Blackjack vs. Poker: Which Has the Best Odds?

By Alex Smith Sep 18, 2022

Regardless of whether you are a seasoned gambler or brand-new to the thrills of gambling online, you may have asked yourself which game is better to play; Blackjack or Poker?

While poker is played predominantly against other players at the table, Blackjack is played directly against the casino. However, both of these casino games allow you to use your skills to increase your chances of winning – and it’s fair to say that both games generally tend to attract the same type of player. However, while the skill sets required to play both games may be somewhat similar, there are some significant differences between the games – and when it comes to looking at the most potentially profitable game to play, Poker appears to be the precise winner time and time again.

This page will look at some of the critical differences between Blackjack and Poker. We will also be exploring the main reasons you should consider playing poker as opposed to Blackjack – and before we get into the nitty-gritty, we will be taking a look at the basics behind each game, how they work, and how to play.

How to Play Blackjack: The Basics

Blackjack – also known simply as 21 – is one of the most popular casino games in the world. It is a house-banked casino game that uses cards, and the game’s objective is for the player to form a hand as close to 21 as possible without going over 21 while beating the dealer’s hand. For many decades, Blackjack has been the most popular card-based game in casinos, and it is offered at virtually every land-based and online casino in the world.

One of the key advantages of playing Blackjack is that, when played correctly, the house edge can decrease to below 1%. While this still means that you should expect to lose in the long run, it means that it’s unlikely you are going to run into lengthy losing sessions – something no player wants. Blackjack is also incredibly fast-paced, which makes for exciting gameplay.

Playing Blackjack is very simple; to begin with, you place a bet and will then be dealt two cards. The dealer will also be dealt two cards, although one of these cards will be dealt face down. Once you have been dealt your two cards, you can choose to stand – which means you don’t take any more cards – or you can hit, which means an additional card will be dealt to you. You can hit as many times as you like, but if your hand total goes over 21, you bust, and the dealer automatically wins.

Once you have finished making your decisions, the results will be calculated, and if you have a better hand than the dealer, you will be paid out accordingly.

That is a very over-simplistic guide to Blackjack, and if you want to learn more about the game, check out our in-depth Blackjack playing guide.

One of the reasons why poker players are naturally attracted to Blackjack is because there are multiple strategies and techniques you can use to lower the house edge. Depending on the specific set of rules that the casino has chosen to implement in their Blackjack game, there are, occasionally, ways for you to even swing the odds into your favor – although this is nowhere near as easy as it sounds to take years of practice. We’ll talk more about this later on.

What is Poker and Different Poker Games

Poker is a relatively broad term that covers a large number of different casino games. Some poker games put you up against the dealer, while in others, you will be playing directly against other players. For this post, we will be looking at Poker, played against other players.

Today, there are several different variations of poker – although Texas Hold ’em is, by far, the most popular. No limit Texas hold ‘em is the variation of poker that you will see played at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, and if you have ever played a home game with friends, this is almost certainly the variation of the game you will have played. Other variations of poker include Omaha and Seven Card Stud.

Texas Holdem poker is a seven-card game with an entire 52-card debt. Each player is dealt two cards, and a short betting round follows. The flop is three community cards that can be used in their hands, and another round of betting takes place.

A final fifth card is dealt, called the river, and a final betting round takes place. Once all the bettings have concluded, the player who has formed the best five-card poker hand using their two-hole cards and the five community cards wins the money in the pot.

Again, that is a very simplistic overview of how to play poker, and while the game may sound somewhat simple, it can take many years or even decades to master. Below, we will take a quick look at the two main types of poker offered at land-based and online casinos today.

Cash Games at the Poker Table

More experienced poker players usually enjoy Cash Games. You sit down at the poker table with real money. Thankfully, cash games can be played for various stakes, so if you head to your local land-based casino, you should be able to find games that you can join for as little as $50. If you head to the bigger games in Las Vegas and Macau, it’s not uncommon to find players sitting down with thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

Cash games are pretty laid-back and relaxed. There is no obligation to play any pots; you do not have a time limit as you do in tournaments, and when you have had enough, you can simply walk away from the table. You can buy in with more chips at any time, and if you are lucky enough to have an excellent winning session, you can walk away with quite a lot of money.

