The sheer variety of games available at the casino can be overwhelming to a new gambler. Of course, the highlight falls foremost on a handful of games with big mass appeal. One of the big choices ultimately boils down to a simple question: blackjack or baccarat? To find an answer, we must objectively compare the relevant aspects of the two. You need not be a master of either game to follow this comparison, but a cursory knowledge of the rules always comes in handy. To that end, here is a simplified overview of both games.
There are a couple of different variants of baccarat, but they all follow the same general rule set. Here, we will use the most popular type of baccarat – Punto Banco. A game of punto banco involves four to eight decks of cards and up to 12 players. However, you can play solo against the casino too.
As a player, your participation is betting on one of three possible outcomes. You either bet on the player (punto), the banker (banco), or a tie. Note that you are not the player, and the casino is not the banker. These are just names assigned to two sides. Once you bet, the dealer confers two cards each to the banker and the player side. A third card may be dealt in the same hand, depending on house rules. The bottom line is the side with the closest score to 9 wins. The total ‘score’ of a side is the total hand value of its cards.
In brief, here are the hand values: cards from 2 to 9 get their numeric value. The hand value of Ace is 1. Other face cards have zero hand value.
The maximum score in baccarat is ‘9’, a.k.a. ‘natural.’ When the total score of a side goes double digits, the first digit is removed. For example, getting a four and a seven would give you eleven, which brings your total score to one instead. Betting on either side gives you a 1 to 1 return rate. However, banker bets have inherently lower casino advantage. So some casinos will take 5% off a winning banker bet to offset this. Ties, on the other hand, offer a high 8 to 1 payoff.
The rules of blackjack have hundreds of variations that differ from one casino to the next. But the core gameplay goals remain the same. At the beginning of a round, both the player and the dealer get two cards each. One or both of these may be face down, depending on casino rules. The goal for the player is to score as high as possible without exceeding 21. If a player exceeds 21, his hand goes ‘bust,’ and he immediately loses (this is true even if the dealer goes bust at the same round). Card values from 2 to 9 correspond to their numeric value, and face cards all have values of 10. The ace’s value is 11 if the rest of the hand is exactly 10, but 1 if the total hand value is less than 10.
So, which game is better (blackjack or baccarat) if you are new to gambling?
In general, blackjack is by far the better fit. The reason for this is twofold.
First off, blackjack is the more demanding game, so to speak. Chance plays a key role in every casino game. The chief distinction among them is that some reward skillful play. Likewise, blackjack has a perceptible skill ceiling.
Getting a good hand is, of course, a play of luck. But as a novice gambler, you must also train yourself. For that purpose alone, blackjack is a good starting point – easy to learn, hard to master. In blackjack, knowing how to play your cards right can convert an otherwise modest hand into victory.
The second reason hinges on individual casino rules, but blackjack is a comparatively fair game where even basic strategies can guarantee a favourable outcome to you in the long run. Every game is rigged to grant the casino some advantage. In casino-speak, this is ‘house edge.’ Blackjack actually has one of the lowest average house edges among all casino games. Knowing rookie pointers like hitting a soft 17, never doubling down, or splitting tens will take you a long way, as long as you stick to a strategy.
However, it is not possible to rate one game higher than the other, objectively. Baccarat has its excitement too. It is almost purely a game of luck. It is mechanically simple and requires minimal player participation. So the choice sits on how you want to approach gambling. For a laid-back fun experience, baccarat could turn out to be a better choice.
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