Casino Gambling Trend has People Asking: is Baccarat Better than Blackjack?
Aug 2, 2014
Baccarat has overtaken blackjack as the main table game money-make for Vegas Strip casinos. But is it better than blackjack?
Blackjack is still the most common table game at casinos worldwide. Walk into any casino in Monte Carlo, Paris, Las Vegas or even Singapore and you will find more tables hosting blackjack games than any other.
But the old aristocratic game of baccarat (which happens to be the favorite of James Bond) has made a big comeback, acting as the leading revenue producer in both Macau and the Vegas Strip.
Baccarat is overtaking blackjack
In fact, while blackjack still occupies more tables on the Vegas Strip than baccarat, the latter game pulls in much more revenue, as a percentage of total casino game revenue. Baccarat earned a higher share for the first time when its 37.9 percent topped blackjack’s 28.3 percent.
That was just the beginning, in 2013 baccarat almost doubled blackjack with 46.8 percent to 24.6 percent. While blackjack isn’t going away anytime soon (although it now accounts for barely half of all gaming tables), casinos are in the process of converting more of their tables into baccarat venues.
More Vegas gamblers than ever before are choosing to play baccarat. That includes Asian tourists with a traditional love for baccarat as well as domestic gamblers developing a new interest in the game. That has everyone asking… why?
Is baccarat better than blackjack?
Consider which factors would cause a gambler to prefer one casino game over another. First there are cultural aspects: history, style, ambience. Why game makes you feel cool? Rich? Exhilarated? For beginning gamblers, which game is simplest to pick up? For experienced casino strategy experts, which game has the lowest house edge?
Let’s take a look:
Blackjack is a pretty simple game. You try to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. There are only a few maneuvers; hit, stand, double down, split, surrender. Or at least it looks simple on the surface. In fact, if you want to win consistently you have to use advantage play techniques like shuffle tracking and card counting systems.
However, for a beginner basic strategy isn’t hard to pick up. But let’s compare that to baccarat. This 15th century Italian game is as simple as it gets. The player goes against the banker (each role rotates around the table), with the spectators betting on one or the other, or a draw. Whomever draws cards closer to the number nine wins.
Both games have a low house edge compared to others like slots and roulette. The edge for a baccarat game can lie anywhere between 1 percent and 2.4 percent, while depending on the blackjack rules variation the house edge can between .25 percent and 1 percent, although .5 percent is taken as the standard.
Looking at these figures, blackjack is a more lucrative (or less bankroll-depleting) option than baccarat, so the house edge isn’t what drives people to the baccarat table.
Style and Ambience
Blackjack is an old European game which has become more or less Americanized over the past two centuries. It has cast off any aristocratic air it may have had and become the favorite game of working-class card sharps; the type of people who stroll into the casino in baggy jeans and baseball caps. Put bluntly, your run-of-the-mill American gambler.
Baccarat, on the other hand, is the game of aristocrats; of James Bond, French kings and Chinese billionaires. If you’re filthy stinking rich, there’s little doubt that you play baccarat. In fact, many Macau casinos have private VIP rooms in which players can commonly be found wagering up to $1 million on a single hand!
So the answer to which is better is very subjective. To a Chinese billionaire or Italian fashion heiress, baccarat would be the choice, no question. But for the typical mass market gambler it’s a stuffy, arrogant game and blackjack is the way to go, all the way. That’s a question you need to answer for yourself.
Most people go to casinos because they want to enjoy an evening out, not because they are gambling-obsessed and want to place bet after bet until they drop. For this reason, games which allow players to interact on a friendly level tend to be more popular than those which don’t.
How does that apply to either of these popular casino games? Blackjack is known as a game in which you can be as social as you want to be. If you want to turn on the charm and engage the croupier or fellow players you’re welcome to, and you’re sitting at a table with a few other people so verbal exchange is natural. But if you’d rather hunch over and tune out those around you, that’s fine too.
As for baccarat, social interaction is pretty much the name of the game. Wealthy Asian businessmen crowd into private VIP rooms as much to socialize as to play cards. A main motivation for playing is for others to see you placing large bets, not just winning itself. And the game must be played with at least three people, or else there would be no one to be on the player vs banker.
Advantage: We’ll go with blackjack, because the players can have it however they want it
There’s no objective way to say that one game is better than another. Personally, I enjoy playing both, although blackjack has been a part of my life for longer. But given the lower house edge, more mass market nature and the fact that there are more opportunities for strategy and advantage play, I don’t think that you can make a strong case against blackjack being the better game.