Tournaments

Tournaments utilize – for the most part – the same set of rules as cash game poker, but there is a big difference. Instead of sitting down at the table with physical cash, all players in the tournament pay an entry fee. You are then given a certain number of chips; essentially, it’s a game of the last man standing.

Tournaments are an excellent way for beginners to get involved, as you can often find tournaments with just a $10 or $20 buy-in. With enough players, the prize amounts can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so you don’t have to risk as much money as cash games to begin enjoying the action.

Similarities Between Blackjack and Poker

When it comes to the similarities between Blackjack and Poker, the biggest one is arguably the fact that both games can – at times – be played profitably. Players can’t enjoy a long-term profit in the casino, and games like Roulette and Baccarat will always favor the casino.

While Blackjack is a game where the casino benefits from a house edge, as we mentioned earlier, there are certain situations where you can decrease the house edge – or even turn it around in your favor.

One of the reasons Blackjack and Poker are pretty similar from a player’s perspective is that these are generally the type of players looking to find an edge in a game and exploit it for profit. Of course, strategies behind playing poker and Blackjack are incredibly different, but some skills are shared between the two games.

For example, profitable poker and Blackjack players will need to be able to quickly calculate odds and probabilities from memory and use that information to make informed decisions. Of course, when it comes to Blackjack, the decisions you need to make are much less complex, and there is no guessing on what your opponent may hold aside from the dealer’s card.

Suppose you are mathematically inclined and can quickly calculate odds and probability on the spot. In that case, it’s a perfectly feasible view to make a profit from playing poker – and, in certain circumstances, even Blackjack. In today’s post, we’re not going to get into the complexities of generating profits on either game, as this is just a quick introduction to some of the similarities between the two games.

Differences Between Blackjack and Poker

While we have now seen the name similarities between Blackjack, it’s time for you to realize that aside from them, the games are wildly different. Without a doubt, the most significant difference between the two games is the fact that one of them requires you to play against other players, while the other requires you to play directly against the casino.

For example, poker is a player-banked game, and the casino does not care who wins or loses. They take their profit out of the pot – think of a small percentage fee – and aside from that, it does not affect the casino in the slightest who wins the hand.

With Blackjack, on the other hand, you are playing directly against the casino. The casino must pay you directly out of their pocket if you win. They only make a profit if you lose.

An exciting way of looking at this is as follows; if you go to the casino and play poker every single night for a month – and win substantially every single night – the casino will have absolutely no problem with this. However, if you were to walk into a casino every night for a month and play Blackjack – and win every single time – the casino will notice something is wrong as the house always wins in the long run. They may suspect you of cheating or card counting – more on that in just a moment.

Without getting into the complexities too much, poker is also a game where you need to be able to read to your opponents and judge what cards they may be holding. This is a significant part of the game and is not something you will ever encounter at the Blackjack table.

Tips and Tricks to Be Successful Playing Poker

The reality is that becoming a good poker player can take many years of practice. While, on paper, it may seem that poker is nothing more than a game of luck, skill plays a huge factor. Every player tends to develop their playing style, but there are a few general elements that all players should follow if they want to maximize their chances of winning and being successful players.

Know Your Opening Cards

One of the most important things you need to do before sitting down at the poker table is to understand the value of opening cards. Opening cards are the first two cards you deal with before the betting begins. Generally, weak players will try to play all of their opening cards – and while this can be a bit of fun when you’re playing with friends or playing for low stakes if you want to be a profitable poker player, this is something that you are going to have to keep tabs on.

Most professional players will be very selective with their opening hand. Once you manage to throw away poor opening cards, you will already be a step closer to becoming a profitable poker player.

Know When to Raise or Fold

When considering raising or folding, you must understand whether your cards are worth the amount of money that will potentially be in the pot. There is a mathematical strategy to this – known as pot odds – and this is where being able to calculate probability on the spot comes into play. For example, if you are thinking about raising, but there is not much money in the pot, you risk losing a lot for relatively no gain.

On the other side of the coin, if there is already a lot of money in the pot, you may be more inclined to take more risk and put in a raise in the hope that your opponents will fold. Of course, if you hold a strong hand, you will want to raise as much as possible to milk your opponents for everything they’ve got.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fold

One of the biggest problems new poker players encounter is becoming too attached to their hands. As a general rule, you should never be afraid to fold. Of course, discretion comes into play here – but keep in mind that you will be folding more than you will be calling or raising. After all, you are not sitting at the poker table to have some fun (unless you are playing a home game with friends) – you are there to make money.

