edge Players Are Up Against
Based on the probabilities relative to the payouts listed above, we can calculate the house’s edge on every blackjack and baccarat bet. This metric shows casino gamblers just how much, statistically speaking, a wager favors the house.
In blackjack, a basic strategy player can bring the house edge down to just 0.50 percent. In other words, on average, for every $100 this player bets over the long run, the casino will win 50 cents from them. From a savvy gambler’s perspective, blackjack is a very favorable game for smart, sharp players.
With that said, playing blindly without basic strategy usually means you’ll be up against a higher house edge of 1.50 percent or more. In baccarat, the Banker bet holds a house edge of 1.06 percent, while the Player is slightly worse at 1.26 percent. This discrepancy stems from the Banker’s ability to “act” last during the drawing round.
Thus, proper strategy in baccarat involves nothing more than betting on Banker at all times. This would be pretty boring though, so most players mix it up using their “gut instinct” or “system.” But knowing every hand is completely random, the Banker is always the best bet on the board.
As for the Tie option, you’ll incur a massive 12.35 percent house edge chasing that 9 to 1 reward. That’s much higher than most slot machines, and you might as well scratch lottery cards if you like the look of the Tie.