Baccarat and blackjack are two of the oldest casino games in the world; both are hugely popular, although they’ve traditionally appealed to slightly different people. Whereas baccarat has often been the sole preserve of rich, glamorous high rollers (the chemin-de-fair version is the favourite game of James Bond), blackjack has tended to attract a wider audience – indeed, some experts claim it’s the world’s most widely played casino game.
While the history of these two games differs, the launch of online casinos has brought both within reach of everyone with an internet connection. With these websites open to all (or at least everyone old enough to gamble), you no longer have to be dressed in a tuxedo and willing to wager thousands of pounds at a time to be invited to the baccarat table.
Now that players have a wider choice of games than ever before, it becomes increasingly important to make sure they opt for the right one. Of course, some will naturally veer towards the games they enjoy playing most (which is no doubt why blackjack, with the immediacy of its gameplay, remains so popular to this day).
However, the more clued-up – in their desire to get one over on the house – will often select the title that gives them the best chance of winning. So with that in mind, which should you choose: blackjack or baccarat?
Which of these games offers the lowest house edge?
With virtually all casino games, the house enjoys a long-term advantage that can be predicted while still offering players the opportunity to pick up some winnings in the short term. This bias is known as the house edge (and also the vigorish, vig, juice, cut and take).
It’s theoretically possible for players to minimise this advantage, but in reality this would require almost superhuman powers of numeracy, memory and visual or aural perception to pull it off in a real-world casino. In an online game, where the outcome is often randomly determined by computer algorithms, there’s even less chance of this approach being successful.
So if we assume that you’re unlikely to remove the house edge, it becomes a case of mathematics when pondering which game to risk your hard-earned cash on.
In baccarat, bets are made on who will win between the ‘banker’ and ‘player’, or if the hand will finish in a tie.
Baccarat offers pretty generous odds – certainly far more so than many other casino games. The house edge for ‘banker’ bets stands at a fraction over one per cent, whereas for the ‘player’ or a tie it’s around 1.2 per cent and 14.3 per cent respectively.
Although it’s more widely played than baccarat, blackjack is considered by many to offer a less favourable house edge; its popularity is probably down to the fact that so many people know how to play it, whereas baccarat remains a mystery to many.
However, given that there’s a little more skill involved in blackjack, it’s a bit more challenging to quantify the exact edge that the house enjoys. Gaming halls generally don’t factor in player skill when working out their advantage, instead preferring to focus on the fact that over the long term they’ll eventually come out on top.
With that in mind, it’s thought that the edge is around the two per cent mark, although some sources claim that it’s actually much lower at around 0.75 per cent for players who really know what they’re doing.
So which should you play?
Taking the different house edges into account, it’s clear that blackjack rewards the most skilful players, whereas baccarat is strictly a game of chance with no real strategy involved.
If you’re an experienced player who’s memorised the finer points of blackjack strategy, it makes a lot of sense to opt for this classic card game; on the other hand, the slightly more error-prone are likely to be better off with baccarat.