Be Weary of Over-Bluffing

Bluffing certainly has its uses at the poker table. To be a successful poker player, there are circumstances where you need to bluff. Try not to think of bluffing as an easy way to win money, especially when you are playing against inexperienced players. Weak opponents generally are less susceptible to bluffs, and they don’t know enough about the game to fold their hands.

This is not to say that you should never bluff, but choosing your spots is essential. Trying to bluff a drunk, inexperienced player can be a recipe for disaster. They are renowned for calling any bets even when they hold a feeble hand. This can end up catching your bluff and losing you the money.

Be Aggressive 

While some poker players – Barry Greenstein is an excellent example – succeed in taking a more passive approach to the game, most professional poker players who make good money are aggressive players. It is quite a weak move to call bets at the table continuously. You should be looking at raising and making aggressive – yet intelligent – plays.

Tips and Tricks to Be Win at Blackjack

Blackjack is a lot more relaxing than poker, and there are fewer decisions you need to make when playing at the Blackjack table. Without getting into the specifics of how you can beat a Blackjack game consistently, you will need to employ a strategy known as card counting. Card counting requires you to track which cards have already been dealt with so that you have a better idea of the cards that may be dealt with in the future.

Knowing this information allows you to increase your bet when more high-value cards are due to come out. However, this is a very complex process, and you should not view this as an easy way of making money in any way, shape, or form. That being said, you should follow a few tips to be a profitable Blackjack player, some of which we will look at below.

Choose Beatable Games

Before you even begin to play Blackjack, the first thing you need to do is find a beatable game. For example, it is physically impossible to card count when you are playing online Blackjack. This is because the cards are shuffled automatically at the end of every hand. In an ideal world, you will want to find a single-deck Blackjack game – although these are seldom offered, and when they are, casinos keep a very close eye out for card counters.

If you find a game that you think meets the criteria of a potential card counting opportunity, read the game rules to ensure they are compatible with your card counting strategy.

Know Basic Strategy

A basic strategy is used to decrease the house edge in Blackjack. The basic strategy simply refers to mathematical rules that mathematicians developed to reduce the house edge as low as possible.

If you do a quick Google search for a basic strategy chart, you will find plenty – and, essentially, they tell you whether you should hit, stand, double, split, or surrender, depending on the cards you hold and the card the dealer shows. While some casinos will discourage using a mobile phone at the Blackjack table, many will allow this – so you don’t have to memorize the basic strategy chart by heart.

Manage your Bankroll

Managing your bankroll is crucial if you are card counting – and it also applies to playing poker. When you are card counting, you will adjust the size of your bets depending on what cards have already been dealt. As a result, you must have plenty of money at the table to afford to place the big bets where necessary.

Stay Focused

In a land-based casino, it’s common for people to be loud, rowdy – and sometimes even obnoxious. When card counting, it’s vital that you can distance yourself from these distractions. You will need to keep a mental tally of which cards have been dealt, and if you are unable to stay focused despite your surroundings, you don’t stand a chance of being able to card count successfully.

Should you Play Blackjack or Poker?

Both Blackjack and poker can be delightful games. If you are looking to sit back and relax and don’t want to go head-to-head with other players – which can be intimidating – then Blackjack is an excellent game to try out.

However, if you are looking for a game that doesn’t have a house edge and that can be beaten consistently in the long run, then poker is the game you should be playing. It doesn’t even come close. Millions of people try card counting, but it is not as easy as it sounds. What’s more, casinos do not like card counters, and while it is not illegal (in most jurisdictions, anyway), you will be asked to leave the premises and probably banned if you are found to be card counting.

Poker, however, is a game that incorporates a lot of skill. Sure, there are elements of luck involved – but there is a reason why professional poker players can play for a living; they are good at what they do, and they consistently beat the other players at the table.

Regardless of whether you like playing blackjack, other casino game offerings, or even online casino games – just remember, ultimately, you should be having fun. It’s easy to play other casino games – but becoming a professional poker player takes a LOT of work. However, if you put in the horse and practice – you too can win money playing this iconic card game!

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