The world of online casino games has developed so rapidly that you can now find an authentic version of any classic gambling game online. This applies particularly to blackjack and baccarat. Once reserved for land-based casinos, these timeless table games are now available in live dealer variations streamed directly from casino studios in a way that is so cutting edge that they seem even more glamorous than their land-based versions in Vegas. But blackjack and baccarat are very different games, so which one to explore first? Keep on reading for a detailed evaluative comparison.
So what is blackjack, exactly? For many players, it’s hands down the best game to play at the casino because it’s a card-based game of chance with an element of skill that allows for a degree of strategy.
Also known as 21, classic blackjack is played with up to seven players with a single deck of 52 cards. Modern blackjack variants tend to be played with six or eight decks because it discourages card counting. Regardless of the variant, the aim of the game is to bet against the house, represented by the dealer. The way to win a blackjack bet is to build a hand of cards closer to 21 than the dealer’s without exceeding 21.
A hand of blackjack plays out as follows. First, the players place their bets, sized according to the table limits. Typical minimum and maximum limits at blackjack tables in Las Vegas casinos are $5 and $500, respectively. The dealer then deals two cards to each player and two cards to themselves.
In most variants, the dealer’s first card is dealt face-up, providing the players with information on which to base their decisions. However, before any action is taken, players check to see if they have a natural 21, called a “blackjack.”
Blackjack card values are pip values from 2–9, 10 for face cards (10, jack, queen, king), and 1 or 11 for aces. So, a player who is dealt a king and an ace, for example, could choose for their hand to be worth either 11 or 21. The obvious choice would be 21 since it’s an immediate win that pays out odds of +150.
If the dealer’s up card is a face, 10, or ace, the dealer peeks at their down card to see if they have blackjack. If not, the action continues.
The basic actions are to hit (ask for another card) or stand (stick to the cards you’ve got). If your initial two cards are the same value, the dealer will give you the option to split your hand into two hands. You’ll then place a bet equal to your initial bet on the new hand, receive a new card for each hand, and play each hand separately.
Some blackjack variants specify which values you can split on and which not.
If you think you have an advantage over the dealer, you can double down, which means you double your bet, receive one more card, and stop. It’s generally recommended to double down on a hard 9, 10, or 11 (“hard” meaning without an ace) or a soft 16, 17, or 18 (“soft” meaning with an ace).
You can also double down after a split, although some blackjack variants forbid this.
When all players have made their decisions, the dealer reveals their down card. According to blackjack odds, all winning hands are paid out at odds of ±100.
As you can see, blackjack is one of the best online casino table games for cool, calm, collected players. By applying blackjack strategy (the knowledge of when best to hit, stand, split, or double down), skillful players can get the blackjack house edge down to 0.5%. But not all players enjoy that kind of analytical play. If you’re looking for a more fast-paced game that requires very little of that kind of thinking, baccarat is an excellent alternative.
What is baccarat? It’s widely considered to be one of the best casino games to play for high rollers. The minimum bet at Las Vegas baccarat tables is typically $25 or more, with some tables starting at $100. When you consider that a baccarat hand plays out in 30 seconds, you can gauge the kind of bankroll you need to join such a table.
The way a hand (or “coup”) of baccarat plays out is fairly simple. First, players place their bets, with only three betting options available. You can bet on the player hand, the banker hand, or a tie. The winning hand will be the hand closest to 9. Aces count 1, cards numbered 2–9 have pip value, and 10s and faces are worth 0. Double-digit totals have the first digit removed (for example, 16 becomes 6).
Betting is the only decision a baccarat player makes — the dealer handles everything else. Once the bets are in, the dealer deals two cards face up to two positions on the table, marked player and banker, and calculates the totals. If either hand is a natural 8 or 9, it’s “baccarat” and an automatic win. If the player total is 5 or less, the dealer deals another card to the player position. Then, depending on the player hand total and the third card’s value, the banker may draw a third card. Finally, the dealer announces the winning hand (or a tie) and winning bets are paid out as follows:
- Player Bets: Odds of ±100.
- Banker Bets: Odds of ±100 less 5% commission.
- Tie Bets: Odds of +800.
An interesting fact is that the baccarat house edge varies depending on the hand you bet on:
- Player Bet: Edge of 1.24%.
- Banker: Edge of 1.06% (this is the reason for the commission).
- Tie: Edge of 14.36%.
Overall, baccarat is a fast-paced, suspenseful game that typically sees large amounts of money change hands very quickly. This is what makes it such an atmospheric and glamorous game. It’s also very easy to learn — a basic beginner’s baccarat guide is all you need; there’s no expert level.
Get the Best of Blackjack and Baccarat
Baccarat or blackjack? As you’ll have realized, the only thing that they have in common is that they’re both played with cards. At the end of the day, which game you choose depends on you. If you lean towards strategic play, go for blackjack. For a fast, exciting game, baccarat is the better option. But why not try both? At BetMGM, you can experiment with both live dealer blackjack and live dealer baccarat. As a bonus, the live baccarat minimum bet is much more affordable than in popular baccarat casinos.
Ready for the real experience? Register at BetMGM.